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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

A trip to Paris has eluded me so far this year – much to my chagrin (I lived there for a year as a student). My withdrawal symptoms are even worse now, thanks to the utterly exquisite new eyeshadow compact which I was sent recently, and started using on Monday. Why the increased withdrawal symptoms for Paris, you may ask?  Well, because the eyeshadow comes from Guerlain’s autumn collection, entitled 68 Champs-Elysees – the address of the flagship Guerlain boutique in the French capital.

Guerlain Ecrin 6 Couleurs (£51) is almost too pretty to use. The silvery, solid-feeling, compact was designed by India Mahdavi with an exotic, eastern design carved into the lid. Inside, there’s a mirror which opens out to the side and snaps back into place. Oh, and there are also some gorgeous eyeshadow colours – all of which have moonstone as a common ingredient.

There are five colourways to choose from, and each is named after the Parisian address of a Guerlain boutique. For a lovely, neutral, easy-to-wear palette go for 93 rue de Passy and for a bolder colour scheme which can take you from day to daring,  it’s got to be 68 Champs-Elysees, with its central deep violet shade.

TUESDAY

My nostalgia for Paris continued on Tuesday as I washed my hair with Melvita Blonde Hair Shampoo (£9; www.melvita.co.uk). As soon as I started lathering my locks, I was back in France in 1992 when I swore by a strikingly similar shampoo which counted lemon and vinegar among its ingredients. Lemon, of course, is reputed to be able to lighten blonde hair (in our teens, a schoolfriend and I compiled a beauty manual which was full of recipes for homemade products, and lemon always loomed large in my experiments).  After a few days of using this new shampoo I noticed that the light-coloured ends of my hair looked much more blonde; unfortunately, this emphasised the fact that the roots are in dire need of coverage.. So if I use this shampoo again, it will be nearer the start of a colour cycle!

I don’t think, however, that I’ll be rushing back to use the conditioner which I was sent at the same time.  After using the shampoo, my hair felt very tuggy and even a generous dollop of Melvita Tired Hair Conditioner (£9) failed to detangle it. It’s a shame because I loved the smell: geranium is one of my favourite scents.

I won’t let it put me off trying some of the other products in the vast Melvita range. This is an organic range which, in France, is sold in pharmacies  and over here, is available in John Lewis and online. But watch out for a dedicated store opening in Covent Garden in November.

WEDNESDAY

I seem to be having a bit of a Hitchcock Blonde obsession at the moment… and I’m not just talking about Grace Kelly. While I’m not bowled over by any of the individual outfits that Kim Novak (left) wears in Hitch’s 1958 classic Vertigo, I love the line of her clothes and the way she marries ladylike with sexy.

On Wednesday, I tried on a 1950s-style wide-collared, knee-length, bracelet- sleeved, leopard print coat in Topshop (having just posted a celebration of leopard print on this blog, I thought I’d better check out what was available), and I fell in love. What swung it wasn’t the cosiness of the fake fur, the gorgeous print, or anything remotely practical about the coat; it was the fact that when I tried it on, with my hair pinned back with a bit of a quiff on top, the look was pure Vertigo-era Novak.

Now, you can’t do the Novak look without an impressive pair of eyebrows, so the recent arrival of not one but two eyebrow pencils was very timely. Both the brand-new Lancome Le Crayon Sourcils Pro (£14.50) and Sisley Phyto-Sourcils Perfect (£29) are great for grooming brows – thanks to the little brush they have at one end – and both come in an ideal shade for blondes (Hitchock or otherwise…).

THURSDAY

A night at the theatre with my fiercest beauty critic – AKA Mum – was the occasion for the first public outing of my new Tom Ford Private Blend Lip Color in Pink Dusk (£35), which is apparently the most popular shade in the collection of luxury lipsticks.

Being a Monday’s child (“fair of face”), I have always tended to go for brightish reddy-pinks but since a beauty epiphany at Space NK a couple of years ago, I’ve always had a flesh-toned, paler pink in my collection – for use with a strong, smoky purple eye and a 1960s look.

This Pink Dusk shade is perfect for that, and, on Thursday, worked beautifully with a smoky eye made up with a couple of the light shades from the Guerlain Ecrin 6 Couleurs in rue de Passy, plus the eyeshadow that has become an essential in recent months – Estee Lauder Pure Color Eyeshadow in Tempting Mocha (£15; www.esteelauder.co.uk). Put it this way, not once on Thursday evening did Mum ask if I was feeling alright – the usual question I’m asked by family members who are tricked into thinking I look pale if they see me without a bright lipstick.

FRIDAY

I’m thrilled that there are so many purple options out there again for autumn and winter 2010, and I’m certainly going to be making full use of them.

I was sorting through all the purple possibilities on Friday and came to the conclusion that my two favourite nail varnishes of the moment are Chanel Le Vernis in Paradoxal (£16.50), a pewtery shade of purple, perfect for evening wear, and Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Surreal Violet (£12; www.esteelauder.co.uk) which has turned out to be the polish that I’ve worn most over the last couple of months. I particularly like the fact that it dries fast, lasts well and – as a near-neutral – goes with just about everything.

Of the purple make-up for the face, I love the new shades of lipstick from Dior (the Serum de Rouge  in Smoky Pink Serum would be lovely on a sallow skin) – though purplish lipsticks don’t work on me – and the two Dior 5 Couleurs compacts (£39), Pink Design and Misty Mauve. Mum had her own beauty epiphany recently, and it also revolved around the colour purple. She is now a convert to purple eye makeup, and I sent her off on her trip to Paris on Friday with two treats: Clinique Color Surge Eye Shadow Duo in Blackberry Frost (£18.50; www.clinique.co.uk) and the gorgeous new Sisley Phyto Khol Star in Dark Amethyst (£29), which has a subtle sparkle.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I was in Edinburgh last week, staying in a friend’s flat on and off while I covered the jazz festival. Knowing that I was going to be out and about a lot – and out late into the wee small hours on the odd occasion – I had to make sure I had a make-up bag full of only the most reliable basics.

For the last few weeks I’ve been using the new Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume Mascara (£18) and I’ve decided that, along with Lancome’s Hypnose Precious Cells, it is my favourite new mascara of the year so far.

It’s perfect for creating fuller, longer and more voluminous-looking lashes – ideal for someone like me, who is somewhat challenged in the luscious lash department. (Long, Bambi-style, lashes seem to be the preserve of the men in my family!) Not only that but it conditions the lashes at the same time.

Anyway, the new Laura Mercier mascara proved its reliability and it was only the day when I tried another brand that I ended up with panda eyes..

TUESDAY

I may have been playing it safe with tried and tested basics but I managed to fit in a little improvisation on the make-up front while at the jazz festival. I spent a few days (it lasted remarkably well, even through the typing of around five concert reviews, one beauty article and numerous emails) falling in love with the Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Surreal Violet (£12; www.esteelauder.co.uk). A slightly opalescent, lilacy take on the putty shade that’s all the rage, it’s a great summer-to-autumn colour – not too wintry and not too pastelly. Love it!

WEDNESDAY

Disaster struck on Tuesday when my then-current liquid eyeliner fell apart – the brush came out of the lid. Luckily I had a spare – although I hadn’t used it before, having been put off by the old-fashioned bottle (when I was sent it, I was hooked on the pen-brush style of liner).

Anyway, Guerlain Eye-Liner in Encre Brun (£22.50) – a simple name for a sophisticated-looking cosmetic – saved the day and won my heart in the process: I am now totally smitten. It draws an elegant, even and smooth line and is just the job for creating a flicked-up fifties look or a Cleopatra-style cat’s eye.

It served me well through the last few days of the jazz festival though I’m still trying to establish whether it was guilty of causing said panda eyes on the last night, or whether that was the mascara. The late night session in the wine bar didn’t help mascara matters.. …

I’m off to dig out the other shades of Guerlain Eye-Liner which I have, including last season’s midnight blue colour, bound to look stunning with some of the new season’s navy, teal and kingfisher blue shades.

THURSDAY

Purple is big news once again this autumn/winter – how many years is that then? – and one of the loveliest of the new products that I’ve been sent so far is the limited edition Dior 5 Couleurs in Misty Mauve (£39) which I played about with on Wednesday and Thursday.

The colours are shimmeringly beautiful – opal white and pink highlighters, mauve and plummy-beige mid-tones and a dark aubergine shade perfect for creating a smoky eye look. These are classic colours which are worth investing in, if you’re in need of a new palette.

FRIDAY

Yuck. Woke up on Friday feeling hideous. Sore throat, runny nose and period pain – a triple whammy and one which left me looking totally washed out.

I’m pale at the best of times and usually need to have a bit of colour on my face to give me a lift. I especially wanted to look my best as I was escaping the jazz for half an hour in order to meet two of the lovely girls from the Clinique PR team for an update on the next few launches.

Thankfully, I had taken a new blusher to try out in Edinburgh and it saved me from looking like a ghost of my usual self. Just a light dusting of Chanel Joues Contraste in Pink Explosion (£29) gave me enough colour to make me look human again. And its slight shimmer added a hint of much-needed radiance.

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