On beauty, and the spirit of beauty

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Today, let’s reflect on an aspect of contemporary life that faces us every day. Women (and to a lesser extent men) are encouraged to spend a great deal of time, money and effort trying to look good in the eyes of others.  This can feel oppressive, particularly if body image is an issue after having children, or funds are limited. However underlying this are some basic principles that can help women and men feel good about themselves rather than just in terms of how other people view them.


Cosmetics of all kinds are everywhere. However if you ask a dermatologist  what you actually need, he/she would tell you to acquire some sunscreen and a very basic, cheap moisturiser, and that would be all. It’s not that the other products don’t work – they often manage to plump up the skin quite well as long as you use the products regularly and diligently. However in most cases the effect is temporary and will only last as long as you use (and therefore keep buying) the product. And any beauty products you can buy over the counter (that is without prescription) are tightly regulated by law. This means that they are not allowed to contain anything strong enough to create a long term result. Did you know that? It took me a fair bit of time to rumble this fact.

So if you want to prune back your grooming regime, in order to cut costs or save time, you need to concentrate on the improving the health of what you already have, which will lead to the appearance of good grooming in its own right. You’ll be very pleased with the results, I guarantee.


From my women’s magazine days, I know that it is possible to spend a fortune in pursuit of the perfect complexion, but you can improve what nature gave you more cheaply than that. There’s a lot to be said for avoiding touching your face too much during the day, keeping it fairly clean with a simple own brand foaming facewash (or glycerine soap) and water, and using a light moisturiser where the skin tends to get dry. Soaking a clean flannel in warm water, wringing it out and then lying it on the face for a while while you have your feet up can be very relaxing, and it also opens the pores, making products more readily absorbed through the outer layer of the skin when you apply them later on.

Problem complexions often benefit from using a very light facial exfoliator, or if this is tooexpensive, bicarbonate of soda will have a similar effect. If you wear makeup, keep your brushes very clean and try not to use your fingers for application. Throw out anything that is very old and/or smells wrong. Avoid buying too much, but do pluck up courage to ask for samples whenever you can – some beauty counters can be very generous. Save sample sachets from magazines as well, for when you fancy a bit of pampering, or when you are travelling.


Keeping hair clean is clearly going to be the first priority, especially if you are a smoker or take a lot of exercise. Washing it once or twice a week is supposed to be a rule of thumb for this.  Basic own brand supermarket shampoo will do the job as well as most others, despite what labels tell you. Using conditioner will help keep the follicles smooth and make hair easier to comb and style. Wrapping your head in tin foil for half an hour to allow the conditioner to soak in properly is a cheap 1970s-style pampering treatment that feels quite satisfying. Likewise, taking the time to give yourself a decent blow dry on a Sunday night can also be very good for morale, and keep you going until mid-week.

If you can’t afford frequent visits to the hairdresser, and your stylist talents are limited (as mine certainly are), consider growing your hair long if it suits you, and just getting the ends professionally trimmed once in a while. Alternatively put yourself down for trainee night at your local salon or Further Education college and get your haircuts heavily subsidised. It also makes sense to forego things such as highlights and dramatically changed hairstyles if money is tight – working with what you have naturally is usually easier and cheaper, requiring less maintenance.


As any beauty editor will tell you when she is not busy promoting expensive products, you can easily transform your nails by following three rules. First of all, decant some olive oil into a little bottle and keep it by your bed. Make sure you rub a little into your cuticles every night before going to sleep. After six weeks, your nails will have improved beyond all recognition. Secondly, always use rubber gloves when doing household tasks. Thirdly, only ever use a card emery board on your nails, and file one way to the middle when shaping them. An optional fourth rule would be to use a clear varnish on your nails if they tend to be brittle, as it has the effect of keeping them in one piece.

The usual caveat applies to all this advice – doing everything all of the time may be too much to handle, but even tackling a few will give a boost to your sense of physical wellbeing at very little cost. This will help you gird your loins (psychologically speaking) for tackling more pressing domestic issues.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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