Life

I Can't Wait to Browse Makeup for Hours Again

If there's one thing I miss most on lockdown, it's that blue and white staple of the British high street: Boots.
22 April 2020, 11:29am
woman on phone in boots illustration

Previously from "What I Miss Most": Walking without purpose.

I miss Boots. Yes, it's still open during the lockdown, but only for "essential items" – and that's apparently in the strictest sense of the word. My best friend tried to buy eczema cream the other day and was told she couldn't because it's not essential. This isn't the Boots I know. Like catching a glimpse of the McDonald's golden arches after a night out, when I see the blue and white Boots sign in the distance I feel comforted. Comforted, and ready to splurge on items that would never be classed as essential, but now, to me, urgently are. I miss the old Boots, I miss the real Boots, the "moisturise your feet" Boots, best store on the high street Boots.

Not many stores can boast the unmatched variety that Boots has. I go in for the classics – your deodorants, your cotton pads, your contact lens solutions – and I emerge like a film character on a luxury shopping spree, laden with groaning bags of products including, but not limited to: a matte nail polish top coat; shapewear tights in the wrong size; some sort of hair product for "curly hair" that I know is meant for white people; a glossy nail polish top coat, eye cream, face cream, hand cream, body cream, body lotion, body balm and a papaya Carmex.

I never thought I'd miss buying toothpaste. You can still get it at the supermarket, of course, but buying it just hits different when I've spent ten minutes staring glassy-eyed at 30 different options. I have no brand loyalty to toothpaste. It's absolutely a different brand every tube. I'll finally spot one with some inexplicable new skill, like "sharpening", and pop two in my basket without another moment's thought.

Boots radiates a unique kind of class – not a glamour, but enough self-respect to not degrade itself with an in-store radio station. As a teenager, my local Boots was the only shop nearby that stocked Maybelline's infamous Dream Matte Mousse in the closest shade (but not close enough) to my skin colour: "Cocoa". It wasn't an ideal match, but it was better than other stores which didn't stock darker than "Light Porcelain". Now, thankfully, things have changed – Boots is the high street home of Rihanna's Fenty makeup line, with 40 different shades of foundation, and I no longer look like a manilla envelope. We've all done a lot of growing up.

For now, though, all of that is out of reach. What I wouldn't give to spend too long testing out yellow eyeshadow because I saw it on my Explore page, realise it doesn't work for me at all, then decide to try out virtually the same colour – this time, "Hot Mustard" from a different brand – on the other eye, have the previous experience absolutely immediately repeated, then be unable to locate any kind of makeup wipe in the shop and leave hurriedly, only to realise that I've missed my train.

I once went to Boots when they had just started stocking Cantu products, and while browsing I was asked by an employee if I wanted to try a hair tester. A hair tester? What is a hair tester? What would that involve? Surely testers should be simple – a bit of chocolate, a bite of cheese and you're on your way. A hair tester sounded a lot more complicated, so I politely declined. She then asked me if I was sure three times, and on my third insistence that I was "genuinely alright, but honestly thanks so much", she barked, "I was only trying to help." It was a baffling ordeal – one I probably will never forget or understand, and one I am currently craving to have again.

While my Boots points wait patiently for me, I'm almost tempted to fish out one of the hundreds of "£5 off No7 products" vouchers that I have amassed over the years. But I know I never will. To me, it's more of a tradition, a comfort, as opposed to "a good value deal that I should absolutely take advantage of". I like to think of it as a long running private joke between Boots and I, and long may it continue. The humble Boots point is much more my speed. No risk, all reward. There's currently £13 worth of them with my name on (I spent most of them on the aforementioned creams and pastes).

When the lockdown is fully lifted and Boots is back to its former non-essential, glazed-eye, slow browsing glory, I'll be first in to purchase a few vats of eczema cream for a very special someone. It's not stockpiling if it's philanthropy!

@lollyadefope / @lilyblkly