Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The trials and errors of a pixie crop

OK, I admit it. being a girl with very very short hair is HARD. Yes I've been posting and postulating about how to make it look nice and what a difference a dye makes, but I'm going to come out and admit defeat; I'm rubbish with it in so many ways. All of which I'll try to resolve, in the true manner of this blog, but by 'eck this ones a toughie.

1.  (I do love a list) My Wedding Day
This won't be number 1 priority for a lot of you, but since I am typical girl, and my every other waking thought is weddings (I work it around permanent hypochondria), it's top of mine. I want long girlish wavy, centre parted flowy hair with my big white dress. I just can't picture any other option. I have one year and counting, a year I plan to spend eking out as many inches as humanly possible. From relentless questioning of all my hair stylist friends, I reckon I can expect about a mid-ear length bob - just enough for some realistic extensions for the big day, if only I can battle through extreme urge to get it cut. It's a battle of epic proportions. Torn between extreme pride in how much its coming along and horror at the puffy sided monstrosity masquerading as a hairdo that just gets worse with every day of further growth.

Um, I failed. There were only so many times I could hear Dadjokes' gentle encouragement to sort my hair out before I cracked and went for a cut. My plan is this; keep the top untouched, then as it grows it will disguise the terrible sides and back stages. Problem is hairdressers do not seem to adhere to my plan, and yesterday I came back from a cut a bit heartbroken at the amount chopped off. To the untrained eye it probably wasn't that much. To my hyper alert state, where every millimetre of precious growth is practically obsessed over, I was gutted to see about a months worth of length sitting in my lap. I'm not sure anyone can understand how much you treasure your stupid, fluffy, long back and sides unless they've grown it from absolutely nothing. It didn't help when Dadjokes said 'oh, that much off? maybe it wasn't so bad before'.

2. Do I stay or do I Grow?
On the other hand I have never had so many compliments in my life. I'm not sure if they're pity ones from the people I know, but even strangers are telling me they love my hair. Work took me backstage at X Factor a couple of weeks ago and Jonny stopped me in the corridor with 'oooh, love the pixie crop'. Highly esteemed praise indeed. I arrived for a meeting last week at a PR agency, and the receptionist pointed me in the direction for a casting. I am 32 years old, I don't get mistaken for a model in ordinary life. All of this is making me wonder if I should stick with the crop. This would solve the (currently impossible) growing out issue, but scupper my romantically wispy wedding plans. Plus I'd need three weekly cuts, and I just can't maintain that level of upkeep. Its just not me. Then there's all the other stuff to deal with. Like...

3. Lady Leanings
I live near Stoke Newington, Lesbian capital of London. When I walk down the high street I am astoundingly blatantly checked out from all directions. It is flattering to say the least, but I can see girls looking at Dadjokes holding my hand, thinking 'poor boy, he doesn't even know.' Why am I suddenly more attractive to my own sex? Does this mean I look like a boy? look like a lesbian (what does a lesbian look like anyway?), or am just generally looking better? It can only be the hair. Either way it's not great for absolving any self-consciousness. It also means I steer clear of flat shoes and rainbow coloured knitwear.

4. Hair Envy
All of my friends and family are now viewed by measure of hair loveliness. I appreciate a gentle sheen, flowing ends and simple ability to tuck behind ears or put up in a pony. And I calculate how many years it took them to cultivate their manes. And then I go a bit green and ever so slightly snarly at how versatile and flowing their lovely locks are. Even when they take 45 minutes more than me to get ready in the morning. Even when they burn their fingers on their curling tongs. Oh how I remember how annoying that used to be. Still, it only takes me three minutes to wash and dry my hair all in. Hah.

5. Three Day Hair
Very short hair that has suddenly decided to go very curly is very difficult to style. On wash day it is resolutely puffy, no matter what exotic combination of styling aids I put on it. And I have tried nearly everything. Also Kirby grips do not grip. There is no helping first day hair for me. Second day is mildly better. This could be due to said exotic combination of products settling in to do their job properly. Its still somewhat unruly though. Day three and finally my hair looks OK. It sort of stays where I want it to, and the texture is more separated and cool. And also unclean. But I'm reluctant to wash it and start the bhd cycle all over again. Social occasions are planned around my third day hair, I just hope for minimal hugging - it leads to hair sniffing...

Since I was so recently and aggressively trimmed I'm starting again with the grow out. This time my plan is more combative, including wet look gel and a relaxing treatment. That way it might grow downwards instead of outwards. Wish me luck, there are wedding photos at stake...

the last time I grew out...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Whatever the opposite of a nightmare is, I keep having a recurring one, whereby I wake up (in my dream) and my hair is flowing around my jawline. Oh what a mild and pleasant surprise, two years of growth overnight. How lovely, now I can have seamless extensions for my wedding day, or even another few inches of natural growth before next December so I can look like a proper girl in my wedding dress. My dreams often traverse into reality like that. It just adds to the disappointment of waking up with my hair the EXACT same length as I left it the night before.

Seriously. It has stayed resolutely same-short for the last six weeks. I swear its just stopped growing. OK, so I'm definitely resembling more of a microphone head every day, and my ears are slightly more ticklish, but I see no physical evidence otherwise.

Same for my eyelashes. Stumpy has muscled in where Spidery hasn't been seen since 2010. Its a lash tragedy. I'm having a RevitaLash hiatus too, since my extreme post-treatment wobbly has manifested itself in eyelid eczema. Nice huh? I didn't know such a thing was possible, but my eyelids are under the weather.

Oh Tamoxifen, Tamoxifen, how you irritate my skin (I think). After months of a chemo complexion silver lining, I'm suddenly at the mercy of screwy hormones again. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to have the drug insurance deal, but I'm sad that my skin is drier and oilier all at once, downier (this is what gave Marilyn Monroe that soft focus effect apparently - I'm in good company), and generally unpredictable.

This being SophieFeelsBetter, guess what? I have a solution. It's not revolutionary, but its damn effective. SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion swiped over after cleansing (twice) has restored my skin to a nicely settled state. No outbreaks for 4 weeks and counting. Miraculous Aqueous cream keeps the sore eyelids at bay, and a dab of Aveeno Positively Ageless Eye Serum round the outside I'm hoping counteracts the extra drying effect (that's how wrinkles are made) but it's not aiding my lash growth. I'm like an Angry Birds enthusiast, urging them on with mental facial straining, as if leaning my whole phone to the right will make my bomb bird travel further. The same doesn't work for the lashes either. They've stayed at half a cm since they came back. In their glory days I could add a whole 10mm onto there.

Every mascara drop in the LOOK office is lucky to make it to the beauty cupboard. Don't tell my team but they may be missing some crucial new launches, since anything lengthening or volumising surreptitiously sneaks into my handbag instead. Here are my findings:

Clinique High Lengths - good for coating every lash and separating the stumps, but doesn't quite do its eyebrow tickling job as yet. This is my everyday mascara at the moment.

YSL False Lash Effect - ah, the mascara of my 'before'. I love this stuff. It really gives, well, a false lash effect. But for some reason (and I'm always going to blame the tamoxifen for this), it imprints on my top lid these days so I look like a sweaty panda. With stumpy lashes.

L'Oreal Lash Architect - it has different sized bristles around the brush which is really good for coating the little lashes - my forte - but again, not quite enough. Still stumped.

The only option left is actual real life falsies. I'm racking up some serious practice these days, I'm almost quite good at applying them. Only almost mind, so I'm relying on my fool proof method. Cut the end quarter off and stick that in the outer corner. It's easily elongating, enough to make my eyes MUCH prettier, really hard to f*ck up, and totally observes the TOWIE anti-drag laws of false lashdom.
Urban Decay do an excellent set or four mini bits of lash, that's four whole comfortable photo opportunities and no need for scissors. Well worth the £11...

On the hair front I had a chat with the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic. The good news is my hair is doing very well. The bad news is it is growing back at a good rate, and I'm doing all the right things to make it grow faster, but I'm just oblivious. For oblivious read horribly impatient.
If you're interested, special shampoo apparently makes no difference - (mentally I am still attached to my Nioxin, it might be mythical but so is Santa, and look at the positive influence he has on life) - protein is the key. Basically your hair shuts down to protect itself, so when it feels it can happily grow again it does. I need some hair happiness. Maybe a Missoni ornamental comb? That would for sure make my hair happy. My pocket not so much...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tricks Of The Trade

(Dear Dadjokes and mankind in general. Prepare to be bored on a par with me having to watch back to back football while there's perfectly good The Hills reruns on MTV)...

Its nice to feel useful. Even though I write for the UK's biggest selling fashion weekly, proffering tips and tricks on everything beauty, I sort of don't believe anyone reads them. I've been sat on the tube beaming at someone who's reading my Tried & Tested page (there's a picture of me on it every issue), thinking they'll recognise me and maybe even compliment me on my expert knowledge/black and white photo. Hasn't happened so far, and since that photo is decidedly out of date and resplendent with flowing brown waves, I'm not holding my breath it'll happen any time, well, ever.

So the Look Good...Feel Better editors day was, aside from lovely, tiring, charitable, a bit tough in parts, (not least on the old vocal chords) also something of an ego boost. People paid money to come and chat to me. Ok so they got an amazing goody bag pay off, and maybe that was (majority) incentive for most, but still, a whole twenty minutes of me chewing their ear off about double cleansing and where to put their eyeliner was I hope twenty quid well spent. I realise the Irish one off the X Factor will be able to add at least a zero on that figure for her PA's, but I'm on the cusp...

I met 15 (lovely) women, and I said the same things to a lot of them, at their request, so it seems you lot have common concerns. Since not all of you could get to London in September, I may as well repeat myself one more time. And for free too! It is almost Christmas after all...

A Lesson In Liner:
When my lashes fell out, my face saviour was eyeliner. Varying between black liquid when there are some still there/growing back, to grey or khaki soft kohl or gel when nothing at all. Having worn glasses till age 27, I am resolutely rubbish at doing my own makeup. Glasses wearers who don't own those hotel magnifying mirrors will understand. So here's my trial and error trick:
Start in the middle of your eyelid. Groundbreaking, I know. Hold your lid taught, hold your liner brush almost parallel to your lashes, and draw a line from the middle to the outer corner. Its MUCH easier to control shorter strokes.
The inner corner is harder, so instead of drawing a line, press one instead. By this I mean open your eye a tiny bit, hold the brush along your lash line (or lack of lash line in my case) and press it onto the skin. Repeat till you reach the middle and voila, a perfectly linered eye line. (see how I sound like a beauty editor?)

Double Cleanse
It doesn't matter what face wash you use - and I can't recommend one for everyone since we all have different skin needs - wash it twice. I think of it like the first round cleans off the dirt and the second round cleans your newly exposed skin. Whether this is scientifically correct doesn't matter, it works. And although its an extra step to add to your already boring before-bed routine (I treat mine like a child who has to eat their broccoli), my skin has gone from unpredictably hormonal - I blame the Tamoxifen - to back to it's juicing, chemo bonus glory. Since you ask I use Ren Purity No 1 Cleansing balm when my skin's feeling dry, and Olay Daily Facials Cleansing Milk when its really dry. Yes dryness is my post treatment legacy.

How To Fake An Eyebrow.
Flicky lines. The trick is flicky lines like you're mimicking actual individual hairs. Remember how yours used to grow and draw them in that direction, starting from the top of your nose. Try very hard not to make my mistake and underestimate the distance from eye to brow. I spent my brow less months of chemo with a   very serious expression, born of nothing but my own artistic doing. Not only was it a surprise to see my brows grow back half a centimetre above my best estimate, I finally could express that sentiment too. The wonder of eyebrows...

Skip The toner
Unless you have serious grease issues - which I challenge anyone on chemo drugs to maintain - toner is the evil best friend to your skins needs. It dresses up as a positive influence in your skincare life, but secretly its sapping all the goodness out of everything. Adding is better, so either go for a nourishing spritzer like Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic, or even a serum like this one which may sound faddy and unnecessary, but will actually prep your skin to make moisturisers work harder and your face look all round better. Which is what we're going for lets face it.

Blush Is Best
For everyone, I don't care how old/fun/makeup shy. Blusher is face Viagra. It is basically the key to faking good health and my ticket to avoiding consolatory stares in the IPC elevator for the last 9 months. Something with a very slight shimmer, and a colour that's not too pink or too bronze is best. I just so happen to have developed the perfect one in our LOOK makeup range. Handy that. There was an opportunity, I took it... Look Beauty Make Me Blush in Flush.

OK men, you can tune back in again now...