Sunday, June 26, 2011

"The world's a better place when it's upside down"

I am not a girly-girl, nor have my jobs encouraged me to be one: when you're running amok in a lab, high heels and expensive silks lose out to the more pragmatic jeans-and-t-shirt. Even so, in high school, a spate of hyperactive oil glands and a small crush on one of the guys (Matt, if you really want to know) encouraged me to venture beyond my geek-bubble and explore the world of prettifying things.

One of the somewhat more daunting things about moving across the pond is how the definitions for things like "cream" and "lotion" change. That "cleansing milk" is very different from "body milk", and that neither of them have a drop of dairy in them. A scrub, thankfully, is still a scrub--that is, if you're talking about the grainy stuff that supposedly exfoliates as it cleans.

Here, a "cream" is a moisturizer for your face, unless it specifies that it's intended for your hands. Trust me when I say that, given the prices of most of these products, you'll only be able to afford to use them on your face. Personally, I've never believed much in Q10-this and regenerate-that, so I stick with the most basic of generic moisturizers. A "lotion" is actually not a lotion as it's known in the US (for those of us who didn't frequent the Clinique counter, anyway), but a toner.

It gets a little more tricky with "cleansing milk" and "body milk". Even though they're both milks, cleansing milk is a cleaner. It doesn't foam up the way products in the US do, and it doesn't make your skin feel tingly and clean. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that it stops my breakouts, I wouldn't even know that it did anything--which is actually what dermatologists recommend in a soap. Body milk, on the other hand, is a moisturizer for the rest of you. Why the obsession with milk? Back in the day, women would soak their skin in milk (their hands, if they could, the rest of them if they could afford it) to get that radiant lush glow of youth.

These days, things are much easier, and a lot safer: belladonna is recognized for the poison it is. White lead is no longer found in makeup. One no longer needs to grind his own lapis lazuli (just as well, because where do you find it?), and the most complicated part of makeup is picking out the right shade of foundation. I sometimes wonder if we've made things too easy--if that might be the reason why beauty magazines would have you think that being gorgeous is a lifestyle more artificial than Splenda: morning and bedtime rituals of washing, moisturizing, toning, and scrubbing; an exfoliation/mask treatment/facial schedule as tight as the op that brought down Bin Laden; for the truly dedicated, a lifestyle that involves no caffeine, sugar, alcohol, fat, carbohydrates, red meat, or for that matter, anything that's not celery. Men purport to like "natural beauty", but one wonders if there ever was such a thing.

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