Friday, 12 May 2017

Insomnia, headaches, and the 'blue light' rescue services: No 1 - Our Modern Lives by 4160 Tuesdays: Blue Screen/Blue Horizon - Perspective review

Visualisation of Blue by Sarah McCartney - even the picture is therapeutic!
For all that people say your fifties are the new forties, I beg to differ. As someone now nearer to the end of this troublesome decade, I would say the fifties are about the body's desertion and malfunction in all its manifestations: knees and hips start to protest or even give way, arthritis raises its ugly bone spur, the collagen has eloped with the muscle tone, moods are all over the place - like the fine fur slowly colonising your face - and to add insult to injury your teeth are yellowing like piano keys, and you appear to have unaccountably developed a need to spit. But worse than all of these intimations of mortality is the fact that despite years of practice you suddenly lose the ability to sleep. And of course I am only speaking for myself in all of the above - your midlife mileage may vary, and I jolly well hope it does.

Hey, even the dry cleaner is having a laugh at my expense!

Going back to the sleep issue, dwindling levels of progesterone are probably the main culprit in women of a certain age, because the problem became acute as soon as I hit 50. That said, I accept that I have only myself to blame for compounding the problem by my 'poor sleep hygiene', as it is properly termed, namely a bedtime regime that is not conducive to a good night's rest. This 'unexhausting' - and by no means exhaustive! - list of offences includes eating late, drinking alcohol, and consuming sugar and caffeine in various guises - all in the run up to bedtime. Then chuck in ruminating aka 'mind wandering', which occasionally escalates into full blown episodes of anxiety - and a compulsion to check my phone last thing at night. You know how it'll have your pyjamas on and be about to get into bed when you suddenly feel an overwhelming urge to google 'how to sew up a knitted leg', 'shrubs for shady walls', or 'cat that looks like Olivia Coleman'. And it simply cannot wait till morning. And of course in our digitally dependent age, phones and tablets are known to give off a blue light, which in turn affects the levels of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. As a concession to this I have now banished my phones from the bedroom when I finally do settle down to not sleep, but I have probably already blown my chances of nodding off by that last minute Internet search or several.

So as a result of hormonal hoo-hah, combined with my bad behaviours, I am no stranger to the completely sleepless night, and have had two in the last week indeed, interspersed with a couple of Night Nurse comas that lasted a mere four hours each.

Our Modern Lives sample pack courtesy of 4160 Tuesdays

And here, quite fortuitously is where Sarah McCartney, founder and nose behind indie house 4160 Tuesdays, hoves into view with her timely new concept collection, Our Modern Lives, which is being backed by a crowdfunding project. The collection neatly unites Sarah's twin loves of making perfume and teaching yoga (on a Wednesday, as I now learn!), yoga being of course the very pursuit I should be taking up in a bid to achieve inner calm and outer bendiness.

Sarah's latest fragrance venture was born out of consumers' requests for two specific styles of perfume: one that contained no synthetic allergens such as linalool (but which would otherwise be 100% made of aromachemicals), and one that was 'all natural'. The latter style caters to those for whom 'natural' has unfortunately become a byword for 'harmless' and 'best' - when it is of course possible to kill yourself by ingesting just 30g of wild foraged death cap mushrooms, and even drinking water can be fatal in sufficient quantities. So while Sarah personally believes that the best perfumes combine a judicious and complementary blend of natural and synthetic ingredients, 'the customer is king' as they say, and she relished the challenge of creating these two sub-collections.

The synthetics

There are two different synthetic blends with (to quote Sarah) a 'quiet sensuality', and which are 'so benign you could bathe in them'. Of these one is stronger (OML a) and more Paul Newman along the sensuality spectrum, while my preferred scent of the two (OML ß) is pitched somewhere between Hugh Grant and Gina McKee, say. Then the seven natural scents are named after 'seven shades, moods and atmospheres' that span the whole rainbow of colours and also go from morning till night in terms of timezones. The naturals and synthetics may be layered (in an 'add your own base' Betty Crocker kind of a way) or enjoyed on their own.

I have to say I liked all seven of the naturals, with the possible exception of Green - Leaf - New, but only because I am not a fan of the vegetable notes involved. I have lots more testing to do, as the permutations are legion - or 'incorrigibly plural', to quote my favourite poem by Louis MacNeice - so I will home in for now on just one scent from the naturals line: Blue Screen/Blue Horizon - Perspective.

The headache remedy

Now I happened to message Sarah around the time of one of my sleep deprivation headaches:

Vanessa: "Currently trying Yellow over OML ß, which is a cheerful combo. Hoping it might help this headache shift."

Sarah: "To remove headache apply Blue to your temples. Not kidding."

Vanessa: "Will do that, thank you! Added a drop between the eyes like a bindi..."

Sarah: "Good. Fingers crossed."

Vanessa: "Yep, that worked. Just feel whacked now. 4head eat your heart out."

I should interject at this point to say that the mentholated cologne, 4head, had previously been my topical weapon of choice for headaches. It was over its application to my forehead in a Starbucks in Covent Garden in 2009 that I first met and bonded with the now legendary Nick Gilbert!, who worked for Boots at the time and recognised a fellow user...;) But now it is a case of 'roll on and roll over 4head'...

I am happy to report that on two further occasions the application of Blue cured a headache within a matter of minutes. There was another instance last weekend - as the cumulative toll of the insomnia really took hold - that it didn't manage to shift, but it was in good company with a whole strip of Solpadeine Plus that couldn't touch it either.

So yes, as a headache remedy I am impressed - and were it not for that serendipitous conversation with Sarah I would never have thought to deploy Blue in that way.

The perfume 

Sarah sets the scene in the accompanying notes to Blue Screen/Blue Horizon - Perspective:

"A sense of balance. We spend too much time looking at screens,not enough at the horizon. This is a scent to help you meditate. Materials include frankincense essential oil, lavender absolute, vetiver absolute, eucalyptus mint essential oil, patchouli essential oil, hyacinth absolute, organic English lavender essential oil."

I have worn Blue a few times - mostly on my forehead, it must be said(!), where it is that little bit more difficult to smell it - but on the occasions I wore it on more conventional body parts, I picked up a fragrance that comprised about 40% frankincense, 40% patchouli and 20% lavender and vetiver in an unspecified ratio that is neither here nor there. I didn't detect any mint - which is good as I am not a mint lover - or the hyacinth particularly - but the blend of incense and rooty, chocolate-y patchouli was nicely grounding. Lavender is of course traditionally supposed to be good for headaches, though it only played a cameo role in the composition. There is no development to mention, as Blue is not a classically structured perfume as such. I did also try it layered over OML ß, but I cannot begin to tell you how that changed it overall, other than possibly giving it the feel of a fuller-bodied fragrance with its bustle on.

NB In a future post I will be featuring another 'blue light' rescue service - a face cream by Dr Sebagh that is actually marketed on that unusually specific premise!

Oh, and in another of life's little ironies, given that 'anxiety is the new cardio', my old Zara jeans fit a treat now. Doh! And some readers may find it another irony that perfume should be able to cure, rather than cause a headache, but it worked for me...;)


  1. Isn't it brilliantly ironic that there's a perfume which cures not causes a headache! Love it.
    I expected you to say it smells mainly of eucalyptus mint (mentholated like 4head) so it was a pleasant surprise to read it was mostly frankincense and patchouli. What a result on all counts. Sarah should mention it's dual purpose on the website.

    P.S. I think I did well not to abandon this post in order to immediately Google "Cats that look like Olivia Coleman" of which I suspect there are many. I do like her. She was a scream on Graham Norton.

    1. Hi Tara,

      I couldn't have put it better than Alanis Morisette, hehe.

      I don't think I would have cared for Blue if it had smelt more like 4head, which is acceptable only on the forehead area, fairly well away from the nose. Maybe Sarah is holding off from declaring its medicinal use in case she gets into bother with the advertising standards people - you know, making claims not backed by clinical trials - my success rate on three go's out of four not quite being construable as a 'clinical trial'.

    2. PS The cat looking like Olivia Coleman thing is a real meme thing doing the rounds. I have seen the side-by-side pics of the cat in question with Olivia Coleman and I have to say I wasn't convinced. ;)

  2. Ah Les Memes! As my daughter;s French teacher says, I had not noticed the cat/Coleman resemblance but we tell lour cat she looks like the late Claudette Colbert,great legs, high cheekbones, big green eyes, no neck!
    I think the headache reducing perfume is brill. And I bet it works well. Myself I use lavender or rosemary in boiling water for the same thing (you inhale the infusion, works best for sinus issues.)

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      Haha, your cat sounds like a looker all right! Haven't tried a herbal infusion to combat headaches, but can see how it would work, also for sinus problems. I think my friend does that with eucalyptus?