Take my first shopping experience with my friend Bridget alone in town without our parents back when we were eleven or twelve. I remember looking down the make-up aisle in Boots, seeing a name I recognised from Bliss Magazine, and exclaiming "Ooo, I LOVE Borr-joyce!" (Bourjois to the rest of the world). She didn't let me forget it easily. And things didn't improve much with age. If you'd asked me a year ago what contouring was, I probably would have said some kind of map drawing technique.
Needless to say, I have always gone through my beauty regime on a wing and a prayer.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good beauty blog and vlog tutorial as much as the next girl. I keep a look-out for new and exciting products hitting the shelves, and hell, I sometimes even buy them.
But for me, it's the tried and tested staples that don't require a beauty qualification to use that keep me coming back for more. Here are some of those products that I can't live without because they just 'work'...just don't ask me how!
1. Nivea Moisturising Products
Pictured L-R: Moisturising Lip Balm, Age Defying Hand Creme, Light Moisturising Day Creme, Nivea Soft
Nivea is brilliant because the whole range is easily accessible wherever you live in the world (which for me is the Middle East where many products are hard to come by), it's cheap and best of all, it does exactly what it says on the tin (/tub/tube/stick/bottle). I remember reading about a study carried out by dermatologists, where a journalist was asked to apply £1 Nivea Creme to one side of her face, and £105 Creme De La Mer to the other for a month, and they concluded that the Nivea side looked five years younger than the Creme De La Mer. You can't argue with science folks! Which brings me nicely to...
2. Salon Science Shampoos
Don't worry, I don't just buy products based on their scientific claims (as I'm sure my science geek brothers will all point out, it's mostly a load of baloney anyway), but if you have very fine, flyaway hair like me, these shampoos actually do work. The ones you can see pictured are for restoring volume, preventing damage which leads to breakage and for repair and radiance (I couldn't choose!), and my hair has never looked so healthy.
3. Schwarzkopf Hairtherapy Repair Rescue Balm
My friend Lianne - a hairdresser here in Doha - recommended this product to me. After hopping out of the shower while my hair's still wet, I rub a little bit into the ends. The combination of chlorine, sea water, sun and salty shower water makes my hair so dry out here, and this balm seems to zap some moisture back into it, and help me to look less like a frazzled scarecrow first thing in the morning. It also smells pretty dreamy.
4. All of the Charles Worthington Salon At Home Volume & Bounce Range
Pictured L-R: Body Booster Mousse, Root Lift Backcomb Power, Thick & Full 3D Boosting Creme, Texturising Spray
About two years ago, I tried the Volume and Bounce Texturising Spray and I have never looked back. It's pretty much the only thing in the whole wide world (no, really) that can make my hair look thick. I quickly bought the entire range. Unfortunately, I have been without these products for quite some time as it's difficult to get hold of them in the desert, but I took advantage of being back in good old London town last month to stock up again.
5. Joules Bath & Body Collection
Pictured L-R: Lovely Scrubbly Body Scrub, So Softening Body Lotion, Superbly Smooth Body Butter, Really Refreshing Body Wash
I first fell in love with Joules when I bought my first stripey festival wellies. They were cream and lilac and I loved them so much that I would have worn them to school if I could. Since then, I've bought Joules' snuggly cable knit jumpers and checked scarves to keep me warm during freezing British winters, but until last month I didn't know they also did bath and body products. Romana bought me the scrummy items pictured, all wrapped up in the most beautiful box for my birthday and I fell in love. They smell good enough to eat, make my skin look radiant and the cute pastel coloured pots look very pretty on my bathroom shelf.
6. My key make-up products
Pictured L-R: Soap & Glory Solar Powder, Revlon Colorstay Liquid Liner in Black, Bourjois Rouge Edition Lipstick in Rose, Benefit Hello Flawless Powder in Honey, Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Even Finish Foundation in Natural
OK, this is a bit of a cheat as it's actually 5 products rather than 1, but it's the combination of these products which make them showstoppers. Long lasting, even coverage foundation; mattifying powder to ward off the desert shine; eye liner that's easy to apply and lasts all day no matter how humid it is outside; light and shimmery bronzing powder for which you don't have to be a contouring 'expert' to make look good (see above); and lipstick which moisturises but also lasts.
7. Sephora brushes
The best thing about Sephora is their Brush Bar, where you can get your hands on just about any brush you desire. Brushes for blusher, eye shadow, foundation application, eyebrow and eyelash combing, smudging and lining, and that ever-famous contouring. I'm sure you could use some of these bad boys for actual painting and they'd work a treat. I am a serial 'finger-applier' when it comes to my make-up so these are a bit of a novelty to me, but the more I practice, the more I realise that you can create a really different look just by using a different brush.
8. Estee Lauder Nail Polish in Nudite
I am notoriously terrible at applying nail polish. I am just too impatient, and always end up smudging it before it's had a chance to dry. This baby however, dries super quickly, only requires two coats for a good finish, and lasts for a good week if you don't do any awkward lifting or carrying. Also, I know that dark, moody polishes are in this Autumn, but I'm not sure I can pull black off, so for now, I'm sticking firmly to my naturals.
9. Yves Saint Laurent Perfume in Manifesto L'Elexir and Dior Addict Perfume in Eau Delice
I can't get enough of these scrummy scents. The Yves Saint Laurent one is a heady combination of vanilla and spice, and the Dior Addict is lighter and fruitier. But both are feminine and pretty. That's about the best description I can muster, but if you want a really good laugh at some people's pretentious perfume descriptions, head to basenotes.net and look up your favourite perfume. Hours of amusement (particularly if you have a look at the men's fragrance reviews).
10. My trusty Soltan
Wrinkles aint cool, so this is my absolute staple while I live out here in the desert. You can't beat Soltan for price, UVA rating and moisturisability. And is it just me, or does its smell evoke some of the best memories ever?!
So that's my very basic, very amateur run-down of the products I can't live without. While I leave it to the experts to explain the ins and outs of the smoky eye technique, or which High Street brand is best, I am going to try to remember that the most important thing about all things beauty is that it is a way to express yourself.
So no matter what the experts say, do what makes you feel like you.