Clothes make the man

My idea that you can signal to yourself seems to have some echo in the real world: “People who were given a lab coat and told it belonged to a doctor were found to pay closer attention to what they were doing than people who were given the same coat and told it belonged to a painter. The researchers’ findings suggested that just as we wear clothes, our clothes wear us, changing the way we think, feel and behave.”

Read the article: https://www.ft.com/content/97fc83ba-85c7-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

Meanwhile, I have been active on instagram with skincare as piedbeautyx. What am I signalling to myself? Control? Routine? Adulthood itself? Who knows, but I am enjoying it.

March results of the Image Experiment

What I learnt this month experimenting with my image:

  • I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.
  • I discovered a new rendition of beauty
  • Pantene is the oldest, cheapest and best thing for silky hair
  • Pinterest is the best thing for figuring out what you want to look like

Throwback to what the Image Experiment is. Basically, me, a pretty average-looking millennial girl, who isn’t very appearance-conscious, just enough to own a few Marc Jacobs bags and Hermes scarves, but not to wear them very often, trying to follow the cool kids’ image trends.

Null hypothesis: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is no benefit in working on her image by using popular make up routines (I have changed this to following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general). H1: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is a benefit in working on her image by following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general.

I.

I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.

Numbers? 3 kg, or 7 pounds, in one month. No hunger. No gym. No BS, as they say. Not even a new fancy water bottle.

Historically, my appetite goes up and down, for months at a time, and there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.

As a consequence, my weight has always fluctuated. I wish it didn’t because I end up with a proliferation of different size clothes, but fighting it is a monumental investment of energy I am not prepared to make. Thus, I go between a BMI of 22 and 26. My self-esteem follows closely.

I wonder if doing my Image Experiment caused this latest appetite decline. One of the premises of the experiment was that “when we signal to others, we signal to ourselves, just a little bit.” I am starting to think that this is indeed true. After all, when you are aware that others are looking at you, you behave differently. Not necessarily better or worse, just differently.

Being more cognisant that I am not alone in this world, I guess I became more in tune with my belief that a certain range of weight is fundamental to looking maximally well. (Sorry I am not more #bodypositive). Since I do want to engage with people around me, I want to make it is easy as possible. And it is easier when you look well. Hence, the weight change. Or so I hypothesise.

II.

I discovered a new rendition of beauty.

I have done the dirty deed of using the discover section of Instagram. Usually, the cat photos cheer me up. The photos of people’s lifestyles? Not so much. Yeah, yeah, don’t compare yourself. Yeah, it’s a highlight reel. Yeah, they are all edited, often professionally – and taken by photographers. But still.

This time though, I was cheered up alright. I found an ethnic girl who was really stunning. Does she look beautiful in the usual Western, Hollywood sense? I don’t think so. Her eyebrows are weird, her chin is too pointy, her lips aren’t big enough, she doesn’t try to go for the same type of sexy look that we’re used to seeing.

There was something refreshing and life-affirming about seeing this. It’s not quite beauty in all shapes and sizes, again sorry #bodypositive people, but it is something to do with diversity. (P.S. To annoy supporters of social constructionism even more: despite being indoctrinated with images of people like Charlise Theron and Michelle Pfeiffer all my life, I still think this girl is stunning. Explain?)

Me by very talented @soposoposopochka 🖤

A post shared by Tamuna Tsiklauri (@tamunatsiklauri) on

III.

As for the goodies you see in the photo, all of them are 5/5.

I heard a lot of bad things about Pantene: that it makes your hair fall out, etc, but I’ve used it at various point all my life and I think it’s great. And very cheap for what it is. Hair was super silky and light after using the conditioner and the 1 minutes ampoules. The ampoules in the box are actual real plastic ampoules, you have to break the top off, as if it’s heparin or something. They would make you feel very much like “stand back, I am doing science”, if you’re a five year old, that is.

The L’Oreal clay facial wash with charcoal is actually black, which feels odd, but it’s nice and leaves your skin supple.

The Freeman clay mask with sea minerals is phenomenal. One of the best I tried. It’s violently electric blue though, so apply privately and in confidence.

The Seba Med thing came in the Birchbox, it is like paint stripper, only it didn’t cause excess dryness, to my great surprise. I would still use sparingly. Birchbox is increasingly useless, but anyway, I will keep subscribed for the time being.

I also tried the Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo. It was a lot more palatable, I should really say more tolerable, though some does inevitably make its way onto your soft palate, than the more common Batiste variety. Even though it’s not tinted, this dry shampoo wasn’t very noticeable in my hair, which is a great thing (because the tinted varieties prevent you from touching your hair, unless you’re planning to wash your hands straight after that or look like a coal miner). But you really, really have to shake it like a gin fizz. If not, you’ll end up with wet hair like I did when I first tried it.

IV.

To figure out what it is I want to look like, I made a Pinterest board. It really helped, and it’s great for making shopping lists. All these beautiful people have done the hard work of figuring out what goes well together and so all I have to do is pick and choose. Or basically, copy what they did. Handy!

The only downside is that now I am convinced I need an Yves Saint Laurent bag.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 01.17.40

“I don’t approve of your self-harm”

As part of my Image experiment, I am experimenting with wax strips (and wine, to take the edge off).

My other half walked in and I asked him if he would like to help.

His response:

“I don’t approve of your self-harm”.

Talk about acceptance.

February results of the Image Experiment

In January, I decided I would do an Image Experiment. I started off with make up, but quickly moved on to other aspects of image.

What I learnt working on my image this February:

  • it’s super hard to meaningfully communicate who you are through what you wear
  • people are friendly to you in proportion to how well you suit their sense of style (a variation of “people like people who are like them”)
  • buying expensive “investment” pieces is overrated
  • taking photographs of your own outfits leaving the house is a really easy way to see how others see you
  • on a practical note, having your eyebrows waxed is far less painful than getting them threaded or shaped – and clay masks are it.

Even though Christmas is only a memory at this point, Santi continued to be kind by invoking some awesome sales. I purchased a black faux shearling coat, a pink wearable blanky puffy coat (both in Zara) and dug out a pink garçon cut woolly coat (Betty Barclay), all of which seemed to have garnered me some respect from people my own age (see points one and two above). Cos has also been full of pleasant surprises.

I have found that the expensive investment pieces go out of date, even if they are deemed to by “timeless”.  God is in the detail and having experimented with both “timeless” and “trendy”, I think there is something to be said for the freshness of cutting edge detail. On that note, I bought an Italian leather bag so minimalist it is hard to imagine how it could be any stricter. I felt though that it reflected what I needed and what I wanted to say.

I know that everyone is saying it, but really, less is more when it comes to clothes. In rearranging my wardrobe, I realised that I wear only about 10 things and the rest is 80% deadweight legacy occupying prime real estate in my wardrobe and 20% special occasion wear. Needless to say, I moved all the deadweight stuff out, which eliminated the illusion that there was all this choice and made it easier and more pleasant to decide what to wear.

The theory is that your style is a way to signal your substance. This put me into an absolute brain spasm, for I have no idea how to translate the substance into image. I guess that’s the reason for the experiment.

I have figured it’s important to acknowledge that between my height and that I am always ID’d, I look a little younger than I am. I never felt quite comfortable in a feminine look unless it was either girly or classic, i.e. I can’t handle wilting flower and smouldering temptress . Where I was born, a resting bitch face is simply called a resting face, so on the scale of Sailor Moon to Hermione, I should err on the side of  serious kind of younger, on the stoic end of preppy.

I implemented this when I had the misfortune to break my old glasses, which has never happened to me before. I decided to treat myself to a new set after almost 10 years. I went with a catty tortoiseshell pair and a round rimless pair as I felt they communicated my lack of interest in talking about the weather.

At a little reunion with my friends from a multinational I used to work for and seeing my old classmates, it was remarked that my skin and hair looked very good, which I will put down as confirmation bias evidence that my clay masks are doing something good.

I have also found that people like to talk about something you are wearing and what they choose to talk about is an interesting reflection on the person. How can I say this without sounding very Machiavellian? People seem to like you if they like what you are wearing and they will like it if they feel that that is something they themselves could have worn.

IMG_9278

Inci-dental findings

I have found 2 phenomenal dental things recently even though I wasn’t really looking:

Tepe easy picks

They’re basically like floss, only you can dip them into mouthwash, they don’t hurt and they clean really well. I use the orange ones because my teeth are a lil crowded.

These things are much better than their flagship interdental brushes that stick right into your gums if they’re not perfectly aligned (which is very hard if you’re cleaning the 7 and 8s). Even the smallest calibre of these is too big for me 😦

I also like dental harps. Basically, anything other than the Oral B Satin floss that all dentists seem to love, but I find really unpleasant.

Colgate’s deep clean toothpaste

Definitely the best commonly available toothpaste I’ve ever used.

As an aside, I also used this toothpaste from India that contains some magical herb – which seems to have had good results for me after my teeth faced a bit of a chemical/laziness attack.*

*Basically, I used to live in an apartment in Dublin city centre and work in a busy hospital. After a year of that, I went to the dentist to discover I needed a ridiculous amount of work. I couldn’t figure out why that was.

Fair enough, going around the hospital eating Milk Tray and Celebrations that patients kindly bring in to thank us the nurses isn’t helpful. I had to be up very early for work and I think I neglected to brush my teeth quite as diligently because coffee was a higher priority. But still, it just didn’t seem to explain the extent of my troubles.

So, I decided I wanted to measure the pH of the water supply. The easiest available method for me was a urine dipstick, so I went right ahead and dipped it. 5.5! No wonder my teeth were melting away!

Water pH has to be no less than 6.5 to be safe. Obviously, my measurement may have been artefact, because urine and water aren’t really all that similar. I asked my rocket scientist friends who work in labs if they had access to a way to measure pH. Those came back at around 7 and they gave me rocket-sciency explanations that basically when pH is around 7, you have to use some other method to measure pH to see how close it is to being deionised. A commercially available lab charged something like 400 euro, so I didn’t go with that.

I contacted the official water people with my concerns anyway. They got back to me quickly, to be fair, and told me that they have arranged to flush the area.

So, in line with the scientific method, I went back to my original testing method after the intervention. I urine-dipped it after the flushing – and it came back at pH of 7 – not 5.5. Go figure.

Anyway, I haven’t had any problems since – is that due to better water or to the magical Indian herbs? We will probably never know.

I am trying to figure out why it occurred to me to blog about teeth. Not the sort of subject that lends itself to producing a good long read. I think the reason is that my Image Experiment has demanded discipline. I have the work ethic of a horse, but my discipline may not be so so stellar. Who knew they were different things – and what you can discover when you have to put creme on your face everyday.

 

 

January results of the Image Experiment

What I learnt working on my image this January:

  • expensive products commit you to putting in more effort, hence, you look better
  • when you do as you’ve been told by Andie MacDowell since you were 5, you feel like you are part of the club
  • the people who market to you don’t expect you to have even a rudimentary understanding of the scientific method or statistics, or any critical thinking really
  • you can use these lotions and potions in a mindful way

See the backstory here.

In early January, Santi brought me two things I had been contemplating getting myself:

1. Revitalising Fresh Shampoo by L’Occitane

The revitalising shampoo tingles lightly when you leave it on for over a minute, which is very relaxing. I guess for the oils and whatever else to work, you really need to give it a little time. What made me laugh was this on their website:

why do women love cosmetic products
Does this offend your intelligence? I hope it does. Also this.

What I found was that it was great for relaxing in a mindful way. The tingle draws your attention to your scalp – a place you don’t often concentrate on otherwise.

Did it make much of a difference to my hair compared to the normal run of the mill L’Oreal shampoo? Not really. But I think that I spent more time brushing my hair and was more diligent when blowdrying it. In other words, having spent a bomb on shampoo, my brain tells me to be consistent and dry my hair in manner that’s becoming of a woman who spends a bomb on shampoo.

2. Repairing Hair Mask by L’Occitane – also brought by Santi

I wasn’t a fan of the smell, it reminds me of some yucky Soviet herbal shampoo. Chances are that they both contain a herb I don’t like. Effect? As above with the shampoo. They used to have an olive oil range that was excellent, but this product didn’t have that miraculous effect.

Santi was thoughtful enough to throw in some samples of L’Occitane face cream all of which are 10/10, except the rose-scented one that was overpowering with its perfume.

Then my first Birchbox (affectionately known as Bitchbox in my household) arrived. From Sweden!

It contained

1. The Sand & Sky Brilliant Skin™ Purifying Pink Clay Mask

All the way from the land down under. How exciting.

It tingles very gently and dries very soon after you put it on. I got out an old Mac brush to put it on which made it feel all the more glamorous and added 100% to the fun of this peculiar ritual .

There is a warning on the back of it that you can’t use it with oral vitamin A without consulting a doctor. In other words, it was full of retinoids, which do actually work when applied topically – something I know from the dermatology lectures of my youth.

My boyfriend who is ultraskeptical of the cosmetics industry noticed a difference. That’s as reliable a fact that it works as can be. Go Australia (and retinoids). (As always, this is not medical advice!)

2. Kebelo Clarifying Shampoo

This really intrigued me: a shampoo to be used once or twice a month in order to give your hair a really thorough clean. I used it after a swim in the hope that it may wash out the chlorine that little bit better. I was kind of worried that it would make it all fall out be very harsh, but it was fine and my hair was actually lighter, much easier to brush and much shiner after using it.

3. Baija Gommage Festin Royal Miel Caramélisé

Which was ridiculous! A jar of marmalade with solidified sugar to be used as a scrub! Anyway, it’s not actually edible (the auld benzyl alcohol is that little bit toxic). Kinda nice, kinda felt stooopid using a jar of marmalade though.

It also contained a lipstick that made me look older and a synthetic brush that I have no use for. And – a discount if I had wanted to sign up to Virgin Wines as a subscription box too! Clever bstrds know all about marketing.

I also picked up a L’Oreal pre-shampoo clay mask! Oooo. As in, you put it on before you use shampoo. It’s cheap, but less than cheerful in a really artificial blue colour with strong perfume.

I didn’t notice any difference to my hair, despite using a myriad new products, except with the paintstripper Kebelo use-once-a-month potion, that didn’t come from just paying more attention to it.

How do I know this? Well, when I have something big coming up and don’t have the heavy artillery to hand, I spend more time dolling myself up with ordinary products and come out looking the same as with all these products.

 

I also was religious in terms of the cleanse-tone-moisturise skincare routine. I do it anyway, but I am ordinarily a bit sporadic (lazy) with it. This month, I learnt just how difficult it is to actually exfoliate your skin properly. I more or less have to go to the sauna to make it happen. Good exfoliation appears to be what gives skin this beautiful shimmer that people adore. And it makes sense because the surface are isn’t interrupted by the rough dead cells, hence the light forms a nice continuous reflection.

Furthermore, it’s a slightly strange ritual to take off all the skin’s natural sebum, forcefully, and to replace it with moisturiser, but that’s what the cosmetics industry preaches.

Did I feel much different? No. More confident? No, but maybe more grown up, because following a skin care routine is adulting. More girly or feminine? No, but I felt that I was part of some invisible club – and that made me feel better – and probably more confident in a way I didn’t perceive. Did I notice a different reaction from people? No.