It sounds so alluring, transformation… but, says Annabel Rivkin, let’s take things one step at a time. Here’s her guide on how to shake up your beauty routine without shaking things up so much that you look, you know, odd
I have a theory and it is this: people will tend to follow the same fashion and beauty rules that they did when they felt they were at their hottest; in their ‘heyday’ if you like. So I know a few gorgeous, 45-year-old women who have never given up on the combat trouser, the boot-cut jean, the furry gilet, the pashmina, the shoulder pad, the platform heel, even though fashion’s haughty favour has intermittently (and sometimes violently) smiled and frowned upon them. And the realisation that, say, a ballet shoe can date you is less compelling than summoning up that feeling of confidence, relevance and ease you experienced when you first slid it on, all those years ago. Emotionally we cling, don’t we, to any physical thing that can connect us with what made us feel safe? Or wanted? Or powerful?
Fragrance, oddly, is different. We experiment more with scent. Though we may have one old faithful (in my case the woody, green fig of Diptyque’s Philosykos that someone gave me for my 23rd birthday, which was not…yesterday), we tend to freely architect a perfume wardrobe according to mood, whim and season. I am currently juggling Kiehl’s meltingly delicious Original Musk with Le Labo’s warmly addictive Tonka 25 and Miller Harris’s eternally zingy Citron Citron, which dies down to a sparkling floral. But playing with how we smell feels less risky that adjusting how we look. Even though our skin, our body and our attitude inevitably and beautifully evolves.
It is unlikely, as you read this, that you are wearing the same lipstick or using the same moisturiser that you did as a teenager. The rut that we find ourselves in will tend not to have tentacles that extend that far back… back to those honeyed days of the Clinique 3-Step routine, of Anaïs Anaïs, of massively long, rectangular, multicoloured Superdrug eyeshadow palettes housed in tins and abominably over-plucked eyebrows. But if we look back ten years, don’t we cling to some of the products that no longer do us any favours? It can be hard to let go of, say, a boldly graphic feline flick, even though our faces have changed and trends are steering us towards something more nuanced. And, if we felt newly rich 15 years ago, and got our “young executive” hands on a pot of Crème de la Mer moisturiser, are we still shelling out for it when our skin now has different needs? Why is it so scary to move on? Is it because it feels as though we are moving away from ourselves?
I have another theory: it is scary to change things up because we will tend to be too heavy-handed. Too radical. Think about it this way; how often do we shop for clothes as a “complete look”? The underwear, the shoes, the bag, the dress, the coat, all at the same time? Only on our wedding day and how scary and pressurised is that? Interiors are the same; they have to grow or they are uncomfortably brittle. Life has too much texture for that approach.
How often have we sat at the beauty hall makeup counter of some splashy brand and allowed someone to give us a “complete look” only to glance in the mirror, stagger backwards slightly with shock, buy two items to be polite and then rush to the loo to cry and wipe it all off. The secret is to take incremental steps; to find yourself in an ever-evolving virtuous circle. To pay enough attention to notice when your individual tools are no longer serving you. And to make it fun. Because it is as much about joy as it is about personal grooming. More actually. Far more.
Go to the beauty hall but don’t let them make you over. Go in search of one thing. See it as a field trip. Find that foundation or toner or lipliner. Integrate it. The go back and find that serum or mascara or concealer. Stay alert. Hold on to your sense of wonder and understand that moving on – gently – from old beauty habits can reconnect you to yourself rather than the opposite.
If your skin is dry, take a break from that rigorously active cleanser (I believe how you get your skin clean is the single most important step in hydration and maintaining skin texture) and try a balm, alive with botanical actives like Wildsmith Skin’s Nourishing Cleansing Balm. If your moisturiser seems merely to be sitting atop your complexion, then get busy with a skin oil and spend time massaging it in. If you look dull and unlovable to yourself, revisit a micro-fine, granular exfoliator to liven things up a bit.
If you tried to carve 20 new neural pathways in one day you’d feel maddened and possibly mad. Beauty is the same. One step at a time. Then walk out into the world, live your life and see how you feel. Because that is the great determiner.
I’m Absolutely Fine! A Manual for Imperfect Women, by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan is out in paperback now (Cassell, £8.99)