Sali and me

I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ maybe it’s the rain dashing my high hopes for May maybe it’s the crushing realisation that we’ve been here 6 months and I’m not as far along is in my general life plan as I’d like. Who knows. Anyhow, boring, mediocre, apathetic that’s how I’ve felt this week.

The cure for this? Fire up my self belief and get out there and do it! No, not at the moment, I’ve got a bit of cough and feel a bit run down. Instead I sloped off to the shops.

I would not advocate for, one moment, that consumerism is in any way a positive response to feeling a bit lack lustre. A run in the park, counting ones blessings. Is probably far more appropriate.  Not for me, not this week. I opted for a bit of retail therapy of the beauty type.

Even at my age I am still not entirely sure how the various layers; foundation, powder, illuminators etc work. Often I don’t bother with any make-up. I wear foundation when it’s dark, mostly because I am not sure how to apply it.

The foundation I own is a sample given to me by a consultant on a Chanel counter who assured me it would even out skin tone, hide redness and lift my complexion. Nice. I was looking at nail varnishes and until that moment thought I looked OK.  Tempted to reply “Do you have a large size Chanel gift bag for my head?” Instead, I gratefully accepted the sample and all its promises.

That is what terrified me when buying beauty products. The consultants and their in-depth knowledge and desire to sell, pitched against the huge yawning chasm that is me and make-up.

In my teens, I’d buy a lipstick, several, mostly Miss Selfridge and wear them. It didn’t occur to me that they might not suit me. My skin was youthful and dewy and I could carry off a lipstick called ‘Iron Lady’. The late maturing of my political ideals would now prevent me from wearing such a lipstick. Combined with the fact it was a pale metalic purple. Yes, really.

There is a feel good factor to a bit of lipstick and mascara. Most mothers will agree that in the early years you will grasp at anything as an alternative to looking like the ‘living dead’, which is one result of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation and age are not kind. As the years etched deeper into my skin I felt the need to consider a wider variety of creams and serums, blushers and other stuff to give the illusion of youth and dewiness. The problem is buying beauty products.

I’d ping from counter to counter in a confused state unable to make a decision from the dizzying variety; brands, products, colours. Caught in a kaleidoscope of never-ending possible purchases and then I found Sali.

Sali Hughes writes a beauty column for the Guardian. I no longer make decisions, I just buy whatever Sali suggests. She has a fringe (like me), brown hair (like me) pale skin (like me) green eyes (I think) (like me). We could be sisters. (Listen! You can probably hear Sali taking out an injunction). I am a little obsessed.  Because Sali and I are so alike (probably) I reason that I can simply follow her advice and it works. I don’t even have to choose between 140 shades of MAC lipstick. Sali will tell which one, in which finish. Boom. Job done. Yesterday, it was Revlon Colourburst lip butter, Candy apple (thanks Sali). Sali’s advice can be applied to anyone, Sali knows her products.

I no longer enter Boots thinking, “I need a mascara” only to discover a choice of 20 billion types before I’ve even consider what colour and then waste an hour of my life wandering around with 5 or 6 different types in my hand, whilst reasoning that purchasing 3 would be a good idea, only to leave without purchasing any.

No, I head straight for the counter and purchase. Yesterday, a consultant tried to persuade me with the offer of a make-over, she tempted me with a new range of eye shadows. I knew the only thing I should purchase was under lash mascara (Don’t mock it until you’ve tried it, it’s one of Sali top 50 best products). The old me would be derailed by the lovely colours of the alternative products. Now I just tell them; “I only buy products if Sali Hughes suggests it. Under lash mascara please”. “Can I pay with advantage card points?”.


Sali has a lovely website, where, amongst other things, you can watch Sali interviewing Caitlin Moran, while Caitlin is sits on the loo. It turns out Caitlin buys stuff recommended by Sali.

Or follow Sali on Instagram, which is my fave. Sali shares that she is off to a party (and what make-up she is wearing, sometimes it’s a lot). Sali drinks beer in the middle of day. Sali posts pictures of nice products. Sali reminds me to use sun-bloc. I live vicariously through her instagram feed.

Do you have a beauty guru?  Dare I ask what is your best product? (opening myself up to possible conflict of loyalities).


  1. motherventing

    You’re sounding a bit like a stalker, which is FINE, cos you’ll have lovely make-up on for the police photos.

    I don’t wear make-up on a daily basis, so when I do (for a night out, maybe) I feel like a clown. Maybe I should take Sali’s advice and suggestions. But I don’t look like her. Dilemma.

    Also, UNDER lash mascara?? WTF?

    1. helloitsgemma

      Under lash mascara, really it is the Actual F.
      Mostly, Sali picks colours that suit most skin tones. or she will say, pink one for pales and orange for tanned skin etc. Really, being dedicated to her words is worth it.
      Gosh, I do sound like such a stalker!

  2. Ali

    I think I need to meet Sali too!!!

    I dreamt the other night I been partying all night, two hours sleep then come waking up time I looked wonderful. I was at a festival, I walked out knowing I looked great. I actually can still feel how I felt inside, right now I am holding on to it even if perhaps it isn’t true. Actually no perhaps but well…..

    Hope you feel better soon x x x

  3. kat_rocket

    I loved the Sali Hughes GTL FB group and I love the new website. She is now the reason I’m brave enough to wear a red lipstick. I bloody love red lip stick now. Man Trap by Soap and Glory is my fave but I also really like Revlon Candy Apple that I think you have pictured above.
    I was never one for make up but I discovered the group through a friend of Sali and I haven’t looked back. When her top 50 products feature came out I kept it and put it away for future reference (although I had actually purchased quite a few of the products *ahem*). And the Instagram! Actual beauty porn. I spotted the neon nail varnish on there and the next time I was in Boots I bought it.
    I know what you mean about the beauty counters. I feel more confident about refusing a make over from the SA and asking for a specific product. In a funny way feels empowering, like I know what I’m talking about. However I do have the forum on my phone and I use it for reference if I’m in John Lewis or Boots. Ok and now I’m sounding like a stalker! *reapplies Nars orgasm blusher and attempts flicky eyes*

  4. Leslie

    When I read ‘Miss Selfridge lipstick’ I immediately thought of Iron Lady and Copperknockers… both so wrong but so right, I most definitely still believe that a new lippie/undermascara *delete as applicable is a very healthy way to cheer yourself up. I tend to go for Mac these days though!

  5. Asturian Diary

    That’s so funny that you posted this today. This morning I had an important meeting….and a big spot on my chin and enormous bags under my eyes….so yesterday I took emergency action and went make-up shopping for the first time in YEARS. Which was terrifying and eventually ended in me hightailing out of the make-up shops in the city (which had no prices displayed and very pushy assistants) and buying something in the local supermarket. Classy, me. My big problem is that I’m so unused to wearing makeup now that when I do I tend to put it on and promptly wipe it off because I think I look like a man in drag. I have totally lost the ability to buy/apply/wear makeup. I was hoping you might be able to help me before Britmums Live…..and maybe this introduction to Sali will have done just that. *crosses fingers*

  6. Older Mum (@Older_Mum)

    I loved this post, just loved the way you wrote it – it really made me smile. And I can so relate to your words – I have always been utterly crap with make up. I’m 42 now, and I still am, just can’t put it on properly without looking like a circus freak. I have spent most of my life non-make-up’ed. The most I will stretch to is foundation, mascara and lipstick. Thank you for bringing back such funny memories of Miss Selfridge lipsticks…. Ps I have now saved Sali’s website. X.

    1. helloitsgemma

      Thanks for lovely comment. Miss selfridge make up was such a part of my youth. Seems you are far from alone – enjoy Sali’s website, there’s loads good vids on guardian website. Am hoping I will eventually look like one of those effortlessly groomed women.

  7. Ruth

    It’s a sign of what a good writer you are that you convinced me to read all the way through this post and I REALLY enjoyed it, despite having no interest whatsoever in makeup 🙂 so lovely that Sali tweeted you too. Xx

  8. farfromhomemama

    Oh Gemma, I’m so disappointed, You introduce me to Sali. Tell me that she’s going to be my new best friend. And now you want to steal her right back off me. There is only one solution. We must fight for her. Space NK counter at Harvey Nicks midday tomorrow? Put ’em up!

  9. bavariansojourn

    Sali sounds great…. I have two beauty gurus, my sisters… Both impossibly glamorous and far more aware about beauty products than me (I too owned a metallic purple lipstick in my younger teenage years). When I am with them, I often rifle through their make up bags and see what they have. I have pinched a lipstick or two from time to time as well… That’s what sisters are for aren’t they??

  10. Alexander Residence

    There is a lot to be said for having choices made for you. I just went to my first beauty blogging event, I think I like it. I have owned 2/5 of the fashion blogger who was there’s top tips, which ain’t so bad!. (Bobbi Brown concealer, Benefit mascara) So now I think I should trust myself lots more. And perhaps get into beauty blogging, goody bags and champers cheer you up no end, you coming? x

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