How a Complicated Asian-Style Skin Care Routine Fits into a Vintage-Inspired Lifestyle

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently re-investigated Asian or Korean skin care and started developing my own multi-step routine. Currently, I mostly use relatively ordinary, Western products, but both the outlandish products and the ritual of the routine fit into my vintage-inspired mindset for my lifestyle. So many people have memories of their grandmothers or mothers sitting in front of the vanity and carefully doing their skin care routine. My own grandmother, though she is not fussy or vain in any way, had her vanity with her jars of creams. I used to play with them sometimes when I was over there, and had to be reminded that grandmother’s room is not for children.

Vintage-style beauty hearkens back to days when makeup was neither widely commercially available nor socially acceptable. While the red lipsticks of the mid-20th century are well-loved, and the feminist makeup boom of the 1920s is known, before that, women were expected to at least look like they were bare-faced and came by their glow honestly. What better way to do this, at least in part, than by having lovely, tended-to skin? And this philosophy is explicitly shared by Korean skin care devotees. The idea is to spend more time on your skin care so you don’t need as much makeup.

Obviously, some of us do just need makeup for things that skin care alone cannot entirely fix. I know I personally have inherited dark circles that no amount of eye cream will diminish, and so I use concealer as well as eye cream. But the idea that the right combination of skin care products will leave you with a perfect, makeup-free glow is an old idea indeed. And while so many “vintage beauty” guides focus on the fact that historical skin care products were made from pre-industrial ingredients, human beings have always had a fascination with the new and outlandish. Before widespread cosmetic manufacturing, odd ingredients or the odd use of ingredients piqued the interest of historical beauties. Rumors about beautiful women bathing in this or that showed that there was an idea that seemingly extreme beauty products were the secret to eternally youthful skin. Cleopatra and Empress Sisi were both said to have bathed in milk. Empress Sisi even wore raw meat sheet masks to enhance her beauty. So is snail secretion or donkey’s milk really that different or new?

And once cosmetic ingredients started to become industrially synthesized, such as the 19th-century discovery of fatty alcohols, people were fascinated by these new ingredients. Perhaps one of the reasons women would put radioactive materials on their skin was because such things were a novelty and thought to be the next big thing. I promise you that if Empress Sisi could have gotten her hands on a peptide serum, she would have tried to bathe in the stuff.

Finally, all this involved skin care helps me stay connected to the practice of enhancing one’s beauty through care and attention. Women in history, particularly in the upper classes, had to engage in elaborate routines to get their hair to curl or even to get in and out of the clothing they wore. So much of modern convenience has meant that some of us no longer spend that time on ourselves. And reconnecting with that bit of self-appreciation has been highly therapeutic to someone to whom “getting ready” used to mean pulling on jeans and a t-shirt and putting her hair into a ponytail (or pinning back a third-day-unwashed pixie cut). Becoming the kind of woman who has a skin care routine has helped me feel better about myself, even when I don’t bother putting on makeup. And that has always been the goal of a beauty routine, throughout history, I think.

A Cooler Lipstick for Autumn and Winter

As we move into the cooler days of autumn and winter (albeit slowly, as we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here lately), I find myself reaching for cooler tones of lipstick. Part of it has to do with losing that tiny bit of incidental sunshine I might get despite my adherence to sun protection. Part of it is the cooling of the colors of the landscape around us. As the leaves fall, their reds and oranges no longer cast a warm tone on the surrounding world, and the cool greys of snowy skies instead chill the color palette as well as the air temperature.

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On days such as these, I find I want a nice cherry red without the orange tones that make my warmer-weather lipsticks so cheery. Continuing my love of the brand Bite Beauty, I pull Pomegranate from my bag.

Even the name recalls winter, with the myth of Persephone eating four of the kernels of the pomegranate, corresponding to the four months of winter when she must stay in the underworld. And, indeed, pomegranates are a winter fruit, showing up in the markets just in time to make an appearance in holiday fruit displays and decorations.

Yes, Pomegranate is an appropriate shade for cooler weather. I love its creamy consistency and its chameleon nature. With a bit of blotting, it becomes a very rosy pink, and with a couple of coats, it’s a full-impact bright red. It does not stay on as well as some of my lipsticks, but the texture is such that I adore reapplying. Now if only Bite Beauty would consider releasing an attractive, vintage-style bullet.

Rainy Day Red

As is well-documented, I enjoy a good red lipstick. Recently I found what might have been my Holy Grail of red lipsticks except for one thing: it’s a limited-edition shade, and therefore could be gone before I know it. It is sad, but I’m doing my best to both attempt to talk the manufacturer into adding the shade to their permanent line, as well as resigning myself to the fact that it is an ephemeral love in my life.

This lipstick shade is Bite Beauty’s Luminous Creme Lipstick in Mimosa. It’s listed rather innocuously as “warm red” on Sephora’s website. Now I’ve been disappointed in Bite’s warm red before, when Apricot turned out to be a little more brick than I usually enjoy in a lipstick. Mimosa, however, is more than just a warm red. It is a warm, vivid, bright red. It applies creamily and stays on well. I wore it to a crab feast and it lasted through three critters. I’ve taken to just applying one coat and blotting, and it still maintains its vigor.

I like to think of it as my rainy day red because it is so bright and cheerful. We’ve had several grey, gloomy days lately, and I think a nice swipe of bright lipstick livens up the day. Every time I catch a glance in the mirror, my lips make me happy. And I just feel more confident on days when the weather might bring me down.

Even when I don’t need to reapply, I sometimes just twist the bullet up to gaze at its lovely shade. A little odd, perhaps, but then, you haven’t seen this color in person. It is certainly not a shade for the shy, unless the shy are looking for a good way to assert themselves. But it is definitely a shade for a rainy day.

And, as always, Bite Beauty lipsticks are food-grade, gluten-free, and leave my mind at ease about the lipstick prints on my lunch.

Image source: sephora.com

The Ritual of Beauty

I’ve made another upgrade to my beauty routine. I’ve recently started old-fashioned wet shaving with a safety razor. Part of this comes from my exposure to shaving soap makers on the soap making forums I’ve started frequenting, and part of it is from a desire to reduce the waste of my routinesTo that end, I purchased a simple, double-edged safety razor set. I got a butterfly razor for easier blade loading, which came with five blades to get me started, along with a badger bristle brush and a stand to hold them while they dry. It all arrived in the mail over the weekend, but I was missing one thing: the soap.

Now, I have been friends with a local soap maker for a number of years, first befriending her when I was experimenting with using shampoo bars. I helped her develop her shampoo bar formula, although I’ve since found shampoo bars in general to be non-ideal for my hair. And she makes a lovely range of scented shaving soaps. Add to that the fact that her shaving soaps are actually fairly highly rated by those on shaving forums, and I knew there was nowhere else I could go for my first shaving soap.

I think I spent an hour at her stand, Mystic Water Soaps, on Sunday. She had one that was my favorite fragrance of hers, jasmine, but she also had a delicious rose-lemon scent. And I discovered her Viola de Bosca fragrance, which is a beautiful, old-fashioned powdery floral. In the end, I went home with a puck of her unscented, sensitive skin soap, and an agreement to come back in a few weeks for samples of the scented soaps.

That evening, I prepared myself for a wonderful beauty ritual. Using such beautiful, well-made products to shave meant I felt like the whole process was more special. So I washed my face and put on a mask with green clay, honey, rosewater, and witch hazel, and then ran a very hot bath. I slipped in and soaked in the water for a few minutes before applying a grapeseed and jojoba oil blend to my legs to soften things up. Then I got to work.

Creating shaving lather is a skill and an art and I was very new at it, but I managed to get a good lather for both my legs. I moved slowly, wary of this new blade and how sharp it might be. But, in the end, I did not even nick myself and was rewarded with soft, smooth legs. I was a bit bold and did my underarms as well. Thoroughly shaved and rinsed, I stepped out of the tub, blotted with a towel, and applied my rosehip-and-tallow balm to seal in the moisture. I rinsed out my shaving mug and wiped off the outside of my soap container. I rinsed the brush and rinsed my razor under running water and set them out to dry. Then, I completed my facial by rinsing off the mask, toning, and applying rosehip oil.

This ritual of beauty left me feeling relaxed and lovely, not just because the treatments had made me more aesthetically pleasing, but because I felt graceful and connected to a tradition of female beauty. Such things make me feel like these practices are bigger than myself, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

A Brief Life Update

I’m still here, I promise. And things are still happening.

Sadly, my gardens are not doing so well. A combination of vacation and busy weekends left us with little time to weed. One of our azaleas seems to be dying, and most of my herb garden has been re-conquered by weeds. The basil and parsley are making an heroic effort to fight back, and the sage is doing admirably, but I’ve lost the rosemary. In an odd twist, some weeds grew in my potted peppermint plant and seems to have completely killed it. Killing mint is a new one for me! But I was able to harvest some parsley for a pantry bean soup a couple weeks ago, and some sage for a sage-and-garlic-rubbed pork roast. But my visions of herbed bounty has been tempered somewhat by my natural dislike of actual garden work.

I’ve started walking much more, in addition to my newfound swimming practice. I’m feeling healthier, though also tired. But I’ve discovered that a weekend walk to the local herb store is the perfect distance to tire me out without being too onerous. And buying a few ounces of herbs is a rather cheap shopping trip.

Boyfriend and I also put up another batch of mead this weekend. We chose to use a local apiary’s honey because it comes in bigger jars, but we kept the same recipe as before otherwise. We made a 5-gallon batch! So hopefully it turns out well and next summer we will have lots of honeyed bounty to share with our friends.

I’m experimenting with my hair care again. I’m trying to become more natural, after deciding to grow my hair out longer. My hair is finally long enough to wear up most of the time, without resorting to sad, floppy ponytails, so I’ve rejoined the Long Hair Community in which I participated for a couple years before my divorce. While going through my old journals, I discovered that I had luck in the past with soap-based washing. Since I’ve recently moved to a homemade facial cleanser made with Dr. Bronner’s soap, oil, and honey, I’ve decided to try using the rest of the soap I’ve bought to wash my hair. It’s a simple process: just unscented soap to wash, rinse quite well, and then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar to rebalance my hair, and rinse the whole thing again. A little oil or tallow balm on the ends of my hair keeps them soft. And I can use aloe vera when my hair feels a bit dry. So far so good.

But… I have some new surprises on the horizon. I don’t want to give too much away, but stay tuned next week for a very vintage hobby post, hopefully. I’m also going to the local renaissance festival this coming weekend, which is a lot of fun, and progressing with my aerial silks. So that will probably be posted as well in the coming weeks.

A Glamorous 1920s Snow White Look

So the other weekend, I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. It turns out, she’s probably one of the coolest brides ever because she not only let us choose our own dress styles (the only requirements were that it was knee-length and navy blue), but she also gave us utter freedom for our hair and makeup. I arrived bright and early for my hair appointment and was able to get a lovely 1920s-inspired look to go with my draped chiffon dress.

To start with, I wanted my hair put up. I finally have enough hair to put up, so I wanted the updo. Plus, I really hate having hair in my face and knew I would fuss with it if it were just blown out and styled. Because I told the hairdresser that I love vintage style, particularly the 1920s, she pinned my hair into a soft curled and twisted style at the nape of my neck, with the front parted and worn loosely over my ears to mimic a 1920s faux bob. The effect was very elegant, and just a little old-fashioned.

With such an old-fashioned hairstyle, the makeup artist took it to heart when I mentioned that one of my past costumiers nicknamed me “Snow White” and set about creating a Snow White-inspired makeup look, if Snow had been a 1920s society girl. I got a nice heavy line of black eyeliner and false eyelashes, but little eye contouring otherwise. A little flush on the cheeks offset my naturally pale skin. She finished it off with a dab of blood-red lipstick. All in all, the hair and makeup perfectly fit my vision and was very “me.”

Sadly, I don’t have any good photos of the look, and I’m rather shy about posting “selfies” to this space, so there is no photographic evidence. But perhaps in the future, I will try to somewhat recreate the look for photos.

Red Lipstick Challenge: Final Wrap-Up

This month has been interesting. I was tempted today to wear a light lip color (or no lipstick at all!) to see if anyone made a comment in the absence of red lipstick when they made no comment on its continued presence. But in the end, I chose to start June by keeping my new favorite as my daily wear.
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My new, go-to, every day red lipstick is 100% Pure’s Pomegranate Anti-Aging Lipstick in Poppy. It’s a lovely true red, dark enough to be striking, but softens when I’ve been wearing it for about a half an hour to a lovely, wearable red. I swear it changes shade slightly depending on what I’m wearing that day, looking cooler on days when I’m wearing blues and purples, and growing warmer when I wear warmer colors. One thing I do know is that it never looks magenta, even in cool fluorescent lighting at the office.

Oh, and it’s creamy. It’s a delightfully smooth, lightweight, but moisturizing lipstick. And because it’s tinted with fruit extracts and contains only natural ingredients, I feel no strangeness when I inevitably eat it along with my lunch. It stains enough that my lips remain vibrant through my many cups of tea, and even some snacks. That said, it is a pleasure to reapply from its adorable pink metal tube.

All-in-all, I would call this month’s experiment a success. I certainly figured out what I really want in a lipstick, and was able to purchase just one more for which I find myself reaching again and again. And I’ve totally overcome my fear that my red lips are too conspicuous.

Has anyone else thought of doing a red lipstick challenge, either to acclimate themselves to the look or to find a favorite?

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week 3

This week, I focused on wearing just one lipstick every day to see how I liked it. I dropped off taking selfies every day because it was the same color, and I didn’t have many new notes. I decided I liked the balanced red color of Lipstick Queen’s Red Sinner, so I stuck with that one to see if the scent really bothered me that much.

Now, I’ve also been plagued with some seasonal allergies the past week, so maybe I was just congested, but I didn’t notice the scent bothering me as much. That said, I did find myself feeling a bit icky every time I ate and knew I was eating some of the lipstick. It was just kind of a weird feeling knowing I was eating pigments and ingredients that are not meant to be eaten, no matter how small the quantities. That said, Red Sinner is a lovely color. It fades a little pink, but it’s warm enough that it never looks magenta on.

But then this weekend, while heading out on a short trip to the shore, Boyfriend stopped off at a mall with a 100% Pure store. I’d read about them and even ordered one of their sheer lip glazes online before, but I’d never tried their lipsticks. I figured lipstick is a bit like foundation: I really need to see the shade on my skin before I buy. The deal with 100% Pure is that in addition to using all-natural ingredients in their products, they also use only fruit-derived pigments. In fact, the sheer lip glaze I have just has a light fruity smell from the pigments! I knew they had a red lipstick that gets some good reviews online, so I talked Boyfriend into stopping on our way out.

Oh my gosh, it’s a small store, but so full of lovely beauty products. I tried the lipstick, which the sales girl (an adorable 20-something with purple hair) sanitized in front of me so I could actually try on instead of just swatching, but I also tried some face makeup. I wanted to try their foundation because it’s supposed to be a matte, full-coverage finish, but they didn’t have my shade in stock. I did try their tinted moisturizer, which was interesting. I might look into getting some after I run out of my Bare Minerals, as it seems like a slightly less dewy finish.

But, the lipstick. The shade Poppy is their red, and it is a very true, bright red. I goes on opaque with one coat, and when I blot, most of the pigment stays behind. It wears well because it stains a little. I did see that it feathers a bit, but that’s probably because of how creamy the actual lipstick formula is. It’s based on shea butter, pomegranate oil, and vegan waxes, so it feels more like a balm than a lipstick. And it’s absolutely weightless on. The most I feel is a little moisturized slip when I press my lips together. It’s really lovely. I actually find that if I add a light second coat after blotting, it keeps the color truer, and the lipstick base kind of melts into my lips so I don’t feel it sitting on top.

The color is maybe just a hair cooler than Red Sinner, but it’s really, really similar. So I’ve cheated just a bit and been wearing Poppy for the long weekend, but only because I really love it! And I can feel confident eating while wearing it because the pigments are just fruits. It also comes in an adorable red/pink metal vintage-inspired tube. It looks like it’s much smaller than a normal lipstick, but the weight is the same as most lipsticks, and when you swivel the bullet all the way up, you can see it’s just as much lipstick as normal, just in a more compact container. It makes it great in a purse because it’s no bigger than a lip balm.

So this week, to round out the challenge, I’ll probably continue wearing Poppy. I still like Red Sinner for occasions where I’m not necessarily eating messy food, but I’m seeing Poppy as my go-to every day red. That said, I’m kind of looking forward to rocking a nice soft rose pink lip come June.

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week Two

Well, I’m halfway through my red lipstick challenge and I’m starting to eye new lipsticks. But I’m holding fast and wearing my existing collection. This week, I stuck mostly to my favorites from Bite Beauty, but I also revisited some old favorites.

I’ve determined that warm reds clash too much with my new purple glasses, so I’ve been trying to find a nice, bright, true neutral red. I quickly decided that my Bite Matte Crayon in Fraise was too pink, so I spent most of the week wearing the High-Pigment Pencil in Pomegranate. Of course, I love the experience of applying lipstick from a bullet, so it bummed me out that my contenders were pencils. Pomegranate is a nice red, but it leans ever so slightly cool, and because of that will pull pink in natural lighting on me.

Frustrated, I turned to my old collection of Revlon lipsticks. I found that my standard “dark” red was actually significantly brighter than the reds I’d been wearing. I tried wearing it for a day, but for some reason it now makes my lips itch, which was disconcerting. So over the weekend, I spent most of my off-stage time wearing my Lipstick Queen Red Sinner. It’s a lovely neutral red that only pulls pink in very cool lighting, which is probably why I thought it was too cool for me when I was wearing it to work (fluorescent lighting, you know?).

So I’m sticking to my Red Sinner for right now, with maybe a bit of Pomegranate thrown in for variety. I did some more research about lead in lipstick and actually managed to quell those fears a bit. So for now, I’m trying to get over the smell of the Lipstick Queen bullet and eyeing other formulas of theirs with non-vanilla scents.

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week one (plus a bit)

So I’ve finished up one week, and a little bit more, of my Red Lipstick Challenge. I started with my least favorite products so I could weed them out. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I’ve outgrown the bright, orange-toned, Fire & Ice reds that started me on my red lipstick journey. I still enjoy wearing them, but I prefer a truer red now.

2. I’ve got a lot of lines on my upper lip, and some of my lipsticks feather into them when I don’t use lip liner. My Julep invisible lipliner has gotten a lot of use this week.

3. I’m just not a fan of liquid lipsticks. I’ve found one that I can deal with because of its longevity (Stila’s Beso), but I’ll probably save it for parties and date nights where I don’t want to touch up my lipstick so often. I also learned that Beso is Boyfriend’s favorite red of mine.

4. No one at work has commented that I’m wearing red lipstick every day. I think this is more a testament to how often I’ve started wearing it, rather than a testament to their perceptiveness, as they’ve never been shy about commenting on things like that before.

5. I love, love, love the experience of putting on lipstick from a bullet-style tube. I’m already predicting the outcome of this month based on this.

6. I am not a fan of the vanilla-y scent of Lipstick Queen lipstick. I’ve been loving the feel and the color, but I keep getting a whiff of vanilla and it’s my least favorite scent. Also, they fade surprisingly quickly.

Next week, I’ll be getting into my favorites and starting to wear things again. I’ve actually already retired most of the lipsticks I wore over the last nine days, so I’m down to only about four or five favorites.