Makeup + Cosmetics, Stuff I Like


Not one to procrastinate when it comes to sharing timely updates on what I’ve been doing, now that it’s June, I thought I’d tell you about something I discovered back in January.

Feeling inspired to learn more about Hulafit (more about that another time), I signed up to the London Health Show. It’s mainly aimed at industry types, but being an ambitious amateur, I booked an afternoon off work and headed to Olympia. I didn’t really expect to come across a new skin care range, let alone have a nice chat with the founder, but that’s what happened when I spied the inconspicuous BRYT Skincare stand, like the skincare magpie that I am.

Truthfully, I wasn’t looking to try a new skin care range, nor did I have much money to spend, having passed over my skin to the care of Obagi (again, more on that later) and not wanting to risk the return of painful cysts and subsequent scarring.

However, what I was – and always am – looking for was an eye makeup remover that wouldn’t cause my eyes to look and feel like I’d accidentally used TCP. Yes, despite being numb to the effect of actually touching my eyeballs following years of contact lens use, my eyes cannot bear anything but the mildest concoction to go anywhere near them. Sadly, these supposedly-gentle formulas are often less-than-effective at removing my very modest eye makeup.

Also, I like bright colours and the promise of amazing skin, so OBVIOUSLY I was going to take a closer look.


(Wo)manning the stall was, unbeknownst to me, founder of BRYT skincare, Catkin Wemyss-Bodmer (take a moment to let that amazing name sink in), and she was genuinely delightful. It’s hard to come away empty handed when you’ve had a lovely chat with someone who is clearly extremely passionate about the products they’ve spent years developing, so explaining my predicament to her, I came away with BRYT Remove and a promise that I’d try more of the products in the future (which I did).

BRYT Remove

Warned that I may experience some mild stinging when I started using it (because my eyes are so sensitive, not because everyone experiences this), I proceeded with caution when I got into the bathroom that night. I’m now on my second bottle, thank you very much, so let that fact speak for itself.

Overall, I love this makeup remover. Somewhat unusually, it’s dispensed with a spray pump. I really like this because it’s kind of fun: after spraying a cotton pad and lightly pressing this over my eyes before gently sweeping it away, I follow with a little spritz over my face to remove light make up. It’s like using a functional water spray that smells a bit more interesting and actually removes makeup without causing any irritation. I have a tendency towards double-cleansing anyway, especially on those special Clarisonic nights.

The ingredients of BRYT Remove include alcohol, but I haven’t found this to be dehydrating or cause any tightness; the cleanser does quite the opposite. The balance between the alcohol and the oil (beware if you’re allergic to nuts, there’s almond oil – again, I’ll tell you the story about the bath I ran for the girl with a nut allergy another time), mean that the effect is actually very genetle and softening.

At around £11.50 for 100ml, it’s not the cheapest, but it definitely falls into the affordable-luxury category, especially when you consider how long it lasts. I’d rather buy one bottle of this than try several cheaper ones I just can’t use. If you have sensitive eyes or just want to try some eye makeup-removing luxury, give this a whirl.

And those other products I tried? They’re pretty good too, but I’ll tell you about them some other time – at this rate, expect an update in December…

Art + Design, Fashion, Popular Culture, Street Art, Stuff I Like

Street Portraits // October 2015

I hadn’t taken any photographs on my camera since January (I’ll tell you about the reasons another time), so last weekend I rectified that by spending a few hours on Brick Lane. I signed up for a City Academy workshop and it was a great springboard back into action: I basically wandered off by myself for a few hours and took as many pictures as I could. I have to admit that there wasn’t as much critique of everyone’s shots as I hoped there would be (I imagined us all returning to Rich Mix to view images on a bigger screen) but I’m glad I gave myself the appointment to get up and do something. Here’s a small (lofi) selection of the shots I took. I’ll hopefully be posting more soon.

Brick Lane is obviously a vibrant hubbub of London life, and a place where it’s impossible to not bump into plenty of colourful characters. I was drawn to people’s hair or really stand-out fabrics most of all, but on reflection I think it’s interesting that there’s something in each of these pictures that reminds me of myself (but whether or not others see that is another matter).


Popular Culture

The promise of a 30 day challenge

30 day challenges are quite useful. They’re also quite popular at the moment, but don’t let that stop you being interested enough to try.

A 30 day challenge is long enough to actually be a challenge but short enough to be accomplished relatively quickly. A 30 day challenge is long enough to do something for that by the end of it, you feel a sense of pride (I’m assuming) for actually having completed it. A 30 day challenge offers a pleasant antidote to immediate gratification and (probably) keeps us out of trouble, at least a little bit. A 30 day challenge offers us a genuine chance to crack something we may have wanted to do for a while and set the groundwork for forming a new habit.

This is why, after months of silent pontificating and very little writing, I have been set the challenge of writing 250 words a day for the next 30 days. However, always wanting to overachieve, I have upped my limit to 300 words a day before I’ve even started.

Imagine this:

A novel is broadly considered to be a novel if it’s longer than 40,000 words (I’m not debating artistic merit here, merely the practicalities of length) which is the equivalent of 133 days of writing 300 words*. Just over four 30 day challenges worth of writing could result in an (unedited and pretty rough) novel. This means that – if I pulled my finger out and concentrated (and typed) really hard – I could have written a novel before Christmas.

So more of this tomorrow: the inspiration, the psychology and the success.

Right now, I’m at 327 words and had better stop; I don’t want to over exert myself on day one!


*As an FYI 50 Shades of Grey is 105,000 words, so it definitely meets the criteria for a novel by the metric of length, whatever you feel about the cumulative effect of those 105,000 words on the pages.

Fashion, Makeup + Cosmetics, Popular Culture

Free Foundations // Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation Review

Foundation. In many ways it scares the living daylights out of me, because I’m so pale: I’m always wary of tell-tale tidemarks and looking orange. I don’t remember the first foundation I bought, but it was probably something by Rimmel or 17 and it definitely wasn’t the right shade for me. What I do remember, though, is that I moved gradually from concealer (Rimmel Clear Complexion – why was it ever discontinued?!) to foundation, partly inspired by school rules that stated make up wasn’t allowed. I relied on concealer to cover occasional spots – and therefore I wasn’t really wearing actual, proper, make-up – until I realised that the more concealer I applied, the more consistent and even my skin was (not that I suppose I really needed it at that age, but still).

Concealer, foundation or sometimes both, remain a staple part of my daily make-up routine and, in the many years since my youth, I’ve tried a lot. I’ve also thrown a lot away and wasted a lot of money, because as well as being pale, I also have erratically sensitive skin that often objects to (as yet undetermined) ingredients. On an average day, I’m often too lazy to properly reapply throughout the day, so what goes on at 8am is there until it’s not. Don’t worry though, I have an excellent cleansing regime (!) and never sleep in make-up (anymore), so at least I’ve learned that.

But let’s skip forward to this week, when I headed to Clinique to get my hands on their Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (a must-have shade of lipstick that will suit everyone, indiscriminately). I left with a free sample of their soon-to-be-released Beyond Perfecting foundation in exchange for my phone number so they could follow up to see how I got on with it. Free samples suit my pocket and my skin quite nicely, thanks very much, so I was more than happy to oblige.

After a quick colour-match I was given a pot of the palest option, 02 Alabaster and was curious (not eager – there’s always the possibility of reactions and spots, after all) to test it out because the main selling point of this foundation is that it works as both a concealer and foundation in one. If you purchase the full-size bottle, the applicator is shaped so that you can dab it onto spots and conceal them easily or use the smoother side for foundation application. I always use my fingers and didn’t get an applicator with the sample so I don’t know how accurate that is, but reports from other reviews have been good.

What else does it promise, then? Well, at the time I didn’t really ask – I just took the free stuff and left – but these are the official claims I’ve found online:

  • Full coverage
  • Lightweight feel
  • Natural matte finish
  • 12 hour wear
  • Breathable formula
  • Dual-sphere particles absorb oil and add hydration
  • Unique applicator

It’s also available in 21 shades, which means there’s probably something close to most skin tones. However, don’t get your hopes up if you’re really pale: I’ve never been able to use a Clinique base before because they’ve always been the wrong shade, and sadly that’s still the case. I compared the colour to Maybelline’s Dream Satin Foundation in Light Porcelain (which I occasionally wear mixed with moisturiser) as well as Yves Saint Laurent’s Fusion Ink in BR20 (the correct shade for my face, but a formula that’s a bit too much for me everyday) so you can see the difference. I’m no professional or even frequent beauty-blogger, but I’ve seen these swatch things done before, so here you go.

Foundation Comparison

Nevertheless, I have been wearing this foundation this week and really put it through its paces to see how it compares to the claims. I like a list, so here are my notes against the main claims:

  • Full coverage? Yes, but it’s a buildable formula, so beware. I made the mistake of being overzealous at first and would definitely advise a less-is-more approach unless you’re trying to cover blemishes, which is also does quite nicely.
  • Lightweight feel? Yes. The consistency is nice and feels like foundation rather than tinted moisturiser, but isn’t unpleasantly heavy on the skin and doesn’t dry to a crisp or feel like a mask.
  • Natural matte finish? Is matte ever natural? But yes, I’d have to agree this does have a nice finish if you like a base that evens everything out and is more matte than dewy.
  • 12 hour wear? I didn’t get my stopwatch out, but hell, this stuff sticks. Don’t shout at me, but I even wore this at the gym and it survived impressively.
  • Breathable formula? Marketing speak that’s difficult to quantify, but what I do know is that this hasn’t reacted with my skin at all, no redness, no spots, nothing bad to report after a couple of days wear, so I’d have to agree (as far as I can).
  • Dual-sphere particles that absorb oil and add hydration? I’m sorry, what? Well my skin was neither oilier nor drier as a result of wearing this, but neither was it less oil and more hydrated, so is that a yes or no? It’s a foundation; I’m not expecting miracles from it.
  • Unique applicator? Well it is a fact that if you purchase the full size bottle of this, it will come with an applicator, so that’s hard to refute.

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So would I buy this stuff for real? At £25 a bottle it’s not cheap, but Clinique isn’t a budget brand, so I wouldn’t expect it to be. If the colour suited me better I probably would invest in this, but as it isn’t perfect – and the difference between my face and neck is almost embarrassingly obvious – I’ll have to pass for now. However, I’d definitely suggest going along to your nearest Clinique counter to get your own free sample if this is something you’d consider buying. But be quick – it’s due to go on sale February 2015.

Update 15/02/15

As promised, here’s a photo of the ingredients



Joan for Website
Comedy, Popular Culture

Joan Rivers

An awful lot has been written – and will no doubt continue to be written – about Joan Rivers since her death only a few days ago. It’s incredibly bad news for all of us that Joan has gone, but the least we can do is pay attention to the pearls of wit and wisdom she left behind. And don’t forget: “Comedy is to make everybody laugh and deal with things, you idiot.”

Also published on


Art + Design, Fashion, Makeup + Cosmetics

Medieval Sailors Wearing Jeans in the Jungle // Lipstick Queen

I remember buying my first lipstick like it was yesterday. Purchased sometime in the mid 90s, there was only one shade to choose: Heather Shimmer by Rimmel. I knew Rimmel was the way to go thanks to my Nan. She had two lipsticks that she let me play with, both slim brown plastic push-up sticks, one in coral, one in bright pink, with a glamorously waxy smell. All she wore was lipstick and a light dusting of powder; that’s all she needed, she said.

By the time I was a teenager, I’d spent my life watching both my mum and grandma wear lipstick every single day. I didn’t really put too much thought into the act of wearing lipstick, I just knew that to be attractive and feminine, that’s what I should do. Being an awkward teenager with fixed braces (top and bottom), thick glasses and a series of terrible haircuts, I needed as much help to be attractive and feminine as possible. So Heather Shimmer it was.

Roll on almost twenty years and I’m still a fan of lipstick, but with a significant difference: I don’t wear it to be attractive or feminine now. In fact, feedback I’ve had from most partners is that they prefer the non-lipsticked look (I don’t think that’s uncommon), so if my aim is to be attractive I’m shooting myself in the foot on a regular basis. Instead, I choose to wear it because I like playing with colours and playing with my appearance. Put simply: I wear it for myself.

I’m not massively experimental with the rest of my make up, mostly because I’m not skilled enough to achieve the looks I’d like to create or not quite brave enough to wear them in public, preferring the safety of prancing about the house like a child playing dress up (again). But lips are pretty straightforward and changing their appearance can make a huge difference to your face.

However, I like to be discerning about my choice of lipstick and there are some brands I won’t go near. Others, on the other hand, are almost impossible to resist. Lipstick Queen falls firmly into the latter category.

Established in the US in 2009 by Aussie-born Poppy King, Lipstick Queen is getting more and more attention in the UK, thanks to press coverage (including this month’s edition of Vogue) and the fact that Space NK and other stores across the country now stock their products. This is a brand that’s only going to grow in popularity, and it’s already pretty popular. The reason for this popularity isn’t hard to see: there aren’t many cosmetics companies I know of that tick so many boxes and tick them so well.

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First of all, Lipstick Queen is a dedicated to lipsticks and has no interest in expanding into other products just to turn a profit. I admire that. Secondly, Lipstick Queen has tried hard to create fun, memorable packaging that you won’t want to throw away, and, being a sucker for great design, this appeals to me (almost) above all else. (If you’re as interested as I am, you can find out a little bit more about the creative direction of the brand from creative partner James Bernard). Thirdly, if you read any interview with Poppy King and you’ll discover she speaks a lot of sense (especially about men working within the cosmetics industry). Finally, the products are cruelty- and even gluten free. I don’t know what else you could want from a lipstick, except, of course, that it does what it’s supposed to do.

I recently tried four popular Lipstick Queen shades to find out if they do, in fact, (unscientifically) pass the “Do What They’re Supposed To Do” test.


Medieval is the flagship shade in the Lipstick Queen collection, frequently referred to as a “universally flattering colour”. I can’t claim to know how flattering it is for the entire universe’s complement of lips, but I can say that I’m pretty pleased with it. Initially, after testing this on the back of my hand (that’s what everyone does even though the skin is a different colour, right?), I wasn’t sure this was really going be noticeable, let alone last more than an hour or two. I’m happy to report that I was wrong on both counts, and this is one of the best lipsticks I’ve ever worn. The consistency is moist without being wet or waxy but somehow the colour remains in place. No, it’s not a pigment-rich matte affair and the colour might be less striking than the stick suggests, and yes, you will need to reapply after a meal or a lot of kissing (I assume) but it’s so safe and easy to apply that I’m sure it could be done without a mirror. With a £22 price tag, this is a little more expensive than other lipsticks in the collection, but I know I’ll use it on a regular basis, on days when I want to feel polished and well presented without being too flashy.

Jean Queen

Jean Queen gets a lot of love online, but I had the same reservations I’d had about Medieval. This time, my fears were realised: it’s more like a tinted lip balm than lipstick. The shade is flattering because it enhances what’s already there rather than adding anything really new – which is exactly the claim Lipstick Queen makes. If you prefer sheer lipsticks you shouldn’t be disappointed at all, but this is one I see myself using on very low key days when I don’t have much time. At £18 (though cheaper deals can be found online), I’d rather choose a shade that’s a bit more fun. I’ll let you know if I need to eat my words, though (I suspect I might).

Jungle Queen

Did someone mention fun? This is it. A bright coral shade, this is definitely my idea of lipstick and it’s fantastic. I don’t know how they’ve managed it, but this has it all: strong colour suspended in a moisturising formula that really does last. I did reapply to achieve a fresh burst of colour before heading out in the evening, but that was at the end of a long working day and wasn’t absolutely necessary. (If you’re scared of the intensity or just want to mix it up, it also works well over a lip balm to give a softer flush of colour.) Being a long time fan of (tasteful) animal print and bright colours, the packaging on this one also won me over and justified the £20 cost in my head. I love it.

 Hello Sailor

This is another fun shade to try: who else offers a navy blue lipstick? To paraphrase the words of Poppy King, this is a modern interpretation of the recent trend for blackberry shades, and caused a bit of a beauty stir when it was released earlier this year. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t look navy once applied, but it does add a cool berry tint (unlike some of the other shades, I don’t know how this would appear on darker skin, but it I suspect it wouldn’t be great). It can also be applied over corresponding berry shades from the Lipstick Queen Saint or Sinner collections, which apparently adds a topaz glint to lips – but I haven’t tried that. In fact, I’ve only tried this a couple of times and I’m still not sure if I’m pulling off the cool berry tint or if I just look very unwell, so I’m undecided about whether the £20 cost is personally justified. I am definitely going to persevere though, because it is, after all, fun and unique.

While Lipstick Queen lipsticks aren’t cheap, they have been developed by a woman with a real passion for the product, who pays attention to detail across every part of the brand. Despite all the added extras and beautiful packaging, though, they are simply excellent lipsticks. You’ve just got to find the right shade – or be brave enough to carry off the latest nautical trend.

And yes, Heather Shimmer is still available but no, I don’t think I’ll be going back to it just yet.

Art + Design, Music, Traumfrau

Be Your Own Traumfrau

Photo by Eleonora Cecchini

The last time I wrote about Traumfrau was over two years ago, which was also the last time I wrote anything here. It’s no coincidence that writing took a bit of a back seat once Traumfrau started; events take up a lot of time and energy, especially when the 9-5 work gets in the way of what you (I’d) rather be doing. Although it’s been over two years and I’m no longer part of it, Traumfrau was such an incredibly important experience that I really wanted to bring it full circle and write something at the end as well as the beginning of my involvement.

It might be news to some people that I was so connected to Traumfrau, especially right at the start. Although I don’t live in Brighton, Roni and Giorgia asked me to help them put their idea together because I had the experience – and I was really happy to come out of retirement to brush off my records and create something fun again. I think we managed that straight away, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like a voyeur at the first party, wandering around feeling both self-conscious yet stealthily invisible. The only time I really had fun and stopped feeling so anxious on that first night was when I got to hide in the DJ booth, play music and dance. Watching people enjoy themselves to the music I play has always been a buzz, and DJing at Traumfrau nights has certainly been the highlight to many of my weekends spent in Brighton since that first sweaty night in The Tube.

But it’s more than playing tunes that’s made Traumfrau special: I’ve been able to spend more time with my friends, make new ones, hang out in Brighton (always a welcome escape from London) and – most importantly – been inspired by so many of the people I’ve met and artists I’ve seen. If I tried to list all the people that have had an impact along the way we’d be here forever, but artists like Lazlo Pearlman and Sabrina Chap are most certainly up there, and I kicked myself for missing the spectacular Rubyyy Jones when she performed earlier this year. Above all, Traumfrau has led to so many other ideas and gave me a route to developing aspects of myself that I was sorely neglecting.

I’m proud that the single biggest contribution I made to Traumfrau is the name. I offered it as one in a list of possibilities and it’s the one that stuck. I’ll be honest, I did get a few odd looks from people when I told them the name of this new night I was helping to put on, but I think it’s served its purpose well and is now something that so many people in Brighton and beyond are now familiar with that it speaks for itself. Most people that know me also know that there is an original Traumfrau and that I’ve been promising to write about that. One of these days I will, but it’s too long for now. I do sometimes feel like writing to tell her she’s inadvertently inspired this brilliant thing in Brighton, but (aside from potential creepiness of that) it’s not quite true: Roni and Giorgia are responsible for developing the local community around it, and turning it into something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Once the name was set, the concept for the identity fell into place: ‘Traumfrau’ means ‘dream woman’ in German, so I developed a concept where each poster would feature a woman who had a connection, whether intellectually, culturally or both, to the specific event. The choices were made collaboratively, and some might be considered a bit risky; not all of the choices were self-identified feminists nor were they all queer, both things that the night definitely is. However, they were all important, iconic women in their own right who merit the accolade of Traumfrau and that I knew we could defend if we needed to (early on, the choice of Betty Friedan for our second event created some interesting discussions on Facebook). There are still so many other ideas that have never been used, including (my personal favourite) the Pride poster featuring Divine, that I’d really like to spend some time making a whole new series just for fun.

Until earlier this year, I’d designed almost every poster and flyer for the nights we put on and, while I’m the first to admit that they are definitely not great pieces of graphic design, I am proud that they gave Traumfrau a distinctive personality and something for people to talk about. This is a DIY effort, after all, and I definitely embraced the DIY spirit in making them. (There’s a full gallery below, but I’ve omitted the full story behind each of them because I figured I’m the only one interested in those.)

In the end, being in London and trying to stay involved in the organisation of Traumfrau just became too difficult. At the beginning, I’d been closer to the planning and ideas, but as time went on this started to lessen and I felt disconnected. I’m happy I managed to do what I could while I could (getting JD Samson to play close to my birthday was pretty sweet and DJing using only my mobile phone was an interesting experience when we got to run the disco at Supernormal Festival last year) but eventually it started to make me feel sad that I couldn’t give as much as I wanted. It took a long time to let the idea of walking away settle before I could do it, because it had it become such a significant part of who I was and what I did. Staying up until 2am to write this right now feels very much in the spirit of Traumfrau, whether staying up until 2am to make changes to a poster to get it off to the printers in time, or getting back on the decks to play the final hours of the party.

I’m proud of how Roni, Giorgia and the extended Traumfrau family have evolved the Sugar Rush-inspired party (that’s another story you probably didn’t know) into something much more than being just another club night where you go to get drunk, and I’m excited to see where it will go next. I’ll always be glad I have such brilliant memories (and a fail-safe way of remembering who I was dating by which Traumfrau they came to) and will definitely be back to play some tunes now and then, but for now it’s gute Nachte und gute Träume.