Author Archives: GemmaBurgess

On… stupid ol’ sunshine

Sunshine makes me anxious.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a monster. I love vacations. I love that bursting tingly feeling when you dive into a cold swimming pool before breakfast. I love bobbing in the sea, staring up at the sky, for very long periods of time. I love pastel sunsets and matching cocktails. I love the whole thing. But when my vacation is over, I want hot weather to be over, too.

My antipathy for sunshine is now at the point where, on a rare grey NYC August day, I feel a delicious sense of relief, and I think to myself, oh I can’t wait for winter.

I hate squinting and sweating. I hate feeling that I should be outside ‘enjoying’ the sunshine when I want to be inside, writing or eating or talking or drinking or sleeping. I hate that my skin is always paper-dry from chlorine and excessive SPF. I hate hog-tying my tiny translucent red-headed children to douse them in excessive SPF, too. I hate that the air never feels crisp, unless you’re in air-con, and then it feels fake-crisp. I hate not being able to wear leather pants. And tweed jackets and fake fur and tight jeans and boots and dark lipstick. I hate getting into cars and enduring that thick, hot airlessness until the aircon kicks in. I hate not being able to wear my beloved eleven-year-old eyeglasses because I have to wear contacts because I have to wear sunglasses because of the SUN and I don’t have prescription sunglasses because who has the time because one day we’ll all be dead probably soon because a fascist madman is in charge and I hate wondering if this summer is the summer that will make me finally get Botox because my face officially turned into Miracle Max even though I really don’t want Botox and frowning is super fucking important to me SEE I HAVE ANXIETY ABOUT IT ALL.

But let’s not be self-indulgent!

The point is that I can’t control sunshine. I can’t control the seasons. The only part of any of this that I can do anything about right now is dry skin. And so can you. Even if you love summer. That means moisturizing so heavily and so frequently that you could sit on your bathroom floor tiles and slide around, pinging off the walls like a pinball for hours.

In order for moisturizer to work, you need to exfoliate first, get rid of the dry, dull old skin. Now: unless it is the most joyful part of your day and the only reason you get up in the morning, please don’t use a liquid or cream body exfoliator. It is literally money down the drain. (The exception is Bliss Hot Salt Scrub. It is patented magic and warms up and tingles on your epidermis in the most delightful way. It also has oily unguents that moisturize while you scrub. It’s soul-cheering to use in the bath when it’s snowing outside. But it is not snowing outside right now. It is sunny. Sigh.) Be French, and use a gant de toilette, or be Korean, and use a scratchy towel thing, with any old shower gel or soap. (I used to use almond oil, but then it kept spilling everywhere and really annoyed me, so I stopped.)


This is the Korean scratchy towel thing. Look how happy she is! That is a woman who knows the joy of soft skin.


After your morning shower, apply this lovely L’Occitane moisturizer to your whole entire body. It’s shea butter. (I assume shea butter is made with milk from some kind of really hydrated cow in the land of Shea, yes?)

Because it’s summer, you can dance around naked for a while while it soaks in. (Darn, I forgot that you can’t really dance around naked for long in winter. Maybe summer DOES have some positives. Hmm.)


On your face, apply some hyaluronic acid and wait a few minutes, then apply your SPF. I don’t know how hyaluronic acid works and I don’t care enough to get a chemistry degree and find out, but I believe scientists describe hyaluronic acid as “kind of like a turbo hydration watery nothing that is also EVERYTHING?” I’ve been using that insanely cheap Ordinaries one because well, it seems just as good as the others (though on the whole I have a ‘the fuck am I supposed to do with SQUALENE?’ reaction to The Ordinaries no-frills skin brand). Once your SPF soaks in, apply whatever make-up blows your skirt up today, and get out there and kick some ass. And walk on the shady side of the street.


Then at night, things get serious. Clean your face. Aderma Oat Milk Soap Free Soothing Cleansing Gel is my favorite right now. I have used it on-and-off for years. I get bored of it and flirt with other cleansers, but I always come back to it. It forgives me because it has low self-esteem. I dry my face with a tiny white cotton face towel that I only use once before throwing in the washing basket. I bought a stack of them a year or so ago because eh, something about bacteria. It makes me feel fantastically profligate. Which is so tragic.

Then shower and exfoliate again, you filthy animal.


Then apply a little Cerave SA Lotion to your whole body (but not your face). The salicylic acid helps with clogged sweaty pores, inflammation, blah blah ask a dermatologist or Allure if you need to know everything so much. As you stand there in your naked glory, waiting for the Cerave to soak in, you can contemplate the meaning of life and/or the relative symmetry of your boobs while smearing something unguenty all over your face.


This Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask stuff is quite the little charmer. It’s a GIANT pot, and it’s pretty cheap. Gloop on a nice mask of it a couple of times a week and go to sleep. It feels sort of hot and sparky. You’ll know what I mean when you do it. You’ll wake with your skin all sticky and plump. Normally waking up sticky and plump would freak me the fuck out, but trust me, it’s a good thing.



Other nights, I use La Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche, which has replaced my beloved Korres – for the moment – as my moisturizer under dear old Yu-Be. I like to try new moisturizers now and again. It keeps my old favorites on their toes. Only Yu-Be is irreplaceable. It’s the salt of skin care: boring, but makes everything else better. Sometimes you don’t even know how much better it makes things until you go without for a while and then go back to it and say ‘SALT! Yes. I like you.’


THEN, because your Cerave stuff is all soaked in to your limbs by now, apply a layer of – yup – Yu-Be Body. It’s yellow and weird, like the face cream, but nothing else compares for moisturizing dryer-than-dry skin. Then go to bed. Unless you are tired and bored of everything. Then skip all of the above steps and go and have a drink with your best friends, watching a beautiful summer sunset, because that will make you feel better than any moisturizer ever could. I love sunset. (Darn, that’s TWO things I like about summer. Wait I also like sunrise. THREE. Three things that I like about summer. Okay, let’s just forget the whole thing.)







On… Friends From College

This show is making me laugh an unreasonable amount. It’s seriously clever and witty and relatable and so well-written and surprising and oh, just go watch it. Weirdly, the reviews are kind of scathing. I don’t understand why. It’s a dark, hilarious take on the dangers of nostalgia and the joys of those insanely close college friendships that nothing else can ever replace… Maybe the critics had an anti-elitist thing, because it’s about and by a bunch of Harvard graduates? I don’t know. Who cares. I liked it. If you liked The Big Chill and St Elmos Fire and Old School and all Richard Linklater movies and um I can’t think of any more right now, you’ll like this.

PS Also: the soundtrack is outstanding.

On… Instagram

I like Instagram. These are the random accounts that I follow just because they make me really, really happy. They are little gifts that keep on giving.


FullSizeRender-2 2 @hk_publictoilets - this one is self-explanatory, oui? I find it extremely comforting to see that the toilets of my home city have not really changed over the years.


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@laurakitty- a fashion historian who posts vintage magazine ads and delicious clips like this and this and this.

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@gianlucavacchi - I don’t quite know who this dude is, but from what I can figure out he’s a very buff, tattooed, 60-something millionaire gay Italian DJ socialite with 10 million followers (10 MILLION?). I could Google him and find out exactly who the hell he is and what he does, but I prefer to just enjoy him, and I am absolutely sure he prefers it, too. Watch this and delight in it with me.

On… five things from Topshop

I wear a LOT of Topshop. It is borderline ridiculous. And my NYC friends are always like ‘I can never find anything in there! It’s all crappy teen stuff!’

I am here to tell you: No, darlings. You must simply train your eyes to see BEYOND the crappy teen stuff.

You know how when you look at one of those weird 3-D pictures in the 90s,  you could go cross-eyed and see a sailboat? (“It’s a SCHOONER!” Any Mallrats fans here? No one? Seriously? Okay, okay, move on.) It’s like that.

So train yourself to ignore terrible things like this and this and this and this, for the love of God (by the way, Topshop has started seeding false positive reviews for their more egregious fashion errors, it’s very annoying and obvious) and instead, see these:


Flippy skirt. This is my favorite skirt of the summer. I’ve been wearing it nonstop with a Ramones t-shirt.


Black and white swimsuit. I am not sure how supportive it would be if I had big bosoms and was playing beach volleyball, but honestly, neither of those scenarios will ever come to pass.


Origami dress. I have this dress in three colors and two lengths already, but I want this one, too. It’s perfect: mid-length but not frumpy, hides the upper arms (mine are unusually short, no seriously, I’m like a T-rex), and is magically slimming. I strongly regret not getting it in red 12 months ago, when I had the chance. Woe is me.


Check bag. I am fighting with myself about getting this. I don’t need it, it’s just more junk in our small apartment, but… I WANT it so. It reminds me of Hong Kong.


Yellow fluffy slides. I don’t need to explain why these are amazing, right? I have a similar pink pair already. But this is SUCH a good yellow.

My Topshop tips: 1) Good things tend to sell out fast… but then they reappear as if by magic on the Nordstrom website a week or so later. So just keep checking. Keep checking Topshop too: a lot of things get returned. 2) Their shoes with heels between one inch and three inches are great. Everything else is terrible. 3) Trust Topshop for dresses, blouses and skirts. For jackets, mannish shirts and trousers, Zara. Jeans… eh. I’m not sure. Maybe? 4) You can and should always return or alter anything you want to.

PS NO, Topshop isn’t paying me for this post. Topshop doesn’t even know I am alive. Have you ever even tried to call Topshop customer service? It’s like being in a Monty Python sketch set in an Orwellian universe. That is how little Topshop cares about humans. But I don’t care, because I like their clothes.

On… your teen hair

I am on a quest to get my teen hair back. Thick and long and dark blonde.

Unfortunately, years of torturing it with straight-up peroxide sheep dip (I can only assume it was sheep dip?) and tight hair elastics and bobby pins, plus a dash of the ol’ babies-make-your-hair-fall-out curse, resulted in torn, split, meth-addict hair like this:


I do not want hair like this.

I want hair like this:

Gemma Burgess 1995

(This is me! But young.)

So, over the years I’ve used this, which is magic but results in hella bird nest hair the next day, and this, which is ace for a nice strong lift at the roots, but you can’t run your fingers through your hair without getting them stuck to your scalp FOREVER so you can’t do this, not to mention this, which is, obviously, the aim. I also used this, which I liked a lot, but the brand had some bad press for making hair fall out and the last thing I need is LESS fucking hair.

Most importantly: none of them fixed the main problem. My hair just gets thinner and limper and more pathetic and defeated by life towards the ends. (And yah I already cut it all off once. All the way up to my collarbone. It was still crappy and I couldn’t put it in little braids around my head, which I really like doing. So that won’t be happening again.)



I discovered IGK 1995 2-in-1 Shampoo And Texturizer. (In answer to your next question: yes, I am a curious little thing.) Get in the shower, squeeze a little 1995 on your head and smush your hair around so it feels a bit like a clay hair sculpture, then shave your legs or scrub with this magical thing or do whatever you need to do in the two minutes that it takes 1995 to work. Then rinse it out. Your hair will feel sort of swollen and bloated. In a super-sexy way.

Here is where we get radical, kids. The instructions say to just use this and NOTHING ELSE. Maybe that’s fine if there’s any chance your hair might spontaneously do this, but I gave up that dream a few years ago. I need a little slick and shine. So I use a quick dash of Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Conditioner.


I’m suspicious of conditioners, like all people with fine limp hair should be, but I tried the Living Proof one when I couldn’t get my former favorite Shiseido Shining one and lo and behold it’s pretty damn good, Jennifer Aniston is not lying to us.


Then I smush this Evo Easy Tiger Straightening Balm right out of the shower, brush my hair back and two hours later, this is my hair.


For me, this hair is about as good as it gets.

(I took this photo this morning to send to a friend to tell her to buy the 1995 stuff, then I thought, oh actually I should post about it, and I didn’t re-take the photo without the wastepaper basket or with make-up because… well, because I am lazy and I have to get back to writing an outline. By the way, I think outlines are my least favorite part of writing. Especially since when you actually start writing the thing, whether it’s a book or a movie or a TV pilot, it tends to just go where it wants to go. Characters decide to be total penises or utter heroines. Surprises just appear on the page. You’ll be writing a scene and get this weird feeling like something needs to happen, like when you’re eating a meal and it needs more salt or pepper or something, and boom, an idea pops up. It’s like you walk into your own Westworld and the entire story is happening around you in real time, and yes that sounds pretentious, but it’s true. HOWEVER. Outlines get you paid. And it is extremely helpful to have a map of the journey even if I take a couple of side roads on the way to the destination. So, off I go.)


On… summer make-up packing list

I’ve always been the kind of friend who will email you a week before you go on vacation (or to a wedding or… for no reason at all), telling you the make-up that you need. (Okay, no one “needs” make-up, on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, make-up is about two inches past the top of the pyramid. So let’s say that I email about make-up that you want but you don’t know it yet. It will make you feel happy. And that’s not exactly a bad thing.)

Sometimes I wonder if it’s annoying. But then if I haven’t bossed someone around for a while, she will text me ‘can you take me to Sephora?’ Next thing you know both of us stagger out of Sephora on Broadway in Soho, covered in lipstick swatches, blinking in the sunlight, having lost hours of our lives. So I figure people must like it. A little bit.

This is what I emailed recently to a friend going on a long vacation. It is edited / expanded slightly for your reading pleasure, with the typos removed (I tapped it out while finishing the last episode of VEEP) and the swear-words removed (I’m a filthy animal).




Clinique Take The Day Off balm cleanser that won’t leak. Wipes don’t really work. Let’s all stop pretending otherwise.


Gentle AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel powder exfoliator because frequent SPF is a titch cloggy on the ol’ pores. (And you will be wearing SPF50 every day, right? This or this is good too, and wear a hat and sit in the shade, okay, sunscreen talk over.) By the way, I don’t know why this product is called ‘treatment enzyme peel’. It’s a soft powder that you mix with water to make a milky paste that gently exfoliates. Tsk. C’mon AmorePacific. Be more literal.

 71DiyjaBYML._SX522_Laniege Water Sleeping Mask – but don’t think of it as a mask. It’s not a mask, and it’s silly that they called it a mask. It’s lovely cooling, hydrating gel. I have gone through about six jars of this in the last few years. It’s that good. (Also delightfully de-puffing if you’re a little hungover, as you damn well should be from time to time on vacation.)

If your skin feels totally tight and parched from too much seawater/chlorine/wind/tequila/illicit cigarettes/whatever, then before you go to sleep at night, put on a layer of La Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche followed by a layer of good old Yu-Be on top. This combination makes a turbo-moisturizer. Yu-Be is basically pure glycerin and traps all that delicious Hydraphase so it has nowhere to go except your parched epidermis. You will wake up with dewy baby skin.
For vacation makeup, obvs you will get fake lashes or a lash tint, or whatever fries your burger, before you go. So all you need to worry about is divine vacation skin, and that’s where Chanel Tan De Soleil super glowy moist natural bronzer comes in. This puppy is ALL you need for AIGOAYT (Aristocratic Italian Girl On A Yacht Tan). Forget foundation, concealer, powder, blush, highlighter, forget all of it, don’t even pack it. Chanel Tan De Soleil is the shit. (That’s actually the advertising tagline.) It’s a giant pot. You can do your neck, chest, arms, everywhere, and it will last you for about six years.
Now: the secret to applying Chanel Tan De Soleil is to mist a tiny bit of La Roche-Posay water spray over it first (or rosewater if you’re at home, but watch out for spillages in transit on non-aerosol bottles). Swirl this brush on top, and then sweep it everywhere, with a feathery-light touch. It goes on perfectly over SPF, too – the miracle Shiseido powder bronzer in medium is outstanding (especially with this Morphe E41 brush, which is the bronzer brush I’ve been searching for… for… for my entire LIFE because I can’t remember when I started wearing bronzer), but it’s a powder, so it can still get a little blotchy unless your face is pretty matte already.
Over the Chanel tan stuff, you don’t need it but you might want an extra peachy flushy blush, like Tarte Achiote (why don’t they carry this shade at Sephora anymore, by the way? It is perfect). Apply a splodge to the apple of your cheeks with this brush. And also take your RMS Living Luminizer to pat onto inner eyes, over eyebrows, cupids bow etc as a little pick-me-up – but you probably won’t need it; the Chanel Tan de Soleil really has the whole ‘glow’ angle covered. Trust me. Do you trust me? You should trust me. (Ashes cigarette, exhales plume of smoke, looks you right in the eye.)
Take Maybelline Lasting Drama Silken Turquoise to line your inside bottom waterline when you feel like adding a little rock edge. You can basically have a bare naked face, scrawl on this eyeliner, and look instantly edgy and interesting. It takes ten seconds. (Incidentally, Silken Turquoise will be my stripper name.)
You will need eyebrows. I leave this up to you. I am devoted to my combination of Shu Uemura Seal Brown H9 and Anastasia in Taupe, because without them, I am face-bald.
Lipsticks melt. Don’t pack them. I’d take a cheapie Milani Spice Lipliner and wear that with any old lip balm every day, and at night, use a swipe of this NYX Epic Ink Lip Dye in Slay. Your lips will look all flushed and bitten, like you had sexy sex in the early evening hours (instead of wrangled small children into bed and then collapsed on the sofa with a bottle of wine and Instagram to recharge before the babysitter arrived).
By the way, the key to lip stains is to smudge some your bottom lip and quickly smear it around with the fingertip of your ring finger, but don’t try to make it perfect – if necessary, use the Milani lipliner to shape your lips, but that’s it. The color should get a little stronger towards the inside of your lips, like you’ve been eating blackberries, but it should look natural, not done. Incidentally, you will have a Slay-stained ring finger for 48 hours afterwards. This is your cross to bear.
Last, and this is probably my best tip: take a tiny bright red lip pencil that you can throw in your wallet the whole trip, and feel reassured that that ONE time you’re unexpectedly in a seaside bar surrounded by effortlessly beautiful people being effortlessly beautiful, you can dash to the bathroom and Sienna-yourself. You don’t need anything else.
s1808666-main-LheroTake the St Tropez spray stuff - the key is to hold the can from much further away from your skin than feels intuitive (i.e. at least 10 / 12 inches) and trust that it’s evenly spread out, even if the guide color looks splotchy. (You probs already know this but the guide color is brown, and that’s only a temporary stain – the stuff that ACTUALLY makes you tan is clear, it develops over 12 hours.) Just one spray up and one spray down each limb, then a little infinity sign around your shoulders and décolletage, and a quick swirly snail around your tummy and back. Put it on before bed, wake up tan. Don’t forget your hands and feet.


For your face, this Clarins Golden Glow stuff is good - not as good as the gradual radiance gel stuff that Clarins inexplicably discontinued, but still a solid choice. Mix it with your SPF in the morning, be tan by night (a clever tip from a clever friend). The tube is tiny, but it lasts forever.

 61K6CcUaqEL._SY679_If you need to take it up a notch, use the This Works Perfect Legs stuff. This was a tip from the same clever friend (full story: we met up a couple of weeks ago and instead of saying ‘hello’ I simply shook her and yelled WHAT IS ON YOUR LEGS DARLING THEY LOOK AMAZING and wouldn’t let go until she told me), and it’s my favorite thing right now. It’s not cheap, but oh it is wonderful, like fucking-immaculate-yet-real wonderful (i.e., it doesn’t give you crazy plastic Barbie skin like that Sally Hansen stuff). I actually defy the Perfect Legs name, like the rebel that I am, and use it everywhere, and so far my arms have not suddenly started thinking that they are, in fact, legs. It doesn’t seem to smudge on clothing, it sort of ‘sets’ and that’s that for the day/night. I also like the Jergens BB stuff, so cheap and cheerful, very moisturizing and tinty-glowy at the same time, but it’s not as tan as This Works.

The This Works stuff combined with the Chanel Tan De Soleil is your recipe for happiness this summer.



If you’ll be swimming a lot in sea/pool, then my favorite hair masks right now are Olaplex No.3 and Davines Nou Nou. Both are great for making sad insecure tresses like mine feel powerful and arrogant. (Cocaine for hair!) Smush a glob into a sandwich bag, and put THAT into ANOTHER sandwich bag, and it should stay safe during your flight.



NUXE Prodigieux Le Parfum smells like summer in the warmest, skin-scentiest, muskiest, sandy-feet-and-salty-beach-towels-warm-from-the-sun kind of way. It’s the same scent as the famous Nuxe oil, but don’t get the oil – it destroys fake tan. It also ruins sheets and clothes. Too annoying. Stick to the perfume. And have a great trip.


PS If you like this post,  you might also like this post (and this and this and this which is a bit repetitive to this post, as I just realized, but at least it shows I’m consistent). And as always, the caveat: this is just my opinion, and I’m probably wrong. About everything. Always.