Best ornamental beauty products
Beauty

Ornamental beauty: “Why the best beauty products are the ones that are a joy to use”

From the satisfying click of a lipstick case to the smooth, hand-hugging sensation of a well-designed perfume bottle, much of the ‘beauty’ to be found in beauty products is in the object itself. In celebration of her new book, Face Values: Beauty Rituals and Skincare Secrets, author Navaz Batliwalla (aka @disneyrollergirl) makes a convincing case for elevating your everyday beauty essentials.

Theresa Williams, an eco-entrepreneur and skinimalist has barely anything in her bathroom cabinet but keeps her facial oil in a Murano glass bottle.  “I thought for a product I use every day, it would be nice to have something that feels a little more luxurious. So, I have this nice bottle in different colours with a glass stopper. Using that twice a day brings me a lot of joy.” How cool. How waste conscious. And also, how extra!

I completely relate. As a design junkie and beauty ritual enthusiast, I’ve found there’s something rather motivational about making my everyday routines as sensorially satisfying as possible. 

My hand cream of choice is the Chanel one that comes in a pebble-shaped container, as sculptural as my Carl Auböck brass egg paperweight. My Buly 1803 apple toothpaste in its whimsically illustrated tube is the visual cue I need to administer my nightly oral care regime. And I think we can agree there’s a special pleasure to be had from applying lipstick from a beautifully designed tube rather than the frankly inelegant stub of a doe-foot applicator. Taking the time to appraise the object and appreciate the process of our beauty rituals says, yes, I deserve this self-care moment.

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Perhaps the ultimate example of the visual thrill of ritualistic beauty comes from the fragrance world. Evolving from the terracotta oil jars of ancient Egypt, the perfume bottle came into its own as a luxury status object in the early 20th century. René Lalique, a jewellery designer for Cartier, created scent bottles for the likes of Coty, Worth and Guerlain, transforming apothecary-style vessels into ornate works of art to be displayed as a symbol of style and taste. In 1946, Salvador Dali worked with Baccarat crystal to create the iconic sun-topped flacon for Schiaparelli’s Le Roy Soleil perfume, celebrating the end of the Second World War. Later, Elsa Peretti’s sinuous bottle design for Halston’s first perfume defined an era of decadent 70s glamour. Today, the trend for flexing decorative scented It candles and handcrafted incense holders in social media shelfies continues the vogue for smelling with our eyes. 

Not surprisingly, this latest flex culture has also birthed a booming business in elevating mundane personal care tasks. As well as aspirational oral care – designer dental floss, whitening pens and tongue scrapers – the beauty world has amped up SPF and you can even get an Hermès nail file that makes standard body maintenance more chic than choresome.

I’m all for it – in theory. But I also find myself questioning who is this all for? The extravagantly styled vanity tray placing a Loewe Marihuana candle just so in a shaft of morning light, alongside this peace lily plant and that obscure paperback. Is it just performative clout chasing, or does it serve a deeper, personal purpose? Perhaps it can do both. 

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I do know that I’m more mindfully engaged when all my senses are in sync. As we emerge from our touch-phobia of the last few months, good-looking, tactile, and gestural objects seem to go, well, hand in hand. So, I make no apology for finding that I’m more likely to keep my water glass replenished if I fill it from a fancy carafe. Or taking extra time to apply make-up from a golden Byredo compact. Or indeed, like Ms Williams, finding the joy in turning an everyday duty into one of aesthetically pleasing delight. As design revolutionary William Morris would no doubt say were he alive today: “Have nothing on your Instagram shelfie that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”

My favourite ornamental beauty products

Face Values by Navaz Batliwalla

Face Values: The New Beauty Rituals and Skincare Secrets by Navaz Batliwalla is available now. 

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