A Beauty Minute with Gemma Burgess

2 years ago by

Morning: I wake up whenever my three small sons decide, normally between 6 and 7. I have coffee before anything else – double espresso. I’m not sure why this seems relevant to mention in a beauty article, but I don’t think I could open my eyes without it.

Eventually, when everyone is fed and watered and dressed, I dab on Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid, followed by a lot of Anthelios SPF. Once that soaks in, I pat on Cle de Peau concealer (chin, nostrils) and then a splodge of either BECCA Beach Tint in Fig, for the perfect sculpted-but-not cheekbone, and/or Kosas Eighth Muse blush, which has lit-from-within magical properties. Quick eyebrows with MAC Shape & Shade Brow Tint in Taupe and Shu Uemura Hard Pencil in 9, and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet. I rarely bother with anything else if I’m just writing at home all day – it’s just enough that I don’t get irritated by my pale, eyebrowless face every time I go to the bathroom.

If I’m going out for work or play, day or night, I always wear make-up. Partly to look a bit more put-together, and partly because, let’s be honest, make-up is fun. I used to live in London, where it is cool to look like you made an effort, and now I live in NYC, where it is not. But I still make an effort. I’m that girl. I like trying.

So… first, a few drops of The Ordinary Squalane. It does something magical to skin tone. I’m not sure what or how, but why question it? Then the Cle de Peau concealer again, or foundation if I’m feeling extra blotchy. I love NARS in Gobi. No highlighter, because I’m tired of the glowy look everyone’s crazy about; I think most people look greasy, not glassy. Instead, I apply Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Pressed Setting Powder in Pale Yellow with a powder puff. (Hot tip: pat the puff in slightly downwards motions, it makes your skin look like velvet.)

Then blush… NARS Impassioned, a ladylike dusky pink, with MAC 138 brush (it’s discontinued, but worth hunting down: it gives you an instant contoured-but-not cheekbone).

I might do a pale-yet-smoky eye, because I think it looks chic. At the moment, it’s either Face Stockholm in Power, the perfect flat gray concrete shade, or Surratt Beauty in Vigone, a glowy greeny-greige, applied with MAC 219 over entire lid and crease, plus a quick swipe underneath my bottom lashes to add soft dimension and shade. I get a YUMI Lash Lift about once every two months, so no eyelash curler needed, but for extra lash drama, I add Diorshow or Chanel Le Volume. If I have time and/or the inclination, I wear Shiseido Microliner Ink in black on my inside upper waterline for that magical extra-thick-lashes effect.

And lipsticks… Givenchy Rouge-A-Porter in 102 Beige Mousseline for a shiny nude that isn’t too pink or too peachy (so hard to find!), Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip Color in Baby for a lovely bitten pink stain, or a new Laura Mercier Rouge Essentiel Silky Crème Lipstick in Rouge Muse, a divine dark blue-red. The formula for that product is insane – it feels like you’re wearing lip balm, but the color is opaque and doesn’t budge. Love it.

Evening: I take off mascara with Lancome Bifacils and everything else with Banila Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm and a clean white cotton face-cloth. I bought 30 in bulk from Amazon, so I use a new one every night and put it straight in the laundry basket. It seems both hygienic and decadent, which is a nice combination. If I think I have a little make-up left over, I use Bioderma Micellar water with an exfoliating cotton pad. Once my skin is totally clean and dry, I spritz on SK-II Facial Treatment Essence (I decanted it into a little Whole Foods glass spray bottle), let it soak in, followed by a moisturizer. My favorite right now is Clark’s Botanicals Deep Moisture Mask, and I often mix it with Yu-Be, which is such a classic and adds a little turbo-boost of hydration. I also like the Clark’s Botanicals Marine Smoothing Cream – it exfoliates and hydrates at the same time. Great if you’re feeling a little haggard.

And after several years being pregnant on and off, and therefore avoiding retinols, I’m finally back in the game: I like the Clark’s one, but Avene is my jam: pat on RetrinAL 0.1 at night and wake up with ever-so-slightly airbrushed skin. I do that once every couple of nights.

As ever, the only real beauty tip is sleep. So I put on my binaural beats app and get into bed with a book by 10pm.


Gemma Burgess is an author and screenwriter. She previously wrote this amazing essay for us on her experiences with miscarriage. You can read more about her here and follow her on Instagram.

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