Inoticed, during the first few months of last spring’s lockdown, that people were making an effort for their Zoom calls. Dangly earrings. Fancy blouse. Proper make-up. Fast forward to November and it was pyjamas, hair in a top knot and bare faces straining for connection with other humans through the screen. Make-up bags were languishing. We were languishing: a psychological term for the place between robust mental health and depression. Not mental illness (yet) but indifference to our own indifference.
And now we are edging towards freedom. Towards people. Towards togetherness. But, just as many of us have opened our wardrobes over the past few months and encountered what appeared to be a selection of medieval robes — they made so little sense — others have peered into the depths of our make-up bags/drawers/boxes and wondered… What now? Tubes of mysterious unguents that have separated and gone oily. Mascaras that smell faintly mouldy. Foundations that have caked or merely look alien because our skin has changed. Our faces have changed. We have changed. We may not be able to track the changes but we know that there is no such thing as a free lockdown.
And so, maybe we tried a practice run with our make-up. And it was like ancient man attempting cave painting. The old tricks didn’t work. Maybe we didn’t work. What now? Back to basics is what now. Just as our old emotional get-out-of-jail cards aren’t working so well after this shocking time, so our make-up fall-backs can feel stale and wrong: making us look more tired, older, more ‘other’. So I’m going to suggest some therapy make-up; just to get you off the starting blocks if you feel stuck.
Sunscreen. Sorry but you have to. Try Skinceuticals Ultra Facial UV Defence Factor 50 if you want the best of the best for day-to-day city scurrying with no chalkiness, but I also love a vast bottle of Ultrasun Sports Gel, which you can shove on your whole body (and your whole family) and it sinks in immediately with a rather cooling effect.
Now is the time to try primer — just to be reassured that you are providing a really welcoming canvas for whatever comes next, and to prevent it sliding off. Laura Mercier is the original queen of primers and her recently updated Pure Canvas formulas will blur/hydrate/illuminate/whatever you need, plus it feels amazing. If a flawless finish is what you are after — however natural and dewy — then primer is your first step.
Keep your base light or you may shock yourself and others. You don’t want a vaudeville effect as summer unfolds and you start to let your hair down. Try something like Morphe’s Hint Hint Skin Tint, which offers a light but sure-footed evenness, or Givenchy’s Prisme Libre Skin Caring Glow, for long-lasting, hydrating, natural-looking coverage. Back these up with a good concealer: a current favourite is Flower Beauty Light Illusion, to tackle inflammation and spots, or Hourglass’s Veil Retouching Fluid, which conceals dark circles without creasing or exaggerating fine lines — which, I find, so many do.
You need roses in your cheeks, my beauties. Nars Air Matte Blush is slightly moussey and delicately buildable. For contour, try a finely pigmented bronzer (with zero sparkle) like Victoria Beckham’s excellent new Bronzing Brick, which is refillable and comes in two warming tones as you go from day to evening, or from May to August.
Eyes. Let’s put stars in them. Charlotte Tilbury’s Legendary Brows are a one-stop brow situation — texture, feather and fullness in one — while Pat McGrath Labs’ Dark Star Mascara is pure glamour that doesn’t clog. That’s for best. I have two excellent Maybelline Sky High Lash Sensationals — one for the car and one for the bathroom. Always good and always to hand.
Let’s finish with some kissy lips — nothing scary. Gucci Westman’s Squeaky Clean Liquid Lip balm to feel irreproachably rich and gorgeous; L’Oreal’s Plumping gloss (so many excellent shades) for a playful shine; and one of Chanel’s new Rouge Coco Bloom lipsticks for a bit of a summer statement. I’m wearing Blossom, which manages to be bravely bright yet utterly wearable. Optimistic. Because right now, my favourite conspiracy theory is that everything is going to be okay.
re you a bit lost when it comes to your perfume? Do you love the idea of having a signature scent but have no clue where to begin?
Perhaps the whole spraying mania of a department store perfume aisle is just not for you. Or perhaps, feeling overwhelmed by the choice, you end up reverting to the much-loved (yet nowadays entirely inappropriate) eau de toilette of your teenage years.
Whatever the cause of your perfume paralysis, it could be time to bypass the sea of Boots tester strips, and enlist the help of a professional.
London is a city crammed to the rafters with amazing perfumeries, and many of them offer bespoke services that allow you to create a totally unique, heaven sent scent.
These are the ones to know.
Ormonde Jayne offers two bespoke services. The first involves meeting with brand founder Linda Pilkington several times over the course of six months. She’ll make a very detailed mental portrait (everything from your eating habits, to what scenery and landscapes excite you) before selecting scents from her private library. You'll spray and sniff repeatedly until you find your dream scent, which they'll then bottle in an engraved rare crystal flacon.
Their quicker (and cheaper) 90-minute ‘Your Scent, Your Strength, Your Style’ service allows you to choose one of their signature 15 fragrances, then choose the strength: either Extract (poured at 40% concentration, £185) or Intense (poured at 50% concentration, £205). Lastly, you choose from the 8 gorgeous bottle colours (or you can have a clear flacon) and they will engrave your name and initials in our boutique. All while guzzling champagne and Charbonnel and Walker chocolates.
Price: ‘Your Scent, Your Strength, Your Style’ starts at £185 for a 50ml bottle, poured at 40 per cent strength. The fully bespoke service costs between £3,000 - £6,000 depending on the oils chosen and the bottle.
Bonus: Not to be missed if you love the scent Oudh, which Ormonde Jayne is famous for.
Not only were British brand Floris responsible for Kate and Wills’ wedding fragrance, but they’re also the oldest privately owned family perfumers in the world.
Opt for their two-hour scent customisation experience and be guided through base notes and top notes while sipping on champagne. You’ll leave with a monogrammed bottle and your exact scent mixture noted in the company’s 300-year-old ledgers.
Floris also offer a full perfume design service. Over a period of six months you will work with their resident ‘nose’ to design your own signature scent totally from scratch.
Wake up in the middle of the night and decide you just gotta have that signature scent? No problem. Miller Harris take bookings for their 90-minute Fragrance Profiling service at any time of day or night, and will even close the shop for you during the day should you fancy it. After some initial questions to establish a sniffing starting point (where have you lived? what food do you like?) the expert will select three ‘lights’, three ‘darks’ and two wild card perfumes with which to take you on a wine tasting-esque journey to finding that perfect scent.
Price: £250 if you want the private, middle-of-the-night (or day) experience, with a 100ml bottle of fragrance, or £100 if you’re happy to do it when the store’s open (plus a 50ml bottle of your chosen perfume).
Launched in 2017 by perfumer Emmanuelle Moeglin (who has 12 years’ experience working for brands like L’Oreal and Puig), this micro-perfumery specialises in creating bespoke perfumes for individuals and brands alike.
Head to their newly opened lab-cum-store in Covent Garden (53 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9DG), where you’re free to experiment with fragrance layering and have your own fragrance blended for you, complete with a personalised label and bottle. Ordinarily the EPC runs day-long group workshops which are on hold right now due to Covid, but are well-worth booking in for once things get back to normal.
For now, book in for one of their 1-2-1 appointments for a fragrance deep dive, either ‘Le Petit Parfum’ or ‘Sur Mesure’. You’ll leave with a 50ml fragrance and the Experimental Perfume Club will store your unique formula for you.
Master perfumer Roja Dove has an encyclopaedic knowledge of scent - and a cult following to match.
The first step for anyone booking in for his £25,000 bespoke service? A cup of tea. "It helps make them comfortable in my company so they can truly act themselves," says the 64-year-old.
You’ll then sit with Dove for many hours, during which he will blind scent test hundreds of raw materials on you, judging your reactions, in a process he invented called Odour Profiling. “I unpick their olfactory locks like a cat burglar to develop the building blocks of their scent personality - everything is as unique as a fingerprint and by taking the time to get to know the client on a personal level, I am able to recreate that completely individual smell,” he says.
Dovewill then create a couple of slightly different fragrances for you to choose from, before you order your final perfume in a bottle, cap, plaque and box all designed exactly to your taste.