NOTES ON : & OTHER STORIES BEAUTY
Fashion chains' beauty ranges are notoriously hit and miss, but it's a little known fact that & Other Stories was originally conceived as a beauty only retailer, making it more than noteworthy in the eyes of any curious beauty enthusiast. Add to that the fact that the makeup and skincare collections were developed in conjunction with leading makeup artist Lisa Butler, and that Ben Gorham [founder of Byredo] formulates the brand's fragrance lines and even the sceptics will lend the brand a favourable eye. Another off-shoot from the H&M Group, & Other Stories is both a chic older sister to Monki and the cool younger sister of COS. Utterly modern and stylish, the Swedish influence is evident in every aspect of the brand's clean, minimalistic aesthetic.
With the same affordability and quality of the ready-to-wear line, the range proves that beauty can be luxurious and effacious, even with an affordable price tag. Expect extremely good products in Pinterest-worthy packaging that will look perfectly at home on your bathroom shelf amongst the luxe likes of Aēsop, Chanel, and Eve Lom. Clean, chic, and with a touch of the whimsical, these are beauty staples with a Swedish flair.
I'm newly converted to the twice daily ritual of a face spray [post-cleanse, pre-moisturise OR by way of setting makeup] and the Spray Genie Face Mist has fast become a firm favourite. I find it performs better by way of hydration than it does as a makeup fix - the spray itself is a little too abrupt for the finesse required here. However the mineral rich formula [which includes chamomile, rose, zinc, lime, and calendula] is simultaneously refreshing and hydrating, serving to calm redness and provide an extra injection of moisture [keep it in the fridge for the ultimate refreshment].
Any brand with an ethos that appoints healthy skin as the basis of a good look has favour in my book/on my blog, and the Moiré Anti-Stress Serum is more than representative of this principle. There's small wonder that it's one of the hero products of the brand's capsule skincare collection; designed to improve texture and promote radiance, the formula is rich in arginine, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, which prevent moisture loss. Light and silky, the sweetly scented serum can be used both day and night [apply beneath moisturiser] but is most effective when paired with the Natté Anti-Stress Sleeping Masque. The formula is designed to complement its serum counterpart but additionally is packed with oats in order to calm redness and reduce the appearance of stressed and aggravated skin. Application is an olfactory joy, and my skin always feels insanely soft come morning.
I'm indefinitely fussy when it comes to day cream. The successful candidate must provide bountiful hydration whilst sitting well under makeup, proffering a smooth base, without leaving shine or greasiness. Until I encountered the Tulle Day Cream, I'd never found a cream worth repurchasing, and yet I'm already on my second tube of this. The gel texture is ideal for fast absorption and a smooth finish, and the intensely hydrating formula is designed to keep shine at bay even when skin is at the wrath of hot and humid climes.
I am rarely attracted to or enamoured of a multi-purpose skincare product, but certain occasions [be it a night under canvas or a night of partying] call for a certain concise efficiency. I've come to think of Cleanse and Tone Treat as a virtuous and upgraded take on the infamous makeup wipe. It boasts the same speedy efficiency, minus the nasties and harmful texture. A light cool lotion, best applied to the skin with a cotton pad, it serves to remove makeup, cleanse, tone, and hydrate. It's by no means a replacement for the prowess of a micellar water/cleansing balm combo, but in a pinch it performs a little bit of everything to a degree rendered acceptable [if efficient double cleansing is on the agenda come sunrise].
"& Other Stories cleverly pays attention to how women shop - the power of a particular make-up look, or a single bold accessory, to inspire a new fashion mood. It transforms high-street shopping...into a uniquely personalised experience."
- Julia Hobbs
I'm a firm advocate of bar soap use, adoring the simplicity and almost ritual-like process of bathing or showering with soap to hand [not withstanding a preference to the aesthetically pleasing appeal of a soap dish over a bottle of shower gel on my bathtub any day]. The Cotton Care Khadi Classic Soap is enriched with moisturising cottonseed, and has a light but creamy texture, which leaves limbs delightfully soft. It's subtly scented with an elegant combination of peach and plum, which gives way to that traditional soap scent, a warm, powdery, earthy base - instant childhood nostalgia.
If there's one thing I adore most about & Other Stories' extensive body care line, it's their penchant for complex and imaginative scent combinations. The Punk Bouquet Hand Cream combines vanilla and rose for an example of a perfect marriage between sweet and floral. Tiger orchid, lotus, almond, and tangerine blend to present an olfactory bouquet that exudes an elegant and fresh appeal. The hand cream itself sinks in with speed, leaving skin soft and powdery to touch. It's ideal for keeping desk side, when hand hydration cannot impend on workflow.
Steel Garden Body Soufflé You could easily be forgiven for thinking the word 'soufflé' an unnecessary and elaborate replacement for lotion or cream. But no, lower those eyebrows, for the word is more than appropriate for the light and fluffy whipped up texture you will find here. Deliciously rich and moisturising, it absorbs to an almost powdery effect which leaves skin soft and supple but with an instantly matte velveteen texture. & Other Stories' body products by no means scrimp on the fragrance [a fact which owes them my favour], the effect upon application is almost comparable to the results of dousing one's self in perfume, which is to say, you won't need any additional scent. Steel Garden is a rich, sweet, cloying take on floral; elegant apple and freesia notes, which give way to a heart of honey, chamomile, and rose upon a base of musk and amber.
If you typically find body scrubs to be too abrasive then you will adore the formula of the brand's take on the body care essential. Lemon Daydream Body Scrub sees finely milled sugar particles suspended within a dense and gelatinously textured lotion. Expect skin to be polished gently to a silken texture, whilst simultaneously enhanced with the vibrant aroma of fresh lemon, grapefruit, and freesia.
Long gone are the days when a small stash of cotton pads and a bottle of polish remover were staple essentials; now replaced with the efficiency and portability of travel-friendly wipes and dips. Not only do the Simply Dip Nail Colour Remover and Simply Swipe Wipes boast one of the speediest and most effective formulas I've used, but they contains a vitamin rich conditioning acetone-free formula, which with continued use has strengthened my winter-ravaged nails to their former strength.
I've extolled the virtues of the Demi-Matt Lip Colours on many an occasion previously; the formula is one of the most durable I have used. Creamy and pigmented without looking or feeling heavy, the slight satin sheen to the finish gives these colours a wearability that a wholly matte effect negates.
The vast range of candy-coloured Nail Polishes make it nigh on impossible to leave an & Other Stories store empty-handed. The formulas range from sheer to opaque, all of which are refreshingly long-lasting, and even the sheerest layer up well to something stronger. Those who appreciate the benefits of a wide-brush will be well-served.
Next up, the product I strongly consider to be a contender for 'unsung hero of & Other Stories' - the Eyebrow Pencil. I've used many a brow pencil in my time and this is by far the best in every possible way. The texture is soft and creamy but doesn't clump or smudge, and unlike most pencils it lasts all day, without slipping budging or fading in the slightest. What's more the pigment blends beautifully and adds volume, rather than sitting flat beneath the hairs - and when sharpened to precision, makes it impossible to discern between hair and pencil. The colour [I wear Tamin Brown] is also the most natural [and most similar to my natural brow hair colour] I have ever used; again, the difference is quite indiscernible.
A multi-purpose product is always a welcome addition to any makeup bag, but in truth I find the Cheek & Lip Tint excels more as a blush than a lip product. Ideal for adding a subtle breath of colour to your face, even the boldest shades blend to a fresh, natural, and sheer perfection.
When it comes to eyeshadow I tend to adhere to the mantra that you get what you pay for. The colour payoff, pigment, finish, and wear of a high quality eyeshadow generally stands unrivalled by its drugstore counterparts - who may succeed to dupe in colour, but rarely follow suit with a successful formula. Admittedly therefore, I was not expecting to be wowed by the Metallic Eye Colour [despite the exemplary colour range], which made it all the more exciting/surprising when I was. The texture and consistency is like satin, applying sheer, but easily built up to something bolder - I wore this on a night out and returned home in the small hours with colour intact and not a crease in sight. Samite Russet itself is a beautiful used burgundy, flecked through with gold shimmer it lends more brown than red, serving as the perfect enhancement to green eyes.
I am rarely wowed by an eyeliner; even those offered by some of my favourite luxe and established beauty brands are more often than not rendered a disappointment in one way or another. However, it was love at first swatch with the & Other Stories Eye Pencil. The consistency is spot-on; even though it's a pencil, it feels like a gel, and glides on soft and easy to smudge before setting to something wholly budge-proof. I'm newly converted to the benefits of a coloured eyeliner, finding them much softer on the eye than a harsh black, and the shade Mohair Khaki is quite perfect; dark enough to still enhance the lash line, but in a universally flattering forest green pigment infused with fine gold glitter. The result is a perfectly opaque metallic sheen that is incredibly long-lasting [so does take some scrubbing to remove].
Tools may be the area where even established makeup brands flounder, but & Other Stories pulls it off with finesse. The seemingly unassuming Foundation Brush is especially effective when it comes to applying compact foundation, resulting in a lucrative finish, which doesn't overload the skin with product.
Fig ranks up there alongside new books and fresh basil as one of my all-time favourite scents. But, I'm picky. There are two fig camps; one sickly sweet, warm and candied, and the other fresh, sharp, ripe, and woody. & Other Stories' Fig Fiction line falls firmly into the latter [and in my case preferred category], a homage to the freshly picked fig. The Fig Fiction Body Mist is a daily staple in my handbag, ideal for a quick and refreshing midday spritz. The scent lingers remarkably well for a body spray and would serve well as a substitute for perfume, in a pinch. The scent is amped to the max in its Eau de Toilette form; a concoction developed in collaboration with New York-based perfumer Jérôme Epinette, which sees the woody fig accompanied by blackcurrant, bamboo, rosewood, and plum. Like a breath of fresh, warm, Mediterranean air, the result is deliciously heady and mesmerising, calling to mind a sunshine soaked terrace garden. Last autumn saw the release of & Other Stories' capsule candle collection. A collection of unique scents, inspired by the brand's Paris and Stockholm Ateliers. The Kungsholmstorg Bougie Parfumée Candle is named after the square park outside the Stockholm Atelier; a woody base of birch, pine, and cedar enhanced with incense, leather accord, and raspberry - it amounts to something worthy of the phrase 'log fire, but better'. The perfect autumnal fragrance.
What are your must-buys from & Other Stories?