Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Who Wants To Live Forever

Who Wants To Live Forever..

Mankind's quest for eternal youth is nothing new. From the tales of Cleopatra bathing in asses' milk to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin, to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary commissioning her own cure-all and elixir of youth, the "Queen of Hungary's Water", a botanical astringent that, according to legend, had men half her age at their knees in adoration. The first alcohol-based perfume to be recorded in Europe, it preceded Eau de Cologne, and is said to date back to the late 14th Century.

Today, in the age of Photoshop, botox and fillers, you'd be forgiven for thinking that ageing is some sort of crime, punishable by house arrest and social exclusion. If only people were secure enough in their own skin to grow old gracefully. Hollywood icons such as the late Paul Newman and Lauren Bacall (thankfully still with us), are proof that advancing in years doesn't necessarily herald the coming of Armageddon.

Many beauty brands, advertising agencies and marketeers are to blame for consumers' mass insecurity. How on earth are we supposed to feel good about ourselves when the majority of celebrities and models in beauty campaigns are either barely older than a foetus, or Photoshopped within an inch of their lives. It makes me yearn for the golden era of Hollywood. In those days, there was no computer wizardry, just artful make-up, masterful lighting and genius photography. The stars of yesteryear knew how to rock what they had. Whether is was Marlene Dietrich and her sphinx-like cheekbones, Bette Davis with those hypnotic eyes, or Marilyn Monroe with her killer curves, it was their prerogative to maximise their innate charisma, and goodness did they do it well.

If there was one major impact I could make in my lifetime, and one momentous legacy I could leave behind, it would be to impart the wealth of knowledge I've acquired in the eleven years of working in the fashion and beauty industry, to empower people to not only make the best of themselves, but to also embrace the unique and special traits that make us all beautiful. God knows I'm not perfect, who is? But with a little savoir faire, we can all learn how to not only take care of what we've been blessed with, but to also fake what we weren't.

Frankly, the quest for eternal youth is futile. The honest truth is that you are going to age. You will get wrinkles and your skin will sag, it's inevitable and it will happen to us all. But it's not all doom and gloom, it's quite likely that as your age increases, so too will your wisdom. I will be 30 this year, and if there was one message I could have given to my 18 year old self, it would be "don't spend so much time worrying about what other people think". Confidence isn't a tangible quality, but it's one of the greatest aphrodisiacs I know, and tends to make an individual innately attractive. In the Western world, it's almost like we want to age backwards. When I think of the iconic films I watched, growing up as a child, there are some poignant perspectives regarding the lengths people will go to in the quest to stop the hands of time.

One case in point is the devilishly dark comedy "Death Becomes Her" starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Isabella Rossellini and Bruce Willis. Set in Hollywood (how fitting), the plot focuses on love rivals Streep and Hawn, who are tempted by Rossellini to part with vast amounts of money in exchange for an elixir that promises eternal youth. Both Hawn and Streep think that by rewinding the years, they will succeed in winning the object of their mutual affection, Willis. Of course, neither gets what they want. Willis dies, leaving them both as macabre warring caricatures , who by the end of the film, are literally falling apart at the seams.

Joi de vivre coupled with a litte je ne sais quoi, are the keys to being happy. Good health is also paramount. I'm a firm believer in the old adage that "beauty on the outside starts on the inside". Don't waste your time chasing something that doesn't exist. Take moderate exercise, eat healthily, sleep well and for god's sake have fun. I've reached an age where people in my life are starting to drop like flies. I lost both my paternal grandparents when I was 13, and in the years since, I've lost more relatives, most recently an uncle who died earlier this week. It makes me think of this wise poem:

Dance as if no one were watching,
Sing as if no one were listening,
Love as if you've never been hurt,
Live every day as if it were your last.

My musings on life aside, I'm also a firm believer in a solid skincare regime. As with all things in life, fastidiousness is the key to success. Moisturising once in a blue moon is not going to bestow you with youthful looking skin. By the same token, there's no point thinking that going to the gym once a month will give you the body of a Greek god.

Last week, I was invited to attend a breakfast, courtesy of L'Occitane, the quintessentially French brand hailing from my favourite region of France, Provence. The table was bedecked with romarin (or rosemary as we call it here). It's funny how our olfactory senses can take us back in time, like a portal to specific times and places in our lives. In this instance, I was transported to a particularly special family holiday in Provence (vacances en famille en Provence), goodness, even my GCSE French is coming back, zut alors! My father has always been obsessed with French culture, and like father like son, there's no doubt that I've inherited his ardour. On this holiday, he introduced me to Peter Mayle's 1989 best-selling autobiographical novel, "A Year In Provence".

We had hired a large rustic villa with a swimming pool, surrounded by rambling terraced orchards, framed by rolling green hills that went on as far as the eyes could see. I recall the heady scent of lemon blossoms carried on the mistral (a strong, cold regional wind, usually accompanied by clear and fresh weather). If heaven on earth truly exists, I think this was possibly the closest I've come to experiencing it. During our stay there were two special moments that I attribute to sparking my passion for rustic beauty products and aromatherapy. The first was a memorable pilgrimage to Grasse, to view the true home of perfume and essential oil distilleries. On this occasion, I have a vivid memory of being amazed by the lavender fields, spreading out over the rugged terrain like a giant floral blanket.

The other occasion, on one of our many exploratory car journeys, I cried out in excitement when I spied wild rosemary growing abundantly by the sides of a country road. I insisted on my father stopping the car so I could get out and pick some. I could smell the characteristic invigorating "green" scent of the herb long before I'd even approached the bushes, it was unlike the English rosemary we had in the herb garden at home, in fact it was unlike any rosemary I'd ever smelled before. Needless to say, I picked enough of it to cook with several meals during our stay (and enough to take back home). We even managed to scent our olive oil with it, and my most resounding memory was that even on our return to England, though the rosemary had dried, its scent was no less potent.

With this in mind, it's no wonder that I was immediately taken with L'Occitane's Precious Cream. With its rustic, inky majorelle blue glass jar, delightfully rich and creamy texture, and host of natural ingredients that remind me of that fateful holiday, a love affair was born.

The Ingredients

Grape seed oil is high in antioxidants, offering superior protection from free radical damage and environmental aggressors. It is also lightweight, delivering supreme hydration without greasiness.

Immortelle, a plant characterised by its magnificent clusters of golden, sun like flowers, blooms every June. In 2004, L'Occitane planted the first large-scale organic immortelle plantation in Corsica, harvesting the blooms by hand in the traditional way. Mediterranean medicine has long extolled the virtues of this wondrous plant, with its innate anti-bruising, anti-inflammatory and healing properties (it is 100 times more powerful than arnica). The flowers never wilt, even after they have been picked (hence the name). The essential oil derived from the flowers, is the signature ingredient around which the formula for this range has been built. It stimulates microcirculation and enhances cell renewal.

Once touted as "the King's cure-all", evening primrose oil has been praised for centuries for its healing powers. They key to its miraculous properties lies in the seed, which contains the essential fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid). Often prescribed to women who suffer from particularly bad premenstrual syndrome, research indicates that it not only alleviates the symptoms of PMS, but also restore the youthfulness of skin and hair, together with boosting overall well-being.

Reputed as the ultimate skin hydrator, starflower oil is derived from the seed of the borage plant. The richest known source of GLA, the oil restores moisture and smoothness to dry and ageing skin, and many believe it to be the key to retaining youthful, radiant skin later in life.

Sunflower oil and sunflower seed extract are rich in antioxidant Vitamin E, providing protection from the ageing effects of free radical damage. A superior emollient, it not only retains moisture levels in the skin, it also helps to reinforce the skin's natural protective barrier.

Herbalox-O is an antioxidant derived from rosemary leaf extract, which is traditionally used in folk medicine, rather than the more widely used rosemary essential oil. It also acts a superb natural preservative in oil blends, so not only will the rosemary leaf extract prevent the ageing effects of free radical damage, it will also prolong the longevity of the other active oils in the cream itself.

Precious Cream - £38

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