How to look expensive (without robbing the bank!)

Want to look fabulously high-end even when basic necessities (a tank of gas) often trump little luxuries (expensive eye cream)? It’s entirely possible with a little help from Andrea Pomerantz Lustig’s book – How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor’s Secrets to Getting Gorgeous Without Breaking the Bank, in which the beauty industry’s top insider (she’s a Contributing Editor at Glamour, was Editor-in-Chief of and Beauty & Fitness Director at Cosmopolitan) reveals secrets gleaned from the world’s most famed hair stylists, makeup artists and skin specialists for looking your best for less. Here are my top 10 how-to’s from the book.

look expensive1. Los Angeles celebrity facialist Stacy Cox’s DIY kitchen peel recipe mimics dermatologist-office results: Mix 3 tablespoons apple juice (contains malic acid, which is a gentle exfoliator) with 3 tablespoons milk (lactic acid, a more intense exfoliator) and 1 egg white (to firm the skin). Apply for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

2. Mammoth pores? Dr. Bobby Buka, the New York “skin star”, suggests soaking gauze in soy milk and applying it as a mask an hour before bed.

3. Dr. Buka also has a solution for puffy, baggy eyes: Make ice cubes out of green tea and massage one under each eye till it melts. No ice? This solution from Ole Henriksen will work just as well: Grate a cucumber, divide the flesh and juice evenly, then roll it up into two seperate strips of gauze to make a mask for each eye. This optimises the cucumber juice, allowing it to seep through for the greatest depuffing action.

4. Lustig’s own favourite trick is to use coconut milk as a body moisturiser. Open a can and let it solidify in the fridge. It will turn into a solid butter you can use on your skin to make it silky soft: “…you’ll be able to get just as much moisturiser out of that one can as a tube of expensive body cream… but it’s natural and smells beyond!”

5. Swap dry shampoo for corn starch baby powder, says hair supremo Creighton Bowman. Makes sense, since this ingredient makes up the base of many dry shampoos anyway. AND it comes in an easy-to-use sprinkle container. To apply, pour a little in your hands, clap palms and rub them together, then run through strands. Voila!

6. For eyes that look dramatic without the faux-lash effect (which is just tacky), makeup pro Vanessa Scali often applies a volumising mascara from the root to the centre of the lash and a lengthening formula from the centre to the tips. The result is “gorgeously lush and seductively lengthy” lashes.

look expensive 27. Sometimes, especially when you are wearing a strong lipstick, it’s best to leave eyes bare with nothing but a touch of mascara. Makeup artist Talia Shobrook likes to dip an eyeliner brush into a thin mascara and use it at the very base of the lids – like liner – to invisibly emphasise the eyes (not glossy or matte like eyeliner, it just looks like you are wearing mascara).

8. Looking for an air brushed effect? Makeup pro Bobby Wells suggests spritzing your foundation brush with Evian Facial spray or a moisturising mist before using it. This will thin out your makeup, make it blend in easier and look more diffused.

9. And that’s not all: celebrity makeup artist Paul Podlucky spritzes finished makeup with a hydrating mineral or vitamin-infused water spray (or even just tap water in a spray bottle!) like MAC Fix+, holding it about 10 inches from the face and then letting skin air-dry to give it a fresh, dewy radiance. It will also take away any chalkiness, smooth out foundation that’s crept into fine lines and thin down a too-heavy application.

10. Finally, who can resist perfume? Beauty heiress (and now creator of her own makeup range) Aerin Lauder, spills the secret she learnt from her grandmother, Estee Lauder: Spray the scent onto your hairbrush. It will cling to natural oils in your hair and make you smell delicious without becoming overpowering.

What are some of YOUR favourite tricks for looking expensive?

Meet the top 8 candles for firing up that Parisian je ne sais quoi!

A deliciously warm, sweet and slightly powdery mist rising from the cobblestones, flower stands spilling with freshly cut lilies, bustling cafés serving smoky teas, cozy boulangeries waking up the mornings with crusty baguettes, the rich wood and crystal interiors of Versailles, the endless eras of history peaking out of the Louvre, women dressed in red lipstick and a splash of No. 5… is there any wonder that Paris is known as the city for love and lovers? And know what… it’s easy to bring home a little of its magic with a sensory indulgence or two in the form of these enchanting candles.

paris candleDiptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain Candle

Created to celebrate the storied candlemaker’s 50th anniversary, 34 Boulevard Saint Germain encapsulates the scent of its first Parisian boutique with rare and precious fragrances that reveal themselves as fresh, green and spicy accords. Damp mosses, crumpled blackcurrant leaves, sun-dried fig leaves… so French, oui?

Christian Dior 30 Montaigne Candle

What could be more Parisian than haute couture and the House of Dior? Created by Hedi Slimane to scent Dior’s flagship boutique, 30 Montaigne is a perfect tribute to the soigné side of this uber-sophisticated city: think cardamom, incense, white amber, star anise, Madagascar vanilla and licorice. $75

Ladurée Caramel Candle

Hot and buttery caramel, the barest touch of salt and elegant bouquets of flowers… anyone who’s visited this cult Parisian bakery will recognise the signature aromas that waft through its Champs-Élysées flagship. $56

Astier de Villatte Commune de Paris Glass Candle

This one is all about Paris at springtime: a fragrant journey replete with notes of citrus, nutmeg and benjamin gum alongside touches of green almonds and coumarin. $83

Who's That Girl On the Town fabric designed by Izak Zenou for Robert Kaufman
Who’s That Girl On the Town fabric designed by Izak Zenou for Robert Kaufman

Cire Trudon Roi Soleil Candle

Paris is known for its perfumes, its fashion, its artists, its writers… and Cire Trudon, one of the world’s oldest candlemakers. They once crafted Marie Antoinette’s personal scent, so it comes as no surprise that their fragrant Roi Soleil candle perfectly captures the rich polished wood floors, smoky incense and green lawns of Versailles. $85

Maxim’s de Paris Violette & Lavande Candle

Like an extravagant cocktail mixed by a tuxedoed bartender, Maxim’s de Paris Violette & Lavande candle is composed with layers of basil, mint and spicy clove topped with lavender and jasmine. $45

Hôtel Costes Brown Candle

If you want your house to smell as seductive as Paris’ perennially chic celebrity hangout, pick up this musk-tinged woodsy scent, which wafts through Hôtel Costes’ sleek halls 24/7. $85

Ritz Paris Amber Candle

This is the one to bring out when you want to feel like you’ve sunk into a soft-as-butter sofa in the lobby of a slightly smoky, slightly mysterious French chateau, listening to music and having a glass of Pinot Noir with an entrancing lover. $55


Signature scent: Is your fragrance wrong for you?

Like that statement bag and killer heels, your perfume says a lot about you. However, with the mammoth number of options available, choosing a new fragrance might seem like a task that requires an army of professionals. Simply tackle your scent wardrobe with these easy tips.

signature perfume2What’s your fragrance style?

First, you have to decide what you want your scent to say.

  • If you are the sexy and glamorous type who likes to make an immediate impact, opt for a lush, oriental scent with a heavy touch of vanilla (a known aphrodisiac) and patchouli. Tom Ford Black Orchid and Gucci Guilty have the right balance of poise and sensuality.
  • If you favor the ladylike and polished, look for a classic floral with one bold ingredient, like tuberose (these perfumes are also known as soliflores). Some good options? Annick Goutal Rose Splendide or Christian Dior Diorissimo.
  • Prefer a more flirty, girly look? Ask for a sheer or transparent floral like Dolce & Gabbana Dolce. Or kick it up a notch with something friskier and sweeter, like the sugary Prada Candy.
  • Lovers of classic elegance (think Ralph Lauren and Hermès) need a sumptuous, well rounded scent with a bold floral note like violet and iris. Or opt for a fragrance underlined with warm woods and soft leathers. Top picks: Tom Ford Violet Blonde and Hermès Santal Massoia.
  • Modern and streamlined? You need a discreet scent with a less-is-more quality. Look for something sharp and citrusy, preferably laced with vetiver and bergamot. Best options? Acqua Di Parma Gelsomino Nobile or Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.
  • And then there are the bold trendsetters and risk takers, who live for the latest collections hot off the catwalk. If you fall in this genre, experiment with exotic, intriguing ingredients (such as amber) that are formulated in an intense, attention-getting form. Best options: Balenciaga Paris L’Essence and Tom Ford Amber Absolute. These are definitely not for wallflowers!

So, what fragrance are you wearing this weekend?

Beauty DIY: 50 amazing beauty tricks with coconut oil

It has been endorsed by some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna. So, it comes as no surprise that coconut oil is fast becoming the latest must-have beauty ingredients. Even cosmetic companies like Clinique and Kiehls are increasingly calling upon its benefits. And for good reason: coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, it’s an excellent moisturiser, it can penetrate hair better than other oils and, well, it smells like cookies.

However, you don’t  need to actually consume coconut oil to reap the beauty benefits. Here are 50 topical skincare, bodycare and haircare uses for it in your very own home. All you need is virgin coconut oil (preferably organic) and you are all set to glow!

coconut oil beauty 1Coconut oil for the hair

1. Deep conditioner: When my locks feel more like straw than silk, I massage a few tablespoons of coconut oil into my hair and leave it overnight. Can’t do overnight? Massage in the oil and wrap your head in a warm towel for a couple of hours. Then shampoo and feel your hair turn silky smooth. How? Coconut oil rebalances hair proteins and its small molecular structure penetrates the hair shaft to moisturise and protect against environmental damage.

2. Intense deep conditioning: For an even more intense hair mask, remove the rind from half an avocado and put the fleshy part in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of coconut oil and blend with a fork to create a creamy paste. Massage into damp, towel dried hair and use a wide-tooth comb to distribute evenly. Leave 20 minutes, then rinse out and shampoo as usual.

3. Hair strengthening mask: Simply warm 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat; set aside and let it cool. Beat a raw egg and the lukewarm coconut oil together, then apply the mixture to your hair. Put a plastic bag or plastic wrap around your hair for one hour, then wash hair with shampoo and rinse thoroughly. This is excellent for treating split ends and prevent hair from breaking.

4. Frizzy or lacklustre hair: Take a tiny drop of coconut oil and rub it between your palms. If you have curly hair, run your fingers through it and scrunch. If you have straight hair, just smooth over the top of your strands gently.

5. Dandruff: Because of its effective antibacterial and antifungal properties, coconut oil is excellent for scalp problems like dryness and dandruff. Simply massage it into your scalp for 5 minutes. Let it sit for as long as you can and then shampoo thoroughly.

6. Premature greying: Take a bunch of curry leaves and grind them with a little water to make a paste. Add this paste to two cups of coconut oil and heat the mixture till all the moisture evaporates. After it cools, store in a bottle. Massage hair with it 2-3 times a fortnight, leaving it overnight for added potency.

7. Got gum in your hair? Slather with coconut oil, let it soak for a couple of hours and the sticky stuff will slide right out.

Coconut oil for the body

8. Body wash: Take 2 cups liquid castile soap (or any unscented body wash), 1 cup rose water, 4 tablespoons coconut oil and 20-30 drops lavender essential oil. Pour all the ingredients into a bottle and shake until everything is mixed well. Shake before every application and use as a body soap.

9. Simple scrub: Skin feeling parched and flaky? Add some sea salt to coconut oil and use it as a body scrub.

coconut oil beauty 210. Body scrub: Take 6 tablespoons each of coconut oil and brown sugar, along with 10 drops each of orange and lemon essential oils. Beat the coconut oil till its soft and fluffy. Next, add the remaining ingredients and stir well. To use, massage into damp skin while in the shower; on rinsing off the scrub, you will be left with a very light layer of coconut oil, which shall keep skin soft and supple. Store the excess scrub in the refrigerator.

11. Honey-lemon sugar scrub: Mix together half a cup each of brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, honey and coconut oil; mix well. Use 1-2 times a week for amazingly smooth skin!

12. Deep moisturiser: Parched, flaky skin? Stir together equal parts coconut oil and olive oil. Add a few drops of rose or frankincense essential oil and you will have a concoction that no store-bought lotion could ever rival!

13. It gets better: Slather the (above) concoction all over your body and drape yourself with warm bath towels. Stay that way until the towels have cooled. What do you have right there? A VERY luxurious full body moisturising mask.

14. Body moisturiser: Rich in fatty acids, coconut oil makes a superb moisturiser. Just pull it straight out of the jar (I decant it into a pretty bottle just for an added feel-good element) and smooth all over your body while skin is still wet after a shower. Poof… you are a soft skinned goddess!

15. Shaving cream: Use coconut oil instead of shaving cream – it will help smooth hair follicles for a closer, smoother shave.

16. After-shave lotion: Coconut oil will help heal your skin after shaving and is especially great for razor burn!

17. Home wax: Use the oil to help prep your skin before and use it to remove wax from the skin afterwards.

18. Cellulite cream: Mix together 1 cup each of coconut oil and jojoba oil, 20 drops each of cypress essential oil and juniper essential oil, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Massage into the affected areas of the body and leave overnight.

coconut oil beauty 319. After-sun body lotion: Take 1 cup cocoa butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil and 4 teaspoons sweet almond oil. Place all ingredients in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour into a jar and allow to cool. Massage a small amount over body immediately after sun exposure to soothe sun parched skin.

20. Muscle soother: Take 4 teaspoons Shea butter, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 tablespoons jojoba oil, 6 drops peppermint essential oil, 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 1 teaspoon beeswax. Melt the Shea butter, coconut oil and jojoba oil, then add the essential oils and pour into an airtight container.

21. Cuts and scrapes: Coconut oil forms a thin antiseptic and antibacterial layer that protects the wound from dust and germs. Plus, it speeds up the healing process by increasing cellular turnover and stimulating collagen. So, slather a bit of coconut oil on a scratch, scrape or small cut and your wound may heal faster and resist infections,. As a bonus, it also helps reduce the chances of scarring.

22. Warts: Take 1/4 cup coconut oil, 10 drops of lemon essential oil, 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 2 drops of thyme essential oil. Mix the oils together and apply four times daily to the affected area. Do not wash area for at least 30 minutes after application.

23. Moles: When coconut oil is applied after an apple cider vinegar compress for a few weeks, moles have been known to “slide off” or just disappear.

24. Relaxing night balm: Place a cup of coconut oil in warm water until it softens. Mix in one cup of almond oil and 2-3 drops of rose essential oil. Store in an airtight container, using it as a full-body balm for when you are achy all over. Happy nights are ahead!

25. Illuminator: Massage coconut oil into your whole body to add a gorgeous glow to your skin. To enhance the glow, add some sparkling mica to your oil mix.

Coconut oil for hands & feet

26. Foot treatment: Dry, cracked feet? Rub some coconut oil and go over the flaky areas with a pumice stone. For an intense treatment, slather on the oil, put an old pair of socks and leave overnight.

27. Fungal infections: Coconut oil is rich in caprylic acid, a potent antifungal agent that’s superb for treating athlete’s foot, Candida and other fungal conditions. Rub the oil into your feet, concentrating on the affected areas (you can add some tea tree oil for added bonus). Put on socks so you don’t slide around the room. Repeat 2-3 a day until the problem is gone.

28. De-odourising: Coconut oil has been known to freshen up the stinkiness with its antibacterial properties. Add a little lavender or lemon essential oil for extra deodorising effect.

29. Tired feet: Pop your feet into a warm footbath laced with three tablespoons of coconut oil and half a cup of mixed spice. The lauric acid in coconut oil will help bring balance to your hard working feet.

coconut oil beauty 430. Dark patches: Mix the juice of one lemon with a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub into dry and dark elbows and knees to help with spots.

31. Nails & cuticles: Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fatty acid esters that absorb quickly and efficiently and help transport nutrients to the cells. Massage it into nails and cuticles to help strengthen them or rub into fingertips to soothe and prevent hangnails.

32. Hand cream: In a double boiler, melt together 10 tablespoons coconut oil, 3 tablespoons cold pressed sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons grated beeswax. Remove pot from the burner and stir in 5 drops of lemon essential oil. After cooling, massage it into your hands to hydrate and banish dark spots. I put some into an empty lip balm or mini-mints tin and pop it into the purse for easy access.

Coconut oil for the face

33. Face mask: I am not all that keen on using coconut oil on your face, with one caveat: if you have dry, flaky skin that has no issues with pimples, this may be your ticket to softness. Take 1 egg, 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1 tablespoon honey. Beat the egg in a small bowl until frothy. Slowly add the coconut oil and honey, beating until your mask is the consistency of mayonnaise. Place in the freezer overnight. To use, cut out a small piece and smooth over your face; pop the rest back in the refrigerator. Leave on for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. I use this one to counter sunburns and take away the pain.

34. Another face mask: Honey and coconut oil? Sounds messy but combine equal parts of both and slather onto your face for 10 minutes. It works wonders on dry skin, especially in winter!

35. Face scrub: Coconut oil is terrific at flushing away impurities; just mix equal amounts of oil and baking soda for a rejuvenating scrub.

36. Lip balm: Simply slather plain coconut oil on your lips for the ultimate in hydration. I use a small mini-mints container and fill it with coconut oil to carry around. It’s solid at room temperature and melts with the body heat while applying.

37. Lip gloss: Plain coconut oil makes for a superb lip gloss as well – VERY shiny!

38. Makeup remover: Cleanse away the dirt and pollution by massaging coconut oil into your skin. The makeup – including waterproof mascara – just melts away, while the oil’s anti-bacterial and anti-microbial elements protect and enhance the skin’s natural flora.

39. Eczema: The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of organic virgin coconut oil make it an excellent soother for eczema sufferers. Just apply it lightly on the affected area 3-4 times a day.

coconut oil beauty 540. Colds: Rub a little coconut oil on the inside of your nose to help with runny noses, allergies and sore nostrils.

41. Acne: Mix some coconut oil with nutmeg and leave on your blemish for 10-15 minutes, then wash off.

42. After-sun soother: Forgot the sunscreen? Soothe your skin with a liberal application of aloe vera gel to which a few teaspoons of coconut oil is added. It’s high in antioxidants, prevents destructive free-radical activity (the primary cause of aging), and lessens skin spots caused by over-exposure to sunlight.

43. Cold sores: Coconut oil possesses an unusually high percentage of lauric acid (more than 50%), which is anti-viral (known to help treat cold sores, herpes, boils, acne and warts). Mix 2 tablespoons with 5 drops of oil of oregano and use at the first sight of a cold sore.

44. Eyelashes: Brush on to eyelashes to boost their growth and pigmentation.

45. Age spots: Applying coconut oil directly to the age spot will help it fade by preventing free-radical formation.

46. Highlighter: Simply sweep a small amount of coconut oil on top of makeup. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why many natural makeup brands use it as a base ingredient in their formulas.

Coconut oil for wellness

47. Hot flashes: Coconut oil cools hot flashes and night sweats when you put a heavy coating on your scalp, hair (towel over pillow) and feet before bed. Wash it out in the morning.

48. PMS blend: Take 1/2 cup coconut oil, 15 drops lavender essential oil, 5 drops chamomile essential oil and 3 drops cypress essential oil. Mix everything together and store in a bottle or jar. Apply to abdomen for relieving menstrual cramps.

49. Insect repellent: Take 1 cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 20 drops of patchouli, citronella or eucalyptus essential oil. Mix all the ingredients together and store in a jar. Apply liberally all over body.

50. Mood lifter: To make a superbly indulgent mood-lifting massage oil, melt one cup of coconut oil on low heat and add a handful of basil or lavender. Simmer for 30 minutes on very low heat – do not allow to boil; stir frequently. Strain and pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Heat it up a little and use it in place of massage oil to instantly bust the blues!

I have spent weeks and weeks and weeks researching and testing these recipes, yet I still feel that I must’ve left out a hundred more things. So help me out here. Is there anything I skipped that you think everyone should know about?