Flour face: My biggest beauty faux pas!

Today I was looking at the pix from a friend’s wedding – which, incidentally, was one of the hugest weddings of the 20th century – and almost every one of them showed my makeup as patchy, chalky, with horrible white flour-like spots everywhere. Needless to say, this evoked pure hysteria, given that I had managed to circulate through some 10,000 people (yes! this wedding was that mammoth) for five days looking like a badly uncoordinated orangutan had taken a paint brush to my face.

Fortunately, my makeup artist friend called just before I flung myself out of the window, with a panic-subsiding explanation: I was using mineral makeup for this occasion, which reflects light very easily. It looks absolutely fine in natural lighting but when you take a photo and the flash goes off, suddenly that’s all you’re seeing – a big reflection of powder.

The same thing happens with silica-based sunscreens and powders, which have white undertones and are very pigmented. And that’s even more of a bummer as silica-based products are sometimes your only hope of keeping the face grease-free through a hot and humid evening. That’s why you see this happening to celebs so often, as evident in the pix here. At least I have makeup stalwarts like Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Miley Cyrus and Eva Longoria for company!

flour faceThe solution to flour face makeup faux pas?

The simplest solution is to just check yourself before heading out! Turn off the lights and take a photo of your face with a flash camera – this will help identify any rogue floury-looking areas and you’ll be able to correct them before heading out of the door and confronting a camera. Because photos, after all, are always half the fun, aren’t they?

What’s the most terrible makeup disaster that you’ve ever had the bad luck to run into?

Beauty recipes: Gwyneth Paltrow’s ultimate smoothie recipe, which costs… HOW MUCH?

Gwyneth Paltrow… she of the ‘conscious uncoupling’ and vaginal douching fame. I met her in New York at the BlogHer conference and was taken aback at how chilled she really is as a person. No, she doesn’t frown when you put a slab of chocolate cake on your plate. And neither will she snatch that glass of full-sugar Coke out of your hands and give you a whack on the head simultaneously. You live your life, she will live hers… and both can co-exist across the table.

What she will do is try and create recipes that will make living healthier a little bit easier for us mere mortals. And tell you stories about her father that will make sure not a single eye in the room remains tear-free (watch out for the video at the end of this post).

Then, right as you are just about already falling in love with her chilled out, humorous, slightly whacky charm, she will put out a set of beauty products so pure that you may be tempted to eat them. If you want to eat a combo of sweet iris and linseed extract. I don’t. Let them stay on my face, thank you so much. But bottomline: She will lead by example and draw you into living cleaner and healthier, which one has to admit, is not necessarily a bad thing. Right?

gwyneth smoothieAnd just when all that has happened, and you are irrevocably in love with the human phenomenon called Gwyneth Paltrow, comes a DIY smoothie recipe that costs… wait for it… US$230 at first glance.

But then look a little further and you’ll realise that’s not really true. So many of the ingredients can easily be made at home for a couple of dollars (like almond milk and almond butter), while other are pantry staples (think coconut oil and sea salt). Yet others, such as ashwagandha, are easy to find for cheap in Indian shops. That leaves us with things like vanilla mushroom protein powder, cordyceps and moon dust, which cost about US$40 each but shall last you through several months. Because you only need a pinch or a small spoon’s worth.

So, it’s not really US$230 for ONE smoothie. Not even close. Actually, it will cost you about US$8 each (Vanity Fair has done a pretty good breakdown here). Which is not cheap but it’s not roughly the same as drinking a lawn mower’s monthly salary in the green goopiness of one glass. In fact, it’s much less than what you would pay for a drink at Jamba Juice. Or most other green juices and smoothies at most other places.

Really, it’s like buying a television set for US$1500 and then claiming you spend US$1500 on entertainment every single day that you watch the television. Nope. It just does not compute.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s morning smoothie

1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons vanilla mushroom protein powder
1 teaspoon maca
1 teaspoon ashwagandha
1 teaspoon ho shou wu
1 teaspoon cordyceps
1 teaspoon moon dust of choice: Action Dust to soothe overworked muscles, Beauty Dust for a glowy complexion and healthy hair, Brain Dust to combat mental fogginess, Goodnight Dust when sleep has been evasive, Sex Dust, for, you know, and Spirit Dust to get that extrasensory perception going
pinch Himalayan sea salt
pinch vanilla powder (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz to blend

What do you think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s ultimate smoothie?

Discovering Queen Elizabeth (and Duchess Kate’s) Britain, one beauty recipe at a time!

So, did Queen Elizabeth wake up on her 90th birthday and have a nice laugh at Prince Charles’ expense? Hoo boy, doesn’t seem you’re going to be the king anytime in the near future. After all, the world’s oldest monarch isn’t going anywhere soon, considering her sprightly step and reigns-well-in-hand disposition.

And thank God for that! Because Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (as she was christened after her birth at 2:40 am on April 21, 1926) is one of the most iconic and stylish monarchs of our times. She has many a sartorial success to her name, not the least of all being those super-perky block colours that make sure she immediately stands out in any crowd.

And her style is truly global, replete with a wedding ring made from a nugget of Welsh gold and a coronation dress that was embroidered with English roses, Scottish thistles, Welsh leeks, Irish shamrocks and the national flowers of the Dominions. Her wedding cake was made using ingredients gifted by the Australian Girl Guides.

Queen Elizabeth II also has an abiding love for Scottish country dancing and once wore a stunning gown hand-sewn with 2,091 shamrocks during a State visit to Ireland. Her favourite indulgence is a collection of pretty, sheer umbrellas with different coloured bands to match her outfits.

Besides umbrellas, the queen has an extensive (to put it mildly) collection of jewellery that includes the largest pink diamond in the world. Plus, she owns 88 cygnet swans and all the dolphins, whales, porpoises and sturgeons caught within three miles of UK’s coast.She has launched 23 ships and socially hosts more than 50,000 people at Buckingham Palace in an average year (that has to be exhausting!).

Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) dances with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a square dance held in their honour in Ottawa, by Governor General Viscount Alexander, 17th October 1951. The dance was one of the events arranged during their Canadian tour. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) dances with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a square dance held in their honour in Ottawa, by Governor General Viscount Alexander, 17th October 1951. The dance was one of the events arranged during their Canadian tour. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But Queen Elizabeth II’s prowess goes much deeper: She trained as a mechanic during the second world war, collected rationing coupons for her wedding dress, has a long association with racing pigeons (such a thing exists?), has seen 12 US presidents and 12 UK prime ministers come and go during her reign (yes, you read that correctly), sent her first email in 1976 (again, yup!), bred a corgi with a dachshund to create the dorgi, was the first titular head of the Church of England to receive a Pope at the Buckingham Palace in 450 years (Pope John Paul II in 1982), has been a working mother to four children (and trust me, with them being brats so very often and her having a brutal schedule, it couldn’t be easy!) and her thoroughbreds have won virtually every major race in Britain.


No wonder the world is celebrating 90 years of this magnificent woman. Which set me to thinking: How do we pretty ladies, sitting thousands of miles from jolly Britain, join in the festivities? And being beauty-obsessed as I am, what could be better than digging out vintage English skincare recipes, going back to the 17th and 18th century world of Britain’s erstwhile royals? After all, the British love their traditions and their peaches-and-cream complexions have always been the stuff of legend. Just see Queen Elizabeth II – there is no way she looks 90!

Thankfully, I am blessed with quite a hefty lineage of Brit-born relatives, so an extensive hunt through old family hideaways has revealed a treasure trove of traditional English skincare secrets that can still hold their own on milady’s makeup table. You are welcome, Duchess Catherine.

British beauty recipe #1: Face saving lemonade

Make a hole in a lemon and fill it with granulated sugar. Then roast the lemon in hot ashes (or on a grill). When you want to use the juice, squeeze out a little through the hole and dab it on with a napkin. Leave on for a couple of hours before rinsing off with cold water. This is perfect for deep cleansing the skin and brightening the complexion.

Why it works: Lemon juice has tons of citric acid, which is a great antimicrobial and exfoliator. Sugar granules make for a perfect natural scrub. The original recipe also called for an application of gold leaf over the lemon rind but that’s (thankfully for everyone who’s not Kate Middleton!) superfluous.

British beauty recipe #2: Virgin’s milk

Pound a few leeks with a mortar and pestle, squeeze out the juice and pass it through a strainer. Just before using, pour a few drops of rubbing alcohol on the juice – it will instantly turn milky. This is a terrific treatment for acne, plus it also keeps the skin soft and smooth.

Why it works: Leeks are anti-inflammatory and contain tons of quercetin, which is one of the beauty industry’s top antioxidants. They have also long been used to reduce scarring and figure in several drugstore treatments.

British beauty recipe #3: Apple-honey face pack

Add a teaspoon of honey to one mashed apple and mix well. Put this mixture on your face and neck. Leave it on for half an hour, then rinse with whey or cold milk.

Why it works: Honey is one of nature’s best moisturisers, while apples are chockfull of vitamins A and C. These make the fruit great at repairing damaged skin cells and exfoliating the dead ones. Milk and whey, in the meantime, are great for strengthening skin tissues.

Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) driving an ambulance during her wartime service in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), 10th April 1945. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) driving an ambulance during her wartime service in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), 10th April 1945. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

British beauty recipe #5: Skin varnish

Taking equal parts of lemon juice and egg whites, beat them together in a glazed earthen pan till the mixture acquires the consistency of butter. Add a few drops of any essential oil (to mask the scent of egg whites). Then wash face with rice water and apply this face pack. Wash off after half an hour.

Why it works: The citric acid in lemon juice banishes dead skin cells, helping unclog pores and making skin look smooth and glow-y. Egg whites are loaded with protein and act as an astringent, while rice water is a great skin softener.

British beauty recipe #4: Feed your face some breakfast

Mix a handful of finely milled oatmeal with enough spring water (or bottled mineral water) to make a paste, then put this mixture on your face and neck. When it dries, rinse off with whey, then with water.

Why it works: Finely milled oatmeal sticks to skin’s surface irritants, which can then be gently rinsed away for thorough cleansing sans the dryness. Plus, it’s a great hydrator.

British beauty recipe #6: The wrinkle smoother

Apply barley water and a few drops of Balm of Gilead (plain ol’ balsam) on your face everyday.

Why it works: Barley water is an ancient remedy for wrinkles, since it nourishes the skin, boosts the growth of healthy tissues and keeps everything smooth, plumped up and unlined. Balsam is rich in vitamins E and C, which slow down skin ageing and protect against inflammation.

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Combo picture of various portraits of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wearing hat on different occasions and dates. Royal protocol decrees that Her Majesty always wears a hat in public, while her face must be visible at all times. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Royal protocol decrees that Her Majesty always wears a hat in public, while her face must be visible at all times. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

British beauty recipe #7: A beautiful bath

Take 2 pounds of barley, 8 pounds of bran and a few handfuls of borage leaves. Boil them in a sufficient quantity of spring water, then pour the decoction into your bath. Nothing cleanses and softens the skin better!

Why it works: Barley is a great hydrator and anti-inflammatory, while borage contains tons of fatty acids – the perfect formula for soothing and moisturizing the skin.

British beauty recipe #8: The royal hand cream

Add half cup of glycerin, half cup of rose water and a quarter cup of witch hazel to a glass jar; shake well. Apply this to your hands 2-3 times daily.

Why it works: Rose water and glycerin are the classic combination used in hand creams for years. Glycerin is a terrific humectant (draws moisture from the air to hydrate skin); while rosewater conditions skin and reduces sun damage.

British beauty recipe #9: Aromatic foot bath

Take four handfuls of pennyroyal, sage and rosemary, three handfuls of angelica and four ounces of juniper berries. Boil these in a sufficient quantity of water, and drain off the liquor for use.

Why it works: Besides the fact that this herb bath smells gorgeous, angelica is anti-fungal and antibacterial. Result? It not only keeps feet free of infections but also dispels stink-producing bacteria. Juniper berries are also astringent and make feet feel nice, cool and fresh.

British beauty recipe #10: The prettiest perfume

Fill a jar with pressed rose petals (or any sweet-scented flowers), add as much glycerin as the container will hold, and cover it tightly. After 3 weeks, you can decant the perfume into a bottle.

Are you as bowled over by Queen Elizabeth II as me? Or not? And what’s YOUR secret homeland recipe?

OMG, OMG, OMG! This has to be the coolest ever use of a lipstick EVER

Paul & Joe sculpted them into awwwww-inducing cat’s faces and YSL fashioned them into a 330 pound cube but Chinese artist May Sum wins the cool stakes by hand sculpting individual lipsticks into mini-likenesses of famous people!

lipstick carving 2 lipstick carvingAnd while her focus is usually on celebrities, May will do a custom commission for you from photographs. It works like this: you mail her a photograph, choose from between 5 lipstick brands, pick your color and then wait 2 weeks. The former beauty reporter, make up maven and multimedia artist will do the sculpting, then pack and ship it to you anywhere in the world via Speedpost or DHL. Each piece costs between US$450-650, depending on the intricacy of carving required.

lipstick anna wintour lipstick carving chanel lipstick lady gaga

Interested? What is the most bizarre way in which you have ever seen a lipstick being used?