Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… new books

Am reading The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England, on a recommendation from a friend from London, and I AM SO HAPPY. It’s a simple premise – a history book, written in the present tense. Somehow it makes it all seem so real, which is a stupid thing to say, but truly profound when you’re experiencing it. Wonderful writing and delicious details. Even for a dorky history nerd, like me. (Did you know that medieval sailors took almonds in barrels on ships, to make almond milk? HOW CRAZY IS THAT.)


Next, I’m reading The Time Traveller’s Guide To Elizabethan England, and I cannot wait.



On… skinnnn

I was on IG the other day chatting to someone about why I don’t post more beauty stuff. The honest answer is: because I’m not an expert just a chatty enthusiast, I have nothing new to say, and I’d mostly just be repeating myself, and surely that would be boring and annoying for you guys. I still think the secret to great skin is SPF, lots of moisturizers like Le Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche or Ceramide Rosette Gel, and no wine. (I know, I’m sorry about the wine thing. Maybe it’s just me because I had an eczema problem in my 20s. It still makes my skin like parchment the next day. Stick to vodka, kids, and stay beautiful.)

But THEN I realized: I do have a couple of new skincare products that I am slam-dunk OBSESSED WITH. Or should I say, WITH WHICH I am slam-dunk OBSESSED. Yes. That is much nicer.

I kept hearing about this brand Clark’s Botanicals on the Fat Mascara podcast (incidentally, if you love make-up and skincare, it is delicious – helmed by two beauty editors who really know what they’re talking about, and it’s just the amuse-bouche I need after way too much Pod Save America, Pod Save The World, Slow Burn, The Bag Man, etc etc). Now: I don’t usually buy expensive skincare. I truly think most of it is bullshit overpriced, and I have great luck with my under-$40 moisturizers. But then my skin went into exhausted-blotchy-canvas-freefalling-hormone mode after Arthur was born. So I tried the tester set you can buy on the Clark’s website, fell deeply and passionately in love with two of the products, and treated myself to them: the Clark’s Botanicals Marine Smoothing Cream, which has glycolic acid and makes your skin tingle delightfully, and the Clark’s Botanicals Deep Moisture Mask, which is the only moisturizer I’ve ever tried that rivals the Hydraphase in terms of pure fucking buttery unctuous awesomeness. I have been wearing them on alternate nights ever since he was born, and am about to re-invest in both as the pots are almost empty. With each of these, you wake up the next day and your skin is plump and replete – even mine, and I am tired, my friends. I cannot overstate how much I love them. I wish I didn’t love them, as they are a bit spendy. But, eh, what can you do. Anyway, try the sample kit, it’s good value and maybe you will love them, too.

Since we’re here anyway, a little chat about makeup. Again, I am probably irritatingly consistent: Cle de Peau concealer or NARS Glow in Gobi on my red spots (chin, nostrils, between the eyebrows which is bizarrely splotchy lately, what is UP with that?) with this Real Techniques brush, I dust over Bobbi Brown Pale Yellow pressed powder afterwards with this brush, and if I’m really in the mood, pat it with this old-school powder puff thing (the secret for truly velvety skin: pat in a slightly downwards motion) THEN! Then, my friends, I wear this marvelous Impassioned blush from NARS. Impassioned is a new discovery and it’s the only blush I have worn for months. It’s a vintage pale dusty rose, it’s satiny and gorgeous and impossible to fuck up even when I’m really tired, and I want to marry it. (The images on screen never, ever do it justice, by the way, do not judge it by that.)

Now (lowers voice) I don’t love looking too glowy anymore. Entre-nous, I think glow has jumped the shark a little bit. All those iridescent highlighters look greasy to me, and surely everyone’s make-up is slipping right off their damn faces if they’re applying copious amounts of thick cream under everything in the morning. I want my skin to be velvety and smooth, dammit, and I don’t want to think about it after I’ve put my make-up on or have to reapply later, because who has the fucking time. So I’ve been skipping my old friends Becca and RMS, but if I look super-flat, I dash on a splodge of Hourglass trio, just lightly and messily over my temples and the tops of my cheekbones, with this lovely brush.

And that’s about it. My days are writing-baby-writing-baby right now, so I don’t need more, and at least I look put-together enough to not despair at my tired crone face when I wash my hands after I pee. Arthur doesn’t mind that I have no eyebrows and non-existent eyelashes. (Side note: am getting my eyelashes permed and tinted on Thursday and I am VERY EXCITED. Pathetically excited. It has been a long, long time, my friends, what with a huge heavy bump making it hard to lie on my back for 90 mins and then the whole breastfeeding a newborn thang for the last four months, I might even get a manicure, who know, who knows, it’s wild.)

Anyway, tell me your new make-up and skincare obsessions, this is a safe space.





On… looking human with a newborn

I have an eight-week-old baby. (YAY ME.) He is absolutely lovely and delicious and, as far as newborns go, excessively easygoing. But it’s still been a pretty intense few months, because I also have deadlines. It’s actually easy to write with a newborn. It is. Truly. They eat, more or less, every three hours. Then they sleep for two hours. So you can write in that two-hour period, and then feed them and gaze at them adoringly until they sleep again. If they’re fussy, you can pop them in the ergo, and keep typing. That’s all there is to it. (This is assuming you don’t have a nightmare hellbaby who screams all the time. Ned was like that. But Arthur, blissfully,  is not.) While we’re on the subject, writing with a toddler is a fucking nightmare, because toddlers are tiny cavemen with giant egos. But newborns are easy.

However. I’m the don’t-expose-a-newborn-to-outside-germs-unnecessarily type, and my baby is the fuck-your-bottles-I-only-want-the-boob type, which means we are pretty much at home ALL the DAMN TIME and so doing anything apart from eating / sleeping / writing is challenging, if not impossible. All of this is a very boring and long-winded way of saying: I’m doing a lot of home grooming in order to look human.

This lovely dpHue gloss allegedly extends the lifespan of highlights, so is hopefully helping me to avoid the hair salon. I also use this as a conditioner once a week to keep the ol’ tresses bright and sunny rather than dull and brassy. My hair got all dry during pregnancy, so I put this It’s A Ten stuff on right out of the shower, before I blow dry. And then, on dry hair, I swear this Mise En Scene shit has magical bouffy-shiny properties. And of course, my hair probably needs a trim. (It always probably needs a trim). This collagen protein thing swells the hair shaft so it looks slightly less bedraggled. (Why does shaft always sound so filthy?) (I know why, I know why.) (Because PEEN.)

The skin on my body is dry AF after having a baby. Always is. I think it’s a hormonal thing; it gets all burlap-esque. I’ve been using this AHA moisturizer and it does some magic tingly exfoliating shit and I swear to go, leaves my skin all creamy and even-toned. And the skin on my face is recovering from a ghastly bout of pregnancy-induced melasma over the summer, so I’m alternating Clark’s Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream and this lovely French Ystheal retinol. You can’t use retinol when you’re knocked up, and I’ve been knocked up on-and-off for about two years when you think about it, so retinol and I have some catching up to do.

My nails are terrible. I cut them short with toenail clippers and never think about them.

I look tired all the time, because, um, I am quite tired all the time, and I’ve made peace with that fact. I’ve been fantasizing about getting fillers in the dark troughs under my eyes. In my fantasies I don’t become blind from it, which is apparently a legit risk, and the reason I won’t be ever doing it. So instead, I’m splatting this on and smushing it around with the NuFace in the hope that it pushes my jowls up into my eyebag troughs. (Does the NuFace really work? IDFK darlings. It is extremely expensive – but I *think* it helps with puffiness.)

What else is there? Oh, I know. Make-up. Most days I cannot be bothered, but when I can, I just want to look fresh-faced and put together, and not like this. I discovered this Hado Labo face mask during a late-pregnancy-insomnia-fuelled Reddit deep-dive – and it’s genuinely GREAT! It plumps out pores and leaves your face all smooth and dewy and divine. Then I throw on this SPF, which has a very subtle glow, and use my fingers to push NARS concealer around my chin and nostrils and eyelids, with a little extra Cle de Peau concealer on any particularly blotchy bits. Then lots of Bobbi Brown Pale Yellow Powder with this brush, then some of this nothing-looking-yet-totally-something NARS Impassioned blush. Hourglass Platinum blonde, some L’Oreal Voluminous mascara, and Bobbi Brown Baby matte lip stain stuff. This is not a make-up look to get excited about, but it makes me look like a human in about three and a half minutes. And that’s a win.

On… surprise!

I totally had a baby last week.


I kept it quiet – in fact, almost entirely mute – because, well, you know, 2017 was a rough year of false starts, baby-wise, and even *thinking* about the pregnancy ending with an actual baby was almost impossible. So I crossed my fingers, threw up a lot, hid from the world and wrote and wrote and wrote, and in the end, made a perfect little boy born on September 27.

Arthur Noel Barry.

IMG_2227So so happy. Mwah. x


On… Meet Me In The Bathroom

One of the best and yet worst things about growing up is figuring out what you’re good at (writing, keeping small people alive, staring into space while thinking about writing and keeping small people alive) – and what you’re not (singing, staying out past 11pm, hangovers from staying out past 11pm).

I LOVE this book. I wish I was living in NYC in 2002 with nothing but a wild urge to party and a trust fund. If you do, too, read Meet Me In The Bathroom:


Here’s the blurb:

“Meet Me in the Bathroom charts the transformation of the New York music scene in the first decade of the 2000s, the bands behind it—including The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, and Vampire Weekend—and the cultural forces that shaped it, from the Internet to a booming real estate market that forced artists out of the Lower East Side to Williamsburg. Drawing on 200 original interviews with James Murphy, Julian Casablancas, Karen O, Ezra Koenig, and many others musicians, artists, journalists, bloggers, photographers, managers, music executives, groupies, models, movie stars, and DJs who lived through this explosive time, journalist Lizzy Goodman offers a fascinating portrait of a time and a place that gave birth to a new era in modern rock-and-roll.”

On… end of summer pick-me-ups

What’s up, pussycats?

It’s the end of summer. THANK FUCK FOR THAT. I’m not a summer person. (We’ve covered this in previous sessions.) At this point in the year, I feel an intense back-to-school I-hope-it-rains-soon lets-start-fresh ooh-mustn’t-forget-to-get-new-little-ankle-boot-socklets excitement. So I’ve been trying out new beauty shit (NBS, if you will). Pull up a chair and let me tell you ALL ABOUT IT.

Side note: for those of you who only read me for the beauty stuff – and I know you are there, you have been since this ol’ thang on my lovely JoGo’s site – know that some things never change. I still use Lancome Bifacils to take off mascara and Cetaphil cleanser, I still use SK-II every night and a little moisturizing mix of Yu-Be with Korres and and/or my other fave, Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream. When you find things that work, you stick with them.

But I have some fun OTHER stuff that I’ve been flirting with in addition to my regular all-stars because, you know me, I’m just that kind of cougar.

For a start, Vitamin C. I started using Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid about two years ago, and I wish to hell I hadn’t, because holy shit you guys, it is expensive. But two or three drops of it under my SPF every day gives an outstanding overall glow AND protects your face from [can't remember, don't care enough]. I was so impressed with it that I thought ‘hey, if a little Vitamin C is good, a LOT must be GREAT’  - this is the ol’ Burgess ‘if it feels good, do it, if it still feels good, do it MORE!’ motto.



I tried La Roche Posay Redermic C. Mostly because I really trust LRP. I thought it was great for brightening, but I detested the crinkly toothpaste packaging. The creases swiftly became cuts, and the stuff started oozing out and changed color, and I understand Vitamin C needs to not be exposed to air or it loses its pound puppy power, or whatever. (Actually, doing research just now, it appears that they’ve improved the packaging in the last six months – so give it a bash, if you fancy.)


Then I did some reading – okay, I did a LOT of reading. And discovered Soko Glam’s COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid. This is the ne plus ultra of Vitamin C products. It also sells out regularly, but put your name down for the next release and you won’t have to wait long; they make it in small, regular batches to keep it fresh and as powerful as possible. As advised on the box, I’m keeping it in the fridge, and I pat on a couple of drops at night, after SK-II and before moisturizer. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I think it’s adding a certain je-ne-sais-quoi brightness and radiance.

BUT. It is kind of drying. So I’ve been trying to figure out ways to add extra moisture to the ol’ noggin. (Dry skin is, to me, the most aging thing in the world. Some of my girlfriends hate moisturizing, it gives them PTSD to oily teen skin or something. When they tell me that I take them by the shoulders and give them a light slap and say: “Think of your epidermis as a dried apricot. If you drop a dried apricot in water for an hour, you will see how plump and lovely and youthful it becomes as it rehydrates. WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO BE A PLUMP APRICOT? WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE DRIED FRUIT?”)


HADALABO Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion Moist. This is one of those things that pops up constantly if you subscribe to Korean and Japanese skincare blogs, which of course I do. I delayed trying it, because the watery nature of it didn’t really appeal, plus I already do the SK-II and then the Triple C Lightning serum watery things and can I really be any more high-maintenance than I already am? The answer, as it turns out, is YES I CAN. You just shake a little of the liquid into your hands and pat it into your face and neck. It works. I do it after the CE Ferulic, before SPF, in the morning, to counter-act the dryness of the Vitamin C the night before. Will I repurchase? Yes. Yes I damn well shall.

Next: snail mucin. Urgh. Snails. Everyone’s been talking about snail mucin for years. You know that already. And there’s a particular fad for the slimy snail sheet masks. I wear them for fun now and again. (Though if you really want to try a sheet mask, this one is my favorite, it’s nice to wear on weekend mornings while you read the newspaper.)


And then there’s this: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. The consistency is… how can I put this delicately? It’s a little cum-my. It just… yeah, it just is. (Stares into space, thinking about it.) But it does make your skin feel lovely. Will I buy another after I finish this one? Eh, maybe. I’ve been using it erratically, because of the aforementioned consistency. I also read something about how they ‘milk’ the mucin secretion from the snails and threw up a little in my mouth. I think life might be too short to be grossed out by skincare.

I’ve always worn La Roche Posay Anthelios – I have flirted with Elta and others in the past, but I always come back to Anthelios. But then this summer I began obsessing out that it wasn’t enough coverage. “I need a stronger zinc oxide barrier SPF that won’t make me look like a kabuki performer,” I remarked sadly to myself, because I work from home on my own all day so all my fascinating banter goes completely to waste. “I need something that will cover my chin because that thing is getting freckles and they may not be freckles they may be age spots and what the sweet motherfuck am I supposed to do about them?”

For a couple of days, I tried the Cerave SPF50 zinc oxide stick that I scribble on my son’s faces every morning. (If you think I’m obsessive about my own SPF, you should see what a batshit insane banshee I am about protecting the translucent, milk-white skin of my tiny redheaded sons. “WE HAVE SKIN CANCER IN THE FAMILY,” I yell to anyone who listens, which is no one. “RED-HEADED BLUE-EYED PEOPLE ARE WAY, WAY, WAY MORE LIKELY TO GET SKIN CANCER THAN ANY OTHER SKIN TYPE. MY HUSBAND GOT SEVERE SUNBURN ONCE IN HIS CHILDHOOD ON A BEACH IN FUCKING IRELAND OF ALL PLACES AND COULDN’T GET OUT OF BED FOR TWO DAYS AND I BET THAT’S WHAT EVENTUALLY KILLS HIM.”) But make-up doesn’t go on over the top easily, and when I just used it on my jaw and chin, to cover the parts that sometimes stick out from my hat, Fox complained that I looked like I was trying to make a statement about Abe Lincoln being part-mime, or something.

So I tried a bunch of other “invisible” zinc oxide SPFs, and I don’t want to name and shame, but were they invisible? Were they fuck.

Then I saw this SuperGoop 100% Mineral Smooth & Poreless Matte Screen SPF40 product in Sephora, bought it because it has 17% zinc oxide and YOU GUYS. It’s wonderful! To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts aka Wesley in Princess Bride, I have never seen its equal!


It’s very gently tinted, matte, sort of mousse-like in consistency, it blends imthefuckmaculately with other make-up – but you don’t really need to wear any, as it doubles as concealer/foundation, the little clever clogs. I wear it over my normal SPF, Anthelios (which is mostly chemical SPF with a bit of titanium dioxide, I don’t think any of us need a long lecture from me about chemical vs physical sunscreen, if you want to read more go here). It’s not going to be in my make-up routine as soon as nice normal weather resumes, but while the sun is still in its evil phase, I’m wearing this little baby every damn day.

HOWEVER. And this is where an extra step begets an extra step, like with extra vitamin C requiring extra moisturizer. I’m now wearing such a heavy SPF, I had to add an extra cleansing step to my routine. Because taking off THAT much SPF requires some heavy lifting. It requires, in fact, the dreaded Korean double-cleanse. YES. I KNOW. I HAVE MADE FUN OF TEN-STEP ROUTINES FOR YEARS AND HERE WE ARE AT WHAT, SIX OR SEVEN?

Trilogy Cream Cleanser. Smells divine, made with organic rosehip oil, doesn’t dry out, and perfect for removing heavy SPF. Lather up with a splurge of this and some water, then remove it all one of these little white face cloths. Throw the face cloth straight into your laundry basket and cackle at the sheer indulgence of it all. Then use Cetaphil to cleanse again, just for fun, because something about it really does work wonders.



Lastly: this ridiculously cheap Real Techniques 1413 Setting Brush.



The lovely Katie Jane Hughes uses it to blend in concealer and foundation, so for $3, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to try it. YUP. She’s right. It’s fucking excellent. I don’t use it for the Supergoop stuff, but for going out at night / when normal daytime service resumes, it’s incredible for blending your concealer, foundation, and highlighter. It gives you delightfully airbrushed skin look, but not in a crazed-faked-baked way. Just… perfect.

Okay. Back to the real job.







On… three things

I went to LA last week and sold another show to a studio!  The deal is being worked out right now, so I can’t go into too many details. But I can’t wait to get started. I also sold a show to a cable network recently – something set in the 80s – and just got the all-clear to move from outline to script stage.

The outline process is INTENSE and sometimes slow. But oh, so useful. I love outlining. (I wrote my first novel on a whim, with no outline, no plot, no plan, in fact nothing in my mind aside from a general desire to make my reader laugh and feel happy and understood. Sometimes I look back and think, my God woman, you were lucky to get an agent and a book deal off that thing.) I think of outlines as the blueprint for the house I’m designing and building: I have to make sure the people paying for the house are happy with the blueprint, right? So they can’t say at the end “uh, since when was there a fucking gazebo on the roof deck?”

No one wants a fucking gazebo on the roof deck.

With these two projects, and two others in the pipeline, I’m a busy little cougar these days. But I keep thinking: “man, I want to write a funny / beauty / fashion / something post for the blog.” And then I don’t because… by the time I’ve finished writing and thinking about worlds and plots and characters all day, and dealt with two very small redheaded boys, I’m wrung out like an old dishcloth. It’s all I can do to watch Younger, read about the most recent evils and idiocies of the administration, say hello to Instagram, and pass out.

So, forgive that it’s short, but here’s a round-up of things I fucking LOVE right now:

app005prod& Other Stories: Maquis de Nuit

I popped in on Saturday, swiped this across my face, immediately decided that I looked like I was in St Tropez in the 1920s, only without having to deal with the tediousness of Hemingway being such a little bitch to everyone. The salesgirl told me that they only put them out that morning for the first time, and “There are only like three left! They are walking out of here!” It looks dark blue-red in that photo, but it’s more of a dark burnt brick-red. Delicious.


Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream

I have pretty good skin. I have bad hair – very, very bad hair. But good skin. And if people ask me what I do, I am totally honest: I don’t get facials or laser treatments or anything like that (BORING and seriously who has the time?), I cleanse with cheapie-cheap Cetaphil, I wear SPF 50 or higher every day, I don’t drink wine (vodka yes, Campari yes, even beer yes – but wine, almost never, unless I’m eating a GREAT steak somewhere like Raoul’s and the steak personally asks me to drink a glass of red as its last request, you know what steaks are like). And I moisturize more than anyone else on the fucking planet. I have gone on about my love of moisturizers before, and recommended quite a few, but then I read about this as a viable alternative to the infamous-always-sold-out-expensive-AF-$130 Tatcha moisturizer, and figured, why not, it’s only $17. I’m now on my second pot. (For me to repurchase something, rather than think, eh, I’ll try something new, means it’s really good.) I throw this moisturizer on in the morning as a mask when I wake up, then remove with a warm wet face cloth an hour later when it’s time for CE Ferulic Acid (yes, I’m a convert, I wish I wasn’t, it’s so goddamn expensive, but a little goes a long way) and SPF. During the day, if I’m not going out, I just throw on a glob or two early afternoon for fun. At night, I apply it over my SKII. It’s sort of gel-like, it doesn’t have any smell, and it just makes your skin all plump and happy. Trust moi.

.41fcFbloaULMaybelline Lasting Drama Waterproof Eye Pencil in Silken Turquoise

The secret to wearing wild eye pencil colors is to throw them on like you don’t give a shit*. The messier the better. Line your waterline, smush it under your bottom lashes, scribble over your eyelid. Use your pinkie to smear it around. You can’t fuck it up, because fucked up is THE POINT. The LAST thing that you want to look like is one of those sweet, sad teens on the internet taking selfies with ‘baked’ foundation and eyes made up to look like peacock feathers, or whatthefuckever. The aim should be to look real, and like you’re having fun. This pencil, plus mascara, plus bronzer (this one, always, forever, amen) is my favorite summer look right now. It’s sort of Brooke Shields in 83, and we all need more of that.

*This is probably the secret to everything in life: don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of you, just work as hard as you can and be kind and happy. And wear turqoise eyeliner