With our troublesome teenage years and carefree student days behind us, our twenties see our relationships with, well, just about everything, change dramatically. Weekends, food budgets, payday, and holidays suddenly hold whole new meanings as making rent payments, draining radiators, meeting targets, buying sink unblocker, and paying council tax creeps upon us and sets life into a whole different perspective [accompanied by the sinking realisation that yes, you really are going to be this busy for the rest of your life].
Our relationships with beauty are just as effected; we can appreciate the importance of good skincare, but require our makeup routines to be as quick as they are compact [on-the-go is the key phrase here]. We have little time for excessive hair-styling, and whilst we're probably still buying the cheapest shower gel that Boots has on offer, come payday we're more than ready to treat ourselves to that luxe new lipstick/perfume/face mask [delete as appropriate].
With these requirements in mind, meet the eleven beauty products that this 'run off her feet and perpetually exhausted but nonetheless deliriously happy' twenty-something deems worthy of the label 'essential'.
What are yours?
AN EYELASH CURLER
I was a relatively late convert to the phenomena of eyelash curlers; despite being a mascara addict and eyelash enthusiast, I eschewed the tool in disbelief that its proficiency could really boost my already high-performing mascara [L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes] and admittedly naturally long/curled lashes. The key to quelling such ignorance is investing in a high quality pair, which arguably does involve spending more than the £5 that will land you a basic pair from the drugstore. A quality pair however will instantly establish as a makeup bag essential. 30 seconds of careful pumping and bending will lift and shape your lashes, exaggerating the effects of your consequently applied mascara, and often rendering the product altogether unnecessary.
SHU UEMURA Eyelash Curler - The cult favourites of beauty editors and makeup artists alike, these have long been acknowledged as the best eyelash curlers that money can buy.
NARS Eyelash Curler* - My personal favourites. I find these fit my eyes perfectly [unlike the above, which require two goes] so capture every one of my lashes in one fell swoop, and provide amazing curl even when used in haste.
A MICELLAR WATER
As quick and easy to use as standard makeup remover but notably both more efficient and more virtuous. Micellar water has long been a fashion week backstage favourite, widely available in French pharmacies, but until a few years ago extremely hard to come by in the UK. However in recent years, triggered by a nod towards double cleansing and a simultaneous backlash against makeup wipes, the trend has seeped into the mass market; these days there are very few budget household beauty brands that don't carry a micellar water in their line. Micellar water takes its name from its formula - tiny cleansing molecules called micelles that lift oil and dirt from your face, sweeping them away quickly and efficiently, no scrubbing required. Odourless and colourless, micellar water has the appearance, to all intents and purposes, of plain water, and is every bit as gentle [ideal for all skin types, including sensitive]. Used correctly, a micellar water can remove the bulk of your makeup [including stubborn eye makeup] in under a minute and won't imbalance or irritate your complexion.
BIODERMA Sensibo H2O - The original and 'cult' favourite that remains a backstage staple, and has a finesse which its cheaper counterparts lack. This successfully removes even the most tenacious mascara formulas [I'm looking at you Benefit] without irritating my incredibly sensitive eyes.
GARNIER Cleansing Micellar Water - A close second to the above, and without a doubt the best of the many budget dupes.
A FAILSAFE FACE MASK
An area of skincare where I strongly believe that the better quality of your product, the better the results you'll see. This may mean dropping some serious dollar, but if you're looking to tackle a specific and long-term skincare concern, regular masking will do the world of good, and the cost per use nearly always works out better in the long-run.
ORIGINS Original Skin Retexturising Mask* - The only mask I have ever used that actually lives up to those 'makes pores disappear' claims. This does a little bit of everything, and gives a serious glow.
AĒSOP Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Masque - This instantly calms and brightens a dull complexion, whilst deeply cleansing without drying the skin.
EVE LOM Rescue Mask* - A lifesaver if you suffer from breakouts and inflammation. This calms redness, reduces the size of blemishes, and soothes angry skin in one use.
A DOUBLE-DUTY CONCEALER
Our skin reveals a multitude of sins, and in our twenties, stress, dehydration, and those late nights spent working/partying come back to haunt us in the form of dark circles and blemishes alike. Whilst some may favour separate concealers for each issue, there are many excellent one-size-fits-all options, which will save you the hassle and the money. A good double duty concealer will perform as brilliantly in masking blemishes and scars as it will in covering up dark circles - and it's all about the texture; anything too dense will cake up and emphasise blemishes, whereas overly light consistencies will lack the pigment and staying power required under the eye. A light, creamy, and pigmented formula will serve each with equal success, and will work well when used with either a precision brush or a bare finger [perhaps not the most hygienic but always the most effective way to blend].
EVE LOM Brilliant Cover Concealer* - A solid compact that transforms into a smooth and silky cream at the touch of a finger, meaning it blends completely seamlessly. The formula is packed with skincare benefits, including antioxidants and SPF protection.
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer* - Texture-wise the lightest of the three due to its liquid formula, yet this packs a surprising punch when it comes to its pigmentation. It works best on under eye circles due to its brightening properties, but instantly obscures spots.
MAC Studio Finish Concealer SPF35 - The best coverage concealer I have ever used - requires substantial 'warming up' and blending but lasts all day and doesn't cake at all, despite a heavy consistency.
AN SPF FACE CREAM
Wearing SPF on a consistent basis has long been proven as the only truly effective way to prevent the signs of ageing skin [sagginess, pigmentation, and lines/wrinkles], which contrary to popular belief, cannot be reversed. Starting early and slathering on the sunscreen in your twenties may seem extreme and unnecessary [especially on a dull and cloudy day], but you'll thank yourself in the long-run.
KAPLAN MD Daily Moisture SPF30 Concentrate* - Ideal for those who dislike the often greasy and chalky texture of a dedicated SPF, this luxurious cream is wonderfully light and easily absorbed.
LA ROCHE-POSAY Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid SPF50 - Again, devoid of the usual unpleasant SPF texture, this silky cream makes an excellent makeup base, and is both affordable and easily acquired.
A REALLY GOOD CLEANSER
A good cleanser is the cornerstone of a successful skincare routine, and is used frequently enough to render it a product you need to research and purchase with care [buying whatever is on offer/cheapest in Boots is never going to end well]. The best cleansers will do their job without leaving your skin feeling stripped or imbalanced, can be used morning and night, and will remove every last trace of makeup left behind by your micellar water. Spend a good three minutes massaging your cleanser into your face and remove with a warm soaked flannel for optimal cleansing performance.
EVE LOM Cleanser* - My Holy Grail cleanser, without a doubt. This luxurious balm is a joy to use, and is paced with ingredients that tone, exfoliate, and moisturise the skin. My complexion always looks brighter and healthier when I'm using this.
VERSO Foaming Cleanser* - With a thick gel texture, this is a far-cry from a typical foaming cleanser, and offers a refreshing and luxurious cleanse without drying out skin.
MALIN+GOETZ Facial Cleansing Oil* - This light, dry, and beautifully scented oil leaves skin soft and radiant. Its virtuous formula renders it ideal for all skin types.
A DOES-WHAT-IT-SAYS-ON-THE-TIN MOISTURISER
These days moisturisers list claims which far outstrip their humble ingredients lists. When it comes to evening hydration I prefer to let my oils and serums do the hard work, and treat my moisturiser simply as a finally layer of hydration. To use the [overused] 'winter coat' analogy, your moisturiser should serve simply to seal in the ingredients and benefits of previously applied products whilst rehydrating and moisturising your skin.
NO7 Essential Moisture Day Cream - The best basic budget moisturiser I've used, this has a thick creamy consistency which [despite its name] I prefer for evening use. The clue is in the name, this is a a bare essentials moisturiser, and that's the beauty of it.
CLARINS HydraQuench Cream* - Light, silky, refreshing, and easily absorbed; this boasts a stellar ingredients list, but is all about hydration. Expect it to restore water reserves and prevent future moisture loss.
EVE LOM TLC Cream* - An intensive cream that will work a dream on especially dry skin - this soothes, comforts, and nourishes.
A SIGNATURE SCENT
Now that you're over the Miss Dior buzz and are more than aware that everyone and their dog owns a Jo Malone perfume, it's time to find a signature scent that is wholly your own. Not a purchase you're going to want to make online or overnight, the adventure of finding your scent is the fun part and should be both relished and cherished. Some tips? Understand what you're smelling, once you can identify musky, smoky, floral, and green, you can narrow down your selection to suit your preference. Never try out more than three scents at a time, and always test on your pulse point, wearing each scent for at least four hours before you make a final decision. If you're taking this mission especially seriously it's important to understand exactly why some perfumes are more expensive than others - I would recommend reading Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's excellent A-Z Guide.
BYREDO Gypsy Water Eau de Parfum* - Warm, earthy, and sweet, the mellow combination of incense, pine, and sandalwood blends seamlessly to enhance your natural scent.
ANJA RUBIK Original Eau de Parfum* - A clean and woody feminine fragrance with decidedly masculine undertones. This is no typical celebrity fragrance - pepper, lily, and amber combine to a scent that sings sophistication.
ACQUA DI PARMA Blu Mediterraneo - My signature scent come the summer months, its deep peppery aroma has the power to instantly evoke the radiating warmth of the sun-soaked Italian Riviera.
A MY-LIPS-BUT-BETTER LIPSTICK
An effortlessly wearable lip colour that serves to define and enhance your lips on days when you're not feeling a bright pop of colour, but still want to look 'put together'; a my-lips-but-better lipstick is a handbag essential that can be used regardless of look, location, or occasion. Finding the perfect shade for you is the hard part [the secret is a hue that's neither too pink nor too nude, and doesn't err overly matte or overly glossy], but once you've found The One, you're set for life; you should be able to apply it standing up, on the bus, sans mirror.
DIOR Lip Glow* - The balm formula delivers pigment in a weightless and silky texture, creating the immediate appearance of soft, plumped, and healthy lips. The key ingredient here is Dior's Colour Reviver technology, which creates a unique hue customised to adapt to and enhance your natural lip colour.
MAC Lipstick in Cosmo - The only MAC lipstick I have ever finished and repurchased, this warm, muted pink hue is a perfect match to my natural lip colour and the amplified cream formula is both hydrating and long-lasting.
LIPSTICK QUEEN Frog Prince* - The latest launch from the cult lipstick brand; Frog Prince appears an alarming shade of emerald green in the bullet, but adapts to the PH and temperature of your lips to create the perfect pink.
A DRY SHAMPOO
A lifesaver when it comes to the morning after the night before and you don't have time to wash your hair before work - dry shampoo is the ultimate handbag essential. These days a good dry shampoo doesn't just create the appearance of clean hair, it actually does clean your hair, and the best go that extra step further - acting part styling tool in order to improve texture and add volume to your locks. Batiste may rule the roost of the budget offerings, but experience has taught me that it's worth paying a little more to ensure a product that lives up to its claims, boasts effects that last, and performs a multitude of functions. More than just oil-absorbers, the below will create the appearance of full and thick locks, revive yesterday's hairstyle, enhance bedhead hair, and diminish product buildup.
BUMBLE & BUMBLE Prêt-à-Powder - Ideal for any and every hair type, this is like a blow-dry in a bottle. Massage the finely milled powder into your roots for instant volume lift, shine, and softness.
SWELL Ultimate Volume Dry Shampoo* - Promising [and delivering] 24 hour freshness and volume, this dry shampoo applies in a fine mist, allowing for precision application and avoiding those unfortunate grey streaks.
AN EYESHADOW PENCIL
A pocket-sized essential that will take your makeup look from office to party in a matter of moments, and can be applied in the back of the taxi, no brushes required. Come your twenties, time is of the essence and so when it comes to makeup, versatility is key - use to line your lashes, create a bold wash of colour, or blend into something subtle and smokey. The best will boast a smooth and silky texture, near opaque pigmentation, and a formula that remains bold and bright all night long.
CHANEL Stylo Fresh Effect Eyeshadow - Amazingly pigmented and every bit as luxurious as the price tag and packaging dictate.
LAURA MERCIER Caviar Stick Eyeshadow - Application is effortless, these are the best I've used. Opt for Sand Gold for a pure wash of vintage gold.
I'm dying to know, so list your twenty-something beauty essentials down below!