This is the first in a series of vintage beauty and style related articles I shall be writing for Queens of Vintage. Do pop over to read it, and many more, there!
I am so often asked how I get such perfect skin and so I have decided to let you all in on a little secret … it’s not actually all that perfect at all! I seem to be lucky enough to have the type of skin that looks great in pictures, even the skin of my body looks pearly white and smooth in the flash of a camera! But in reality, I’m as prone to breakouts as many others are, and my skintone quite often leaves a lot to be desired. But I do have a skincare routine to which I am dedicated, and I think it helps ensure that my skin is the best it can be. And in this modern age of parabens, silicones, and ingredients with names as long as your arm, I find myself turning more and more to the simpler beauty routines and habits of my grandmother’s era. It may be something of a cliche that all grandmothers have lovely, soft skin, but mine certainly did. And luckily, she passed on some of her tips to me. So I am passing them on to you!
Image found at Morford Auctions.
First, cold water and a mild soap are all you really need in the morning. I, like most women, have dabbled with many different facewashes and soaps over the years, but always find that the supposed ‘spot fighting’ ones never seemed to do what they claimed, and I always end up going back to basics. I now try to stick to products that either have as few ingredients as possible, or those that are mostly natural or organic. My granny, and my best friend’s too, swore by Pears Soap, which has been produced for more than two hundred years. The smell of Pears is incredibly nostalgic for me, and its mild, hypoallergenic formula makes it ideal for those with sensitive skin. I do like to use it from time to time, alternating it with a fragrance-free wash from Simple or a neem-based, natural soap. And though sceptical at first, I have to say that washing your face with cold water first thing really is just the thing for waking you up, refreshing you, and leaving your skin tingling.
My second, old-fashioned beauty secret is witch hazel. Witch hazel astringent was first produced in the 1800s, although Native Americans were well aware of the plant’s medicinal properties long before. I was introduced to it as a child, if I grazed or bruised myself, my mother would always apply witch hazel to the area. Its smell also evokes a lot of memories of being young! Witch hazel can even be used to treat various maladies, from laryngitis to *ahem* piles. The reason it works so well against these complaints is the same reason that it’s a wonderful facial toner – it shrinks blood vessels and pores fantastically well. I use it morning and evening to remove all traces of cleaner and tone my skin. It is wonderfully refreshing on a hot day when wiped over one’s face, and even one’s tired feet! And at 99p a bottle, it is extremely recession-friendly to boot. I have to confess here that the light day cream I use is not remotely vintage, being from Tescos’ surprisingly high-quality organic cosmetics range.
This next one is actually my desert-island beauty product, and is also the one that’s been with us the longest. Cold cream has been around for centuries, millennia even, if Wikipedia can be believed, and it was definitely something that our grandmothers would never have done without. There is a very good reason that this traditional product has been so popular for so long – it really works! Use it as a cleanser, a deep-cleaning face mask, an eye-lash conditioner, even a moisturiser in a pinch. In its usual role as cleanser, it leaves skin baby soft, never tight or dry. And it’s also incredibly cheap!
Cold cream’s main ingredient, mineral oil, has got rather a bad reputation in recent years as being comedogenic, or pore-clogging, but this isn’t strictly true. Actually, the best way to draw oil and impurities out of your skin is to use… oil! It might sound counterproductive but the theory is sound. Oil dissolves oil, rather than stripping it off your face and causing your sebum glands to overcompensate and produce even more. It really is wonderful stuff. If you’re still not convinced, just take a look at Eve Lom’s celebrated cleanser. Retailing at £48.00 ($79) for 100ml, a quick glance at the ingredients reveals it is nothing more than simple cold cream, with a few fancy botanicals and parabens thrown in.
I choose Boots’ Traditional Cold Cream because I love its retro packaging and bargain £2.79 price tag, which is significantly cheaper than Pond’s (which also comes in a smaller tub over here), but the latter has an equally long and illustrious history, and many vintage girls swear by it too. Using cold cream in my evening ritual never fails to make me feel glamorous! I wash my face gently with warm water and the same soap as in the morning, to remove the worst of the day’s dirt and makeup. Then, in front of my bathroom mirror, wearing my vintage dressing gown and thinking of all the Hollywood stars and gorgeous grannies that did the same all those years ago, I massage a generous dollop of cold cream into my face, and remove thoroughly with a steamy flannel, lightly exfoliating as I go; finishing with some more refreshing witch hazel. This should be all the exfoliation your face needs for a clear and bright complexion, but if you want something scrub-like to use to use once a week or so, I heartily recommend Angels on Bare Skin from Lush. This all-natural scrub definitely counts as vintage, being based on a medieval recipe. It contains lavender and rose oils, and the exfoliant is gentle ground almonds. Make sure you stay clear of scrubs with sharp pieces, like ground apricot kernels, as they cause microscopic tears in your pores, often making them more obvious.
The stars of yesteryear would probably have finished with a Vanishing Cream, such as the one Boots are doing as part of their Original Formula range, but I don’t find I need to use moisturiser at all, or, if I do, it’s just a little bit of my aforementioned organic day cream. A caveat: a girl can have too much of a good thing, and if I use cold cream in the morning, or fail to remove it well enough at night, it can lead to breakouts, so use with caution! Rinse out your flannel well with very hot water and leave it to dry – I change mine every two or three days, depending on how well I have removed my makeup in the initial wash!
My final vintage beauty essential is one so popular today that supermodels have been said to swear by it.
Created in the 1930s, allegedly to soothe the legs of its creator’s beloved racehorses, Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream is a staple in many modern stars’ and makeup artists’ cosmetic bags, and one that never leaves my bedside table. Some people aren’t fond of the smell, being slightly medicinal; but I adore it, and can never go back to boring old Vaseline (itself a vintage classic, of course). Last year, on 08/08/08, Elizabeth Arden brought out a commemorative vintage container, glass, with a metal lid. So much more chic than the plastic squeezy tubes! It’s pricey, but lasts a long time, and it can be used on rough skin, cuticles, grazes, sunburn… the list goes on! Try it – I guarantee its soothing vitamin E and salicylic acid formula will ensure you wake up with lips as kissably smooth as those Golden Era glamour girls’, and ready for that ruby red lipstick!
Thus concludes my short guide to my personal vintage beauty routine essentials. I hope it will help you all on your way towards luminous skin. Do have a look at Boots’ Original Formula range for a fantastic array of vintage-style cosmetics that will look just the ticket on any dressing table. And do keep your eyes peeled for my next beauty article, which will feature my favourite vintage makeup classics!