Writing about the 28th mascara launch of the year, and trying to figure out another way to say “volume” that doesn’t make me want to poke my own eyes out, is hard.
It’s a #firstworldproblem, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less true, and after more than a decade as a beauty journalist, writing for fashion magazines, digital platforms, newspapers and newsletters, it has become one of the least enjoyable parts of my job.
But I can’t see myself doing anything else.
My passion for beauty started young, fuelled by living in an almost all-female household (and one man—hey, Dad!), attending an all-girls school, and being a teenager in the 1990s, AKA peak magazine and supermodel era.
I was at university and interning at InStyle when I caught my first glimpse of a magazine beauty cupboard – and the rows of fragrances, skincare, lipstick and nail polish – and it was like magic.
I was at university and interning at InStyle when I caught my first glimpse of a magazine beauty cupboard – and it was like magic.
But it would take a couple of less-than-glamorous magazine assistant jobs before I landed a job in the beauty department—and I haven’t left since, spending the past 10+ years being paid to try products, grill world-class scientists and experts, interview celebrities, and watch some of the best hair and makeup artists in action. And I’ve learned a thing or two. Actually, five. I’ve learned five things that truly work.
ONE Good skin, good brows, good haircut
If I had to distil everything I’ve learned into one sentence, it’s this. Get these elements right, and the rest really is gravy, so spend whatever time and money you can, here.
Find the hairdresser who can give you the best cut of your life, one that requires minimal styling and grows out beautifully, and pledge your loyalty. That “brows frame the face” motto is true, so see a professional who can advise on the best shape and thickness, then maintain them at home. And commit yourself to getting your skin healthy—clear, even, glowing—and you won’t need that Instagram filter. Which leads to truth two…
TWO Your skin really doesn’t need much
I hear from so many women who are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of skincare out there, but the truth is your skin is pretty good at looking after itself, and just needs a little extra help.
A good cleanser shouldn’t hurt your wallet, and you can skip the toner/essence step if you’re time or cash poor. Exfoliate regularly, use a moisturiser consistently, even if you have oily skin, and don’t waste money on a night cream; instead, channel your energy toward a serum, the product that will actually deliver those results you want. Learn how to read an ingredient label: if a niacimanide serum lists it as the 10th ingredient, keep looking.
There are lots of ingredients you can incorporate into your regimen, but the non-negotiables are vitamins A and C. The former is the single best skincare ingredient available, backed by mountains of research and clinical results—it retexturises skin like nothing else, and has made a difference to my skin like nothing else—and vitamin C is the queen of brightening.
And I know you know this, but it bears repeating: nothing you do will matter if you’re not using sunscreen every single day.
Extra credit: don’t forget your neck and décolletage—while working at a fashion magazine in my early 20s, I saw an unretouched photo of an Australian supermodel, and the sun damage on her chest shocked my innocent eyes—and avoid sleeping on your side, if you can, or at least alternate sides, because smooshing your face into your pillow can lead to weakened face muscles and collagen.
In my early 20s, I saw an unretouched photo of an Australian supermodel, and the sun damage on her chest shocked my innocent eyes
Since you’re putting all your energy into your skin, you’ll be happy to hear that…
THREE You don’t need to spend money on makeup
You know how fashion editors recommend investing in the good shoes, bags and coats, and going cheap on everything else, with the theory being that the expensive items makes the cheap ones look good? In beauty, I personally believe that your skin/hair/brows are the designer things, and makeup is the budget stuff.
So, buy the thinnest, lightest foundation you can (the latest skin tints are tops). Trust me, skin looks better with less, and also, I have yet to see a woman wearing a full-coverage foundation that I didn’t notice. Then go over any trouble spots, like acne, pigmentation or redness, with concealer (don’t forget around the nostrils, the crease of the chin, and between the brows). That $50 lipstick you love? I promise you there’s a $20 version that’s just as good (my fave budget beauty brands include Bourjois and Maybelline New York).
FOUR Mix your high-tech and low-tech
Face massage really works, releasing tension and toxins, reducing inflammation and puffiness, and leaving skin looking brighter—and you can use your fingers!
Supplement that with professional services that you can’t replicate at home, like two of my favourites that deliver real results: microneedling (boosts collagen production and can help with scarring and pigmentation) and light therapy (the different colours, including blue, red, white and amber, target different things like acne, dullness and firmness).
FIVE Don’t believe everything you read—or see
You cannot shrink pores, grow new eyelashes, or rely on foundation for SPF. That celebrity claiming the secret to her glowy skin is guzzling litres of water? No. Also, a lot of famous faces, not all of them, but a lot of them, have had something done, whether that’s Botox, filler, or a nose job. Kinda makes you think about all the “work” that goes into those no-makeup selfies, no?