How Kate Middleton is helping mums

Photo from @kensingtonroyal

Other than a morbid, Netflix-fuelled fascination with Princess Diana last November, I’ve never been that into stuff that comes out of Buckingham Palace. I’m not anti, I just didn’t really engage. I was convinced I’d seen William in Thursdays, our local nightclub when I was 16, but given it was in a field in Sussex, it seems unlikely. Plus, when I yelled ‘WILLS!’ he didn’t even flinch, so probably wasn’t him. Other than that night, I just felt the whole family were a world apart from us. Separate. Then Kate Middleton changed things a bit for me. Not with her astounding head of hair or the way she made LK Bennett a thing again, but with her honesty about motherhood.

First, she stood sweetly on the steps of the Lindo Wing with William and baby George, and we saw a gentle mound beneath her pretty blue dress. She was leaving hospital in a form-fitting dress that showed the still swollen belly beneath it. I didn’t crow and cluck with glee – when people said she was brave for showing it I thought this said more about them than her, and where exactly is she supposed to hide it?! – but I did nod sisterly, glad that she had single-handedly dispelled the commonly held myth that the uterus shrinks back down as soon as it’s vacated. Two more babies since then with more small shift dresses and that gorgeous shape, Kate is still having to brave those bloody steps in heels, when – if she’s anything like me (and appearances would suggest otherwise, of course) – she’s most likely clenching stuff around a wad of towels up there.

OK, so some might argue that by wafting out of the Lindo Wing, fully made up and looking like she could guest star in an episode of America’s Next Top Model might not be that helpful or honest. When you look like a raw steak 4-hours post-partum (hi!), this kind of high octane glamour could royally piss you off. BUT I’d argue – the majority of people who, thanks to family pressures and circumstances I guess we’ll never understand, had to face a bank of photographers and strangers in Union Jack suits hours after pushing out an 8lb baby would also gratefully allow a hairdresser and expert makeup artist in to soften the blow. She’s not posing for a ‘LOOK I SNAPPED BACK!” shoot, she’s following protocol. I can’t think of anything worse than being exposed like that, when all you want to do is get into bed and stick an ice pack in your pants. And what Kate Did Next at a Best Beginnings charity event will always override any residual snark about the post-birth get up, frankly. For me, anyway.  Because what she did that day went a long way towards making an honest dialogue more acceptable. In her speech, she admitted she found motherhood ‘a huge challenge’.

“Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer, overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother,” she said, “It’s full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost. There is no rulebook, no right or wrong; you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can at times lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance. It’s right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s okay not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.”

I was stunned to hear her speaking so frankly. Because this isn’t just a break with royal protocol, but also the general theme of post-truth perfection wielded by so many mothers in the public eye.

And just as some might give that nude patent pump a go when they see her shapely foot shining in the sun, she might also ignite a spirit of honesty that helps people acknowledge and share their feelings, and hopefully when necessary, to seek help. What a gal.

An Ode to lipstick

When I was a teenager, lipstick wasn’t really the thing – in fact, lipgloss reigned supreme right into my Uni years. So I spent a long time with my lips somewhere between shiny and dry-as-hell, spitting wisps of hair out of my mouth before kissing boys. I once burnt my foot quite badly because my lips were so slippery with gloss that a cigarette shot out of my mouth and fell onto my peep-toes.

But by the time I was officially a Grown Up,  lipstick was back. And I’ve been obsessed with the transformative effects ever since. Chalky pink, satin scarlet, poster paint poppy, glowy rose blush, silky nudes, punchy coral, matte fuchsia – they can suit EVERY skin colour, and are so easy to apply (more on that below), but they imbue your face with a sense of gutsy stylishness that’s all your own. When I see someone wearing lipstick I automatically assume they’re nailing it – work, motherhood, whatever.Even though I know how easy it is to purchase and apply, lipstick is just one of those things that makes you look pulled-together and a bit sassy. You’ve got chutzpah. Balls. You’re laughing.

It also does wondrous things for a tired person, detracting from dull skin and dark circles with a wide-awake pop of colour. It’s the fashion statement you can make regardless of shape, size or budget. OK, you do need cash, but as little as £4.49 for this Barry M lipstick I have on repeat purchase, and only £1 for MUA at Superdrug, another from my own makeup bag.

I don’t go in for the bullshit spun about it being a sexual fishing rod used to catch a mate. When I like a girl’s lipstick I don’t find my brain immediately swimming in the big red/fuchsia vaginas it’s supposed to summon by association. It’s just a bit of fun, something to make you feel good with a single swipe, if like me you apply direct from the bullet. Yes you can make it last longer with primer, you can create a fuller lip with a liner, and you can buff and blot your way to a totally flawless, Insta-ready pout. But if you have 10 seconds between wrestling your toddler into his or her buggy and pulling a beanie down over a head of 3-day old dry shampoo, you can also look pretty fucking amazing by just slicking it on. The dream accessory for a time-poor mother.

The best foundation EVER

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I’ve been inundated with texts from friends over the past few weeks asking after foundation. The seasons are shifting, so it’s time for many to rethink their coverage, taking on the ubiquitous advice that you MUST switch to tinted moisturiser immediately because it’s better for your skin in the heat. RUBBISH! IT ALL CLOGS PORES TO THE SAME EXTENT! But nonetheless, I shall proceed…

The general gist of the text is always, I want something light that won’t cost a fortune. And I wish I could text back with a simple, BUY RIMMEL FOUNDATION, IT’S THE BEST! But actually getting the right foundation is way more complicated than that, and you DO get what you pay for. So here goes: my guide to what’s good, what’s cheap and what actually works…

  1. YOUR FOUNDATION IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR CLEANSER. If you’re not using the right cleanser or cleansing thoroughly enough, your foundation will not sit in the same way, plus it will have a whole myriad of problems to cover. If you want to scrimp on foundation, PLEASE invest in Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm first. A weekly or even b-weekly enzyme exfoliant would be good too – I like Indeed Labs and Peter Thomas Roth.
  2. YOU NEED TO HYDRATE YOUR SKIN BEFORE YOU APPLY FOUNDATION. I only know of one foundation which effectively hydrates while it covers (Hourglass Hyaluronic Skin Tint) but even under that I always need moisturiser. I swear by Pestle & Mortar Hydrate, and focus it around the eyes, chin and lines.
  3. DON’T RELY ON FOUNDATION’S SPF AS SOLE PROTECTION. You’d have to wear a shit-ton of makeup to actually get the protection of a sun cream. I really rate Darphin Intral Environmental Lightweight Shield SPF50. But remember: the time it protects you for is the time is usually takes you to burn (usually around 10 minutes) multiplied by the SPF number, so for example SPF50 gives you approximately 500 minutes of protection. And you should still avoid direct exposure to strong sunlight.
  4. OK, now you can apply it. I don’t have time for primer on top of all that other stuff (see points 1-3), so I am very demanding of my foundation. It must be long-lasting and comfortable without a primer. So, no – I don’t often scrimp on foundation. My current favourites are:
  5. NARS PURE RADIANT TINTED MOISTURISER £30  – it’s excellent for drier skin, but for me it skims over lines and gives the appearance of plumped up skin with a healthy sheen. This is a high summer choice for me when I’m not after quite so strong a coverage.
  6. GIORGIO ARMANI POWER FABRIC £36 – this is AMAZING – definitely light and seamless on the skin, but it also covers properly. I have a mammoth hormonal spot right now and haven’t used concealer once thanks to this souped-up base. It’s imperceptible to the touch once it’s on – just a genius formulation, possibly witchcraft actually. Plus, a little goes a hell of a long way so you get your money’s worth on a cost-per-wear basis. And I repeat: you will NOT need a primer.
  7. IF YOU REALLY HAVE TO SCRIMP – I would recommend BOURJOIS HEALTHY MIX FOUNDATION £9.99 mixed with a dash of serum for added glow. L’OREAL TRUE MATCH GENIUS 4-IN-1 COMPACT FOUNDATION £12.99 is a brilliant base but I use it for touch-ups rather than an all-over job. If you did want to use it like that, make sure you moisturise well first, give the cream time to cook and settle, then apply with a clean sponge (not the one in the compact – harbinger of germs).

How eyebrows can rock your world

I didn’t know I really needed eyebrows until I got them. I’ve always had some, granted and even toyed with shading them in with a powder now and then. I’ve had quite a few different types of shaping appointment over the years – threading, waxing, tweezering – but it wasn’t until I discovered HD Brows that I really GOT brows. And now I feel a bit naked without them. If my brow game is strong, the rest of my face can sort of fall away a bit – they give structure to the mushy expanse of pink skin, they make me look a bit more groomed.

I was wary at first – a Scouse brow just wouldn’t work on me – but was persuaded when my best friend had them done. And I suggest you too only go on recommendation – even HD in the wrong hands could be a disaster of Groucho Marx proportions. They use a combination of science and witchcraft to establish what the perfect brow shape is for YOU – you can’t go in and ask for an Angelina, it’s more bespoke than that. And then they wax, trim, tweeze and tint that perfect arch in less than 20 minutes.

So for two weeks, that’s brows sorted. The tint does start to fade about two weeks in so then I lightly fill in the gaps with either Benefit Gimme Brow (in a shade darker than my natural colour) which literally takes less than 30 seconds to do both brows. TOP TIP: Don’t cleanse with an oil-based eye makeup remover as this will break down the tint more quickly.

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The Smells That Help Me ‘MUM’

I was at home with a sick four year old last week, which consisted of cleaning up sick, role-playing with some surprisingly obnoxious Sylvanians and then more cleaning, the nostril-burning scent of Dettox always hanging in the air. The vomiting started on Tuesday night – my sweet girl apologising every time – and by Friday (observing the 48 hour quarantine rule) I was a shadow of my former self and sick to death of the smell of bleach. My gorgeous girl was better but I was like a wet [bleach-soaked] rag.

When you’re doing really full-on mothering with no breaks, self care is the last thing on your mind. I collapsed into bed every night at 8pm, sweaty, hands red raw from all the cleaning. But there was one thing that I kept up and made me feel a fraction better: scent. I can’t see my own face as I rush around, my hair matters not, but if you close your eyes every time you get a hint of a sensual smell, you could be anywhere. You could be dressed up to the nines, ready to embark upon a big adventure. You can feel all that with the added bonus of having your little one snuggled in your arms. And it sort of tempers the stench of vom.

Sometimes a smell is all you’ve got to remind yourself that you are an adult, that you are a woman, that you are a vital, sexy, strong, kickass kind of person. I have three perfumes on my dressing table that represent a side of me I can call on for back-up when times are tough.

Issey Miyake – my mum wore this in the 90s, and I was allowed a spritz from time to time. It reminds me of having a strong woman alongside me, kind and resilient, ready to tackle all my problems with me.

Francis Kurkdijan Apom Pour Femme – the closest thing I have to a signature scent, I interviewed Francis when I first when freelance and was full of optimism and fighting talk. I went to New York to meet editors with his Apom Extrait (basically perfume oil) in my handbag, so it was bound up in being brave and excited, out in the big city by myself, ready to forge my own new path.

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka Cologne – This one is new, but I started wearing it before Christmas, so it has all that warmth and excitement of the build up to the big day. It’s also ridiculously sexy – nothing Noro Virus about this one.