The Solace of Shiny Things

Frederick Carl Frieseke - Before Her Appearance (1913) (used courtesy of Creative Commons)

Spring Fever is raging through Frump Factor headquarters at the moment.  When this happens, I get the irresistible urge to walk away from the ever-growing pile of student papers on my desk and go have silly, frivolous fun for a few hours.

I can’t usually give into this impulse, of course.  But when my classes, meetings, and other obligations are done for the day, I can manage my own work schedule.  This is both blessing and curse.  The amount of grading and class planning that I have to do always seems to outweigh the amount of available time in which to do it, and work often comes home with me.

But sometimes, playing hooky for an hour or two is just the thing.  It can refresh the brain and bring me back to the tasks at hand with renewed focus.

This would be especially true if I used this time to exercise out in the fresh air.  In fact, this would be a sensible and even virtuous thing to do.  So of course I don’t.  At least not most of the time.

What I do seem to do, every spring, is to give myself relaxing mini-breaks that make me feel refreshed from a style and beauty perspective. Sometimes, I’ll go to a favorite department store and just wander, aimlessly, with no particular objective.  I love to take in all the different colors, fabrics, textures. I can allow the creative side of my brain to play, dreaming of spring colors and summer days.  I stare at the jewelry and baubles and say to myself, “Shiny things!  Good!”  It soothes me.

At other times, I get the urge to refresh my makeup collection with something new and springlike.  While a trip to Sephora or Ulta is too big a commitment, CVS,  Walgreens, and Target are right on the way home from work.  I can wander the makeup aisles for a half hour or so, just looking for fresh, springy colors.  I might buy a summery new nail polish, looking forward to the pedicure season.   I’ll even look at the special displays of “new, featured items” that I usually ignore in my rush to get to my standby staples.

During Spring Fever season, I almost always get the urge to go to a spa for a few hours.  I don’t really care what they do to me.  They can wrap me in seaweed, exfoliate me with tree bark, hell, they can massage my feet with bat placentas for all I care.  I just want to shut my brain off for awhile and emerge feeling refreshed and renewed.

However, since I can’t afford the investment — of either money or time — that spa visits require, I’ve come up with a different idea.  When I want to shut off the brain and vegetate, I pour a big old glass of wine (tea if there are papers to grade), and I plop in front of the TV for a couple of episodes of What Not to Wear or Project Runway.

I’m finally learning to accept these Spring Fever behaviors as part of the natural rhythm of my work year.  On some level, I understand that what I am seeking is beauty.  Freshness.  A new start.   Shiny things, yes, but life-affirming color and light, too.

Rather than berating myself for these lapses in productivity, I’m trying to channel these impulses in ways that add to my quality of life.  This year, for example, my Spring Fever has yielded some positive outcomes:

Rediscovering Paula Begoun and her awesome product reviews on

Ordinarily I wouldn’t count any online activity as a mini-break.  But it was a reckless yearning for new makeup colors that led me back to the font of cosmetic wisdom that is Paula Begoun.

I know she can be opinionated.  I know she has her own particular axes to grind (no shiny eyeshadows!  no products in jars!)  I know some are probably turned off by the fact that she sells and promotes her own products.  But the product reviews that she provides — free!  — are a godsend for:

a) people who aren’t willing to pay $100 for a skin care cream that hasn’t been vetted by an impartial expert, and

b) people who would really rather find an $18 substitute that also works.

The advertising on that fancy schmancy face cream isn’t going to tell you if the active ingredient has been formulated with the correct PH level so that it will actually work, or if the non-airtight packaging will cause it to become ineffective, or if it has the exact same ingredients as a cheaper drugstore product.  Paula will tell you.

Trying a new blush and blush application technique

Thanks to a hint from Beautypedia, I tried a brighter, pinker cheek color than I’d ever dared — Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Custom Glow Blush and Bronzer in “Posie Glow.”  Not only that, but I’m now applying the color higher on the cheekbones — making a “c” motion to brush it up onto the temple.  I read, in a couple of places, that this was flattering, especially for women “of a certain age.”

I feel like a new woman.  My choice was even approved by a friend at the gym the other day.  We had the contents of our makeup bags strewn all over the place, comparing colors and formulas.  Even though she had some really high-end stuff (Nars, Laura Mercier), she really liked this duo, which I mix together following Paula’s advice.  Far from being too bright or garish, this color looks fresh and pretty.  My gym friend says I could even wear a little bit more!  But we’ll have to work up to that.

Augmenting my skin care routine with AHA’s

My “anti-aging” routine already had antioxidants, sunscreen and peptides for day (Olay’s UV Defense Regenerating Lotion from the Regenerist line), plus retinol at night (Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream).  Finally, I’ve given in and added alpha-hydroxy acids, which I tried but gave up years ago.  The one I’m using is Olay’s Night Resurfacing Elixir, also from the Regenerist Line.

So far, so good.  I mean, I don’t know if it’s doing anything, because I’ve only been using it a week.  For that matter, I don’t really know if the retinol is doing anything, either, and I’ve been using that for over a year.  How can I know, if there’s no way to know how I would be aging if I weren’t using it?

But in theory, exfoliating with AHA’s is supposed to make your skin look fresher and brighter by getting rid of the old, dead stuff.  What better project for spring?  Of course, I’ve had to do some online research about the proper way to sequence AHA’s with retinol, so that they enhance each other’s benefits without cancelling each other out.  This is just slightly less complicated than, say, entering the security code sequence to launch a nuclear attack.

But I’m doing research.   Research into — you know — actual  science, and stuff.  So this is important scholarly inquiry, and should not in any way be confused with putting off grading.

Playing with more dramatic eye makeup

Over my Spring Break a few weeks back, I had a mini-makeover at my favorite makeup boutique.  (Shameless plug time:  It’s Cosmetic Cosmos in Newport, Rhode Island).  Now, eye makeup does not come easily to me.  Wearing an amount that is perfectly normal for other women makes me feel like a drag queen.  However, I may have to consider the possibility that I’m just a tad too conservative.  Traditionally, my makeup applications have only been visible under electron microscope.

But my recent session with Sherri, who owns Cosmetic Cosmos,  gave me some great new ideas. I’ve been using my Spring Fever Playtime energy to experiment with them further. For example, I’m applying my upper-lashline eyeliner in a slightly thicker line.  I’m using a little more mascara. For evening, I’m even putting mascara  and liner on the lower lashes.

In the realm of eyeshadow, I’m actually doing some contouring with a darker shade in the outer corner of the eye and in the crease. I’ve tried this many times before, but I’ve always had trouble getting the color quite right.  But Sherri just taught me how to — hold onto your hats — mix colors.  You heard me right.  We’re allowed to mix shades!  So by God, I’m doing it, to get the perfect shade of neutral, not-quite-brown but not-quite-green.  I’ve been playing with this lovely palate, which caused my gym friend to ooh and ah at great length.  So far, I’ve been really happy with the look I’m getting.

Viewing my brows in an entirely new light

Before she started my makeover, Sherri said she wanted to pluck a few stray hairs from the underside of my brows, to accentuate the arch.  My brows are fairly scarce, so she probably only removed 10-15 hairs, total.  In fact, she insists that I could do this myself!  But clearly, she doesn’t know me very well.  It was only quite recently that I stopped poking myself in the eye every time I apply mascara.  So I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it, but I may just have to find somebody who can.  I think it actually makes a difference!  My eyes seem brighter, more open, and more expressive.

So there you have it.  Now, these fun and rejuvenating mini-breaks are not going to solve all my problems.  My Spring Fever will not end, overnight.  The papers will keep coming in, and my classes won’t start to plan themselves.  All of it will just keep coming.

But with the help of my little mini-breaks, maybe I’ll look good when the nervous breakdown arrives.

How about you?  Do you make rejuvenating changes in the spring?  Have you discovered new beauty secrets through procrastination?


About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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16 Responses to The Solace of Shiny Things

  1. Serene says:

    Oh, I love Spring! I also like those mini breaks, and am today indulging my need for one! Ever so often, not necessarily in Spring, I take a “beauty day”. I’ll give myself a prom shower, tweeze, shave, pluck, lotion, condition and any other hygiene related verb! It’s like scheduled maintenance! ~Serene

  2. I love to practice with a more dramatic eye every now and then! I am really into purple lately and seem to get the most compliments when I go purple!! Isn’t it great that we can play with makeup and experiment no matter what age we are….it is still fun!

  3. GingerR says:

    Spring usually inspires me to do something about the sorry state of my house.

    This year I’ve used my burst of energy to get not one, but two estimates for doing something to my kitchen, which will include patching the two holes the plumber made about 6 months ago when he fixed the leak in the bath upstairs.

  4. Terri says:

    Oh, now, I want to go have a makeover. I had been promising myself that come June, my birthday, that I would spring for Sephora…as I am totally clueless where to start. Recently “won” a bright red lipstick and THAT makes me feel like a drag queen. I wonder if a gal can start subtle and work up to increasingly bold colors.

    • You should definitely do it! It’s just good, clean fun. And yes, you can totally start subtle. I started making a concerted effort with makeup about 3 years ago, and I started with amounts that were barely noticeable (but felt like a lot to me!). I’ve been gradually amping it up ever since.

      But I have yet to do a bright red lipstick. I like a natural look. It just now takes me 12-step process, and almost as many different products, to achieve it!

  5. Rae says:

    I really must get a makeover, my makeup has been feeling really haded lately – you are right… spring is defintely the time to do it – I’ll have to plan a trip to town soon now that you’ve inspired me to put a spring in my step!

  6. BigD says:

    I totally related to feeling like a drag queen when I put on eye make up! Hee Hee Hee!

  7. I had spring fever at the weekend – but now it’s raining again, and I have work to mark. I’m not very good at makeup either, after a near-Eminem experience, I leave my brows to the experts!

  8. Patti says:

    This post is very inspiring! I’d forgotten how much fun it can be to play with eye makeup. And I’m trying the “C” blush trick today. As for brows, I’m trying to hold on to every little hair I’ve still got : >

    Love your blog!

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