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Back to beauty: Where we’re going and what we’re buying first

In the week that the entire country tried to make an appointment with a beautician or hairdresser, some of the rogue writers reflect on the beauty treatments that got them through or that they are most looking forward to, and recommend some of their favourite products…

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Fiona Hyde

With my pandemic, I was luckier than most in some ways, and unluckier than others. I continued to work almost as normal, with increased hours and pressure but empty streets. However, I also continued to live alone, spending what seemed like an unending string of weekends by myself in my small flat. Not seeing anyone, or even leaving the same two rooms most of the time. Lifelines felt few and far between, and not always healthy.

Now, I love skincare. I treat it like a hobby and a science to study. (And a well to throw my money down.) I joked during the height of Ireland’s restrictive measures that at least, in my beloved skincare, I had cultivated one pastime in my life that wasn’t socialising in pubs or eating out. One thing that felt particularly indulgent and restorative – especially in the time of no touching and no caressing and eerie social distance – was giving myself a facial massage.

I highly recommend Lisa Eldridge’s YouTube tutorial on how she massages her face. Light strokes for lymph movement, pushing pressure points and working out small knots in her eyebrows and jawline from holding tension. She has a soothing, calm voice and she reassures you about everything you’re doing (don’t worry about your technique, or how much time you can devote to this), inadvertently reassuring you about the larger strife in your life at the same time.

Facial massage feels decadent and relaxing, like you’ve done something really nice for yourself. It’s anchoring, as your hands are kept busy so you can’t fidget or mindlessly pick up your phone.  The sole caveat is you need to use a product that has enough slip to ensure you don’t drag your skin. I have a few in my arsenal – affordable options include Una Brennan Super Facialist Vitamin C Oil, which you can get in Boots, or any of The Ordinary’s oils like rosehip or marula, available in Arnotts. If you’re pushing the boat out a bit more, you could try the Clarins Blue Orchid Oil or the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil. Enjoy it. You deserve it, after all you’ve been through.

Aisling Keenan

I always say that my feet are my favourite body part, and I’m half joking when I do. But the half of me that isn’t joking makes sure to take expert care of them… Sandal season is my most cherished time of year. Any opportunity to show bare a toe or ten. But right now? My feet don’t just need a pedicure. They need the attention of a medical professional. They are in a BAD way.

Hence, my first port of call, beauty-wise, after lockdown is a medi-pedi. I will pay any price to have them returned to former glory, and I will gleefully don my favourite flip flops once more, catching a glimpse of the bright red polish and the perfectly preened cuticles and knowing all is well in my little beauty world. I’m booked into Mink in Ballsbridge for this week and truly, it cannot come quick enough. My roots can wait, my now unibrow can continue to resemble a baby caterpillar traversing my face. Feet first, my universal mantra.

Cassie Delaney

My beauty rituals are offensively substandard. I still cannot blend an eyeshadow, wing a liner or contour a face. I have however nailed the relaxation portion of the activity, ie. the laying down and allowing someone much more qualified than I to improve my general appearance. I am sucker for a long eye treatment because the process is often 60 minutes or more and I’m really good at being horizontal and closing my eyes.

During lockdown, in the absence of professional help, I often took to the bath for an hour-long soak, a lengthy lounge in the sun (when we had it) or a simple face mask and stretch out on the couch. The result has been that my eyebrows have emigrated from my face and so my first port of call will be an LVL lash treatment and an eyebrow tint and shape.

Liadán Hynes

Right in the first few weeks of the pandemic-induced lockdown, I celebrated a birthday. Celebrated is the wrong word really. At the time, it was just my five-year-old and I in the house. I didn’t know how long it would be just us alone, unable to see anyone else, and I was really struggling. Celebrating didn’t feel like something I was up to. More pertinently, I had no cake, no presents to be opened, and may daughter is someone who holds birthday celebrations in HIGH esteem. I didn’t think I could jolly her through a birthday-day which featured no blowing out of candles, no people about us to create a sense of party.

No one to help her make the card behind my back. I couldn’t inflict it upon her, and I couldn’t watch her little face witnessing such a below par take on her favourite type of celebration. So I said nothing, pretended it wasn’t my birthday. When family and friends called, I texted saying call you tomorrow, knowing that if I answered, I might quite likely burst into tears. It was peak lockdown; fear, anxiety and overwhelm were hard to manage back then.

After we moved to my parents, we picked a random day for my birthday, and my daughter got to make me a card (she had to give it to me the night before, she is UNABLE to keep any kind of secret), and to blow out my candles, and I got my lie in. I also decided to get myself something nice for my birthday. But I couldn’t decide what that would be. For weeks, I deliberated. I wanted it to be something I really needed (but not in a boring way, like a replacement for our kettle which kept leaking), something that would make a difference to my life. And then I remembered.

Since turning thirty-eight, I had noticed my skin, nothing something I had ever put great effort or thought into maintaining, losing whatever quality it had. Getting sort of dry, rough and bumpy at times. “Oh well. Age. Inevitable,” I thought. “No, you just need to look after it a bit more,” a facialist told me. Subtext, “you idiot.” I mentioned to my friend Aisling that I was thinking of booking an online consultation as a birthday present. “Oh I can do that,” she, a hugely experienced beauty journalist, replied instantly. “Tell me about your skin.” And so I did, and she asked for my budget, and send me a list of products I was to purchase, and instructions on how to use them.

So now, I, a person who when we talked had run out of her own products such as they were, and was stealing from her mother’s supply, have a skincare routine. Every morning, and every evening, for a couple of minutes while my daughter is otherwise occupied, I sit at my desk, listen to a bit of a podcast, and work through my skincare routine. I never miss it, for some reason I feel accountable to Ais. But more than that, I love these few minutes to myself. Peeling off or prepping for the day. A few minutes of looking after myself.

I’ve also gotten carried away and begun investigating makeup products. If you are a fellow novice in this area, I have two recommendations which anyone with any kind of expertise will no doubt roll their eyes at, so obvious are they. I decided to master eyeliner during lockdown, and ordered a number of options, all of which seemed like being given the equivalent of a Typex brush with which to draw a line on your eyelid. In the end, I found a Chanel Signature de Chanel eyeliner pen that my best friend had left at my house, and gave it a try. Perfect results. I also finally ended my long search for a nude (by which I mean approximately natural lip shade, maybe just something that will bring them up a little), lipstick, Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk.

Sophie White

During lockdown, my relationship with my face changed dramatically. Mainly, I think, because I simply saw a whole lot more of it. Pre-lockdown, I would catch barely a fleeting glimpse of my bare face before I would laboriously cover it in make up. Nothing wrong with makeup, but I’ve never been one of those people who enjoy the routine of putting it on or experimenting with different looks. For me it was a means to an end – that end being simply looking acceptable. I’ve struggled with my skin for 20 years. In my teens, I had the usual breakouts most of us have to contend with but then my 20s and then 30s came and still my skin never cleared.

Having bad skin can really get in on you. I was constantly paranoid that people assumed I was dirty in some way – that that had to be the reason for still having acne (albeit mild enough to cover with makeup) in adulthood. I was virtually phobic about being seen without my full coverage. I was the woman working out in full Mac Studio Fix. I’ve taken my clothes off in front of strangers (in a former life of working as a life model) but couldn’t cope with opening the front door without a bit of base on.

I tried things over the years. Futile prescriptions. Birth control. Promise-filled outlays on topical treatments. By 35, I just figured my bad skin was an immovable fact, like the colour of my eyes or the fact that it’s now too late to pursue a career in musical theatre. Then I met a woman who had lovely skin – she was bare faced and clearly perfectly comfortable – and was persuaded to give a skin consultation a go. I dropped a terrifying amount of money (€400 in one go on skin products is just not my vibe) and vowed to follow the directions of my consultant to the letter. Six months later and I am the woman who is bare-face and perfectly comfortable. In lockdown, I pretty much abandoned my make up and while yes, my skin has settled considerably after six months of consistent care, much more significantly I have settled into my skin.

For many of us, Instagram filters have skewed our concept of what real skin even looks like anymore, pores are extinct if Insta is anything to go by but, as I once heard beauty oracle Louise McSharry say, getting used to what our skin actually looks like without makeup – or indeed, Facetune – is a really good way to diffuse the self criticism and stop comparing our imperfect beauty with something modified by make up and technology; flawless sure, but ultimately less interesting for that very fact.

While I’m definitely recommending giving barefaced a go – I also have to shout out this SPF from Skingredients. It’s a brilliant product that goes on so nicely and doesn’t sit on the skin. It also has a subtle tint and makes for a great primer if you are going for a full face.

Fionnuala Jones

“You drive half an hour down the motorway to get your nails done?” Yes, because every visit to Grace, my nail gal, is cathartic. I’m greeted with the friendliest smile, a mug of tea and whatever treat she has on rotation that week. We talk at length about ourselves, the latest social media madness, and the wider issues plaguing our society, all while Grace gives me nails to rival Cardi B herself.

No idea is too outlandish – Grace entertains it all while acting as my personal hype-man. She even went as far as posting me stick-on claws during lockdown, in its own cassette tape box. Drive half an hour? I’d emigrate for her at this point. Find her at @cherryontopnails on Instagram.

Main photo by Glow Repose on Unsplash

Casette tape pic from @cherryontopnails on Instagam