Friday, 30 April 2010

Cosmetics Contemplations: On Being Pampered Press

Occasionally, thanks to this little bit of bandwidth that I take up, I get invited to nice events. The majority of them, sadly, I am unable to attend (due mainly to either location or to work commitments or both), but occasionally I am able to say "sign me up!" with the appropriate amount of gusto. So far it's been worth it every time (err, for all of the two times I've actually been able to go). The first time was in January 2009, when I attended the launch of Lancôme's Génifique. The second time was just yesterday (Thursday 29 April 2010), when I was invited to the St Martin's Lane Hotel in West London for a Pampered Press Day.

There was plenty of fun injected into the day (though saying that, it was more of a drop-in event) including tours of the VO5 and Champneys ranges, as well as chances to try out Salters products, such as a portable massage chair and a sublime massaging eye mask. The products exhibited were suitable for all budgets and it was a great chance to get to grips with some of them and to meet some experts. Donna from Champneys was especially helpful, offering a couple of exclusive tips, such as rubbing exfoliant into dry feet rather than doing it in the shower, and cleaning foot files with nail brushes to extend their life. Fuel PR were also very much on the ball, and the fact that they were offering round free cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery only sweetened the deal. The goody bag that members of the press were given to take away was also pretty astonishing: as well as containing another free cake, and a copy of The Devil Wears Prada on DVD, it also included a set of VO5 straighteners, a Champneys manicure set (as in an electric one with lots of different attachments) and a homemade ginger body scrub.

More seasoned members of the press that I have met are rather more blasé about this outpouring of hospitality and gifts that they receive at each of these events. Maybe I'm just too new to this, and so maybe the novelty hasn't worn off yet, but I never cease to be amazed at the amount of value that is placed on our presence (particularly bloggers). By 'value', in this context, I do mean monetary value: companies are apparently prepared to throw hundreds of pounds' worth of stuff at just one person in the hope that it will boost their sales and reputation, even when the person in question is not particularly influential (I'm no Lauren Luke, and there are plenty of beauty bloggers, and bloggers in general, who are far more popular in the blogosphere than I am).

This generosity is not only limited to press events (of which, as I have said, my experience is fairly narrow): I, and other bloggers, receive several samples from beauty companies on a fairly regular basis, many of them full size, and many of them worth over a hundred pounds. In addition to the products, certain companies also put out particularly lavish press releases, not just by email, but also by normal post, printed on very glossy high-shine paper (although to be honest even the word 'paper' feels paltry in describing these things; many of them put fancy wedding invitations to shame and some of them are more like books). This must all add up, and again, I'm slightly perplexed as to why companies are prepared to throw thousands or even millions a year at this. This is also only the tip of the marketing iceberg, with companies shelling out eyewatering amounts of money for advertising in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and on television.

However, it is this particular depth of the advertising ocean that precisely explains why companies throw so much money at bloggers in particular. Even if one of us alone is not especially influential, as a collective we can perhaps have a more significant impact, and the cost of buttering us up is probably relatively little compared to the costs of advertising on a grander scale. We are not paid to advertise (usually - and by law in the US you now have to make it clear if you are), but even exposure and review, whether positive or negative, is worth more than you can put a price tag on.

Cosmetics & Beauty News April 2010

And ze winner is...
The finalists for the "Oscars of the Beauty Industry" have finally been put out of their misery, with the winners of the Cosmetic Executive Women UK Awards, in association with Boots, having been announced on April 19. It's a generally good set of results, with a diverse range of brands being represented; special congrats go to rising star All For Eve, which picked up four gongs. The full list of winners is available here:
Additionally, Elizabeth Grant, founder of the skincare line of the same name, was recently selected as one of Hello! Canada's Women of the Year for 2010. Not only famous for establishing the successful skincare line, she did it in the 1950s, when it was unusual for women to have their own businesses, and she continues to make a success of herself at an age when most women look to retire. As well as being an entrepreneur, she is a philanthropist, playwright and professional lecturer. Well done Elizabeth!
In other awards news, has also just awarded its round of medals for the year, with winners being chosen by the people. All winners can be seen here, with Pantene, MAC, Dove, Cetaphil, Clean & Clear and NARS stealing the show among the 114 winners.

Thinking out of the box
Or smashing it, as it were, with the launch of Smashbox's first blog on April 5. Featuring how-to showcases of Smashbox products, as well as runway gossip and VIP news, it's sure to be along the beauty world's hottest online destinations in no time. TotalBeauty has also relaunched its Beauty Riot site, which has kept its virtual makeover tool and makeup and fashion tips, but has been completely made over in design and had lots of other stuff added too, including articles on makeup and beauty, more sophisticated filters to allow you to search celebrity looks more easily (including face shape and occasion), and plenty of quizzes.
Another clever web innovation this month comes in the form of ; this cool tool is the love child of Jergens, John Frieda and the Weather Channel, and gives you a beauty prescription based on the weather forecast in your area, predicting the likelihood for frizzy hair, dry skin, and more. Furthermore, you can choose how you want to receive your 'prescription', whether it's in the form of daily or hourly alerts, or even via text to your mobile.

Metallise this spring
With spring firmly here, the new makeup collections for spring and summer are hitting the shelves. As well as the waterproof version of Givenchy's Phenomen'Eyes mascara coming out, shine, shimmer and metallics seem to be all the range in Rimmel, Givenchy and Illamasqua's new collections. Layer metallics for a full-on look (for example, sweep on a metallic creme shadow, such as Illamasqua's Liquid Metal from their new Body Electrics range, and blend upwards and outwards before further decorating with a glittery liner, such as Avon's Glimmersticks), or go for one of Givenchy's shimmery colours, such as Island Lagoon or Island Sun, for day.

Going international
Estée Lauder just got more international with the signing of two new faces to the brand. The hiring of models Constance Jablonski and Liu Wen signifies the first time that the brand has hired a French model and a Chinese model respectively, and as of June, their faces will be beamed around the world.

Heal the world
America's been going gaga over Earth Day, and with Environment Day coming up in June, and with an oil slick quickly approaching the Louisiana coast, there's no reason to stop caring. The good news is that there are other ways of doing this than the age-old ways of dropping your pennies into a charity box or by giving up your time: now you can also wear your support on your face by using organic and environmentally sustainable makeup products, such as Vapour Organic Beauty's new just-launched-for-spring bronzer, shimmer stick, blusher and lip gloss, and Pratima's Rare Earth Mask and Refreshing Mint Eye Gel. Maybe not all at once though.

Skin and Bare It
Jergens continues to increase its profile: having stormed the streets and the shops, it's also taken to the web, having just launched an exclusively online show featuring Anna Richardson, the presenter famous for fighting flab in shows such as Supersize vs Superskinny. Two people swap body care regimes for three weeks to find out what happens, and the first episode is up now at

A few new apps this month, and not only for smartphone users. Firstly, there's TotalBeauty's (for iPod, iPhone and iPad only I'm afraid), allowing you to browse hundreds of thousands of consumer reviews wherever you go. The other is an online app from that gives you an instant way to experiment. Select your eye colour, choose the brush you want to use, and pick the shade you want to apply - the app will let you layer on the shadow with total freedom. Then, if you like it, buy the product or even the entire look with just one click. Genius.

Nourish with NUDE and Neal's Yard
NUDE has just relaunched its Hydrating Water in an affordable travel size for summer. At £12 for 100ml, it's the perfect size for getting through customs and won't hurt your bank balance either. Using prickly pear and floral waters, it combats irritation caused by heat, air conditioning and sun damage. Available from the end of May at SpaceNK.
Another option lies in Neal's Yard's Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner: while not available in the same tiny travel size, it is better value for money at £19.50/200ml. For all skin types, it contains bergamot, mandarin, aloe and frankincense, as does the rest of the range (eye and lip serum, firming mask and neck cream).

Get fruity
Neutrogena's new Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit range promises to smell good enough to eat, with a facial scrub and facial wash promising to fight spots for just £4.99 each. Containing MicroClear technology, the products claim to be able to penetrate oil on the skin's surface to really unclog pores below. As well as the pink grapefruit, the products also contain salicylic acid to send bad skin packing for good. Available from July.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Le Couvent des Minimes Hikers' Foot Healer

RRP: €12,90 for 75ml
retails in France (Marionnaud), Belgium (Ici Paris XL), and Canada (Jean Coutu); for stockists see

--About the brand--
"The Minimes Convent, situated in Mane in the Provençal Alps, is a historic environment where since 1862 a love for plants and natural ingredients has traditionally flourished. The terraced gardens which surround the convent are overflowing with hundreds of botanical species that are studied, cultivated and used year after year by the convent's residents. Today the recipes of the Minimes Convent pay homage to this long tradition of care and well-being using plants with products for home and body."
original text from; translation mine

--What does the promo say?--
"This cream unites 9 plants that have been carefully selected for their recognised healing properties. Its rich, non-greasy and emollient formula is rapidly absorbed to intensely nourish dry feet, soften the skin, and calm hot and tired feet with its perfume coming from essential oils."
original text from; translation mine

A spin-off of the L'Occitane brand, Le Couvent des Minimes offers similarly traditional and simple packaging. The foil tube is very appealing as it not only offers an unusual look away from the plastic and glass of several foot cream tubes and jars, but also presumably means that it's recyclable. The red label and box used for this product is also a nice touch.

Apply liberally to dry feet and leave to soak in.

A pale white cream that leaves no visible residue on the skin once absorbed.

Simply gorgeous; reminiscent of lemon sherbet sweets in a very natural way.

--Texture and consistency--
Smooth, creamy and luxurious. As promised, it is absorbed easily without being greasy.

--Effects on the skin--
Offers tangible improvements. While skin is not immediately as smooth as a baby's, the difference detected between uses, particularly the first time, is significant, with itchy feelings reduced and dry skin smoothed out. It provides similar effects to Liz Earle's Superbalm, which is about £3.50 more than this at today's exchange rates.

--Value for money--
This is an effective, attractive and affordable product. Though a little less expensive than Liz Earle's Superbalm (its nearest comparable competitor in terms of ingredients and results), it comes very close to the wow factor that the Liz Earle product delivers. However, perhaps what you really get for your money here is the exclusivity: with it only available in France, Belgium and Canada, and virtually impossible to purchase online (especially if you live outside of these three countries), it is "une vraie exclusivité" that you can treat yourself to with pleasure, or bring back with delight as a gift for family or friends.

perfect partners
Creamy Foot Exfoliant, €13,30
Honey & Shea Butter Calming Foot Cream, €15,20

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Ellis Faas Milky Lips

RRP: €25/£21
shop online at or find a list of retailers here

--What does the promo say?--
"For a more fluid and translucent appearance, try Milky Lips. For a subtle look with just a trace of colour, either apply a feather-light layer all over the lips or apply Milky Lips to the middle of the lips and fade it with the fingertips."

Long, silver and pointy, it's a James Bond-style silver bullet that will impress even the iciest of ice queens. Definitely has the wow-factor and is fairly easy to use.

Twist the end of the pen until a very small amount of colour appears in the brush. Gently stroke over lips (best bet is from the inside going outwards) and remember that you will need only the very smallest amount, even with the lighter shades. Blend with fingers if required or add extra definition with the brush.

The colour that I was sent (L205; see picture above) initially threw me as it's more of a coral-like colour than the picture perhaps portrays and I was worried about how this would look next to my fluorosis-plagued teeth. I needn't have worried: with careful application, the result is a natural-looking one with a matte finish. The effect is definitely more 1950s film star than drag queen or clownish, with the finish being more comparable to a stain or tint than to a gloss or lipstick.

None; doesn't smell like paint or have that Playdoh-style smell.

Very smooth; again, some long-wear lip colours can tend to feel like paint when you put them on, and this doesn't. Not at all sticky. Nice job.

Of the three products I was sent (the lip colour, the blusher and the eyeshadow) I'd say this fares somewhere in the middle. Be prepared to reapply 1-2 times a day (possibly 3 at most).

--Value for money--
There's no denying that this is expensive; the main competitors in this bracket for lips, price-wise, are Yves St Laurent, Benefit and Christian Dior. For your £21 or €25, you get pretty good results (though arguably not excellent ones) in wow-factor packaging and from an up-and-coming designer, without being ripped off or being necessarily part of the mainstream. This is a high-quality product that will deliver that timeless movie-star quality, making an excellent gift for all women aged 20 and up who crave something a little more 'classique'.

perfect partners
Mascara E401, €23
Creamy Eyes E108, €26
Blush S301, €28

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Absolution Day Cream

RRP: £52.95/30ml
--What does the promo say?--
"Absolution skincare day cream is a certified organic moisturiser for women with mineral sunscreen. This complete skin care is high in antioxidants, anti-radical and hydrating active principles. The perfect ally of your hectic days. To obtain your bespoke skin care, adapted to your skin’s mood, you just have to add one drop of La Solution + of your choice to target and reinforce its efficiency. La Crème du Jour anti-ageing action is combined with a mineral sunscreen (Mica). Everything you need to enjoy life with serenity! Certified organic by Eco Cert."

Very edgy, urban, modern and unisex, combining Art Deco style angles with Mary Quant monochrome. My sample (part of the box of goodies I received from Being Content ) was just a sachet, but this apparently delivers, in its full-size form, an efficient pump-action system to allow the correct dosage to be dispensed.

I was using this 'neat', as it were, but if you're using the full range, what you're supposed to do is dispense the required amount and then mix it with a drop of "La Solution" that suits you best (the idea of the brand is for you to create your own bespoke skincare by mixing and matching the more specific elements that you need with their 'basic' creams). As it was, even using the day cream on its own gave no problems.

A very strong smell of bitter orange characterises the overwhelming first impression that you get, to the extent that it's almost masculine, even though there is a day cream for men as well (which my fiancé informs me actually has a milder scent). If you don't like it, steer clear: I doubt that the "Solution" of your choice would do much to mask or alter the scent.

A white, slightly stiff and lumpy cream.

Blends in well, but takes a long time to do so.

--Effects on the skin--
For this amount of money, and for something packed with such a diverse range of ingredients whose effects have been proved positive (such as green tea, aloe vera, borage, hyaluronic acid, neroli, and centella) I was surprised to see no effect whatsoever on my skin - positive or negative.

--Value for money--
See above. You pay over £50 only for nothing to happen whatsoever, and then to see something happen, you have to pay another £63 ON TOP OF THAT (since the Solutions can't, I don't think, be used by themselves) to see any effect at all. Woof. Since the cream in itself is targeted as an anti-ageing product (the inclusion of hyaluronic acid gives a strong clue), the older generation might have more luck in seeing tangible effects on their skin, and may feel the pinch a bit less when it comes to paying for the stuff. So even though the bespoke aspect of this is all very original and impressive and everything, I think I'll be giving this one a miss.

perfect partners
Absolution Cleansing Water, £27.50/50ml
Absolution Night Cream, £54.75/30ml
Absolution La Solution Anti-Ageing, £62.75/15ml
Absolution La Solution Energie, £62.75/15ml
Absolution La Solution Radiance, £62.75/15ml
Absolution La Solution Controle, £62.75/15ml

Amala Hydrating Cream Cleanser

RRP: £42/200ml at
--What does the promo say?--
"Hydrate dry skin while gently removing makeup and impurities with thiscomforting cleansing cream from Amala. The whole botanical ingredients help sootheand restore moisture for clean, soft, radiant skin.
Formulated with Amala's organic milk emulsifier, this natural and organic cleanser contains
* Jasmine: helps nourish, moisturise and soften dry skin, while providing antioxidant protection.
* Papaya: deeply hydrates skin, helping to strengthen skin's moisture barrier with essential fatty acids.
* White Clay: helps remove makeup, impurities and dead skin cells."

Looks like it has just left a luxury spa to come and live in your bathroom: the opaque white plastic of the sample tube and the copper-coloured lid makes for a simple and elegant package.

Wet your face using a damp flannel, and then one pump of this means you're ready to go. Rub the dose of cleanser over your wet face, and then rinse off, again using a wet flannel. Once your face has dried, proceed with your usual routine.

A light yellow cream that is even in colour and leaves no visible residue on the skin.

The jasmine in this is very obvious, so if you don't like the smell of this particular flower then you might be better off trying something else.

Creamy and luxurious, but light at the same time. It glides over the skin with ease, and washes off without a fight.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin seems smoother, calmer, and less red. Usually when a product wants to hydrate my skin, I send up a prayer to the god of skincare (surely my skin is oily enough without needing to be hydrated more, and this is bound to go badly?!), but I could breathe a sigh of relief: while no miracles were achieved, I definitely saw some improvement in my skin condition during the use of this product (probably thanks to the white clay it contains, which is also used in many acne-fighting products).

--Value for money--
Now here's the snag: at £42 for 200ml, this certainly isn't cheap. However, my skin is absurdly soft thanks to the use of this product line, so I can imagine that the product's target group (=those with dry or sensitive skin) would benefit enormously from it. It also gives me confidence that the purifying range would work well on my acne (though I'd steer clear of the regenerating range, which is almost twice as expensive as these other two lines). Finally, the tiny sample tube that sent me only contained 5ml, which has lasted me at least 2 weeks. This means that a 200ml tube would last you MORE THAN A YEAR, and that the product would ultimately cost you less than £1 a week (in fact, probably closer to 50p). I'd therefore definitely recommend it: a simply gorgeous, effective, organic treat.

perfect partners
Hydrating Toner, £42/100ml
Hydrating Face Cream, £60/30ml

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Foundation

RRP: £20/30ml
--What does the promo say?--
"New Anti-Blemish Solutions Makeup. Lightweight, oil-free, long-wearing foundation that blends gently and evenly into skin to conceal and treat current blemishes, while preventing future ones. Controls oil and balances skin's surface to maintain overall skin health. Unclogs and minimizes the appearance of pores, neutralizes skin redness. Contains skin-soothing ingredients that feel cooling upon application."

The big C stamped onto the front of the plastic bottle makes this foundation instantly recognisable as a Clinique product. The metal lid (definitely metal, not plastic) is also ergonomically pleasing and is easy to open and close, and I was pleased to see, too, that they've fixed up that awful tapered nozzle since I last used a Clinique foundation: it's still tapered, but they've cut the top flat to control the amount of foundation you squeeze out, which really helps.

Onto a clean dry face, after putting on concealer (let's face it, if you're using this product, concealer is probably your lifeline like it is mine), squeeze out a pea-sized blob of the foundation (you really only need very little, even if your skin is not great) and blend onto skin, using fingers or a foundation brush.

A really smooth, creamy rather than liquid foundation.


Luxurious yet light; blends easily; no lumps.

--Coverage and longevity--
Generally excellent; definitely makes you feel confident during your day, and, as promised, is long-wearing, so no need for touch-ups throughout the day.

--Effects on the skin--
I have been using this in conjunction with the Amala samples that were sent, and I have already mentioned that I saw some improvement in my skin during this time. Which product it's down to is entirely another matter. Rats. However, my mother has recently bought me some more of this product, whereas my Amala stuff will run out soon and I will not need to replace it for a while, meaning that I'll soon be able to see which product was or is responsible.

--Value for money--
At £20, this verges on the expensive side, but is not unreasonable, especially given the treatment qualities that it purports to have. Holding up in terms of coverage as well as prestige, you also need so little each time that it can easily hold its own against other similarly-priced competitors - although the fact that it does not contain an SPF might be considered a little disappointing. Easily one of the most effective and satisfying products in its price bracket.

perfect partners
Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Foam, £13/125ml
Anti-Blemish Solutions Clarifying Lotion, £16/200ml
Anti-Blemish Solutions Clearing Moisturiser, £15/50ml
Anti-Blemish Solutions Oil Control Cleansing Mask, £15.50/100ml
Anti-Blemish Solutions Clearing Concealer, £11.50/10ml
Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face and Body, £12.50
Anti-Blemish Solutions Post-Blemish Formula, £10.50/1.8g
Anti-Blemish Solutions Clear Blemish Gel, £12/15ml