beauty

The body beautiful in ancient Greece

The body beautiful in ancient Greece

As I stumble out of the urban swirl, through the usual madding crowds of tourists, into the British Museum’s new exhibition, I am met with a sudden and imposing sense of serenity and beauty. Three visions of the classical Greek ideal of the human form stand to face me – a Roman copy of a statue by the great Phidias, the infamous marble Discobolos of Myron, and the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Despite their elegant pose and their quasi-Platonic physical perfection, despite the colours they have lost (most statues would have had at least some paint), they live and breathe before me – I find myself slightly disconcerted by the vacant, hollow gaze emanating from such vital forms. As I soon realise, this exhibition has a profound central concern, namely the unique and uniquely influential way in which the Greeks conceptualised the human form, and how that ideal evolved through the centuries.

[caption id="attachment_65262" align="alignnone" width="194"]PHOTO/wikipedia PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]

The first thing that strikes me, as I amble further through in amazement, is the way in which Greek society and art of the Classical period were so at home with nudity, at least of the male form. As I behold the juxtaposition of powerful nude Classical sculptures with reliefs from Assyria and elsewhere in the Middle East, where nakedness marks humiliation, failure or defeat, used in the depiction of victims and vanquished foes, the thought crosses my mind that there has been no other culture of such sophistication that has so completely banished the Edenic shame which has haunted us for so long, and perhaps haunts us still today. For us, nudity is usually the province of nudists and free lovers, of pornography and of our most intimate moments – we can scarcely imagine this tranquil, desexualised concept of nudity, this objective viewing of the naked form. As the curator has written: “the Greeks were the first to make the moral distinction between the nude and the naked body,” and it is perhaps a distinction that our highly sexualised culture has blurred.

[caption id="attachment_65263" align="alignnone" width="146"]PHOTO/wikipedia PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]

For all that, as I move into the next section, devoted to the female form, I am met with a much more restrained artistic attitude, perhaps unsurprisingly given the unequal rights of women in ancient Greece, especially in Athens. The statues of (mortal) women shown are always covered up, yet they are often depicted in a much more sexual way than the male figures, as the sculptors have wrapped them up tightly in sexualising drapery. The Greeks’ complex relationship with female nudity is palpable, and seems even more manifest in their willingness to build sculptures of naked gods – one of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is a 4th century statue of Aphrodite (also known as the Lely Venus), bending over and ineffectually trying to cover herself with her hands. Looking at it seems an almost deliberately disquieting experience – I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur, but at the same time the statue seems, especially given the associations of Aphrodite, to convey a highly self-conscious sexuality. An intriguing (albeit slightly disturbing) story told by Lucian (writing much later) sheds a strange light on all of this: apparently an Athenian sailor broke into the temple of Aphrodite in Cnidos, and was so entranced by the statue of her (made by Praxiteles, ca. 360 BC, famous for its aesthetic perfection) that he tried to have sex with her (leaving a stain on her leg), and ended up killing himself. A dark vision indeed of the phantom beauty of art and its destructive power.

I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur

[caption id="attachment_65267" align="alignnone" width="85"]PHOTO/Marie-Lan Nguyen PHOTO/Marie-Lan Nguyen[/caption]

As I move on, there follows a series of pieces which have interesting implications for Greek thought about gender and sexuality in a wider sense. Images of bearded satyrs with absurdly enormous erect penises and grinning features, frolicking with each other on red figure vases (a far cry from the demure elegance of Keats’ Grecian urn) seem almost to parody the excesses of male sexuality; a statue of a seemingly female corpse on a slab of rock is revealed, when the viewer reaches the other side, to have male genitalia (this is the famous Borghese Hermaphroditus, a Roman copy of the Greek original). The sculptor of the latter seems to be playing significantly with the viewer’s expectations; when I see it, I think of the elaborate and bizarre myth unfolded in Plato’s Symposium by Aristophanes about three sexes of spherical double-humans (male-male, female-female, and male-female) who dared to attack the Gods and were punished with division in two, to which Aristophanes attributes the pangs of romantic love. Clearly the idea of the hermaphrodite was prominent in Greek thought, and indeed just as Plato’s Aristophanes uses it to explain the varieties of human sexual desire, so the sculptor of the Borghese Hermaphroditus almost seems to highlight the arbitrariness of sex and gender – there seems, even in a society with fairly clearly delineated gender roles, prejudices, and discrimination, to have been some reflection of such ideas going on, though perhaps this intuition I feel is merely my projection.

Less obviously bound into the structure of the exhibition, but implicit throughout, is a sense of the historical development of the Greek vision. Although, of course, it dwells on the idealised classical form which most of us think of when thinking about Greek art, we are given glimpses, however fleeting, of the full scope of its history. A figurine from the 8th century BC, seemingly of the hero Ajax about to kill himself, is the most alien item on display: two to three inches tall, with a vague sense of a nose and chin, a slender, straight torso, bendy spaghetti-like limbs, a peculiarly erect penis, and some sort of beret-esque headgear, it presents a potent contrast in its primitiveness to the immensely sophisticated visual language that had emerged little more than two centuries later. Nearby, an abstractly geometric female figure – reminiscent of (perhaps an influence on) works by Giacometti and Henry Moore – from 2700-2500BC also stands out in its strangeness. Black figure vases (6th century BC) show the Oriental, solemn and godlike figures that preceded the Classical vision, picked out in eerie negative; a few busts of Greek thinkers display the Alexandrian development of interest in individual features and expressions far beyond the Classical ideal type. These glimpses of the pre- and post-classical are compelling, and I find myself almost more fascinated by the alien and sharply geometric features of the pre-Classical than by the ‘humanist’ figures of the Classical period.

solemn and godlike figures…picked out in eerie negative

[caption id="attachment_65266" align="alignnone" width="276"]PHOTO/ Jakob Bodagard PHOTO/ Jakob Bodagard[/caption]

At last, I walk into a pleasantly understated room that has chosen a few of the most striking echoes of the Greek concept of the human body. Astonishingly, I am confronted with a statue of a Gandhara Buddha (1st-2nd century AD) which looks conspicuously Greek, not only in the features, but also in the flowing, carefully arranged drapery: Alexander the Great reached India, after all, and it is from this interaction that figural depictions of the Buddha seem to have emerged. There could not have been a more powerful reminder of the invisible threads that bind the cultures of our world together, and of the fact that no culture ever can, or will, exist in a vacuum.Beside this, two colossal but fragmented statues face each other – a statue of Dionysus with worn-away features and stumps for hands opposite the ‘Belvedere Torso’, a muscular figure seated on a rock, headless and legless. In these sculptures, despite (perhaps because of) their anonymous dilapidation, Michelangelo (together with other figures of the Italian Renaissance and many others) sought a Greek ideal of physical beauty and perfection to aspire to: the statue of Dionysus contributed to his own sculptures (perhaps especially the prisoners emerging from the rock, as the Dionysus sculpture was itself carved from a huge rock), and he seems to have used the Belvedere Torso for his sketches for the Creazione di Adamo (The Creation of Adam). And so I float out of this exhibition, awash with both a sense of wonder at the aesthetic and humanist revolution the Greeks had wrought and its reverberations through time, and a sense of sorrow for what little remains; for just a moment, I feel the fingers of the rosy Greek artistic and humanist dawn brush against me.

What to wear to lectures

What to wear to lectures

If you’re looking for something to pull on during a morning following an all-night club fest, it’s probably best to keep it simple. But taking a few minutes to make those finishing touches can really pull an outfit together, if you have the time. So, how can you look your best whatever the weather for lectures? Let’s go top to toe…

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="541"] The most important accessory: a book-carrier[/caption]

Firstly, the head: that vital part of your body that greets all those lovely people who study your subject (and the lecturer too!). For when you’re running low on time, go for freshness over cover up – a facial cleanser and good moisturiser will set you up for the day much better than just hiding under any slap you can find in the final one minute countdown before dashing out. And never forget the hair; here are my top 5 essentials that are in my hair kit right now…

  1. Hair oils (ones offering specific plant-oil benefits tend to work well, since they’re intended to nourish rather than just slick the hair)
  2. Dry Shampoo, try to find one that leaves less tell-tale residue, or doesn’t have to be brushed out at all.
  3. A sulphite-free shampoo and conditioner combo: they leave your hair in good condition because unlike the conventional kind, they don’t strip the hair of its natural oils.
  4. A deeply conditioning mask (my favourite right now is this marshmallow scented one from Percy&Reed)
  5. A hairspray that mists really finely – Elnette is the classic, but Umbertto Giani is also great for light coverage when that mane just needs to be kept down, or kept back.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="228"] Elle may be a Law student but she always has time to fix her hair[/caption]

Next, the torso. This is where key slouching positions always demand a lack of structuring in the vital spinal area, essential for morning lectures (when I’m usually horizontal in my chair, just not quite ready to relinquish the sleeping position I was so comfortably in not an hour ago). Something that can really work is a shirt worn ‘the Gwyneth Paltrow way’ – it looks effortless, and in fact is effortless to wear, since a shirt like this requires less care than its pristinely starched counterparts. Use it to shrug on over a simple camisole, or else as a mid-layer to add instant texture to your look in seconds. For colder weather, maybe a waffle-knit jumper or cutesy cardigan might be a better bet.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="418"] “What do you MEAN culottes aren’t chic?”[/caption]

But if you’re an early bird, giving yourself the time in the morning to pick out something that you enjoy wearing can brighten your attitude for the whole day. Weather getting you down? Invest in a quirky printed waterproof to fend of the rain. Not a fan of the lecture? Invoke the powers of bright tribal or floral prints to banish the blues. Just because you need to hide away in the library / your room / a well of despair for most of the day, doesn’t mean you can’t dress for you. Don’t worry if you feel a little overdressed in comparison to the sleepy-heads in the lecture hall – variety is the spice of life, and the most important thing is to enjoy what you wear. So, think comfort and fun – but be prepared for April showers (and anything else that might put you off your game).The most important thing is to make sure you get the most out of the lecture, but it can’t hurt to feel fabulous while doing so. Bring on Michaelmas.

Featured image from here

The Beauty Spot: SOS – Sahara skin!

The Beauty Spot: SOS – Sahara skin!

The weather has not been great this past couple of days; if only this non-stop rain would hydrate my cold-weather skin! It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. Because before I know it, I see not only patches, but a leg-ful of flaky skin. Ashy, scaly, possibly itchy… Well, you get the idea. I’m blaming the central heating!

Luckily it’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot that can be done to save the Sahara skin. Read on for some tips and home remedies.

homemade-facial-moisturizer

Moisturisers. It’s pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when someone brings up the subject of dry skin. But there are simply too many to choose from. A moisturiser may smell really nice and its bottle may look amazing, but ultimately you’re looking for a lotion that loves your skin as much as you do, and that means bringing moisture (come on, if it doesn’t do that one thing it’s named after, bin it!). Dermatologists suggest products with heavier formulas, such as those that contain humectants like glycerin and sorbitol.

 

bath--z

Long hot baths. I’m writing from personal experience here. Yes, they feel nice; yes, they help you relax. Make the little addition of scented candles and you’re sorted for your pamper evening. However, nothing can be worse for your skin than hot baths/showers. The heat makes the skin’s oils soften, much as butter softens and melts when heated. Bring some shower gel into the mix, and the shield on your skin will be gone in no time. And guess what happens next? Without that barrier, out goes the moisture. Don’t want it to escape? Try to stay away from exposing your skin to hot water.

Calder Valley Soaps cruelty free veganMoisture-robbing soaps. It’s a beauty myth that oily or acne-prone skin needs to be washed regularly, sometimes with the combination of harsh soaps to prevent breakouts. That’s simply untrue. Washing your face every hour isn’t going to stop those spots coming, in fact, you’re inviting more to appear. Stripping away the basic layer of oils on your skin gives your body the signal to produce more oils to make up for the loss, hence creating even more skin problems. No matter how oily your skin is, wash it regularly, keep it moisturised; your skin will thank you for that.

Facial mask

Homemade face masks. Spoil yourself with a fancy spa facial at home with only ingredients from the kitchen. One of the most effective is the milk mask. Just mix 1/4 cup of powdered milk with water to form a thick paste with a consistency that’s not too runny. Apply that on your face, let it dry and leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it with lukewarm water. Another way to feel your skin feel moisturised and rejuvenated is the yoghurt, banana and honey mask. Mash 2 tablespoons of yoghurt, half a banana and a tablespoon of honey in a bowl until smooth. Apply the mixture to your face and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Leftovers? Treat yourself to some dessert!

towels-lotion

Full-on spa. Enjoy a full-body spa at the weekend because why not? You may not find these ingredients in your kitchen cupboard but they are definitely worth investing in. Mix a ratio of 3 to 1 of olive oil and castor oil in a bowl and let it aside. Prepare a big warm towel (you can put it under hot running water then squeeze it until it’s not dripping). Apply the oil all over your body, and then wrap yourself up in the towel. Take the towel off when it’s become cool. The most important thing to remember here is not to take a shower immediately after; leave it for another hour or two and let the oil sink in.

 

And voilà! Don’t go too crazy with these remedies as experts suggest doing them only weekly, if not once every two weeks. But do keep your skin clean (not with boiling hot water though) and choose the right moisturiser; your skin will be forever grateful to you!

 

Images from:

http://www.moisturizer-reviews.com

http://www.hellomagazine.com

http://www.honestycosmetics.co.uk

http://blogs.lynn.edu

http://cdn.buuteeq.com

The Perfect Red Lip

The Perfect Red Lip

We’ve all had moments when you glance in the mirror after applying a lovely new lipstick and you just look seriously good. Until, that is, somebody sheepishly whispers to you that you have lipstick on your teeth or, under the cold, unforgiving lights of the Camera bathrooms you see in the mirror that what you thought was ‘the perfect red for you’ is in fact ‘the perfect red for you, for Halloween.’

Do not fear, here is the ultimate guide for perfect red lip success.

1. Pick a shade that’s right for you and make sure the finish is what you are looking for – I recommend matte for a long-lasting, velvety finish

2. Before you start your other makeup, rub on a lip-scrub, (olive oil and brown sugar is a great substitute) and apply a thick layer of lipbalm

3. When you are ready to apply the lipstick, wipe off the excess lipbalm gently with a tissue.

4. Having picked out a well-sharpened red lip-liner carefully line your lips. This is crucial if you don’t want to have to reapply at all during the night, but don’t worry too much about the exact shade, as it doesn’t matter if it’s not an exact match with your lipstick. I recommend starting at the cupids bow (centre of the top lip) and then using small careful strokes to draw a line around your mouth. Hardest part done!

5. Fill in the line with the lip-liner so you’ve got a good layer of colour all over your lips. Blot gently with a tissue.

6. Using your lipstick of choice, go over the lip-liner. For the first layer, put lipstick only on the smaller of your lips and then rub together to get an even coating on both, then reapply another layer all over.

7. For a long-lasting finish, blot and reapply, repeating up to three times for a rich, lasting colour.

8. For a velvety, trendy twist on a classic, applying a slightly darker red around the edges of your lips with your finger, blending to avoid harsh lines, will make your mouth look fuller, poutier and less ‘painted on’.

9. I now recommend using a lipstick sealer like Lipcote but if you don’t have this, believe it or not, a cotton pad with about a teaspoon of vodka soaked in will do the trick. Just dab on your lips and don’t forget the inner corners.

10. Apply a lip balm to avoid your lips drying out – and a lipgloss if you’re feeling particularly wild. Now you are ready to go!

 

Lipstick recommendations:

 Very pale: deep wine colours provide gorgeous contrast.

e.g. Maybelline New York Color Sensational Lipcolor in Plum Perfect

Olive undertones: blue-toned cherry reds whiten teeth and compliment beautifully.

e.g. L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lipcolour in British Red

 Rosy undertones: avoid highlighting any unwanted pink tones by sticking with orange-based reds.

e.g. Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in True Red

Deep skintones: vivid tangerine-laced reds provide a stunning, stand-out and flattering look.

e.g. Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Suede in Designer

The Beauty Spot: Top Ten Beauty Myths, Banished

The Beauty Spot: Top Ten Beauty Myths, Banished

How many times have you heard that eating your crusts makes your hair curly, or that eating a surplus of carrots will give you a healthy looking tan? Although there might be some scientific truth in the latter, the beauty industry bombards us with incorrect ‘facts’ about our appearance and how to fix it, many of which we willingly believe. But fear not! Disregarding the following top ten beauty myths will mean you’re a bit more savvy when you’re next perusing the make-up aisle …

1. You can’t put oil on oily skin

Myths1

This myth is as popular as it is untrue. A well-chosen oil can act as an amazing moisturiser and treatment. The preconception that by putting oil on oily skin you will make it – you guessed it – oily, is totally untrue. Skin that is well moisturised and nourished will produce less oil. Try to use natural oils which will make your skin look healthy and will act as a treatment. Just make sure you’re not using something to which you’re allergic.

2. Only dry skin can be dehydrated 

Dry skin is a problem. But, just because one day you discover a few patches of flaky skin, it doesn’t mean your skin magically turned into the Sahara overnight – your skin is just dehydrated. It mostly happens during the winter when the central heating is up and running and the weather is being less than kind to our skin. It’s at this point that you have to pay special attention to your skin – give it some TLC. If you notice your skin becoming dry in places, don’t try to convince yourself it’s “simply impossible!”. Rather, give it a bit of a hydra boost with a hydrating face mask – a little winter pamper.

3. Expensive means better

Myths3Good news, bank account – expensive does not mean better! There are many products that are equally good (or even better!) than ones that insult your student loan. Sometimes, with low price comes high quality. It also works the other way – if I had a pound for every time that reading the ingredients list of a cream that cost over £50 made me open my eyes in disbelief, I would be quite rich. Try to look for gems that won’t make your wallet weep – there are plenty out there!

4. Toner should have alcohol in it, not that anyone needs toner … 

Objection! Having alcohol in toner would actually cause more problems that it would solve. Sometimes you need a bit of alcohol for other ingredients to work, but it shouldn’t be too high up on the ingredients list. Toner also isn’t something you use to remove what was left of your make up after cleansing your face – there shouldn’t be any make-up left on your face when you reach for your toner. None. You may, of course, not like using toners and think they are pretty useless – and I won’t point fingers at you for that. But they might help you with a few of your dermatological troubles, so consider the potential benefits for your skin before you turn toner away.

5. What you eat doesn’t affect your skin; it’s what you put on it that matters

Although the myth that chocolate causes acne has long since been busted, hardly anyone knows that your skin condition can be improved by eating the right foods. Fruit and vegetables are good for you, with alcohol and cigarettes being a no-no. I’m not saying you should refuse an occasional drink (or five!), but regular, excessive drinking will make your skin dry and dull (oops). Also, cutting down on sugar and dairy is likely to be beneficial for your skin (especially if you cut down on sugar). You are what you eat! Myths4

6. A good cleanser foams and gets you “squeaky” clean

This is by far the biggest beauty myth ever, and one of the most widespread. To make foam, you need a surfacent. This, in turn, will turn your skin alkaline, making it a perfect place for bacteria to start their families – enter an untimely and unsightly outbreak. You don’t want that, especially on acne-prone skin. You might as well just wash your face with dish soap. Instead, find a cleanser that’s very gentle on the skin, such as a balm or cream cleanser. You won’t be squeaky, but you will be clean. 

7. You can close your pores 

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is simply impossible. The size of your pores is genetic, they don’t open or close. Nor do they get smaller or bigger. They are what they are and will always be the same, no matter what you do. Love them for what they are.

8. Tans are healthy, sunscreen is not

myths82Getting A BIT of sun is fine – it gives us vitamin D and puts us in a good mood. However, spending hours in the midday heat on a beach in Egypt without much clothing or an SPF is not ideal. Not only will you get sunburn (from the UVB rays) but you also run the risk of causing damage to the deeper layers of your skin (with UVA rays). Personally, I use an SPF every day throughout the year. Yes, sun is there in winter too. Who’d have known?

9. Natural = hypoallergenic 

Ooh, ‘natural’ – it must be sent from heaven. Wrong. Being uncritical about ‘natural’ skin care products will do you no good. Firstly, natural products aren’t always better than your regular skincare brands and can often be more expensive for no good reason. Secondly, despite popular belief, natural products are not hypoallergenic. Far from it, really. Essential oils are, in fact, one of the strongest allergens. If you are allergic to something, check if the product you want to buy has it on its ingredients list. You might be surprised by how close you were to an allergic reaction. On your face! Yuck!

10. Toothpaste can clear spots

It just can’t. Sorry. It might dry out an occasional spot and make it disappear, sure. But, it can also make it even worse. Toothpaste is for teeth, don’t put it on your face.

Myths10

 

IMAGES:

http://muslimahbeauty.com

http://farm3.staticflickr.com

http://world-most-expensive.info

http://cdn.blisstree.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

 

The Beauty Spot: Polka Dot Nails

The Beauty Spot: Polka Dot Nails

While there is still a bit of the holiday left, the summer is slowly coming to an end. The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and we are slowly coaxing ourselves out from beneath the sun and into the open arms of AW13. If, like me, you’re looking for a way to hang on to the summer for a little longer, why not inject some summer loving into your fingertips? Read on for my cheap and chic polka dot nails tutorial – and find out how to smuggle a little bit of summer into the autumnal months ahead!

dots done

I know that some people may be discouraged from going beyond painting their nails one colour, thinking that everything that looks in a least bit fancy is also complicated. I have to admit, I was one of those people using up bottle after bottle of red nail varnish. Then, I discovered a quick and easy way to make my nails look more fun: polka dot nail art. Even if you’re manicure-illiterate, I guarantee that if you follow the steps below your nails will look absolute stunning. And the best part? You don’t need any special tools, just what you have in your drawers and cupboards. Simple!

equipment

You will need:

  • At least 2 nail varnishes ( I used Rimmel 60 seconds: 816 Green Eyed Monster; Astor Fashion Studio: 251 Royal Glamorous Pink; OPI Nail Lacquer: Golden Eye)
  • A pencil with a rubber at the end
  • A pin or a dot-making tool (you can purchase whole sets on Amazon for a few pounds)
  • A thick piece of paper
  • A conditioner or a base coat, if you normally use one (optional). I used my favourite Essence conditioner (unavailable in the UK).

To make your own tool, just put the pin in the rubber end of your pencil. It will make using the pin to make dots much easier.

dot thing

1) Apply a base coat of your favourite conditioner. You can skip this step but I always recommend it. Especially if you paint your nails often so their ends do not go yellow. 

 conditioner

2)  Paint your nails with your chosen base colour. This can be any colour you like, either lighter or darker than the one you will do your polka dots with – be creative! (I recommend using two coats so your manicure lasts longer.) 

base

3) Pour a little bit of nail varnish on the piece of paper. Next, put the end of your tool in the varnish. You’re now ready to make the polka dots! (The amount on the brush when you take it out of the bottle should be enough.)

 blob

4) Let’s get dotty… Making your polka dots is really easy. Just lightly dab the end of your tool on the nail and make any pattern you want. In between nails, put your tool in the varnish so that your dots do not come out patchy.

 dots 

5) Add some extra colours! Once you are done with putting polka dots on all of your nails, you might want to add some more dots in different colours. I felt like making my nails slightly more summery by adding a bit of golden glitter in between my polka dots. You can choose to do the same or just leave your nails as they are. 

Et voilà! Your polka dot nails are done and ready to be shown off to your friends. Be prepared for all the compliments you will get!

 dots done

Some ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’

  • Do not do what I did – a fast drying nail varnish (such as Rimmel 60 Seconds) is not the best choice for the polka dots colour. It will make for a frantic battle against time because your dot of varnish will get very sticky very quickly.
  • Do not order a set of tools from Amazon straight away – look around your house for objects that can make polka dots: used up pens, hair pins – you name it.
  • Do experiment with different tools to get different sizes of polka dots.
  • Do play with colours – browns and greys are nice, but a bit of blue and yellow can make you smile when you look at your nails.
  • Do have fun – you still have a few weeks to perfect your polka dot nails before Freshers’ Week!
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