On Applying Lipstick in Public

Apparently it is poor manners to touch up one’s makeup in public. And yet, as a woman who favors a bold lip, I find myself reapplying lipstick at least once a day, after eating my lunch. So am I banished to the restroom for such touch-ups? Must I close my office door if I wish to rebrighten my pout? I say no.

And apparently Sali Hughes agrees with me, though apparently not many others. She specifically addresses applying full makeup on the subway train, which is not a skill I’ve mastered. I once saw a woman applying mascara at on a moving train in the seat in front of me and I had to marvel at the steadiness of her hand and the delicacy with which she picked out each lash and enhanced them. Personally, I was proud of myself for managing to develop the skill of putting on lipstick. I find that if I shape my Cupid’s bow at a stop, I can apply the rest of the lip as the train leaves the station.

But what about those who say that applying even lipstick in public is a social faux-pas, akin to picking one’s teeth? To them, I would point out that the first wave of women applying makeup in public came in the 1920s, when women started publicly embracing makeup in general, and when makeup became less taboo for women outside of the less socially-acceptable professions. It is no coincidence that women started becoming more brazen in their public displays of femininity around the same time that campaigns for equal rights for women started paying off.

For there is the idea that women are delicate, and that therefore anything that differentiates them from men is part of what makes them unfit for the public eye. A woman applying makeup in public is making a statement that says “Look at me; I am a woman who feels the need to use cosmetics to enhance my appearance in a way that men don’t.” Saying that she shouldn’t make this statement is similar to those who think that woman should only wear natural-looking makeup, particularly in the workplace. You don’t want to give away that you need makeup. But how is that different than saying you don’t want to give away the ways in which you are different from men (although that’s not to say men never wear makeup!)?

To those who say that applying makeup in public is disgusting, I would ask what is disgusting about it? Unlike clipping one’s nails or picking one’s teeth, there is no removal of body waste that needs to be disposed of. One might perhaps have a small tissue that one uses to blot lipstick, but this is easily folded and pocketed in a way that clippings and pickings would not be. No, applying makeup is no different than putting on a bit of hand cream or uncolored lip balm, something that people do without worrying about running off to a private area. I would argue that those who are disgusted by public application of makeup can ultimately trace the disgust back to the idea that women should not make public that they use makeup.

Personally, I reapply my lipstick wherever I happen to be when I notice it needs reapplying. If that is at the table at a cafe, so be it. If it is in my office, I don’t worry about someone walking by and seeing me. No, I wouldn’t reapply lipstick in an interview, but then, I wouldn’t wear a lipstick that would need reapplication from the rigors of sipping water and talking. I wear a bright lip; everyone knows that those don’t just happen naturally. So it should come as no surprise when they see me pull out a lipstick bullet and swipe on a coat. And I will often check my lipstick in a small compact mirror because I consider it far less gauche to check one’s makeup than to have a smear of lipstick on one’s chin. Even the most matte formulas can be defeated, and it’s not an enjoyable experience to be told you have lipstick where it ought not to be.

And so, I say put on your lipstick in public. It is unobtrusive and unlikely to cause damage to your eyes the way a hasty eye makeup application might. There is a minimum of danger, and you will find yourself keeping alive the spirit of women who made makeup a mainstream thing for a woman to care about in public. I say that’s good company.


Vintage-Inspired Amusements: The Lady Magazine

I’ve discovered something new online! The internet is lovely for lovers of the vintage because you can find all sorts of original documents and vintage-inspired webpages so much more easily than when you had to go to the library and make a date with the microfiche viewer to see them.

The Lady magazine is apparently where Wodehouse got his inspiration for Aunt Dahlia’s Milady’s Boudoir periodical. And it’s not hard to see the resemblance. They even maintain a classified section for those seeking housekeepers, nannies, and other service personnel. Apart from those, they run articles about timeless style and a series of columns. They have a good old-fashioned agony aunt column, as well as an advice column for excellent manners that rivals the Grande Dame Judith Martin herself.

They also tend to provide styling, fashion, and interviews perhaps geared toward a more traditional audience. Rather than following trends, they focus on timeless advice for elegance. And they interviewed the current star of my new favorite show recently.

The magazine has been around since the 19th century and has the distinction of being Britain’s longest-running lady’s magazine. And issues appear weekly online. I love to read the features occasionally as they highlight a more timeless and elegant style than many American publications, particularly when it comes to home and fashion.

Reading such a publication gives me a profound sense of being connected to the history of publishing for ladies. Rather than being a magazine that pigeonholes us into assumptions about our interests in beauty or fashion or lace curtains, The Lady allows that ladies may have diverse interests and as such publishes diverse features, sometimes discussing food, or travel. The columns even target a range of ages, leaving few gaps in the possibilities that one will find something interesting to them. And the style is vintage and understated, rather than loud and trendy. All in all, it is a magazine that suits my style perfectly.

Scenes from a Blizzard

This past weekend, I was one of the many snowed in during the East Coast blizzard. Boyfriend and I made preparations. We got out to the store a couple days early and bought both refrigerator and pantry staples, as well as a little extra that could be eaten without cooking should the power go out. I set up telework. Friday morning, I made a point of going out for a brisk walk outside and Boyfriend ran in to work briefly before the snow started, and then we both hunkered down.

It really was a glorious snowstorm. Although there was some wind, the promised thunder and lightning did not appear in our little neighborhood. We stayed in and let the snow fall and blow through Friday evening. We watched a lovely movie on Netflix and had some leftovers found in the freezer that would not have survived a power outage.

By Saturday, it was becoming less likely we would lose power. We ventured out to do a little digging, both because we realized we couldn’t open any of the exterior doors on the main level of our house, and also because Boyfriend had invited a friend over. We were able to get out our basement door and trek through the snow to the front. We dug out the front door and a path to the street. Boyfriend’s friend came over and brought shortbread cookies so we had cocoa and cookies while they played computer games and I listened to a podcast.

Sunday, we finished digging out boyfriend’s car, and cleared the extra snow that had accumulated from the front walk. But, for the most part the weekend was spent curled up, drinking tea, and enjoying quiet indoor amusements. I am ready to get out of the house and may try to take a little walk in the snow later today, though work is still closed.

On Finding a Signature Scent

Signature scents are one of those things about which American beauty writers love to write. There’s this mysterious allure of wearing the same fragrance for the whole of one’s life that appeals to those of us struggling against a culture of novelty and trends. We see it as a very European thing; it almost always comes up in discussions of so-called “French girl” beauty. But the fact is that, as with makeup, new fragrances come along all the time. And we are always tempted by the new.

I’ve spoken briefly in the past about my problems with fragrance and body products. I had a catastrophic reaction to a scented body product that left me shy of anything with any added fragrance for a long time. While I’d started looking into natural personal care items before then, that was the incident that really tipped me over the edge into true hippydom. Lately, I’ve somewhat returned and realized that not all synthetic ingredients are bad. In fact, I’ve come to realize that it was likely an irritating essential oil that caused my original reaction.

Which is lovely as I’ve always loved fragrance. I have a particularly keen sense of smell and have associated scents with memories for the most odd events. I remember the oddly floral cologne that the first boy I ever slow-danced with wore. He had blond, floppy hair and was very cute and I was amazed that a boy even noticed me at the dance where I’d become separated from my friend group. I don’t remember ever seeing him again at a dance.

My mother wore Muguet des Bois by Coty, an appropriate beginning to my lifelong affinity for old-fashioned perfumed. Muguet was launched in the 30s and was based on the scent of the lily of the valley, my mother’s favorite flower. She had a small patch of muguet on the side of the house, but my grandmother had an even bigger patch in her garden. When they were in bloom, we would have them in vases around the house, and I would bring a bouquet to my French teacher. The very first upscale perfume I ever bought was Gucci Envy, which has a strong lily of the valley note to it. I bought it at Sephora to console myself after a breakup. I ended up wearing Envy for the rest of high school until I suddenly developed migraine headaches from the scent.

As I went away to college, I decided to reinvent myself with fragrance as well. I bought a bottle of Issey Miyake’s Eau d’Issey, which I kept on a shelf in my freshman dorm room. I honestly can’t remember any other personal care product I used (although I know shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and deodorant were present), but I remember that bottle of Issey with it’s conical bottle. It was a lighter, more modern floral. I also remember that my roommate’s boyfriend was oddly attracted to the fragrance.

After Issey came a period of time when I experimented with old classics. I wanted so badly to love Shalimar but discovered that I could not stand perfumes based with vanilla. So I found that Guerlain’s Mitsouko was similar, without the vanilla. It’s a lovely heady chypre with just enough floral to keep me interested. I felt so sexy wearing that fragrance… until a boy I was mad for mentioned that it reminded him of his sister!

From there, I abandoned high-end perfume for a while. I used Bath and Body Works Night-Blooming Jasmine, which was my first introduction to the sensuality that is jasmine. I lived across the street from a shopping center with a BBW and would layer the scent mercilessly, particularly on the weekends when I would take a bubble bath, followed by body lotion. I would emerge from the bathroom pink-cheeked, very soft, and trailing a cloud of floral. A friend and occasional lover commented that I should always smell of jasmine. Sadly, BBW discontinued the scent.

As I went away to graduate school and tried to grow up, I dabbled with designer perfumes: Fendi and Tocca. But never really found something that resonated. And then I reacted and banned fragrance from my life for months. I smelled of unscented soap and the vinegar I used to rebalance my hair after washing with soap.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I discovered Pacifica. Pacifica is a brand that started as a fragrance company. Similar to BBW, but with the goal of using natural ingredients, they have ranges of scents, such as California Star Jasmine or Malibu Lemon Blossom. The scents are mostly inspired by sunny, warm, and exotic locations, and tend towards fruitiness. But they have a scent called Persian Rose that is my favorite scent. I’ve been wearing it pretty consistently for a few years now and I love it. It is a balanced rose scent, based around Bulgarian Rose, but lifted with fruit and anchored with violet and myrrh. It is beautiful and complex but still definitively rosy. While some may think that rose is an old-lady scent, this is anything but geriatric.

After I shower in the mornings, I apply a very lightly scented body moisturizer and then dab on Persian Rose solid perfume. I may occasionally use the end of a bottle of eau de toilette to spritz, but I generally prefer the solid perfume. It warms and deepens on my skin in a more natural way. It doesn’t spread out from me as much, but I can always bring my wrist to my nose and remind myself of the scent, which makes me so happy and relaxed.

I think that the fragrance is a manifestation of my own personal style evolution. It is not expensive or designer, but it comes from a company that tries to source the best ingredients. It is blended and well-thought-out, but not pretentious. And it blends a traditional fragrance in a modern way. I love the way it makes me feel old-fashioned without feeling frumpy, much the way much of my wardrobe does. And in a way, fragrance is the first layer of my wardrobe.

On Enjoying Shakespeare

I’ve teased in the past about a recent project in which I’m involved. Well, we opened two weekends ago. I’ve spent the last few months rehearsing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I’ve loved to act since I was a young child, and I’ve been doing Shakespeare since I started in a local theater school’s company over 20 years ago, but I hadn’t had a chance to perform the Bard since returning to the stage two years ago after graduate school.

My first Shakespeare role was Ferdinand in The Tempest and it rather set the tone for many of my Shakespearean roles. I’ve played as many male characters as female ones. And that’s the beauty of Shakespeare: he creates characters that often transcend stereotypes and categories despite drawing on familiar tropes of comedy and tragedy. And I just love getting into these characters.

The language is what frightens some people when they think of Shakespeare, but the language is what I love. His words are his canvas and he paints beautiful pictures, both with the word meanings and with the sounds of the words themselves. My most recent role is that of Feste and he dallies nicely with words. It was a challenge to memorize some of his more mouthful pieces, but so, so fun to deliver them. He talks circles around most of the characters in the show (with the exception of the other two characters I’ve played in Twelfth Night in the past: Maria and Olivia).

But the language of Shakespeare truly has to be heard to be appreciated. Reading the text on the page has little of the same appeal. A colleague of mine commented that he’s decided to try to read his way through Shakespeare’s complete works, to which I responded with a grimace. That sounds like truly grim work. But a Shakespeare club? Get together a group of friends to read scenes from Shakespeare as a way of getting through the works? Fantastic! I suggested he at the very least look up films of the various plays that have had films made of them. So you don’t get much of the histories, but the more popular tragedies and comedies have some representation.

Above all, I think that most people take Shakespeare too seriously. He’s fun. He’s a playwright who chose to insert knee-slappingly funny bits into some of his most serious plays, often at the most intense points in the main action. He did this because he wasn’t catering to the enjoyers of high art, but the enjoyers of entertainment. Shakespeare is a reminder that sometimes in the darkest times, laughter is necessary. Sometimes you need the drunken porter or the nostalgic gravedigger to break up the intensity of life. Take the laughs as they come and let them temper the tragedy just a bit.

I’d love to hear anyone else’s views on Shakespeare, acted or read. And who wants to start a Shakespeare club?

Shaking Up My Skin Care Routine

I’ve recently discovered a new skin care guru: Caroline Hirons. Of course this makes sense, with my love of all things British, but in particular I like her because she above all prizes clean skin, gentle treatment, and avoiding shea butter if you get spots. For years I’ve known that shea butter breaks me out, but so many brands love to put it in products for acne-prone skin. It’s irritating that it takes so much effort to find a moisturizer that I’m not 90% certain will break me out, and I sometimes feel like I’m the only weirdo freak that can’t let shea near my face. I even avoid hair conditioners with it.

Anyway, Caroline’s routine is not exactly simple or minimalist, but it is also not a 12-stepper either. She first and foremost advises proper cleansing, with a hot washcloth and a good cream or balm cleanser. Already I’m listening, as I loved balm cleansing. I mixed up a batch of my homemade emulsifying cleansing balm anyway, and also bought a hot cloth cream cleanser from Human + Kind that I’ve been eyeing at Sephora for mornings. Sadly, I’m not fond of the scent of the cleanser, so I have my eye on a couple more to try out when that runs out.

Now, in the past, I’ve said that I feel like cream/balm cleansers make me feel a bit congested after a bit. Enter Hirons’ second step: acid toning. Rather than using an alcohol-based toner, she advises using an acid-based exfoliator on a daily basis (maybe even twice a day). Of course, I recently discovered that a salicylic-acid-containing moisturizer was helping with my breakouts, so I figured I’d give it a try in toning. I’ve been using First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance pads and enjoying them, but I’ve also ordered a salicylic acid pad from Garden of Wisdom.

After that, it’s hydration. First, in mist form, which I already love. No need to deviate from my favored rosewater and glycerin mix. Then, eye cream. I’ve picked up a sample of 100% Pure’s bestselling coffee eye cream to try out. And then serums, oils, and creams. So I keep my rose hip seed oil at night, and in the morning and to end my evening routine, I use my Andalou 1,000 Roses Beautiful Day Cream (the night cream contains shea, boo). It’s lovely and moist and smells of roses, which is always a plus for me. And I recently went moderately nuts on Sephora’s website and bought a serum, plus a few other deluxe sample goodies. And I think I might consider a lighter weight eye cream for the future, as the 100% Pure cream is rich and the nutty scent clashes slightly with the 1,000 Roses cream.

As far as results, it’s been not very long, but I have to say, not only are my existing spots clearing up, but my perpetually-bumpy forehead is also looking smoother. And my skin has a bit of a radiant glow to it that I don’t always see. Boyfriend’s mother’s cousin actually commented on how beautiful my skin was when we met before my play and I wasn’t wearing a scrap of makeup because I was about to go put it on backstage. Lovely.

Custom-Blended Hair Oil from NightBlooming

Many years ago, I had quite long hair, and I spent much of my time beautifying and fussing over it. I poured over articles and researched how to wash it, condition it, pamper it, and style it. I spent rather exhorbitant amounts of money on toys to put it up most beautifully. And then, I cut most of it off and went for years with short hair. I got rid of most of my hair toys and spent very little time worrying about my hair, unless it was sticking straight up or my scalp was itchy. That said, there were some pieces I could never abandon. These came from NightBlooming.

Years ago, Melissa at NightBlooming on Etsy made the most beautiful embellished hair sticks and accessories I have ever seen. Her designs have a fantasy aesthetic, inspired by the natural world and mythologies. Wearing a NightBlooming creation makes you feel like an ethereal fairy princess goddess, and even when I had a pixie hair cut, there were sticks she made me that I just couldn’t let go.

Since then, she’s branched out and now spends much of her energy blending natural hair care products. I had tried some of her original salve and oil before cutting my hair. Indeed, her Triple Moon Anointing oil was my first foray into the world of hair oils. But she’s truly blossomed her mixology into a whole new side of her business.

Having recently returned to growing my hair long and desirous of a new hair oil, I decided to try out a new item she offers: custom-blended hair oil. I knew I wanted something that smelled amazing, but I also needed a luxurious oil. Because my skin likes lighter, high-linoleic acids, and my hair likes heavier, high-oleic acids, I had very little in my oil arsenal that was truly nice for my hair. So I had her blend me up jojoba oil fortified with argan oil, and scent it with a heady blend of florals, frankincense, and vetiver. It’s a deep, dark, old-fashioned scent, but I love it. The best part is that she offers this service for a very reasonable cost, particularly considering I probably chose all her most expensive essential oils in an expensive base oil blend.

It took her about a day to blend the oil, and another couple days for it to ship. Immediately upon seeing the package in the mail, I tore into it and opened the oil. It smelled heavenly. I rubbed one drop on my hand and kept sniffing it until the scent dissipated in an hour or so. The next time I wet my hair, I applied three drops to the ends. It absorbs nicely and locks in all that lovely moisture from the water, but doesn’t leave my hair feeling oily. I can also use a bit more if I want to pre-treat my hair before bed when I’m going to wash it the next day. I find using a bit of oil on the ends of my hair makes them feel silkier and I don’t feel the need to trim as often.

For those who are worried about blending their own oil, NightBlooming offers a monthly oil blend that she designs for specific hair needs. She keeps the blend notes around so customers can just order a monthly blend instead of dreaming up their own blend and worrying that it won’t be what they want. She’s also lovely to interact with, if you want advice about growing long, beautiful hair. She’s been growing her hair for a long time and it’s truly lovely. I highly recommend giving her shop a look.

I also ordered a packet of herbal conditioning powder, based on the herb Zizyphus Spina Christi, with aloe, nettles, and wheatgrass added in for strength. It’s supposed to be a fortifying hair treatment, similar to henna, but without any color stain. Despite the dark color of my natural hair, I’ve started avoiding things that color because I have enough silver strands that they get dingy otherwise. I plan on having a lovely “hair spa” day some coming weekend to try it out!

Lotions and Potions

The cold air has hit us finally. The combination of cold, dry air outside and heated, dry air inside can wreak havoc on even the most resilient of complexions. I’m “blessed” have rather oily skin that does not get dry easily, but even I have noticed the effects of skin dehydration. And, as my beauty sources often remind me, oily skin does not equal hydrated skin. As such, I’ve found myself enjoying a few lovely moisturizing, conditioning, and hydrating boosts the last week or so.

  1. Rosewater and Glycerin: This is a very simple mix from the Heritage Store. It’s just what it says it is: their rosewater mixed with vegetable glycerin. It comes in a 4-oz. spray bottle and I love it more than any other fancy face mists I’ve tried. I use it when I get out of the shower before putting on my sunscreen in the morning, I use it in the evenings if I feel like I need a moisture boost before applying face cream and oil, and I keep one in my purse and my desk to just spritz whenever I feel dry or low. The rosy scent is true and light and a perfect pick-me-up.
  2. Griffin Remedy Skin Food lotion: I’ve used Griffin Remedy’s lotion in the past, but never shelled out for their fancier tier of lotion. With the state of my neglected legs being what they are, I splurged this weekend, and I have to say I love it. I first thought I would get the unscented lotion, as Boyfriend has expressed some concern about dry skin, but I found the lotion itself has a distinctive smell, likely from the MSM or some of the oils. So I got one that is lightly scented with frankincense. Frankincense is supposed to have some lovely healing and regenerative properties as well as smelling divine (literally, ask the Magi). The formula is a bit lighter and moister feeling than the plain Griffin lotion as well.
  3. Sheet masks: I discovered sheet masks when the Western world started discovering Korean skin care. While I’ve found that a fully-layered, eight- or ten-step regimen is just too much for me to stick to, I’ve kept my sheet masks around. Some of the old herbals I have list recipes similar to sheet masks and the practice of soaking muslin or silk strips in a healing solution and using that to beautify the skin has been around for ages. It is fortunate that I live in a day and age where I get the masks pre-soaked and in a little packet. I especially love them for travel because the cooling sensation of the mask calms my skin and sinuses after flying. My absolute favorite to date is the Sephora collection Rose Mask because of its lovely light scent, but I’ve recently ordered some more all-natural hydrating masks from 100% Pure and I’m excited to try them. As far as luxury items go, a $6-10 mask once a week is relatively benign and adds so much to my skin care routine. That said, if I’m in a pinch, I can soak a compressed sheet mask tablet in some alcohol-free toner (I like Thayer’s) and lay that on for a hydration boost.
  4. Hand cream: I had never been one of those people who used a lot of hand cream. I actually hate the feeling of having cream on the palms of my hands. But transitioning from a more hands-on job to a desk job has left me with less worry about slippery grips and more worry about the state of my hands and nails. Plus, a colleague once told me that he doesn’t look at women’s faces any more to determine how old they are, but can always tell from their hands. So I keep a tube at my desk. Right now, I have Andalou’s Path of Light cream in lavender, but I got a little tube of Human + Kind hand, foot, and elbow cream for Christmas and I plan to switch. Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a hand cream I like that doesn’t have shea butter in it, so I have to be very careful not to touch my face too much when I’m using hand cream, but I like that the H+K cream is more lightly scented than the Andalou. I’m intrigued by the brand overall, though most of the products are not quite what I need.
  5. Salves and balms: While oils and butters and salves will not hydrate your skin (only water and water-binders do that), they serve an important purpose in the winter. They lock in the moisture and keep your skin nourished with fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and E. While I’ve expounded in the past upon my love of rosehip oil, I thought I’d mention a new remedy I’ve found: Moon Valley Organics Herbal Heal. It’s a salve made from safflower, rosehip, and flax oil, with a bit of beeswax to thicken it up. Then, they also add all sorts of lovely healing herbal extracts, and propolis tincture for extra healing power. I’ve been using it occasionally as an eye balm, and it was a skin-saver when I was plagued with raw, chafed skin around my nose from my cold, but sometimes, when it feels very dry, I will slather my whole face in it after piling on my hydrating ingredients to keep all that moisture in close to my skin where it can do the most good.

I love a good walk in the bracing winter air, and I love to come home and curl up in the warmth of my house. With these lotions and potions, I find that these enjoyable winter practices don’t wreak quite so much damage on my skin, and keep my feeling beautiful and moisturized all winter. What are some of your winter skin tips?

On Healing, Slowly

I’ve finally hit the tail end of this nasty cold. I no longer sound like a consumptive Victorian lady, for the most part. I do still have to walk around with my face swaddled in a scarf to avoid letting the cold air into contact with my delicate lungs. But I am also back at work. Boyfriend and I took a nice long walk yesterday in the sunshine to make sure I could handle my walk from the train station. I have to say that, while it was lovely to get out of the house and be active, I did feel it.

That’s the problem with being sick. It’s not just about getting better: it’s also about getting back to where you were. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been to my aerials class. It’s been almost a week since I’ve gotten regular exercise. If I hadn’t had to take my medication with food, I’d barely have been eating. As it is, I feel like yesterday was the first day where my appetite was approximately normal.

And that will return, slowly. It likely helps to have this episode at the new year, as I have no temptation to diet or restrict myself with food because I’m in a place where I know I need to be eating more, not less, right now. For now, I’m focusing on feeling normal and good. I did another pampering skin care ritual last night, along with a lovely hot bath, scented with lavender bath salts. I decided to increase the luxury by slathering my face with True Nature Botanicals face oil while I bathed, letting the oil and steam soften my face. After I emerged from the tub, I massaged a generous amount of frankincense-scented lotion into my body. Then, I exfoliated my face with a bit of rice and oat flour, washed my face, toned, and put on a sheet mask. This infused me with a bit of much-needed moisture. Duly moisturized, I patted in the serum, added face cream and topped off with a bit of a massage with my rosehip seed oil. It was lovely. The final touch was to spritz my hair with rosewater and glycerin, apply a bit of a lovely new scented hair oil I got recently, and braid for bed.

While it’s a bit fussy for every night, it certainly put me in the right frame of mind to rest before returning to my daily routines this week.

An Indulgent Skin Care Routine for After Illness

I’ve been suffering from this awful cold for almost two weeks now. Wednesday night it became so terrible that I went to the urgent care center for trouble breathing. It’s nice to know that “I’m having trouble breathing without dissolving into a coughing fit” is a reason to be moved to the front of the line. Two and a half hours, a session with a nebulizer, and a handful of pill bottles later, I’ve been advised to rest and avoid being outdoors in the cold. As we’ve just recently enjoyed the advent of true winter weather, this means avoiding most enjoyment of the outdoors.

It also prompted the doctor to advise me to work from home so as to avoid my rather bracing daily walks from and to the train station. Thankfully, my boss agreed and I’ve spent the last two days working in the comfort of my own home. Now, the last few days I’ve done the bare minimum to maintain my skin care routine. Washing in the evenings, tone, moisturizing, and a little herbal balm around my nose where it’s been chafed from tissues. While taking a break for lunch, I decided I ought to take a little time and pamper my neglected skin.

I started with a good massage with some grapeseed oil to loosen dirt and debris. This I steamed off with a warm washcloth and followed with a good cleansing with my Earth Science cleansing gel. Thoroughly cleansed and prepped, I applied a sample packet of Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. This lovely soft-pink gel smelled lightly of flowers and remained on my face for 20 minutes before rinsing and applying a Sephora Pomegranate sheet mask. I prefer the Rose mask, but was out of them and the Pomegranate was supposed to be “anti-fatigue,” which I thought might benefit after weeks of late nights and sleep interrupted by coughing. Thankfully, the fruity scent of the mask was light enough and actually quite pleasant.

I applied the sheet mask, made a pot of lavender Earl Grey tea and got back to work for a half an hour. After I’d marinated under the mask for a half an hour, I decided it was enough. I removed it and patted the remaining serum in. I finished up by massaging in some True Nature Botanicals Face Oil. I got a deluxe sample of this oil from True Nature Botanicals last time I ordered and it smells absolutely divine. If it weren’t so dear, I would spring for the full size. For now, I’m rationing it, as I can’t justify shelling out for just a nice-smelling face oil.

I have to say that in addition to making my skin look absolutely lovely, this routine was relaxing and uplifting and made me feel a bit more like a productive member of society again. Although my instructions to avoid exertion and cold air does leave me feeling a bit like a consumptive Victorian literary heroine.