It’s safe to say the first few months of the year have been tough on us all.
I doubt I was the only one secretly hoping – even though it was highly unlikely – that the new year might bring with it the usual promise of a fresh start, and renewed hope. But, as is often the case, it truly has been a case of being darkest before the dawn. January, February and March were, for want of a better word, a bit of a shit-show really. I don’t think I’ve ever been as afflicted by Seasonal Affective Disorder as I have been this year, with my motivation and general sense of wellbeing almost totally deserting me lately.
I wrote in an Instagram post in early March that while constant stimulation can become overwhelming, a consistent lack can have the same effect. I think I’d simply became overwhelmed by the sheer boredown of lockdown, which led to me feeling utterly gripped by inertia. I’ve been trying to nourish myself recently with inspiration from an array of new (to me) sources, and will share a few of my favourites in a post soon, but I’ve definitely found building a balanced and sustainable working week within the confines of this third lockdown to be incredibly hard. Which, as someone who has previously worked from home for the past four years, is very disorientating.
I’ve been trying to lean more into the inertia lately by being kind to myself, gently interogating my inner thoughts, and allowing myself plenty of time for self care. As daylight is beginning to creep in earlier and earlier each day now, I’ve taken to setting my alarm as early as I can bear and heading downstairs for a few hours of quiet alone-time, with my morning coffee and a good book, podcast or YouTube video for company.
Having lived alone for three years prior to moving in with my boyfriend just before lockdown, I’ve realised just how precious these moments to myself are. Not that I don’t love spending time with him – he’s genuinely the only person I could have imagined getting through lockdown with – but being alone with my thoughts in a calm, quiet space before the working day begins, knowing he’s fast asleep upstairs and unlikely to unexpectedly intrude, has become a bit of a lifeline over the past few weeks.
These couple of hours in the early morning have become my preferred time for skincare rituals, which has allowed me to better get to grips with the array of Typology* natural skincare products I have accumulated over the past year. I was previously gifted a small selection of items tailored to my skin type by the brand (you fill out a diagnostic test on their website to identify your core skincare issues and key areas to target), and have since added to my collection as I found my skin getting on so well with them.
My most recent addition is their new Eyelashes & Brows Serum, formulated with 2% pea peptides and castor oil. Over the past year of lockdown I’ve let my eyebrows grow with abandon and have only plucked the most unruly or out-of-place hairs and, while I’m never going to achieve Cara Delevingne-esque brows, they certainly have filled out quite a bit, so I’m eager to give them a little bit of a helping hand to make up for all those years of over-plucking in the noughties. I’ve only had this serum a few weeks so cannot vouch for its effectiveness over time, but they certainly do feel more nourished and a little bit thicker just now.
Of the products I was sent to trial last year, I’ve since reordered bottles of the Eye Serum* (5% caffeine + 5% niacinamide) which I have found helps reduce the dark circles and puffiness under my eyes first-thing, and the Targeted Blemish Solution* (2% salicylic acid + 1% zinc), which I use on localised spots that frequently appear around my jawline, usually triggered by mask-wearing. I’m at a stage in my life now where (in my late-30s) I feel I have finally left behind the extremely acne-ridden skin I have experienced since puberty. In all that time though, I’d never really found a targeted treatment that worked effectively on my blemishes. It may well be because my spots are not as hormonal anymore, and usually appear after I’ve worn a mask in a warm indoor setting for a while, but I have found this solution from Typology to be unusally effective on my skin. A little goes a long way, so at under £20 it’s certainly a treatment I’d recommend giving a go if you are suffering with a little mascne (face mask acne) too. As I say though, I can’t speak to it’s effectiveness on more hormonal under-the-skin spots, which I know from personal experience are an absolute PAIN. If anyone knows of a good treatment for these, do let me know!
I tend to use all of my other Typology serums on rotation; reaching for the Radiance Serum* (11% vitamin C) at times when I’ve run out of my preferred Beauty Pie capsules, and the Redness & Blemish Serum* (12% Niacinamide) when I can feel an abundance of ‘creeping blemishes’ bubbling up under my skin. These tend to present as tiny bumps on my cheeks and don’t often linger for long after I’ve applied this serum a couple of times, so this another serum I reach for fairly frequently, and have already restocked on.
Alongside Typology, the other skincare brand I’ve become a real fan of in the past year is Antipodes*; a New Zealand beauty brand that uses native ingredients in their plant-powered and certified organic range. This is another brand I was introduced to through PR samples that I have gone on to restock, which I’m sure constitutes an honest and genuine endorsement. In fact, I’m about to run out of their Baptise H2O ultra-hydrating water gel moisturiser* for a third time! The product is described as being “deeply thirst-quenching without heaviness or oiliness,” and I would wholeheartedly agree. As a moisturising gel it is easily absorbed, and adds weightless hydration to my skin throughout the day. I like to apply this as soon as I wake up, as it has a very nice cooling effect that I find my puffy morning face really responds to. During the summer months I even kept the tub in the fridge to further enhance that sense of coolness, which I find to be a nice, gentle way to awaken both my skin and my mind in the early hours of the day.
I’ve also been sent samples of their Manuka honey skin brightening day cream* and accompanying eye cream* to trial, both of which my skin has responded well too although not amazingly so, but the Aura Manuka honey face mask* – included in the Beehive box set* – is one I will definitely repurchase again soon. This goes on as a thin, almost translucent, layer that can be easily worn for an hour or so during the day to really allow the ingredients to penetrate deeply. I often wear it whilst I’m busying working away at my computer – and have even taken a client Zoom call with the mask applied, and no-one noticed!
I’ve found that in the past three months of lockdown I’ve been drawn more and more to aromatherapy and incense than ever before. I’m no expert by any means – although I’m keen to learn more, and have just ordered this beautiful book by Essence + Alchemy’s Lesley Bramwell to begin that journey – but I do know that I always feel far more grounded and aligned with my wellbeing when I take the time to really breathe in and appreciate a calming scent.
I was recently sent some beautiful Hinoki Cypress scented Washi leaf incense* from NiMi Projects; a beautifully curated independent retailer based in Kent that focuses on showcasing contemporary Japanese design and traditional craftsmanship. Established in 2018 by Japan fashion expert Nicole Bargwanna and Tokyo-based lifestyle and design editor-writer Mio Yamada, the store is filled to the brim with unique and highly giftable items that are right up my street! I can’t wait to visit the store in person someday soon – housed in a heritage building with more than 400 years of history, open woodwork and unadulterated simplicity – but for now I’ve been drooling over many of the items in their webshop. They kindly sent me a small Mino-Yaki plate* on which to burn my washi incense (atop a circular fireproof pad) as well, and together the set would make a lovely little gift. Ditto the Okado round vases, available in a selection of beautiful hues, the handcrafted Asemi Matsushiro cups, or the Saburo Afumi glass dishes. They even have a wonderful selection of Furoshiki wrapping cloths so you can wrap your gifts eco-consciously as well.
My appreciation for scent has been further enhanced by the Signature Ritual Collection* of aromatherapy balms I recently received from mindful lifestyle brand, Scentered. The balm set is designed to support and enhance habit change through a unique Wellbeing Ritual, teaching you to use your sense of smell as a tool to direct your thoughts, emotions and actions in order to live a happier life. Their six unique, award-winning blends provide purposeful solutions to the most commonly desired emotional states – sleep, de-stress, focus, happy, escape and love – and encourage you to take a moment to pause, inhale and reset your inner emotional state. I’d actually already bought one of their balms – Escape (oud, frankincense & sandalwood) – during the first lockdown last year, and had really enjoyed incorporating the application ritual to help me transition from a focused mindset at the end of the work day into a restful one, so was very happy to have the opportunity to experience the other scents in their signature collection when they got in touch.
De-stress (chamomile, neroli & mandarin) and Focus (rosemary, mint & clary sage) have fast become go-tos as I sit at my desk throughout the working day. The balms use moringa and shea butter as carriers to allow for a mess-free application when touched directly to the skin at your pulse points (I usually opt for the wrist and either side of my neck). I find the scent lingers for around 10 minutes or so as the essential oils are absorbed into your skin, before gently fading away. The process has been designed this way to encourage you to really stop and inhale the scent when you apply it, helping facilitate a more immediate mindset shift, without creating a complicated layering of scents when you go to apply a different balm later in the day. The whole application ritual is all about slowing down and reconnecting with yourself, and I’ve found it to be incredibly effective.
When in comes to self care and wellbeing at the end of the day, along with the use of Scentered’s Sleep Well balm (palmarosa, lavendar & ylang ylang), I’ve also upgraded my nightly sleep with the addition of a Mulberry Silk pillowcase* from The Fine Bedding Company.
Even before the brand got in touch with me, I’d been researching the benefits of silk pillowcases over cotton and linen ones, as I’ve seen several influencers switching to them recently and singing their praises on Instagram. Silk is a naturally breathable and hypoallergenic fabric than cotton or linen and is also considered to be far more gentle on your hair and skin, making it a good opton for people who experience acne – especially for people like me who sleep on their stomach or side! The smoother fabric is also purported to help minimise wrinkles and hair static by providing a friction-less surface that doesn’t leech moisture from your skin or hair as cotton, in particualr, is prone to.
I can’t honestly say I’ve seen much difference in the visible appearance of skin since switching, but I have definitely woken up with fewer tangles in my hair – which is currently the longest it’s ever been, and in desperate need of a haircut (which may also explain the current knottiness). Either way though, the silky pillowcase definitely feels nice and cool against my skin at night and the softer, smoother surface feels like it is much kinder to my skin. Just as I love wearing my Slip eye mask at night because it feels luxurious, sleeping on a silk pillowcase feels like a little luxury that my soul needs just now. My boyfriend too, if the number of times he’s tried to steal it from me are anything to go by..!
Have you made any self-care updates to your daily routine that have helped make this lockdown a little easier? I’d love to know!
Nb. this post contains items which have been sent to me as PR samples, with no obligation to post. I always share my opinion on gifted products (particularly skincare) after a lengthy trial period, so as to provide as honest and informed an opinion as possible. Any PR products mentioned in this post are clearly marked with an asterisk for transparency.