The Outfit

This week I had a ‘shopping day’. I genuinely don’t think this is something I have done, maybe ever. And I appreciate that while scores of people do this activity regularly – some every weekend – many hate the prospect of enduring flashing flesh in changing rooms or simply don’t care about clothes to spend their precious spare time battling with people, stuffy stores and not being able to find the car for hours. I do have a theory that every one does care to a certain degree, especially if they say they don’t, because everyone selects in some way what they put on each day, but that’s a whole different topic in itself – one for another time.

shopping day

As a Costume Designer I spend my working life in shops, shopping for other people, so a trip to a city centre in my spare time doesn’t appeal to me, and this is why I don’t ‘go shopping’. However, I do make impulse purchases – never tried on – as I shop for characters, whatever I am designing. And what has transpired is that I am the proud owner of three double wardrobes of clothes, and a chest of drawers (you know, for the folded stuff). And absolutely no coherent outfit to be seen.

capsule wardrobe

This traditional-style shopping day came about as I am not currently working on a project, and was in search of some new jeans so had an afternoon to spare on this hellish mission; the paradox of the luxury of a day off and the worst task imaginable to undertake during it. I also wanted a cashmere sweater and some boots for an upcoming trip to New York, practical ones with a sole suitable for the snow and ice, as my last winter trip to NYC was a permanent ice rink of embarrassment in several highly impractical footwear choices, And these are a sensible footwear choice, unlike the Gucci loafers which I really would rather purchase.

gucci loafers

I did find some great fitting jeans in APC – much to my delight as it was the first place I tried – although their “no washing for six months” policy is beyond my capability of rational thought. Essentially I spend my life dealing with other people’s dirty clothes after I have shopped for them so I am now literally obsessed with washing. Also, jeans get ‘knees’, and six months of ‘knees’ are some crazy jeans. Maybe APC people don’t sit down or walk anywhere for six months? It was after the jeans that I realised my list for the day basically involved buying An Outfit. I finally needed to heed all of the well-intentioned magazine advice and buy An Outfit. Revelation One, aged 35.

capsule wardrobe for women

Proposing that this should consist of neutral pieces that stood the at least vague possibility of working with at least a few of the other random purchases to create A Wardrobe quickly became Revelation Two. I sensibly changed into the newly purchased jeans as this would be the key to An Outfit working. Alternatively, you could take the piece which you want to get an outfit to go with with you, thus no one thinks you are crazy –  in fact, they are jealous of your cleverness and foresight.

crazy fashion

I have always been a firm believer in unpatterned, simple clothes in classic colours, and there is absolutely no reason ever to buy a t-shirt in a colour with any kind of print on it. These are life rules that you would think would translate into ‘Woman Capable of Dressing In Chic Classy Way’, but it’s just not that simple. I have some great tees and vests already at home, so they weren’t a requirement at least.


When it comes to tees, I recommend Petit Bateau if you like a tight fit as the longer line tucks-in well, even into low rise jeans to avoid any plumber’s bottom issues. H&M men’s department also has lovely soft crew necks (unlike the thick jersey usually used in women’s tees) so they tuck well into waistbands also as they are cut longer for guys but not tight at the bottom. I often find women’s tees so tight at the hem they become incredibly uncomfortable sitting on the part you don’t want it to and it’s impossible for them to create an insouciant pull so it sits over your waistband, you know, should you so wish to do so.

uniqlo cashmere sweaters

I was after a black cashmere crew neck sweater and I found one of these straight away in Uniqlo of course. And there were lots of great neutrals, ecru, grey marl, navy and black – it came in bright colours too but as I am An Outfit buying I also didn’t want to be too trend led. At £70 that’s some very reasonable cashmere, which washes well if care is taken. The cut is not cropped, but not so long that it does the dreaded muffin top hug, with a small vent on each side giving it extra movement where we have hips so it really is an impressive sweater, especially for the price.

chanel style tweed jackets

Isabel Marant Etoile (which I historically prefer to the main collection anyway) has some great pieces for long term staple outfit dressing. I found an unlined double breasted tight-fitting jacket with great shoulders and a neat classic line for £260, a jacket perfect for travelling as it can be worn with jeans for perfect smart casual. It works as a light jacket for spring through autumn and a great layer for winter, mostly as the cashmere sweater looks perfect underneath. And this jacket works really well dressed up for the evening too, so it feels like a smart, sensible purchase.

timberland slim boots women

The boots took much longer to find, but I found some really great slim black Timberlands with a solid rubber sole, waterproof and sturdy. They are not as heavy as many practical boots, or traditional Timberlands for that matter, and being a slim style they are not too bulky for my 5’2 frame either. They also sit in a great place up the leg to work a turn up on any trouser, and should give me a bit of London rock whatever the weather in NYC. My Mama just bought a pair for a trip to Krakow too, so shed that For Rappers Only impression and take a look.

travelling light

Once I returned home, I realised the enormous success of this trip as I packed, I do believe I managed to create one of those staple wardrobes of which publications so often speak, the ubiquitous An Outfit. I included in my suitcase in addition to my new haul a pair of Stan Smiths, an oversized slouchy sweater, a cashmere vest, some knitted wide leg black pants and a pair of heels along with an old oversized tailored overcoat styled up with a brooch and everything goes with everything. I am a changed woman.

capsule closet

The challenge now is when I get back, parting with all the pieces I like but have nothing to wear them with, but for the next week I shall revel in the wonders of An Outfit, in fact even, The Staple Wardrobe. Fashion editors, it’s has taken you 35 years, but finally you have got through and I have listened, and I profess you are all correct; it really does take the stress out of dressing. Hopefully when I crack this officially full time {=(i.e. in ‘real life’ when I get home) I could even treat myself to a very on-trend whatever-the-colour-next-season-is sweater… You never know!

Point of View

I have always found it bizarre that women can be so harsh to other women. Our choices, our lifestyles, how we dress, the new haircut – we are lovers or haters. It is either amazing that someone gives up work to have a baby and stay with them as a mum, or awful – there’s no in-between ground. Everyone talks about “choice” and no judgement but then I always sense that I am being judged all the time. I have a great example of that.


I launched a brand that creates conversations. We have had magazines refuse to take our advertising. We have had journalists who love the idea and products but their editors ‘don’t want to go there’. We have seen people on Twitter suggest that we are the root of all evil and are demonising women. Then we have heard what real women think. The friends who have struggled with thrush. The new-found fans who have tried everything a doctor suggested. Women sensitive about how their vagina feels and want to do something about it. Yes, I did just say vagina.

Sass is a range of products to give women choice. There are some washes to ensure women (who ARE using shower gel) have a healthy and ph-balanced option. There are sport products so that chammy creams and serums can protect and help you to recover after a spin class.The beauty products help prevent ingrown hairs and give you an easier way to shave. Most of these products have been created based on personal experience.

Sass intimate products

Having to shave due to laser treatment, cycling 400km in Kenya and feeling on the brink of thrush every night. My mum had always told me not to use shower gel and to air myself… But I don’t want to be worried about what I wear, what underwear I choose, or if I have had a session in the gym, I don’t want to feel sore or irritated. To me this is all about choice.

Of course we want to understand and engage people but we also know what we stand for. When people question the brand, it’s ethos, or the products I am always open. Some are polite and engage in conversation, others take to an intern who helps us with Twitter, or raise the issue with Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. All great ways to share an opinion but I often feel it is judgement in another way. Trying to make women fit into a ‘feminist box’ – I am not sure why we feel the need to do that when we all set our own path.

sass intimate skincare

It is exactly that which is true for SASS. For me true Sass comes from being who you want to be. It is not about judging anyone. A confidence that shines through. I was recently on a panel with The Guardian and the fellow panelists showed how alluring that can be. The vulnerability of being open and having a confidence that of course no-one has all the answers – that is real confidence.

For me when it comes to looking after our vagina I know some people are happier with just water but I wasn’t. We are all for choice and choice shouldn’t mean compromise, but I will let you make up your own mind!

sass products7

Carrie Osman is the founder of CRUXY&CO and co-founder of MAD Brands. She started both businesses having gained over ten of years of marketing experience, working for entrepreneurs and for Mars Inc. Her passion for business and branding saw her named as one of Marketing Magazine’s 30 under 30. In November 2013, Carrie decided it was time to make her own mark and created CRUXY&CO: a challenging and provocative consultancy that repositions businesses.  Carrie’s latest venture is MAD brands which she co-founded with Mark Curry. The MAD portfolio currently includes intimate skincare brand SASS, with more innovative, inspiring products to launch soon. 

Public Speaking 101

Terrified of public speaking? You’re not alone! According to research, 70% of adults report facing communication anxiety and it’s likely that we’ve all worried about public speaking at some point in our lives. I’m no exception, even though I teach public speaking for a living – and I’ve overcome the fear of public speaking myself. Whatever sector you work in, it’s an indispensable professional skill. Want to improve your public speaking? Here’s what I’ve learned…

public speaking fear

We fear fear itself

Most of our fear is that people will notice that we’re nervous. Largely that’s not true. Whilst we may feel like a quivering wreck, the audience see maybe 20% of our nerves. That’s because you’re standing inside your body feeling all those wobbles, whereas the audience are outside your body, not really thinking about you. Audience members are thinking more about themselves than they are about you.

public speaking tips

Nerves are actually helpful

The speakers I coach are best when they have a twinge of nerves. It’s what keeps the buzz in public speaking. When speakers have no nerves, I can see that they’ve become complacent and they do a less good job.

Nerves dissolve when we focus on the audience

Whilst we’re focusing on ourselves it’s possible to feel self conscious and awkward. But if you stop thinking about yourself and ask yourself a question about the audience you’ll find that there are more people than just you in the room. The more you focus on your audience, the better you’ll do at pleasing them too – it’s a win-win!

public speaking

Perfect is not the point

Nervous speakers love to over-prepare, it’s a way of controlling a scary situation. If I can just do it right, then they’ll like and accept me as a speaker. But the deal is that perfection isn’t what impresses an audience. We don’t care whether or not you remembered 35 or 36 of your 38 key points. What we want is a human connection with our speaker, which means you can make mistakes and you can be a bit messy, so long as we see that you’re being authentic.

Find a purpose that’s bigger than your fear

Ultimately to overcome nerves you need a reason for speaking that’s bigger than your fear. Think of Gandhi – he was incredibly socially anxious as a young lawyer in South Africa, yet he carried his nation to freedom. That’s because his purpose was bigger than his fear. To truly overcome your nerves, you need to see public speaking not as a horrible thing to get through, but as an act of leadership that you will take up in order to help others. Doesn’t that sound more like something you could do?

gandhi public speaking

How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is available to buy online here. Whatever the occasion, whatever the content, whatever the situation, this book will teach you everything you need to know to plan, prepare and deliver any speech or presentation and will give you the skills to deliver it with style, wit, charm and confidence. Discover expert tips, tricks, tools and techniques that will help you build on skills and abilities you already have so you can stand up in front of any audience and really wow them. 

Point of View

You might wonder what you’re letting yourself in for if you search for ‘adult colouring book’, but you’ll be relieved to hear it is definitely SFW. At the time of writing, four of the top ten bestselling titles are adult colouring books, and their popularity is not confined to the UK – this is a global phenomenon. 3.5 million colouring books were sold in France alone last year. I love the idea that people from all over the world are sitting down with a pack of colouring pencils and finding some peace and quiet from colouring in.

colouring book

There’s something for everyone, which is just as it should be. Creative activities shouldn’t just be the preserve of designers and artists; the new wave of colouring books are accessible to everyone and are perfect for those who might be short on time and money. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to see why the appeal of these books is so broad, from a busy office worker who finds it difficult to switch off at the end of a long day to someone who is housebound and enjoys colouring as a creative outlet.

little book of colouring

But forget the colouring books of your childhood. The best of the grown-up versions are highly intricate works of art, designed to be coloured and kept. For The Little Books of Colouring: Peace in Your Pocket, I approached Amber Anderson, a brilliantly talented illustrator from London, as we fell in love with the sophistication and beauty of her illustrations, most of which are inspired by the natural world. We wanted the books to be portable, to fit in a handbag or on a bedside table without compromising any of the design or production quality.

I think part of the appeal is that colouring acts as a kind of digital detox. Most of us spend the majority of our days in front of screens of one type or another, constantly refreshing and flicking between devices. But, even though it’s proven to increase our anxiety levels, going cold turkey on tech can be really difficult. It creeps into all areas of our life. We’ve all heard about the benefits of mindfulness, but it can be quite difficult to get your head round exactly what that means in practice. Activities like colouring are really helpful in encouraging busy minds to focus and draw attention. Colouring in an illustration is sufficiently distracting and allows you to simultaneously focus and switch off from the stresses of every day. And, it’s surprisingly satisfying, too.

colouring for adults

There is very little opportunity to do something creative and to feel that sense of satisfaction that comes from producing something of real beauty. And people are proud of the designs they are creating and sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest. There are even colouring groups, like knitting circles, where people meet up and colour. There’s a nostalgia to it. I remember that quiet focus I felt when I was in school surrounded by paper, pencils, some pipe cleaners and maybe a pot of glitter if there was any left after you spilt it on the floor trying to open it. Colouring books have become an accepted way to replicate that feeling for grown ups, and I wholeheartedly approve.

Jane Sturrock is Non-Fiction Editorial Director at Quercus Books. The Little Book of Colouring series is available to buy online here.

Monogram Mania

The height all things chic must surely be the monogram, I have always lusted after monograms. Obviously the traditional Maison Goyard hand-lettered steamer trunk is the ultimate coup. The only Louis Vuitton I find that catch my eye are older pieces which have faded and worn with personalised bright stripes and letters of their owners – courtesy of their Mon Monogram which is also hand-painted, (somewhat amusingly!) over LV’s own monogram. Vuitton have in fact been celebrating their monogram for years; culminating in the recent collaborative project ‘The Icon and the Iconclasts’ which invites artists to interpret the famous motifs for themselves.

louis vuitton iconoclasts

goyard trunks

Of course, in the case of these trunk-makers, the self-branding came about from the purely practical requirement of their customers being able to recognise one’s luggage when travelling, as opposed to some kind of measure of chicness! But lets face it, those travelling on steamers and railways in those days were already heralding their status and chicness just by being there in the first place – monogrammed or not.

The irony of a monogram feeling so luxurious to me still now – when essentially the house monograms of the Maisons (Chanel’s C’s, Gucci’s G’s and LV’s LV’s of course) – are the most copied and faked of all time does not escape me, but it’s not their monograms that I aspire to, it’s mine. My very own initials. I share those of the Queen which I enjoy, they fit together so perfectly. I am in little love with my own initials, its true. Maybe EJR is the new LV? Maybe he was so in love with his own initials this is how it all started… (Actually his son George created it in his honour, meh).

vuitton trunks

louis vuitton monogram

vuitton monogram

When I was younger, my parents gave me a Samsonite vanity case with my own initials that I loved – a classic 80’s grey with mint green trim, Ooh La La! I somewhat ludicrously toted it about on various holidays, mostly in North Devon but occasionally it got to go on an aeroplane. It was filled with Kylie and MJ cassettes, Anastasia books and that yellow Sony Walkman. Vanity cases, again, such a chic notion, but as my make-up consists of an Eyeko mascara, Chanel eyeliner palette, Lucas Paw Paw, and a Laura Mercier eye base – a case it does not fill. I always fantasise about being the kind of woman who would travel with a vanity case, or a steamer trunk for that matter. Truth is, I am just not. I’m always hauling scripts and 73 Apple products plus their chargers plus adapters, so alas chic traveller – No. Hateful airline ‘you can only have one bag’ lopsided sweaty back-achey techno traveller – Yes.

Whilst the aim of a personalised Goyard steamer trunk, and or becoming the kind of woman who travels with a vanity case are life dreams conceivably impossible to achieve, I have found some very pleasing alternatives to the monogrammatic fantasy. Little ideas to make your personal life feel a little more chic, in the face of the real life adversity of actually having to do quite a lot of work.

rae feather bagsrae feather

Via Jean Queen Donna Ida’s fabulous Instagram I came across British brand Rae Feather , which ties together two of my very favourite chic things – French baskets and Monograms. Available in three sizes and strap lengths {and a clutch purse, which has been out of stock for months sadly} these baskets are an affordable way to commence this initialled life dream. Baskets are just brilliant and I’ve waxed lyrical about them before. You can chuck everything in and feel like you are tripping around the Riviera instead of carrying parsley, sweet potatoes and CoYo home from the supermarket. Whilst I do appreciate £120 for a basket which is available for around £20 in plain reality, please do appreciate that someone is taking the time to sit and paint, by hand, you on to it. It takes time, so appreciate the artisan. Plus I am comparing this as a solution to a £10,000 + steamer trunk so, you know…

Of course pyjamas are another traditionally popular piece to personalise. Ever since I saw Brigitte Bardot in A Very Private Affair I knew two things for absolute. A. I never want to be a film star. B. I want to wear proper pyjamas.

bardot pyjamas

silk pyjamas

I find pyjama buying as tricksy as bikini buying. The top and bottom halves of my body seem, according to pretty much all retailers, to belong to totally different women. Buying anything for your bust and bottom at the same time is surely one of the worst ideas in all retail history?

Whilst badly-sized swimwear has a much more widespread effect as it is mostly worn in a public space. Coloured Lycra creeping upwards, or sagging away from the body; the idea of badly-fitting pyjamas is almost more uncomfortable for me. They are a luxury item; to be enjoyed solo as one potters around one’s abode, making watching CSI Miami repeats or dusting the books feel glamorous. If you subscribe to wearing any pyjamas at all, you subscribe to letting in a little bit of chic, otherwise you’d just wear a hideously misshapen and weirdly grey t-shirt with a tea stain down it to bed – you know I’m right.

poplin pyjamas

Breakfast at Tiffanys Pyjamas

poplins monogram

Audrey’s slumber kit in Breakfast At Tiffanys is of course legendary. Sleeping eyes are always a must, and earplugs perpetually fall out anyway so why on earth should they not in fact be tasselled? The nightshirt championed here proffers an equally fancy bed wear option, although the practicality of actually sleeping as the fabric python suffocates me slowly through the night terrifies me into avoiding them.

I love Poplin’s offer of simple, yet classic luxury loungewear, and they employ Hand & Lock, a London embroidery institution since the 1700’s, to hand embroider their PJs with your initials. Now if the idea of this luxury excess in order to eat a bar of Green and Black in front of Orange is the New Black seems wild, then you can always wear them outside of course, to increase that price-per-wear value.

pyjamas fashion week

olivia von halle

Since about 2012, it has been touted by The Fashion Industry as 100% acceptable, nay chic, to wear your PJs in the day. Street style snappers at Fashion Weeks across the globe have captured the fash pack sporting the masculine silky separates worn with classic staples, as well as worn in full two-piece printed glory. I recommend Olivia von Halle’s beautiful prints for this, as well as faux fur fox Shrimps’ collaboration with Poplin. Both of which can, of course, be monogrammed…

Five Minute Therapist

It’s fair to say that not everyone gets chance to access their own personal facialist, but yes, we’re pretty good to you here at RIH. Anti-ageing queries or acne concerns? Puffy eyes or fine lines? Each month, we give you the chance to put your questions to super facialist and skincare expert Antonia Burrell…

skincare routine

I’m late to the party with adopting a skincare routine, but now cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day. I find the whole serum thing really confusing though – do I honestly need one? How are they different to moisturisers and what do they actually do? When should I use one? They seem to be pretty expensive but I don’t want to have to spend loads. I’m 28 and have combination skin with dry patches from time to time.

Serums are very targeted treatments designed to meet a whole host of skin needs – this might be anti-ageing, pigmentation or fine lines, for example. The use of serums really depends on your individual skincare needs; they are very different to moisturisers in that they don’t moisturise the skin as such, they just treat any concerns you have. Serums are usually a little pricier as they have a much higher concentration of ingredients, making them very potent but highly effective!


For dry/combination skin I recommend using a balancing serum to gently bring the skin back to its natural equilibrium. Plant-based formulations that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants are a great place to start, and always look for products that contain vitamins A, C & E. Over 90% of the signs of ageing are caused by free radical damage, so it’s important to incorporate as many topical anti-oxidants into your body (inside and out) as possible. Start thinking about your anti-ageing regime now and your skin will thank you for it later!

Particular ingredients I would recommend for dry/combination skin include Wild Carrot Root as it’s rich in vitamin A which helps to heal dry skin whilst stimulating collagen renewal. Cedarwood is also great for combination skin as it is a natural astringent for oily skin conditions. Palma Rosa oil is also a natural oil balancer which also works to hydrate and calm. I also love Sea Buckthorn as it’s a very rich source of vitamins A and E, carotenes and flavonoids and is second only to Rosehips when it comes to vitamin C content. It is also rich in several vitamins and minerals. Sea-buckthorn oil promotes skin repair and is one of the most beneficial oils for ageing skin.

Many people who suffer with oily skin tend to steer clear of using natural oils in skincare for fear of making it worse, when in fact it’s what the skin needs. The truth about oil lies within the most basic principle of chemistry – like dissolves like. Oil dissolves oil so by using the right oils you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively. What’s more, beneficial oils extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit can replace dirty oil build-up leaving skin healed, nourished and protected and you with clear, glowing skin that is free of imperfections.

I don’t recommend using a serum all the time, and only use sparingly underneath your moisturiser to address any specific concerns you have. If you do suffer with severe dry patches I recommend focusing more on finding a good hydrating moisturiser rather than a serum.

beackstage skincare serums

Have a question you’d like to put to Antonia? Pop your details below and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the answer to your query in a future edition of Five Minute Therapist! What are you waiting for – not everyone gets access to an A-List facialist just like that!

Don’t Interrupt!

I’m a stickler for good table manners. I can’t bear it when people don’t pick up their feet. And finger drumming really gets my goat. I have, I am aware, multiple bêtes noires; but by far the most unpleasant “bad habit” in my book is interrupting. As bad behaviour goes, it’s one of the most common and also the most damaging to interpersonal relationships, but luckily, it’s also one that’s relatively easy to correct.


Interrupting during a conversation takes two main forms: cutting someone off to make one’s own point and finishing someone’s sentence for them. Both drive me mad. The former simply shows a lack of respect for the other person, their right to express themselves, and what they have to communicate. It says, “What I want to say is more important and/or interesting than what you are already in the middle of saying, and frankly, I don’t much care about what you’re trying to tell me”. The latter annoys me because I want to be allowed to express my opinions in my own specifically chosen words. When someone cuts me off and finishes my sentence for me, they almost never say exactly what I was going to say, so I feel like my point is misrepresented and I’m not being fully “heard”. I regularly want to shout “I’m not running out of steam and I don’t need help to make my point; am I just not speaking quickly enough for your liking?” but of course, I’m British, so I just seethe silently instead…

Being regularly interrupted makes the “interuptee” feel unheard, frustrated, disrespected – none of which helps build a relationship with another person, which, ironically, is often the point of having a conversation in the first place. I don’t know anyone who enjoys being interrupted… which is odd since we are almost all both victims and perpetrators of this destructive conversational habit.


So, what happens when you’re the interrupter? In addition to the message you’re sending the person you’re talking to, you’re not doing yourself any favours either. How stressful is it to be responsible for both sides of a conversation – both your own and the end of every sentence your partner tries to get out? How tense do you get when, instead of listening and then responding, you’re formulating your reply to your friend as they’re talking so that you can start making it even before they’ve finished? How often do you finish someone’s sentence only for them to say, “Well, no, that’s not where I was going with that”?

Curbing the urge to interrupt – to butt in with my idea or push people to make their point quicker – is something I’ve been working on for a while now, and I have to say the benefits are both powerful and immediate. When I’m not thinking ahead to my turn to speak, I can fully listen to friends, right to the end of their sentence or story – which lets me relax and makes them feel unrushed and heard – which makes them relax too. Since I’ve heard their full point in their own words, my replies are more pertinent and structured; which makes for a richer conversation.


It’s no fun being interrupted, but short of actually calling someone out on their bad habit, there’s not much you can do about it. But in a spirit of being the change you want to see in the world, you can work on your own tendency to interrupt, and it really is win-win. The less you do it, the better your conversations and, as everyone relaxes and gets used to being fully heard, the less likely it is that you yourself will be interrupted. So, next time you’re chatting to friends, mentally note how often you start talking before others have really finished. The first step in changing a habit is to acknowledge it – and when you do start noticing, I bet you’ll shock yourself. And when you start to stop yourself and force yourself to listen patiently, you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on both the people around you and on your own stress levels and enjoyment of the conversation!

Five Minute Therapist

It’s fair to say that not everyone gets chance to access their own personal facialist, but yes, we’re pretty good to you here at RIH. Anti-ageing queries or acne concerns? Puffy eyes or fine lines? Each month, we give you the chance to put your questions to super facialist and skincare expert Antonia Burrell

My skin is generally pretty good but at that time of the month I tend to get the worst breakouts. Hormonal spots seem to be so hard to get rid of – never mind prevent! Have you got any tips for what I can do about these as it’s actually really annoying and distressing.


Spots and blemishes brought on by our hormones are very difficult to manage, as our menstruation cycle is a natural occurrence within our bodies that we’re unable to change! Although we’re lead to believe that spots appearing during this time are caused our period, these spots are in fact caused by ovulation. The truth is, spots actually develop under our skin for a lot longer than we think, so spots caused by ovulation only actually become visible a couple of weeks later during our period – hence the confusion!

During ovulation our bodies produce hormones including testosterone which stimulates the production of sebum on our skin, blocking pores and promoting the onset of breakouts. An increase in our core temperature also means we are more likely to sweat, so the key here is deep cleansing to remove excess sweat, sebum and build up. A good cleansing routine around the time of ovulation will work wonders – I recommend double cleansing morning and night for good measure.


It’s also worth stepping up your exfoliation routine around this time to gently buff away dead skin cells, and following with a deep cleansing mask. Keeping your hands clean is also important to prevent grime and build up spreading to your face, so wash your hands often or use some antibacterial gel or wipes.

Some women can just tell, but if you’re unsure as to when you’re ovulating I recommend using a period tracker app to help you monitor your cycle. You can get some good ones for free on the App Store, such as P Tracker Lite.


Have a question you’d like to put to Antonia? Pop your details below and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the answer to your query in a future edition of Five Minute Therapist! What are you waiting for – not everyone gets access to an A-List facialist just like that!

Don’t Wait

Pearl S. Buck is one of those writers that I keep meaning to read and never quite get around to. My mother raves about East Wind: West Wind, and friends sing her praises but I regularly forget her while browsing Amazon. So, her name remains on my list of books and authors to investigate, which is a sorry state of affairs given that it is one of this great lady’s pearls of wisdom that I consistently invoke when I’m feeling unmotivated and just can’t be bothered.

pearl s buck

The words of the prolific writer, Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winner, and political activist that never fail to get me off the sofa are:

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that.
Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”

Even as I write this, I have Pearl to thank – I didn’t much feel like writing today, but I heard her words ringing in my head as I put on the kettle this morning and so went to set up my laptop.

latop productivity

The thing is, I love writing. And I’m guessing Pearl did too. But it sounds like she, like me, often found herself not “in the mood” to sit and type. At least not at first – once I’m here and the old Earl Grey is kicking in, I am in “flow” and totally absorbed in what I’m doing; my mood changes. But I know that if I waited for my mood to change in order to start I would wait all day.

The same is true when I look at my to-do list. I don’t much feel like doing any of it: find a place to get watch repaired; complete tax declaration; organise my computer files. Hard to get excited about these tasks when the box set of season 2 of 24 beckons to me from the other side of the sitting room (yes, I know, I’m way behind but I’ve only recently discovered the joys of the show having resisted for years thinking oh-so-wrongly that I wouldn’t like it). But I know that if I wait to be in the mood to look for a good jeweller to fix my watch, I risk turning up late for every appointment I make for the foreseeable future. So, I think of Pearl and get on with the job in hand.


It’s a little like the famous “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Pearl’s nugget of wisdom is “feel no motivation whatsoever and do it anyway”. I like the way she doesn’t even suggest you try to motivate yourself or pretend to be inspired. It’s a gloriously down-to-earth and brutally honest way of accepting that sometimes we just can’t wait to feel ready before we have to get stuck in.

I have found ways to help myself, of course, as I work towards achieving Pearl-esque productivity levels. I operate a rewards scheme: tick three things off the to-do list and you can have a cup of tea and one hour of the long-suffering Jack Bauer; or, return three phone calls and then you can have a piece of cake. I also break tasks down: this morning, I’ll pull out all the necessary documents for the tax declaration, this afternoon I’ll do the calculations, tomorrow morning, I’ll do the online return.


It also helps to sweeten the deal: get onto the yoga mat for half an hour, but put the radio on while doing so; have an old episode of Sherlock on the TV while clearing out a cupboard. Pearl’s discipline mixed with Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar is a force to be reckoned with.

Taking Stock

The benefit of regular clear-outs is a fact universally acknowledged. Or at least it is in my house. My husband was stunned by the joy I felt when they installed massive clothing donation bins at the entrance to the metro nearest our flat; and I challenge anyone not to feel freer, lighter and more in control after taking a bag load of I’ll-never-read-these-again books to Oxfam.


But what about moving the stock-take from the back of your closet into your mind and soul? When it comes to having a good sort-out, there are many areas of our lives that would benefit from a little light dusting and polishing, not just the kitchen cupboards. Coaching offers a wealth of great tools to do just that – take stock of your life and see where your figurative house needs to be put in order. While it is always more helpful to do such exercises with a qualified coach, it is also possible to use them on your own and glean some helpful insights.

The Wheel of Life is a simple way to identify the various major “bits” of your life, assess your satisfaction with them, and start coming up with a plan to raise that satisfaction level.

The Wheel of Life aka Not so Trivial Pursuits

Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide it into wedges like the pies in a game of Trivial Pursuits (number of wedges is your choice – starting with six is pretty manageable). Assign a theme to each wedge. Themes are areas of your life that you wish to take a look at – or indeed, they can just be areas that spring to mind. In this exercise, your subconscious is a good guide.

taking stock

A few examples: one wedge might be “family”, which for some might mean “me, my partner and our kids” but for other people might mean “parents, grandparents, siblings” – and those people might choose to put “partner/love” and “children” into separate wedges on their own. What you mean by each of your themes is your business, as long as you are clear about how you load the word you choose. Other wedges might be “money”, “leisure”, “health”, “career”, “spirit”… it’s a very personal choice.

On your marks…

Once you have your themes, take some time to consider each one and to rate your satisfaction with this part of your life from 1 to 10 – draw lines in each wedge so that 1 is a line near the interior of the circle, and 10 is the further edge. Like so:

wheel of life

You’ll probably end up with a very bumpy wheel!

Get set…

The next step within a coaching session would be to discuss each area and the mark attributed to it, and to choose one or two to work on. On your own, you can take your time to look at each one and think about what makes your health an 8 but your love life a 4 – talking to a friend can also help. Then, taking each one in turn, think about what it would take to turn that 4 into 5. Consider specifics: spending more time with your other half? Eating dinner at the table rather than in front of the TV? A monthly date night? A daily lunchtime phone call? More cuddling? What would it take to bump it up to a 6? And then a 7…


The idea isn’t to go from a 2 to a 10 in two weeks flat, but to identify areas for change and improvement that will eventually harmonise the levels of satisfaction across all your wedges. A wheel with lumps and bumps cannot roll. But the challenge of trying to turn a career “3” into a 10 can simply be paralysing. Concentrate on the areas that naturally attract your attention and list small, actionable changes.

And Go!

Once you have some action ideas, consider which you can actually put in place, and, crucially, which you want to put in place. It’s no good choosing “go for a weekly run” if you have absolutely no desire to go running. Yes, it might bump your “body image” score up to a 7, but your “time for fun” score might take a hit. I advise kicking off just one action per week and taking a moment at the end of each week to see what’s working for you.


Take your time. Your Wheel of Life is ever-changing. Even if you managed to take all your wedges up to a perfect 10, at some point you might decide to buy a house, move abroad or have a baby, and new wedges will appear for you to work on. The idea isn’t to strive for a perfect circle, but to use the exercise to see where your pain points are, and what you can do about them.

One last thing…

Don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate in the wedges that are looking pretty damn good. If your “friendship” wedge is a healthy 9, why not make a list of all you’re grateful for in your relationships? If your “work” wedge is flying high, why not acknowledge that by taking in some Friday afternoon pastries for your charming colleagues? Work on the low numbers, enjoy the success of the high ones.