Avon in Paris

It’s time for my annual April in Paris post. With France on the list of countries to avoid, I wonder how long it will be before we’re comfortable traveling anywhere again…..even to the drugstore to buy a new lipstick. 

During the 1940-50’s women were advised to buy a new lipstick to cheer themselves up, back when a tube of Max Factor could be had for cheap at the five and dime. Women were encouraged to keep buying lipstick during the war years to boost the morale of the soldiers by adding lipstick covered kisses to their letters to the front. Victory Red was popular, and applying it like a movie star was truly a glamorous thing.

Oh la la! The prices!

And so I took their advice and bought one….from Avon….because sometimes you just have to do something frivolous, like buy lipstick during a pandemic. 

I found the booklets hanging on my front door, the way they have shown up faithfully over the past year, even though I haven’t ordered anything in ages. Think of the paper involved in distributing all those campaigns. I’m surprised they still print them, but perhaps the demographic they cater to prefers paper.  And yes, if you don’t have an Avon lady, there’s a website with a digital catalog online.

When I did place an order, it wasn’t usually for makeup, but a musical church addition for my Christmas village, or a plaid scarf for gifting. Their 99 cent lip balms made nice stocking stuffers too.    

Plaid always cheers me up…

Avon has been around forever – 135 years – and the history of the Avon company is a fascinating one. It was founded in 1886 by David McConnell, a travelling book salesman who realized that women were more interested in his free fragrance samples than in the books. His was one of the first companies to hire women as sales representatives, giving them the opportunity to earn their own income. They started selling makeup in the 1920’s during the flapper years. Today they have sales of 5.5 billion worldwide with over 6 million representatives, and are the fourteenth largest beauty company.

Here’s a vintage 1956 commercial with their “Avon calling” signature slogan.

But Avon sells so much more than beauty products now.

I love the pearl necklace – always a classic choice.

As well as jewelry and gift items, they have branched into clothing, candles, aromatherapy and lately even disinfectants and household cleaning supplies. 

This past winter they had a very stylish Parisian theme.

Who wouldn’t love a Parisian holiday during a pandemic?

Now I’m a sucker for anything French, but I resisted…..the prices – yikes!

What a description – you’d better be purring with delight at that price.

I’m a sucker for cats too – she even has a French name – Yvette – so classy. It reminds me of the time my little brother gave us long black plastic cats filled with bubble bath for Christmas. Although I’m sure he picked them out at the drugstore, they must have appealed to him as a little kid. (He also bought us Charlie one year, a scent I hated and re-gifted to a more appreciative room-mate). 

This would make the purrfect present for someone travelling to France.

While I didn’t buy anything Parisian, I remain appreciative of the marketing campaign – they had me at vintage charm and romance.

Avon has been around for ever.  Even our quiet country road had an Avon lady back in the 1970’s. I remember ordering the Clear Skin line, although my makeup then consisted of Cover Girl and Maybelline.   Avon books have been a staple of many of my workplace staff-rooms in the past, even the pharmacies with extensive cosmetic departments and beauty boutiques. Someone was always selling Avon.  

But my, those prices have increased substantially. In the Christmas campaign, there was a perfume listed for $1300 in a crystal-encrusted decanter. There was a tester patch and while it was nice, you would expect nice at that price.  I often wonder who buys all those fragrances, when so many places have a no-scent policy, but then I haven’t worn perfume in years.

Even Avon’s popular Anew line of anti-aging creams is a bit pricey.  It does sometimes seem the more companies charge for these things, the better they sell (the Kardashian effect). The only high-end face cream I use is Night Repair, a fancy serum I buy faithfully twice a year, timed with their gift with purchase. (usually nothing I can use but I give them away) After 35 years, I figure Estee Lauder should be paying me by now.  I can’t credit my not-too-bad-for-my-age skin to the wonders of a miracle cream however, as being cursed with fair Celtic genes, I could never tolerate the sun.  A jar of $20 LaRoche Posay moisturizer for sensitive skin lasts me a whole year.          

Pandemic or not, I don’t wear much makeup anymore either, and what’s the point of lipstick when you’re wearing a mask.  Lipstick sales must have fallen dramatically over the past year. Still in a fit of optimism one day, I placed an Avon order for a lip balm crayon thing with just a hint of color.  L’Oreal discontinued the shade of lip-gloss I had worn for years – don’t you hate it when they do that?

It was delivered to my front doorstep in the familiar white bag with the pink logo, although my friendly Avon lady did not come in for a visit like she normally would, neither of us having been vaccinated. So much more civilized than the rushed grumpy Purolator guy who once tossed my Sephora order behind a geranium pot where the $24 Tarte lipstick promptly melted in the ninety-degree heat.

Was I pleased with my purchase?

Doesn’t she look like a hippy?

 Yes! It was a nice light shade (Loving Life – the rest were too dark and I’ll leave the red to younger faces) and texture, and not too bad a price for the size. They even threw in a free lip liner (the mystery gift). Now, I just need someplace to wear it, for what would an aspiring Frenchwoman be without her lipstick?  Hoping for better days ahead.

PS. Despite the creative marketing campaign, both the Eiffel Tower and Yvette are now discounted in the latest Bargain Booklet – I guess no one was in the mood for Paris – another travel-related casualty of the pandemic…

Summer Beauty List

 “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  (Henry James)          

        Truer words were never spoken.   Summer afternoons can be beautiful but also extremely hot, making this one of the most difficult times of the year to look your best.    It’s hard to look fresh when the temperature soars to 40 C day after day and the heat and humidity have wrecked havoc on your face and hair.    So read on for a list of products that will help keep you looking as cool as a cucumber.   

not your average beauty review…

Rosewater facial spray

Rosewater Facial Mist

          A hydrating facial mist is a refreshing tonic for sun parched skin – the added antioxidant vitamin E and subtle scent of rosewater can make any dry complexion feel renewed.   I buy The Body Shop version for around $20, (watch for 40% off coupons online), but Garnier has recently released one as well which is cheaper at $9.   Their Soothing Facial Mist with Rosewater promises to refresh, sooth and hydrate, but I found the Body Shop version had a nicer smell.    I keep my bottle in the fridge for an added cooling sensation.  

Lavender mist spray 

Lavender Body Spray

       I bought this  a few years ago at a gift shop because it had such a lovely smell but many lavender sprays can smell synthetic.   To avoid this you can make your own Lavender water by adding lavender oil to a mixture of water and alcohol (check for recipes online).    Keep in the fridge for maximum cooling effect.   Lavender is calming if you are having a stressful day and is also thought to keep mosquitoes away…….you will smell too lovely to bite.  


 Blotting Papers

       If you have oily skin or an oily T-zone area this is your new best friend for summer.   Clean and Clear makes a great one but I have also bought the generic brands.    Tuck a few of these tissue thin squares in your purse to take the shine off.    A little glow is okay, an oily sheen is not. 



      If the rest of you is glowing a little too much and you need extra protection, this is a great product to try.   Containing a higher strength aluminum chloride it is designed to be applied at night to completely dry skin and can last up to five days.    A maintenance schedule of once or twice a week keeps you smelling fresh on even the hottest days.   At $21 a bottle it isn’t cheap but a small bottle lasts a long time.   It can cause skin irritation especially if the skin is not completely dry or you apply too much.    Sometimes I have to wipe it off after a few hours but it still works well.    It is similar to Drysol but I find it less irritating.   (Note: due to conflicting medical concerns about aluminum I only use this during the hottest weeks of the summer when I know I will be outdoors a lot, not year round).  

Nail Polish

Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Polish

        I don’t understand the whole mani-pedi obsession.   I’d rather have something tangible for my $40, and don’t get why women waste money on something they could do themselves with a cheap bottle of nail polish.  Ladies, put that money into your travel/house/retirement fund.    The last time I had a pedicure (a Christmas spa gift certificate I never would have bought myself), the nail polish had smeared by the time I made it to the heated pool area, (by far the best part of the day was a couple of hours poolside with a book), and the free bottle of nail polish ended up being re-gifted.   But I do like my feet to look nice in sandal season, and this is the product I swear by.   I would take this stuff to a deserted island, but I wouldn’t have to because it does NOT chip…..ever!   No touch-ups or smearing.   Plus it comes in yummy colors like watermelon and fuchsia.   While I wouldn’t say it dries instantly, it does dry quickly and at around $7 a bottle (on sale at the drugstore this week for $4 so I stocked up), my DIY pedi is good for a month.   Because we’re heading to the beach and who doesn’t want their feet to look beach-worthy.         

sunscreen face

 Sunscreen for the Face

         We all know the drill……sunscreen is the best anti-aging agent ever….as long as you use it.    I have struggled for years to find the perfect sunscreen for my pale sensitive face – non-greasy, hypoallergenic, unscented etc.    Every year I try a new crop of the latest and greatest.   This years specimens include these two by Neutrogena.    The Ultra-Sheer Water Light lotion is a chemical sunscreen with a non-greasy base – the non-greasy feature is always high on my list.   It can be worn under makeup.   The Helioplex sunscreen blocks both A and B rays.   It was light weight as promised but made my eyes water so I couldn’t read my beach book.   As I often have allergic reactions to chemical sunscreens I usually have to resort to a physical sunscreen like zinc or titanium oxide but it’s hard to find one that isn’t thick, sticky or pasty white.  The refined micronized particles in the Sheer Zinc Face Mineral protection make it less so, but I still ended up a whiter shade of pale.   I wish I could find a mineral sunscreen for the face you could spray on.   Is that too much to ask for?    Oil of Olay has recently come out with a line of Whipped moisturizers with sunscreen which promise to be light and non-greasy but they are scented and thus out for me.   The elusive search continues…..time to get the parasol out.   



 Sunscreen for the Body

        I have better luck with Helioplex containing products for the body.   Neutrogena has an Ultra-Sheer body mist that sprays on great and is relatively non-greasy if you are at the beach or poolside, although I wouldn’t wear it otherwise.   I have used this for several years.   And this year I tested their new water gel product Hydro Boost which was good, not too sticky at all.    It also contains hyaluronic acid as a moisturizer.   All these products are water-resistant which is a useful feature when you are at the beach or poolside, but I find they adhere so well to your skin that you really have to scrub at night to remove them…..so you might as well use a nice smelling soap!    


Summer Soaps

         On the hottest days, using an orange or citrusy soap in the shower can be an invigorating pick me up.    In the evening, a nice floral scented soap in a cool bath can be a calming wind-down to a busy day.  


Summerhill – Crabtree and Evelyn

 Summerhill by Crabtree and Evelyn is a lovely floral scent which has been a favorite of mine for years.   I use the bath gel and soap and it makes me think of summer even in the wintertime, plus the packaging is so pretty.  

Rose perfume Crabtree and Evelyn

When I ran out of Summerhill room spray I improvised and used their Rosewater perfume.   It’s very concentrated so one spritz will have your house smelling as lovely as entering a Crabtree and Evelyn store.   A great way to bring the roses inside!

Lilac Soap

        I also switch out my hand soaps for summery scents.    Winners is a great place to pick up great hand soaps at cheap prices.    This lilac scented one smells divine, like the month of May all year round.    


Lavender is another great summer scent.   Tuck a few lavender sachets under a pillow for sweet dreams. 

hair jewelry

 Hair Accessories

          Arm bracelets can do double duty as hair accessories on hot days.  What a great excuse to put your hair up and who doesn’t feel instantly cooler with a ponytail or chic bun.    Bargains can be found at the dollar and accessory stores – cheap summer fun.

white wicker purse

Vintage Purse

      Dump the big purse for a small vintage bag.    Who wants to lug around an oversize purse in the summer, it just makes you feel hotter and weighed down.    So ditch the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink shoulder bag for a small purse.    This vintage wicker number has a satisfying click and is so chic so you can pretend you are Audrey Hepburn going to a Simply White Dinner (that post simply did not get enough love).     

Quote of the Day:   “What dreadful hot weather we have!  It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.”  (Jane Austen)

Postscript:  This is my first foray into beauty previews.    No financial compensation was involved in this post, but if any of these products fail to keep you cool in the dog days of summer then there’s always this.   

dog swimming  

Stay tuned for the Beach Book Blog next week.