Smith and Cult Stockholm Syndrome (review and swatches)

For the past four months or so I've been on a beauty product low-buy, and it's been pretty successful. The only things I've bought have been replacements or things I needed, so when I had a £5 reward voucher on my Space.NK account I treated myself to something I'd been eyeing up for a while now: Stockholm Syndrome from Smith & Cult.

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish

90s kids will probably remember Hard Candy, the nail polish brand. I never owned any but thought they were so cool, what with the colours, the teenybopper rings that came fitted on the caps, and slightly provocative ads I'd see in the Seventeen magazines I'd get out of the library. From what I can tell the range went downhill after being bought by LVMH, but its co-creator Dineh Mohajer has now come out with Smith & Cult.

I picked this up at the Kensington Space.NK after attending a School of Life session "Discover 100 things you didn't know about yourself" at Harrods in an attempt at self-improvement. (It ended up just making me cringe, so I looked around the Harrods art gallery and stationery department instead.) The store was probably the biggest Space.NK I've seen in London, and pretty much stocked all of their available brands. From memory there were maybe twelve or so S&C polishes in the store, with the rest being online exclusives. See the 35-strong range here -- I'm drooling at the blues!

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish on my nails.

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish on my nails.

I've been wearing two coats of Stockholm Syndrome by itself with no base or topcoat. It lasts about five days on me with a bit of tip wear, which is pretty damn impressive considering how rough I am with my hands. It only really started looking like shit when I burned two pots this past weekend and had to scrub the shit out of them. 

The Smith & Cult website describes Stockholm Syndrome as an "opaque elephant gray". To my eye it almost comes across as taupe in bright natural light, but it mostly comes out a slightly cool dark gray. It's not exactly a high-shine finish and would definitely benefit from a good topcoat. I'm seriously considering getting the one in the range seeing as how well the polish has lasted. 

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish. Background: Hands, Hands, Hands by Horst (1941)

Smith & Cult Stockholm Syndrome nail polish. Background: Hands, Hands, Hands by Horst (1941)

The bottle is basically a miniature paperweight -- solid glass with a dented metal lid, which is a faux cap in the vein of Chanel or Butter London bottles. The brush itself is housed in the real cap, about the same size in width and length as the YSL brush, slightly shorter than OPI, and is a good size for my small nails. My one complaint is about the cap, because it's on the small side (I didn't take a photo of it, but you can see a shot in Tynan from xojane's post on the range). I find it a little fiddly to hold, and definitely prefer the long, tapered design of OPI's lid.

The names of the polishes in the range are all named after moments or episodes in Mohajer's life. See this evocative quote for Stockholm Syndrome: When one ex started bawling, triggering two more, I made a quick b-line for the door -- was she the one experiencing Stockholm Syndrome, or her exes? What kind of pain and kindness did they inflict on each other? It had me thinking about how the beauty-obsessed often associate life events with products -- a perfume I can no longer wear because I associate it with bad feelings, a nail polish I used on myself and the other bridesmaids at a best friend's wedding, or the lipstick I wore when I really didn't feel like going on a night out and need a pick-me-up. It's not like I'll be creating a beauty brand anytime soon, but I think it's similar to why I write this blog: seeing my life events through the lens of beauty. 

Tell me: what's a memory you associate with a beauty product? Or, if you started your own makeup brand, what would be the first thing you make?

On becoming my own #fitspo

Happy new year folks! 

The past 18 months or so have been good to me. I've regained a lot of the confidence I lost in the previous years (basically a huge chunk of my twenties), I'm happy in my job, and I still can't believe my luck when I think back on the holidays I've had exploring bits of the UK and Europe. 

Part of getting my mojo back has allowed me to become a lot more content with the present and what I have, and to let go of certain toxic thoughts. A big part of this? Unfollowing people on social media whose content makes me feel bad about my body.

Google image search results for "fitspo" :/

Google image search results for "fitspo" :/

I get it: for some people, seeing photos and videos of gym selfies, sculpted bodies, progress shots and pithy quotes is motivating. External motivators can be useful! And I don't think it's wrong to want to look a certain way. I still have a few friends in my feed who post quotes and progress shots, and for now I'm ok with that -- it's their journey, and I'll do my best to just scroll on by. But for me, I'm over the constant comparisons to others -- I need the motivation and inspiration to come from within. I still want to shift some body fat because I don't feel like I'm at my best health. But I've become much less focused on what I look like; I'm now more focused on what my body can do.

I've never been much of an athlete, but I have always been fairly active. I think it was even what kept me going at my lowest points -- I'd always try my hardest to make it to team games, and I still get a wee bit emotional when I think about some of my yoga sessions which were, in a word, transformational. 

For about four months towards the end of 2015, I worked with Tel, an amazing trainer (who's also a fitness model but since he's a massive dude I'm way less likely to compare myself to him. Guy is CUT though). As a result, I'm a lot more confident in the weights area in the gym, and I'm proud of what I've now achieved. I can deadlift more than my bodyweight! I can do actual press-ups on my feet! Although press-ups plural is maybe stretching it a bit -- I can do, like, a handful. But I couldn't do any six months ago!

And just quietly, when I was at the doctor's the other week for a worrying cough, he took my vitals and complimented me on my BP and heart rate. Is it weird that I'm proud of that? I don't care.

I think everyone deserves to be happy with the body they have, regardless of their activity levels or food intake, whether they're fat, thin, a little bit lumpy, or, you know, just NOT SHAPED LIKE A VICTORIA'S SECRET MODEL. It's funny that it's a radical thing, that fat people can be happy and healthy, or that thin people can have invisible illnesses -- I won't go into it, but I would highly recommend Everyday Feminism for discussions on body image and other issues. I particularly like this comic on judging health by appearance and their (timely) piece on 50 body acceptance resolutions.

The thing is, I've lost a load of weight before, and I was just as unhappy as I was before I lost the weight. Losing weight wasn't a magical solution to all of my problems; in fact getting to that point had me rebounding -- hey presto, all my weight's piled back on, and my head is still as fucked as ever! I've come to realise that it's important to sort my underlying issues out, unpack the complicated relationship I have with food and my body, and get into the scary parts of working on my mental well-being before I go doing other stuff. 

I could definitely stand to put more nourishing things into my body -- less cake, more greens -- although sometimes cake can be a nourishing thing too. And that's the thing: it's about taking care of the body that I have and giving it what it needs, and sometimes that body needs a cupcake. I've found that the more accepting I am of what my body is, and the more content I am in myself, the better, less destructive choices I make when it comes to food. I still load up on "treats" when I feel bad, but I'm getting better at realising that eating an entire bag of chips won't necessarily make me feel happier or make my problems disappear.

I still have days when I say hateful things about my body, join in on the bullshit women say about themselves regarding their fatness, or point out my flaws before someone else can. I still constantly compare myself to other people -- my self-esteem is a work in progress, and probably always will be. Maybe one day I'll be able to look at photos of perfectly sculpted bodies and say "you do you" and scroll on by without any reflection on myself. But for now, I've unfollowed the fitspiration, "strong is the new sexy" (that's not helpful either), bikini body babe accounts, and I'm working on being my own motivation and inspiration.

///

I hope you don't mind me going off-piste a little bit. No makeup talk today! But my relationship with beauty products has always been about using makeup as a way of enhancing and expressing myself, rather than obscure the parts of my face that I hate, so I feel like body image talk has a place here on the blog. This has been a little scary to write, but I hope there are bits that you've maybe found useful or have identified with. Happy 2016, if you're into all that new year new start stuff! If not, as you were. 

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit: review, swatches, intense internal debate

Sometimes, the heart wants what it wants. 

And this year, as the season of beauty holiday limited editions opened with an avalanche of sneak peeks on Instagram, my heart wanted the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit palette.

Size comparison: almost 10 grams of Luminous Light Ambient Lighting Powder, versus the 1.4 grams x 6 in the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. But so pretty AMIRITE?

Size comparison: almost 10 grams of Luminous Light Ambient Lighting Powder, versus the 1.4 grams x 6 in the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. But so pretty AMIRITE?

Logically, I knew it was a bad deal - in terms of value you'd be much better off getting the Ambient Lighting Blush or Powder palettes (see Temptalia's breakdown), plus you'd get pans of a size you could actually fit powder and bronzer brushes into. 

But in terms of unit price, I could own six of the Ambient Lighting range - powders, blushes, and a bronzer -- for only £9 more than one of the trio palettes. I use Luminous Light, which weighs in at just under ten grams, at least two to three times a week, and two years on I still haven't hit pan. So I knew that the amount contained in each pan in the palette (roughly 1.5 grams) would last me a decent amount of time, even with regular use. I mean, when was the last time I finished a highlighter, blusher or bronzer? Uh, never. 

Anyway, I've been pretty restrained in my makeup buying this year, focusing in on a few big hits (as in "to my wallet: and "products that made a big splash") and limiting my impulse purchases. Just because Boots always has 3 for 2 promos on doesn't mean I NEED ALL THE THINGS, and I get that smug sense of satisfaction every time I walk away. Why not reward my self-control with a £65 palette? 

(Don't answer that.)

Closeup on Mood Exposure and Luminous Flush Ambient Lighting Blushes in the Edit

Closeup on Mood Exposure and Luminous Flush Ambient Lighting Blushes in the Edit

Let's be clear: if you already own one of the trio palettes, or even a couple of the individual products, I wouldn't bother with this. Only if you are head-over-heels obsessed with the range, or maybe wanted one for travel, would I even remotely think of recommending this. They're just too similar on the skin -- to each other, and to other highlighting or finishing powders and blushes. If you're the kind of person who would buy into a brand like Hourglass, you likely have all the requisite products to put together your own edit.

Closeup on Iridescent Light, a highlighter exclusive to the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. It's pretty similar to Luminous Light on me!

Closeup on Iridescent Light, a highlighter exclusive to the Ambient Lighting Edit palette. It's pretty similar to Luminous Light on me!

I've been using it almost every time I've worn makeup for the past month, and I'm really pleased with it. These powders don't emphasize my big pores and don't read as greasy on my oily skin. Dim Light and Diffused Light are great as setting powders, and the stuff is fine milled and translucent enough to work for my NC35-ish skintone. I was worried that it would have obvious particles of shimmer, but they are so fine that they translate as more of a sheen than sparkle. 

My attempt at swatching the Ambient Lighting Powders: in the foreground is Luminous Light, then the peachy one is Dim Light, followed by Iridescent Light and the more yellow-y Diffused Light

My attempt at swatching the Ambient Lighting Powders: in the foreground is Luminous Light, then the peachy one is Dim Light, followed by Iridescent Light and the more yellow-y Diffused Light

Iridescent LIght is a soft, subtle highlighter, although I find that it's really similar to Luminous Light, if that helps anyone decide for or against the palette. I really like the effect it gives, both on its own and over the top of blushes. It's absolutely a good pick for a sophisticated, rather than a shiny, disco beam highlight. 

Despite appearances, the blushes actually read pretty similarly on the cheeks -- Mood Exposure leans more deep and plummy while Luminous Flush is a touch more warm pink. Both have a satin texture, although I find that Luminous Flush has a touch more micro-shimmer than Mood Exposure. I was surprised by the wear time on these -- on Friday (during my descent into zombie flu) I could see it on my cheeks at least ten hours after I put it on!

Swatches of Mood Exposure, Luminous Flush, and Luminous Bronze Light on NC30 skin

Swatches of Mood Exposure, Luminous Flush, and Luminous Bronze Light on NC30 skin

The Luminous Bronze Light bronzer performs similarly, and I find that it complements the two blushes well. There's a bit more shimmer in this compared to all of the other products, but again, it doesn't scream, "Look at my glitzy tanned cheekbones. Natural, right?".

Closeup on Luminous Bronze Light in the Edit palette

Closeup on Luminous Bronze Light in the Edit palette

I'll likely post face shots of all six products used in context at some stage. The thing about finishing powder-type products is that they're so hard to capture -- they're definitely a makeup lover's thing, rather than a must have. But there's something to be said about beautiful objects in and of themselves, and man, have Hourglass captured my heart on this one. 

Zombie flu pick-me-ups: what's on my sick day tabletop (feat. Caudalie, Paula's Choice, Homeoplasmine, The Body Shop, L'Occitane, This Works)

Where: Southbank, London
When: last Friday, the first night of the Southbank Centre Christmas Market
What: mulled wine, all permutations of fat and carb combinations, and a screening of Tarantino's True Romance at the BFI

Basically a recipe for a great night, yeah?

It was just too bad, then, that I was starting to look and feel like a viral outbreak movie character, right before they turn into a zombie: cold, pale, sweaty, nauesous. Not even a double-shot hot toddy helped. I held it together until I got home, and spent the weekend feverish, aching, and doing my best impression of a consumptive invalid.

I wish I'd taken a photo of my bedside table -- think Tracey Emin's My Bed, but with more phlegmy tissues and less vodka #lifestyleblogger. Here are a few products that made me feel vaguely human.

The ones that smell good: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle and the Caudalie Beauty Elixir

The ones that smell good: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle and the Caudalie Beauty Elixir

Put this one in the not-sure-if-it-does-anything-but-it-smells-good category: This Works deep sleep heavenly candle isn't quite as soporific as the pillow spray in the same range, but I think the lavender and chamomile made me feel more zen than zombie.

The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is an old favourite (Six Word Review here), and I recently won a bottle from their stand at Stylist Live (which I also won tickets to -- just as well, because it so wasn't worth the £25!). The rosemary and mint essential oils act like a less repellent Vicks Vaporub (although I think Will feels differently...), and the citrus and rose components also help make it a good pick-me-up. It does contain alcohol, though -- it might be that or the essential oils that make my raw nose sting, so I spray it on my neck instead. 

The French pharmacy loves: Homeoplasmine and Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains

The French pharmacy loves: Homeoplasmine and Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains

On the subject of sore noses (and cracked lips because of all the mouthbreathing, holy crap), I like Homeoplasmine. This stuff is basically Vaseline, but... it's fancy French Vaseline! I picked this up when I was in Paris earlier this year -- totally an Into The Gloss-provoked purchase -- and it's a really good all-purpose balm. There's no smell, and it's far less greasy than actual Vaseline. (I've previously written about similar balms here and here.)

Another French pharmacy pick-up was the Embryolisse Creme Nutritive Douceur Mains. While lightweight, it's really quite softening and hydrating and non-greasy -- basically all I want in a hand cream but often have a hard time finding.

Is it a bird? Is it an amoeba? No, it's the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel!

Is it a bird? Is it an amoeba? No, it's the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel!

I barely washed my face (or showered, for that matter. YOU'RE WELCOME), but when I did I used the Body Shop's Luxury Face Flannel. This isn't your traditional terry cloth flannel or thin, rough muslin cloth. It's made from PVA, which makes it ultra smooth and soft after you wet it. I've been using it for a few months now, and it's so great for sensitive skin. I normally use it to remove my cleanser, and it's good at taking off makeup. Since it's basically plastic, it also dries fast and stiff which means you can mould it into weird shapes if you so desire.

The nourishing skincare: L'Occitane Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid

The nourishing skincare: L'Occitane Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid

Skincare-wise, I stuck with my usual Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid (previously reviewed here). This helped get rid of the flakies and cleared up any blocked pores. I always feel like I look better the day after I use it! L'Occitane were giving away luxury-sized samples of their moisturisers recently, so I tried out the Pivoine Sublime Perfecting Cream. It's a gel-cream formula which absorbs quickly and dries to a matte finish, and has a light rose scent. I haven't tried it under makeup yet, but I have a feeling it would work well on my oily skin. The pot format grosses me out a little -- pump bottles all the way -- but hey, that's what preservatives are for, right?

BRB, looking for my brain: I need it back at work this week!

Is this just Fantascene: the NARS x Steven Klein Pop-Up Store experience

Nars invokes a certain image of beauty, and have a knack of taking the overtly sexual and invoking something more edgy and cerebral. Auxiliary Beauty recently wrote a post about Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in 69, and made the comparison to the names from the Nars Guy Bourdin collaboration -- UD's name choice just seems lazy and crude in contrast. Sure, Orgasm and Deep Throat are as obvious as they come, but I suspect things were a little different when they were starting out back in '96. 

François Nars also shoots his brand's advertising campaigns, and I think he does well in choosing great collaborators for some of their limited editions -- they don't feel like a marketing gimmick, and the product development often feels more fully fleshed than, say, MAC's limited editions. Their previous photographer collaborations were a little hit and miss: the Andy Warhol collection suffered from poor product quality, and the Guy Bourdin range was controversial due to the glamourisation of violence to women in his imagery. (Related: I really respected Christine of Temptalia's discussion of the topic.) 

Killer Heel print, hung opposite the video installation

Killer Heel print, hung opposite the video installation

Steven Klein, Nars' latest collaborator, isn't without his controversies, either -- hello, blackface in French Vogue! Just about every one of his shoots featuring Lara Stone! I'm no art or photography aficionado, but I think there's a fine line between exploring and commenting on some of these challenging ideas, and glamourizing them (and as often is the case, exploiting them for commercial gain). There's something about Klein's subjects and settings, though, a plastic, almost alien quality that reminds me of Blade Runner (is Replicant Beauty a thing? It should be) -- it makes his imagery more abstract to me, and is challenging in a less blatantly violent way.  

Replicant Beauty! This look was very similar to the main collection imagery.

Replicant Beauty! This look was very similar to the main collection imagery.

Soho, London, was basically the perfect place to host a Nars x Steven Klein pop up store for their Fantascene Holiday Collection. While gentrification has well and truly set in (my friend Ryan, Essex native and Soho regular, is forever bemoaning the Crossrail development), there are still classics like the Soho Original (bookshop-cum-sex store SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and establishments filled with sordid goings on. The pop-up was kind of a gallery setting featuring the Steven Klein imagery used on the products and in the campaign. There was a tiny bar out back serving red-hued cocktails, a photo booth, and a room featuring the Killer Heels looping video installation. The products themselves were laid out on plinths alongside the corresponding visuals, and you could of course play with them -- makeup artists were on hand to help.

Nars Steven Klein Pop Up 👠🚙

A video posted by Teresa (@brushandbullet) on

I mentioned in my Anti-Haul post that I considered the One Shocking Moment palette, but went for the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit instead. When I visited the pop-up I swatched it, and asked a MUA to apply some of it on my face, and now I'm glad I went for the Hourglass. I wasn't so keen on the Paloma contouring duo included, already own Laguna, and while the blush shades were beautiful, I felt like I owned similar colours already.

Nars Steven Klein An Abnormal Female Lip Coffret

So the palette was an easy one to forego, but I kind of fell in love with the An Abnormal Female Bullet Lip Pencil Set. One day I'll write a post about the reasoning behind my blog name, and Klein himself has referred to the inspiration behind the product design in interviews -- there are some obvious parallels to be drawn between lipsticks and bullets. The red-tipped, brass-toned packaging is solidly made and weighted at the tip, and there's nothing flimsy about it.

From top: Nars Dragon Girl, 413 BLKR, and Sex Machine on NC30 skin

From top: Nars Dragon Girl, 413 BLKR, and Sex Machine on NC30 skin

All three of the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in the set are permanent and full size -- Sex Machine, 413 BLKR, and Dragon Girl -- and the whole thing retails for £45 (the pencils are normally £19 each). A while ago I commented on Auxiliary Beauty's (can you tell she's a favourite?) MAC Giambattista Valli Eugenie post that the range contained what are basically the Platonic ideals of all of the main lipstick colour families. The An Abnormal Female set is similar -- there's the mauve-y pink, a bright fuschia pink, and a punchy red. What would "complete the set" for me would be an orange or orange-leaning red, an oxblood, and a nude (I would never wear a pale pink like Bianca B).

From top: Nars Mysterious Red and Dragon Girl on NC30 skin

From top: Nars Mysterious Red and Dragon Girl on NC30 skin

I already owned a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil as I was lucky enough to snatch one up when Liberty gave away a hundred Mysterious Reds at their Nars counter, and I adore it. For reference, Dragon Girl is a touch more cool-toned than Mysterious Red, and not as deep -- I'll show lip shots and review the set later once I've had the chance to wear them. The set is exclusive in the UK to the Nars website (and the Pop-Up store, which has now closed). The One Shocking Moment palette is exclusive to Space.NK and the Nars website in the UK, and Sephora in the States.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the collection, and let me know: have you picked up anything from the holiday collections recently? I think I've got all I want!

Nars x Steven Klein collaboration imagery

Nars x Steven Klein collaboration imagery

Nars Steven Klein An Abnormal Female Lip Coffret pencils