I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending large amounts of time during lockdown spring cleaning. The entire world may be in free-fall but, says my neurosis, if I can just sort out all the kitchen drawers then maybe things will get better. They won’t, of course, but at least it keeps my mind off the apocalypse.
One of the joys of this process is that as well as clearing out an awful lot of crud, I’ve also rediscovered a whole load of things I’d forgotten about. Clothes, books, photograph albums. And makeup.
A confession: I collect makeup like some people collect stamps or shoes. I’m like a makeup magpie. Over the years I have accumulated boxes of the stuff, a cosmetic treasure trove of jewel-like colours, magical creams and assorted gadgets. Some of them stand the test of time; others don’t. Here’s my pick.
I’m so old I can remember a time before Bobbi Brown makeup and let me tell you: those were dark days. Bobbi helped modernise the face of the cosmetics industry, introducing the idea of makeup designed to enhance and flatter all skin tones and all ages.
She was the antidote to the harsh blues and reds of the Eighties, a pioneer of the no-makeup look – and just an all-round innovator with a uniquely fine-tuned ear for what real women busy lives and careers wanted from their makeup: quality, results-based products with a practical edge.
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Bobbi doesn’t work for the company any more (it’s owned by Estee Lauder) but the Foundation Stick remains, for my money, one of the best on the market. A creamy, long-lasting formula in a vast array of shades (43) that you can carry anywhere with you and that doesn’t spill on your freshly laundered work shirt.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with liquid liner. Ever since I can remember I’ve been trying to perfect the so-called feline flick, with mixed results. The problem, I suspect, is that I just don’t have the requisite almond-shaped eyes for it, my own being disappointingly small and round like marbles.
Anyway. Diego Dalla Palma popped up as a brand on the UK market just under a decade ago but it’s been around in Italy since the seventies, one of the earliest examples of a makeup artist range. The quality is excellent (Italian women take their makeup very seriously) and this liner is a typical example. The tip is fine, the flow of colour perfect, it lasts, dries quickly, doesn’t go sticky or lumpy like some liquid liners and it's not so heavily pigmented you can’t afford to make a few mistakes.
I’ve no idea how old this is - a couple of years, perhaps - but it’s still going strong. Tilbury launched her brand on an unsuspecting world back in 2012 - and I was one of the first journalists to get the Tilbury treatment. Since then she’s risen to global domination - but for me her real talent is her superb eye for colour - and her colours for eyes. This one has a shade for every possible mood, each one more flattering than the last.
The older I get, the more retouching I find I need - but of course, the trick with older skin is to manage it without giving the impression of grout. The texture of this is perfect for this purpose, since it really is light as a veil - yet pigmented enough to actually make a difference. It’s especially good around the eyes where ordinary concealers have a habit of settling into the cracks: this sort of glides over them without caking or creasing. It’s also great for days when you can’t really be bothered with makeup, but just want to take the edge off.
What can I say? One of the first high-end cosmetic products I ever invested in, and still one of the best. Clarins, although still a family-run brand, is so a ubiquitous now it’s hard to remember how innovative it was back in the day when the pinnacle of most women’s skincare routines was a jar of cold cream and a bar of soap. They were especially instrumental in introducing the concept of sun protection as a key part of preserving the skin.
Beauty Flash has been around for decades (I think I must have started using it in the early nineties, but it was around before then if memory serves) and is one of the original ‘cult’ products. It probably owes its longevity to the fact that it does exactly what it says on the tin: perks up a sallow, tired complexion and makes dry, tight skin feel soft and fresh. Basically furniture polish for skin.
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