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                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

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Beauty Notes: Nine-to-Fives
by Li Wen

A look into my everyday beauty habits and routines, inspired by the series "The Top Shelf" at Into The Gloss.



Bathroom drawer

I have been wearing makeup regularly only since I was twenty-two. In the few years since, I have managed to become high-maintenance pretty quickly. But being also bookish, introverted, and working in an industry that demands a conservative look from me, there is by design nothing flashy or theatrical about my day-to-day appearance. Left to my own devices, I favour the urban elegance and sophistication of La Garçonne; it's great fun to be able to play with colour, but nothing feels quite so right on me as a barely-there eye paired with a red lip (NARS Rouge d'Enfer, in the case of the photo above).

When it comes to skincare, I appreciate its importance without being fully committed to the ritual of facials, exfoliates, and treatments, although I'll wager that it's only a matter of time. I use a combination of old faithfuls and new products that I am testing. First, I remove my make-up with Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil - one pump is sufficient for getting rid of everything, including waterproof mascara - before cleansing with an oil-targetting cleaner, followed by the application of layers of various toners, serums and creams. Shu Uemura Depsea Hydrability Intense Moisturising Concentrate is a stalwart that I wear on its own in summer and beneath a moisturiser or oil in winter. Another product I have repurchased many times is Clinique All About Eyes Rich; after too many bad experiences with eye creams on my sensitive skin, I tend to stick to what is known and safe. Huiles & Baumes Face Smoothing Serum is a rich facial oil I have been testing for the last month or so - I love the fresh herbal scent and the way it shrinks my pores.

Living in Australia, I enjoy being out in the sun, relaxing at the park or at the beach. However, I am all too conscious of the aging (not to mention cancerous) effects of UV exposure. Even when not wearing makeup, I use a non-greasy moisturiser with SPF 30+ on my face - To Save Face from Mecca Cosmetica*. Stashed in various places around the house are also tubes of the less expensive Banana Boat SPF 30+ sunscreen - in the car glove compartment, near the front door where I keep my keys, in the laundry, etc.

My lips chap easily, especially in cold, windy weather, so I never leave the house without lip balm, preferable ones that are non-sticky, flavourless, and colourless. I keep Blistex Lip Conditioner with SPF 20 around the house, on my bedside table and at my desk, and a tube of Clinique Superbalm Lip Treatment in every purse. Both are great, intensely nourishing and not so expensive that you can't afford numerous back-ups. Lip balm is something that needs to be applied frequently and liberally, so you never want to be caught without one handy.

If my skin is clear, I am happy to get away with just wearing tinted moisturiser and some concealer. When I do wear foundation, I apply it directly with my fingers - it's quicker and saves me the bother of washing a foundation brush after every use - before dusting a bit of loose powder over it to keep it in place.

Brow pencil is a minimum requirement when mine are so naturally sparse and patchy - I use Shu Uemura in the shade 06 Acorn. On a normal day, all I wear on my lids are matte or satin browns and taupes, for a look that is polished, but not painstakingly drawn in. Even my eyeliner and mascara are brown. I am already on my third tube of Shiseido Perfect Mascara in BR602, and I've lost count of how many of the Guerlain Eye Pencil in Kohl Me Brown 03 I have bought. I smudge the pencil into my upper lashline, to give my eyes some subtle definition. Gel and liquid liner has its occasional uses, but not whilst I am on the clock.

My go-to lip colour - lipstick, never lipgloss - is always changing. If you keep your eye makeup clean and effortless, it is a simple matter to change your look in the middle of a day by switching lip colours. I have a red imitation-leather lipstick case that I bought in the markets in Shanghai for around 150 RMB (or $21 AUD). It has an inbuilt mirror and holds three lipsticks, usually a sheer natural colour, a deeper berry or rose, and a red. Continental Couture has one that looks very similar but made from shark skin for £119.

Cutting my hair short was a decision I made the year I left high school, and it's been that length ever since. Short hair is freeing and conveniently low maintenance. But also, looking back at old photographs of myself, I feel like that person with long hair is a stranger, someone still wore school uniforms and had not yet been introduced to undergraduate anthropology. In a not unsubstantial way, we are not the same, just as I will not be the same person ten years hence. Identity is an ever-evolving thing, and often the outward change - manhood initiation rituals, the widow's weeds - marks also a significant internal overhaul. (The reverse is also true, and it is not in my interest here to quibble about direction of causality between the mental and the physical, for both are intrinsic and interdependent.) It takes me less than 5 seconds to style my hair: a few strokes with a synthetic and boar bristle brush is all it needs. If it is in a truly disastrous state of disarray, a tiny daub of Frederic Fekkai Glossing Cream, combed through with my fingers, is usually enough to tame it.

I do not have a signature fragrance, but I always come back to a select few, like Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental. In my work bag, I keep a Travalo filled with Chanel No. 19, for those times when I forget to apply before leaving the house. Perfume is the last step of my routine of getting ready. Without it, I always feel a little unfinished.

*Australian regulations don't allow SPF factor numerals greater than 30 to be claimed on sunscreen labels, for several reasons, so SPF 30+ is the highest level of sun protection that you will see on any product in Australia.

Top photo credit: Orion Mitchell, 2010

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8/21/2011 [11]

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