Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Blogging has changed. I haven't. And that's the problem.

Don't worry, I'm not going to moan about the current state of blogging.  Well, maybe a tiny bit, but not much.  There have been a slew of posts like this across the blogs of some of my oldest blogging friends recently, because the industry has changed, and as change usually goes, it's benefited some folks, and not others.

Back in the day when we were young and blogging was young and innocent and quite frankly things were better*, bloggers were typically hobbyists, squeezing their blogging in alongside a full time job.  PR events started happening in the evenings, posts took a while to appear, things were a bit, well, amateur.  Now, of course, blogging (or rather, bloggers) is an industry in itself, with influencers** commanding the attention of readers and brands in their droves.

For the hobbyist blogger, this can mean declining readership as people trim down their blog reading time to just their favourite influencers; brands do the same, seeking the biggest exposure.  Both of these things have happened to me.  Fewer people than ever are reading this blog nowadays, which makes me sad - I've invested a lot of time into it over the past seven years, and with commenting having dropped off a cliff and views down too, I kinda feel like I'm talking into a vacuum.  I've also been dropped from pretty much every press list in town, which also makes me sad - despite earning a good wage, I can't afford to buy enough product to post as regularly as I used to.

Both of these things are okay, though.  They're logical.  People will follow the bloggers/YouTubers/Instagrammers who have the most time to spend generating quality content.  Brands will work with people who can guarantee exposure and provide a professional working relationship.  As a hobbyist blogger who has no desire to be an influencer, go professional, or spend more time on my blog***, I'm just not as interesting in this brave new world.

And that's absolutely okay.

I'll continue to post occasionally, mostly with stuff from my sample backlog, or with stuff I've bought myself.  I won't pressure myself to schedule as many posts as possible on a Sunday.  I'll find time for some older hobbies I've neglected, like sewing and writing, and maybe even find a few new ones too.

That's the thing about change, you see.  If you don't move with it, you can't complain when you get left behind.  I could write something terribly trite about doors opening as others close****, but I'll save you the cringe and instead say goodbye to considering the London Beauty Review my other job.  Now it's just one out of many hobbies which make me the person I am.  And that's just fine with me.

* Sarcasm intended

** I hate this term.  Influencing is all about bringing people along with you, and helping them to make decisions or understand things without directing them.  It's not about projecting desirable lifestyle, and having people copy you to try to win that lifestyle for themselves.

*** Or, in fact, reply to emails from PRs more than once a week, and then only if I have enough energy whilst I'm sitting on the train on the way home from work.

**** Oops.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Six Years of LBR

Sarah and I started the London Beauty Review a whole six years ago this week, and my, what a journey it's been.  We saw US brands like Sonia Kashuk and Le Metier de Beaute arrive in the UK and then leave again, and some British classics like Ruby & Milly and Naked Skincare disappear.  The savvy consumer now has more variety than ever to play with, from insanely good high street brands like Bourjois and Makeup Revolution, to the extreme of high end luxury that is Christian Louboutin's new £60 lipsticks.

Blogging's changed a lot, too.  Barely six months after we started LBR, our IMATS press passes ignited a tirade from one person on how blogging wasn't a valid form of media - six years later, it's hard to imagine anyone bashing bloggers, given how big a part of the beauty industry they've become.

From bedroom consumer passionistas to full-time journologger hybrids, you don't have to work for a glossy magazine to be an influencer any more- and indeed, influencers are now counted by their Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube following, rather than a boringly flat circulation figure.  There's a lot written about the movement from hobbyist to professional and the difference in perspective that may come from relying on your blog for a living, but remember - we all started out of a love of the feeling that comes from a new lipstick, the excitement of trying a new styling product, and the glow that comes from discovering a fragrance so you that you know it's a keeper.

Long may it continue, and whether you're a pro-blogger, a weekend blogger or a lipstick hungry consumer, keep doing what you do and enjoy every moment.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why Blogging Sucks in '14

In early October, this blog turned five years old.  I'm not really one for birthday posts, and anyhow, I was kind of busy with a new job, but reaching such a milestone has made me think about the differences between blogging today, and blogging five years ago when I first started.

One of my first blogging experiences, a few months after starting this blog with my ex-co-writer Sarah, was meeting someone at IMATS and then being attacked for being a consumer who dared to have an opinion online.  At the time, it was a bit distressing, but also an interesting sign of the shift in the beauty industry that was yet to come.  We, the mere consumers - the inexperienced writers wielding cameras we didn't quite know how to use - we were to become a driving force in an industry dominated by paid advertising, surface-level journalism, and a whole load of snake oil.

And indeed, over the years, blogging evolved into a thing.  Consumers were able to read the opinions of other consumers, brands had to get behind honest reviews, and bloggers were suddenly the toast of the town.  So popular became blogging that the number of bloggers increased and increased.  No problem there:  the more opinions the better, right?

Not so if you're a brand or a PR agency with limited resources.  You have to choose who to grace with your coffee meetings, event invites, sponsored posts and samples.  Eventually, some bloggers became professionals because the volume of coffee meetings, event invites, sponsored posts and samples meant that they could earn a living from blogging.

And why not?  Earning a living from your passion is something almost everyone aspires to.  More power to the pro-bloggers.  Now, pro-bloggers can be found producing content for a brand, posting sponsored content, reviewing samples and even releasing their own product onto the market.  In some cases, the pro-blogger is a brand themselves, employing others to ensure that they continue to make money from endorsing, featuring, discussing and producing beauty products.

That's a long, long way from the voice of the consumer idealism we started with.

In many ways, we've come full circle, back to the days when the most accessible, discoverable content then (magazines) is the same as the most accessible, discoverable content now (pro-blogs) - paid for, and not entirely clear where the breadline stops and the real opinion begins.  Even with this lack of clarity on the realism of an opinion, consumers today have a huge number of blogs to cross-reference products against.  It takes more work, but consumers can still get a more balanced idea of whether a product is worth its price tag now than they could five years ago.

As a blogger, this leaves me in a weird place where I'm constantly falling off press lists, because I don't aggressively grow this blog, have no desire to turn this website into a career and don't accept sponsored posts or ads.  For the last six months, I've felt pretty shitty about it - diminishing returns for all my hard work, for rigidly maintaining a consumer-first stance, etc etc.

Whilst I definitely do care, I'm choosing to not worry about it.  I started blogging because I love beauty - I still do.  I continued blogging because I enjoyed arming myself (and others) with honest opinion before I go shopping - I still do.  I will continue blogging for as long as these things still hold.

For those of you not familar with DJ Shadow, this post is named in homage to a track from his album Entroducing, entitled Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '96.  It's a laid back, West Coast California kind of track, all instrumental, apart from three words at the end of the track.  These three words sum up why I feel a bit like blogging sucks in '14, particularly if you were bought into that original consumer-focused idealism.

"It's the money"

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mixed feelings: Paul & Joe Violet Treatment Balm

This Paul & Joe Treatment Balm is a solid oil in a pot.  It smells of violets.  It's hydrating and softening, and you can apply it to your lips, your hair, and dry skin patches.  It's rather nice.


Seriously, if you had £20 to spend on Paul and Joe, would you buy this?  Or would you buy an eye gloss, a crazily-printed makeup bag, or even A LIPSTICK SHAPED LIKE A KITTY?

I know some people buy everything from one brand, and I guess most of these will sell to those people.  Because really, in the world of Paul and Joe, where everything is brightly coloured, modern-retro packaged, and COVERED IN KITTIES, why is there a rather-nice-but-still-slightly-bland-compared-to-the-rest-of-it product like this?

Answers on a post card, or in the comments...

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Grumpy Blogger Rants: The Expectation of Samples

Image lovingly modified from an original from

I've been blogging now for over four years, first at a short-lived blog called Project Beauty before I hooked up with Sarah and established LBR, which I now run on my own.  I'm very, very lucky in that I have good relationships with a number of brands, am regularly invited to events, and regularly receive samples to try out.

I love receiving samples.  I love receiving any form of cosmetics, whether I bought it myself, it's a gift, or it's a sample from a brand I'm interested in.  The day I stop getting a little thrill when I come home to a padded envelope is the day I check in to a padded room  stop blogging stop being interested in beauty products.

And you know what?  I feel like I've earned the right to those samples - I schedule content regularly, I write honestly, I've spent time building up an audience who (hopefully) trust my reviews.  I spend a huge amount of time on this blog - I joke that LBR is my night job, and really, it is - it takes up a day and often multiple evenings of my week, which is a big commitment when you have a 60-hour-a-week dayjob.  I still LOVE it.  LOVE testing cosmetics, photographing cosmetics, writing about cosmetics, even writing poems about cosmetics.

So it sort of gets my goat when I go to events and see bloggers turning their nose up at the apparently-meager contents of their goody bags.  It also gets my goat when I see undisclosed reviews, and read about undisclosed paid content.  And it also gets my goat (I don't literally have a goat, just a figurative one) when I see and hear new bloggers complaining about the lack of samples.  Let's get one thing straight:

Having a blog does not entitle you to samples.

I suspect some bloggers aren't entirely clear on why they get samples.  Bloggers get samples because brands want to raise awareness.  They get samples because brands want to create buzz on a product.  They do not get samples because brands like them, or because other people get samples.  Brands don't have infinite supplies of them.  They are not presents, nor are they a mark of popularity.  They are a marketing tool, no more and no less.

If you would like some samples in the future, and you're a new blogger, build an audience.  Review every beauty product you have lying around at home, or those you can beg from your friends, post lemming lists, take photos of interesting new things you've seen at Boots and post those too.  Post meaningful comments on other people's blogs.  Publish meaningful comments on yours.  Use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest to engage with likeminded folk, both blogger and consumer alike.

Having a blog with a legitimate following entitles you to maybe appear interesting to brands if your following matches their demographic.

Don't go begging for samples (particularly by tweeting at brands publicly).  Don't publicly complain about not getting any samples (online or IRL).  Samples are about brands getting exposure to the public, so your public profile matters.  And don't feel hard done by if you have to wait a while to build up PR contacts.  After all, you're not in this for the free stuff, right?

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Blogging: How Does It All Fit In?

It's Sunday evening.  So far this weekend, I've spent a day walking around the Tower of London with my husband, stepkids, brother, sister in law, father and stepmother; I've done a Tesco shop, cooked a couple of meals, done some washing, baked a cake as a thankyou for a colleague, and done a bit of work in preparation for the week ahead.

I've also spent two and a half hours taking photos of products, swatches and my own face, and I intend to spend four or five hours editing photos and writing up posts.

Since Sarah and I started the London Beauty Review four years ago, my life has changed a hell of a lot, and sometimes I find myself wondering whether I really should be spending a day a week or more writing about lipstick.  And so has Sarah's - you might have noticed she's on a bit of a break at the moment whilst she concentrates on other parts of her life.  Don't get me wrong, I still adore the slap, and going to events, receiving a new product in the post or buying another lipstick I don't need still gives me a little shiver inside.

When it comes down to it, I started blogging to share a passion - and even though that passion has changed shape over the years, and the other passions in my life have expanded to take up more time, I still blog to share my passion for product.  The standards I've set myself have become the issue, rather than the blogging itself; it's the daily posts, the carefully taken and edited photos which take up my time.

From now on, there may not be a post every day, and I may post photos I've taken with the camera on my phone rather than carefully edited ones I've shot on my DSLR.  Hopefully, though, LBR will continue to be useful and interesting to those of you who share our passion for beauty!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A brief note on brows

I see this sight in the mirror every morning when I'm halfway through my makeup, and it never fails to remind me of the Power of the Brow:

Left: brow filled in with powder. Right: ungroomed puny brow exposed to world.

I never used to fill in my brows, finding that every pencil I tried was either pitch black or created terrifying ginger eyebrows due to red undertones. I wandered around with both brows looking like the sad example on the right up there.

Then I had a brow epiphany when my mum gave me some makeup she'd bought and then decided against. (My mum has never worn makeup - go figure.) There was a grey-ish brown shade in her rejected stash that turned out to be my ideal brow colour. Nowadays I've found some alternatives, and Illamasqua's Motto is the one I always recommend for those who find everything else too red.

Do you fill in your brows? Powder or pencil? Did you have a eureka moment, or have you always filled in your arches? Tell us in the comments.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Our Christmas Beauty Wist Lists

It's strange but true... no matter how many products a beauty blogger has crammed into every drawer in the house or overflowing from an ever-expanding row of storage units, there are always those few things we simply can't help coveting, stalking and eventually caving in and buying. It's illogical, nonsensical and ridiculous, but it's nonetheless totally unavoidable.

So we're not even going to apologise for the following list of totally unnecessary and indulgent things we're currently jonesing from the creme de la creme of cosmetics purveyors. It's just the way we are...


1. Nars Nagauta Kabuki brush set
It's a combination of two of my favourite things. Makeup, and bento boxes. And it's my favourite colour - red. Mmm... bento...

2. Tom Ford Private Blend Santal Blush
I've been mildly obsessed with this leathery coconutty fragrance ever since we were introduced to it at the launch of Tom Ford's makeup line a couple of months ago. Whenever I see a tester, I spray myself with greedy abandon.
3. By Terry Baume de Rose SPF 15
Terry has a way with roses. In fact, she has a patented technique for processing them into the most delectable beauty products around. This balm is magical stuff, but it's also £35 for 10g, which means I'm going to have to do quite a lot more rationalising and self-deluding before I can bring myself to purchase it.
4. Le Metier de Beaute Kaleidoscope eye kit
I regret not getting hold of one of these before they departed from the UK. Such a cool design, and such beautiful quality products...
5. Diptique Feu de Bois candle
Diptique candles are one of those deliciously premium things I remember spying on the shelves of Space NK long before I got into blogging or high-end beauty. For some reason, I've still never got around to buying one, but if I did, it would be Feu de Bois (woodsmoke). Gorgeous.

6. Jonathan Ward Russian Collection candle - The Empress and Darya
Yep, another candle. (I sense a new addiction forming.)I fell a bit in love with this candle at Jonathan Ward's recent press launch. It has a leathery liquoricey clove & cinnamon medley with added incense and wood that's somehow both mysterious and very comforting.


1.  Graham & Green Art Deco Triple Mirror
If my dressing table wasn't covered in random tubes and pots, hair bands, odd socks, and about 20 Muji drawers full of makeup, it would have one of these beautiful triple mirrors standing upon it.  It'd also be a proper dressing table and not a cheapo one from Argos that I've never quite gotten round to replacing.  But hey, a girl's got to start somewhere, right?
I tried this on at a recent event and fell in love.  The colour is gorgeous.  The texture is fabulous.  The packaging is stunning.  At £31, it's more expensive than a Tom Ford lipstick, though, and I'm not entirely sure I can make a random lunchtime purchase of it.. so it'd take someone really special to buy it for me (I hope my husband's reading this).

Yes, it's a classic, and although I've loved it every time I've spritzed it upon myself, I've never quite bought a bottle.  A rich, heady scent bursting with spice and warmth, it's perfect for winter, and thus perfect for Christmas.

Every time Guerlain release one of these beautiful vintage style bottles filled with delicate shimmer powder, I shiver a little bit.  They are simply gorgeous - the bottles alone would get pride of place on my aforementioned dressing table, and the subtle shimmer is something I'd truly enjoy spritzing on my face, my hair... everywhere.  This year's offering made doubly gorgeous with the 30s styling and deep turquoise colour.  I love it.

I had a little sample of this once.  It's so strong that it almost makes me feel sick for a few minutes after I apply it - but after drying down, it's the headiest, muskiest, most sultry thing I have ever had the pleasure of sniffing.  And it's miles away from a traditional rose perfume.  Tauer describe it as being like a "thick flying oriental carpet with floating rose petals", which would make me want to buy it even if I didn't love the perfume itself as much as I do.

What's on your wishlist for Christmas? (Or just for the sake of it?)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Products I Wish For In Summer

I really, really hate hot weather.  I burn in direct sunlight within ten minutes unless I'm covered in sun cream, sweat glow excessively when it's humid, and have been known to faint if it gets too hot.  Here are some imaginary products I wish were available that'd definitely make my summer more palatable...

Anti Perspirant Primer

The aforementioned glow causes any blush or foundation to slide straight off my face.  I wish I could buy a primer which would stop my face from getting sweaty - I'd be less of a state on the train, and my blush would have a chance of sticking to my face for more than an hour in the morning.

Airbrush SPF

Applying sun cream is a pain.  The higher the SPF, the thicker it tends to be, and the longer it takes to rub it in.  Imagine if you could just airbrush yourself with a light, even coat of SPF and walk out the door?  It'd be like an anti-spray-tan.

Self-refrigerating Cooling Spritz

Facial sprays and spritzes are lovely, but if you carry them around they get just as hot as you do.  What about a spritz which included the usual hydrating ingredients, maybe a bit of SPF, and housed in a magical self-refrigerating case which keeps the product within chilled all day.  That would be lovely.  Plus, you could hold it against your forehead on the train.

What products do you dream of in hot weather?  Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Free with Purchase: Nails Inc Fall Off The High-End Radar

In the past six weeks, we've had four press releases about free bottles of Nails Inc polish being given away with purchases of glossy magazines, newspapers, and even jeans.  Add this to the now oft-repeated Diet Coke freebies, and that makes a rather large number of free polishes available to collect - can we really still say that they're worth £11 a pop?

High end products are a funny old thing.  In some cases, they are genuinely of higher quality than their more competitively priced cousins.  In many cases, though, high end products command their more expensive price points based on the aspirational element; we buy them not only because we perceive them to be better quality, but also because the brand identity is something we aspire to ourselves.

In the past, we've talked about how freebies might alter consumer perception of a product's value.  Having seen so many free polish promotions going on in the past few weeks, I can't help but feel that Nails Inc have devalued their products to the extent that my entire perception of the brand has shifted - losing that aspirational edge.  Once, the Nails Inc brand meant fresh, interesting colours, professional, high-end manicures, and cute, distinctive packaging.  Now, I'm afraid, it just equals free giveaways and overvalued product, and for me, no longer counts as a high end brand.

What do you think?  Do you still buy Nails Inc products at full price?  Do you collect every free polish available?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

At Home Beauty - Mobile Beauty Therapists

I recently had the pleasure of a massage and eyebrow shape in the comfort of my own home from Perfect 10 Mobile Beauty.  Claire, the owner of the business, turned up at my door carrying a portable massage table, Elemis oils, candles and a portable stereo - and in the slightly unkempt atmosphere of my kitchen/dining room, she managed to recreate a spa atmosphere and give me a thoroughly relaxing massage, with neatly groomed eyebrows to boot.

I got to thinking - why, despite our love of massages, manicures, pedicures and waxing, do we so often choose to shlep to a salon instead of relaxing at home?  Some treatments, like body wraps or spray tans, require too much equipment to be carried out at home, but the most popular are just as easily done outside of a salon.  

Take pedicures, for example.  I've had many pedicures which included a polish application, and spent twenty or thirty minutes sitting there after my appointment waiting for the polish to dry thoroughly.  Only to put my foot into my shoe and immediately smudge my perfectly polished toes.  The alternative is wearing those disposable flip flop things home - not particularly stylish looking, and completely impractical in winter.  Having a pedicure at home, however, means that you can wave the therapist away from your front door, and carry on walking around barefoot at home until your polish is totally dry.

Having had such a great massage at home, and with my level of relaxed snoring being at the same level as it is at a salon, I rather think that next time I fancy a manicure, pedicure or massage, I'll be calling a mobile beauty therapist instead of automatically booking into my local salon.

What do you think?  Had any treatments at home, or prefer the experience in a salon?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Home Spa

Does anyone else use Sunday late afternoons and early evenings to finish the week with a bit of a home spa session?  I feel much happier, more relaxed, and ready for the week ahead once I've given myself a top-to-toe treat.  Here's the lowdown on some great products to create that home spa experience.

Nothing starts off a home spa evening like a facial:  I begin with a good double cleanse.  A hard-working oil like Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil takes off any makeup, and something a bit creamier, like Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish*, completes the cleansing.  I skip the muslin cloth because of the exfoliation to come.

After a thorough rinse, I use NuBo's Diamond Peel and Reveal*, which is essentially a two-step home microdermabrasion treatment - you can only use this once a week, it's so powerful.  After use, my skin is incredibly clean, bright and smooth - but very, very dehydrated due to the intense exfoliating action.

A calming, moisturising mask like Decleor Harmonie Calm Comforting Mask*, or Caudalie Vinosource Moisturising Cream-Mask injects some much needed moisture into the skin - with the added benefit that both masks can be left on to sink into the skin completely whilst you relax.

A long, relaxing bath with a good book is a Sunday essential for me - and if I'm in the mood for foam, it's Soap and Glory's Calm One, Calm All, which manages to be both bubbly and moisturising, or for those bath oil days, Penhaligon's Bluebell Bath Oil* is supremely relaxing.

After a good soak, there's nothing like a full body exfoliation to make you feel fresh, clean and silky smooth.  I'm a lazy cow, so I use the Body Shop's Bath Gloves with whatever shower gel is nearby from top to toe, paying extra attention to feet and elbows.  A quick rinse down with some cool water leaves me feeling refreshed, and I finish off with some lazy moisturising - dry oil spray.  I've been using dry oil from Somethin' Special, a cottage industry company dealing in handmade products.  The oils, whilst not cheap, are very moisturising and come in hundreds of scents.

Topped off with a quick change of nail polish, my Sunday spa regime leaves me feeling very relaxed and refreshed, ready for a new week.  What's your favourite way to relax at the end of the week?  Do you have a home spa regime?  What products work for you?  Let us know in the comments! 

* Denotes PR samples

Monday, 28 March 2011

Count Your Stash: Colour Cosmetics

This weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and count the number of colour cosmetics I own in the categories of blush, eyeshadow, lip colour and nail polish.  I've long known that I own rather a lot of makeup - but still, I manage to justify buying more because I genuinely believe I'm missing some key shades.  But... having counted, I'm now fairly sure that I can't really have any gaps at all....

shades of blush

shades of lip colour

shades of nail polish

shades of eyeshadow

That's a staggering 349 shades in total, not even counting eyeliner (I don't really buy eyeliner that often).  I'm well aware that this number might not seem all that massive to some; but for me.. it's too many.  I'm unlikely to ever use up all that product.

So, next time I go shopping and coo over yet another red lipstick I will remember this number, and think carefully before I add to it.  

That said, it would be easier to remember if it was a nice round number... so maybe I will buy that Chanel Rouge Coco Shine after all...

How many lipsticks, eyeshadows, blushes and nail varnishes do you own?  What's your magic number overall?  Do you even care?  Let us know in the comments!

Friday, 4 February 2011

YouTube Gurus and Lauren Luke at IMATS

YouTubers were out in force at IMATS last weekend. We attended Lauren Luke's solo talk, as well as a round table session with gurus Pursebuzz, Wayne Goss, Pixiwoos and Koren Zander (Enkore).

We were introduced to the Pixiwoo sisters before their session and found them to be as friendly and upbeat in reality as they are on the small screen. The general impression from the YT speakers was exuberance, enthusiasm and a sense of humility - it seemed that none of them could quite believe the scale of their success and they were very mindful of all the supporters who put them where they are today. All of them discussed how much time they spend answering emails and moderating comments from their audiences; often several hours per day. No sense of entitlement here!

The same can be said for Lauren Luke, who has recently set up an agony aunt style service - "Dear Lauren" - which will strengthen her bond with the public and the sense of her as an accessible "big sister" figure to those starting out with cosmetics or in need of general advice. She told us that audience interaction is the high point of her work. She loves feedback and comments.

The presence of YouTubers at IMATS has raised a few hackles in the makeup artist community. Lauren Luke in particular has been subject to some barbed attacks from trained makeup artists who feel that she was unqualified to be a keynote speaker at an industry event. IMATS is a trade show for professional makeup artists, some of whom feel that their training and experience is belittled by the presence of a girl who, despite her stratospheric success and 450,000-strong subscriber base, hasn't gained any professional accreditation.

Lauren addressed this in her IMATS speech; "Who says I'm not a professional? I make money from it, so yes I am." She's been upset by some of the comments online about her IMATS billing, but maintains that she quite was entitled to be there. She told us that she doesn't see herself as a makeup artist, and has never claimed to be one. Rather than someone who does makeup on others, she enables people to do their own makeup - she's a tutor rather than an artist. She went on to state that makeup artists are a closed community who tend towards elitism, and that her experience at counters and makeup stores has reflected this.

It seems that some things sadly haven't changed much since last year! 

Meanwhile, it was fascinating to hear some of the comments and questions the audience had for the gurus at both sessions. We heard people asking how they could maximise their subscriber rates, whether they should continue aiming for YouTube success, and how many subscribers it took to become a YouTube Partner. It was clear that there were a substantial number of people looking to find out not how to become a makeup artist, or even to improve their skills in DIY makeup, but how to become "a YouTube Guru". The title has become an aspiration in itself.

Nic Chapman of Pixiwoo had a clear and emphatic answer to this - "Don't do it for the subscribers, do it for the passion". She vocally discouraged aspiring YouTubers from begging for subscribers or offering biased reviews to gain brand relationships and product samples, urging them to post videos and write blogs for enjoyment and personal satisfaction. The other panellists agreed with her completely. All of the gurus we heard from began their work at a time when there was no culture of brand involvement or competition for subscribers. In fact Lauren Luke began as an eBay merchant who would post videos to show the benefits of her wares. She stumbled across her YouTube audience completely by accident.

It's easy to see how the fairytale success story of the single mum from South Shields could prompt others to follow down the same path in the hope of recognition and fame. But YouTube (and blogging) is not showbusiness - it's a hobby. A tiny minority of successful amateurs can make a living from it, but for most of us, it will only ever be a part-time pursuit.

If you can enjoy it for what it is, blogging and vlogging is rewarding even without an audience. It's good to know that those who are in the limelight are aware of that too.

Monday, 10 January 2011

EU Animal Testing ban final phase delayed until 2017

My heart sank when I read this article, posted on Twitter today by the ever-knowledgeable Beauty Brains.

It seems that buying cruelty-free cosmetics isn't going to get any easier in the near future, thanks to delays on EU legislation.

As I posted previously, an EU-wide ban on selling products containing ingredients tested on animals was planned for 2013. Although testing cosmetic ingredients on animals within the EU was banned in 2004, products containing ingredients tested on animals in other countries are still on the shelves. They will remain on sale, in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, until the final phase of the ban comes into play.

It seemed we had just a couple of short years to wait until conscientious makeup addicts could buy whatever products they liked without checking up on their animal testing status.

However, that final phase has now been postponed for a further five years, on the grounds that alternative methods haven't been developing fast enough to provide adequate cruelty-free testing in time for 2013.

So much for all those press statements from the big cosmetic companies about "funding research into alternatives". Reach into your pockets a bit deeper next time!

The Guardian article also mentions "REACH", an initiative to re-test numerous ingredients used in household products, including cosmetics. Some REACH tests are animal-based, meaning that previously "not tested" ingredients present in cruelty-free products can no longer be classed as such.

Although the way is by no means clear for ethical consumers (definitions of "cruelty-free" are varied, and companies are frequently very reluctant to admit to animal testing practices), there is an up-to-date consumer guide available from BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) here.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year + New Year Resolutions

A very Happy New Year to all our readers!  It's hard to believe how fast 2010 has flown by (and how many lipsticks I've managed to purchase within one short year).

The new year always brings the old question of resolutions - make them or not?  I've never really made any, mostly because I'm quite happy to make a fresh start (usually diet wise) at any time of the year.  But this year, I think I might make at least one.

I'm not going to cut down on the amount of nail polish I buy, nor am I going to give up chocolate or cheese.  I'm not going to buy less clothes, or even buy fewer expensive good quality clothes instead of loads of cheap rubbish.

This year, I promise that I'm going to appreciate myself a bit more.  I'm going to stop judging myself on how wobbly my arse is on any given day, and I'm going to stop thinking that if I lost a little weight, my life would suddenly end up perfect.  Hell, I might even leave the house without 20 makeup products applied to my face every now and then.

It's all too easy to focus on the negatives when you love a good beauty product: so much of what we buy is geared towards hiding flaws or improving ourselves.  We should remember the positives too - so when I look in the mirror, instead of wishing I didn't have so many moles, or that my dark circles would magically disappear, I'm going to appreciate my lips, which are one part of me I'm truly happy with.

If you're not making any resolutions, maybe you'll consider a bit of self-appreciation too - what's your favourite feature about yourself?  Tell us in the comments.  Here's to a happy, healthy, beautiful 2011!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Repurchase Worthy: Six Near Perfect Products

As much as I love trying out something new, there are a few products that I continue to repurchase - because, for me, they are as close to perfect as I think is possible.  And for me, that's saying something - because I don't really believe there is such a thing as a Holy Grail product.  As perfect as something might be, I'm always going to keep trying to alternatives in case they are cheaper / prettier / better, particularly given how many new products are released every month.

But still.  There are a few products which I have repurchased many times - some of which I keep a steady stock of - regardless of how many other versions of the basic product that I try. 

Urban Decay Primer Potion

Obviously, this cult primer is a big love of mine because my eyelids are seriously oily and destroy carefully applied eyeshadow within two hours.  I've yet to find any other primer which keeps my shadow looking great for 14 hours.  Despite the crappy packaging (which hopefully is changing this winter), I'll always have at least one of these in my collection.

Soap and Glory Calm One, Calm All Bath Foam

I've written about it before, and it's become the baseline for all bath foam comparisons.  It's nicely, inoffensively scented, produces loads of gloriously soft bubbles which last for hours, and it leaves my skin feeling soft.  And it's relatively cheap.  A bottle of this can always be found above my bath, tucked into its own corner.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation

I've only repurchased this once, but that's because a bottle tends to last me at least eight months to a year.  A medium coverage, buildable foundation, with a semi matte finish, it offers enough coverage for days when my skin is a bit iffy, and is easy to apply with my fingers.  The finish isn't heavy or obvious, and set with a bit of powder, it lasts all day.  

Original Source White Pear & Avocado Conditioner

I love this because it's less than three quid a bottle, and it's the best silicone free conditioner I've used for washing my hair.  It lathers lightly, rinses away cleanly, and provides plenty of moisture for my dry ends.  Don't even get me started on the scent - sweet, fruity, fresh, it's absolutely glorious.  If you ever spot someone in Boots with four or five of these in their basket, it'll probably be me.

Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara

Perfect for fat, intense lashes, this mascara gives fabulous volume and doesn't clump.  The curved brush makes it easy to apply, it doesn't get thick and unusable after two months of ownership, and it doesn't smudge or run.  I might be very fickle when it comes to mascara, but I usually have one of these knocking around, and have repurchased it four times - which is a record for me!

Nivea Light Feeling Sun Lotion SPF50

Being pale of skin, I like a high SPF sun lotion for holidays and summer at home.  I hate the sun.  I burn really quickly, have suffered from heat exhaustion before, and given the choice would stay under a parasol all summer.  This gives plenty of sun protection, and it also is completely non sticky - you can still feel it on the skin, but it's not a sand and dirt magnet like many sun products can be.  I buy at least two of these every year.

What about you?  What products are lucky enough to get a repeat purchase from you?  Or do you chop and change all the time?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Naked Bodycare's Rose face wash and White Ginger shower gel

Disclosure - PR sample

I've lost count of the number of times I've recommended Naked products to friends. Want to cut out SLS? Try Naked! Want to lose the silicones? Naked's your brand! Wary of mineral oil? Naked fits the bill! Parabens got you nervous? Naked's the answer! Want an affordable, ethical, cruelty-free range that works? Give Naked a go!

Basically for all those reasons, Naked's formulas are a welcome addition to the high street. But did I also mention that they work well, smell great and are nice and cheap? Well, they are. (So there.)

I've amassed a decent collection of Naked shower gels and hair products already, but I wasn't aware until we were contacted by their PR that Naked also do face products. I gladly accepted the chance to try the Naked Rose Softening Face Wash (£3.99), as well as the warming White Ginger shower gel (also £3.99), which I figured would be good for a bit of extra glow during the coming autumn months.

Both are up to the usual Naked standard - fresh, clear foaming formulas that despite the lack of SLS are thorough at cleansing. Perhaps due to that same lack of SLS, they're gentle on the skin and leave it softer and smoother than most drugstore-priced products. Both are also beautifully fragranced - the White Ginger gives my (much pricier) Origins Ginger body wash a run for its money in the scent stakes.

The Rose face wash was the real stand-out for me however, leaving facial skin soft, clean and bright, without the drying effects common to many SLS-bearing cleansers available at this price point. I'd happily rely on this as a sole cleanser, as it also does a good job of removing makeup. I'm dallying with both oil and hot cloth cleansers at the moment, but I also like to keep a foaming cleanser in the shower for days when I don't want to faff about with a separate cleansing session. The Naked Rose face wash is a perfect candidate for this particular task, and will be repurchased quicksmart when it runs out.

I know this post sounds overly gushy and positive, and maybe you're wondering if our impartial blogger hats have slipped a bit, but the truth is that these are well performing, low priced and beautifully scented products that really do deserve praise. I've told my friends, I'm telling you - I really really recommend this stuff.

Naked products are available at selected Boots stores, at Boots online and directly from Naked's newly revamped website, where you can currently get the White Ginger shower gel free with any purchase. Offer ends today, so act now to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Beautiful But Pointless Makeup

Paul and Joe's latest collection, Clair de Lune, includes these very pretty lipsticks; the level of detail in the cat shape is rather amazing and certainly very cute.  But.... what's the point of it?  If you buy a lipstick shaped like a cat, are you really going to ruin the intricacy of the design by actually applying it to your lips?

This product is the latest in a long line of absolutely beautiful but terribly pointless makeup.  Guerlain and Chantecaille are particularly good at gorgeously detailed products you'd be unlikely to dip your brushes into.

Guerlain's Paradis Exotique eyeshadow palette features four shadows embossed with a leaf pattern, in an engraved metallic case.  While it's admittedly lovely, I can't imagine messing up those beautiful leaves by actually using the shadows.  Similarly, Chantecaille's Le Dauphins face palette contains four powder colours with inlaid leaping dolphins and waves.

I personally couldn't contemplate spending money on makeup that's there to be looked at, not used.  That said, though, plenty of people collect items that are for display only: dolls, beanie babies, figurines - so what's wrong with applying the same to makeup?

Chantecaille Les Dauphins palette, around £50, at Nordstrom
Guerlain Ombre Eclat Paradis Exotique, £34,
Paul & Joe lipstick, £16, Harrods Knightsbridge and Fenwick New Bond Street

What do you think?  Would you purchase a product just to add it to your collection, never to be used?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

MAC, Rodarte and Juarez: A Different Perspective

Much has been said over the last few days about MAC's latest collaboration with fashion house Rodarte.  If your attention has been elsewhere, the crux of the matter is that the collection, said to be "inspired by" a road trip that took in Mexican border towns, uses stark, ghost-like imagery and contains product names such as "Factory", "Bordertown" and "Juarez".  The reasoning behind the offence caused lies in the disturbing history of Juarez; a border town with a profusion of factories where the need to produce goods at very low cost means low working wages and poor conditions.  Young women are often raped and murdered, with such frequency that the town has become known for "femicide".

The product names, in combination with the ghostly imagery, are indeed in bad taste, given that the collection did not aim to raise awareness or funds for what is undoubtably a very worthy cause.  One might wonder how MAC and Rodarte were so short sighted as to not anticipate an outcry.  To their credit, MAC's response has been to apologise for any offence caused and to pledge a portion of profits to a Juarez charity.  But this, it seems, isn't enough for everyone - the outrage continues, with calls for the collection to be axed entirely.

I take issue with this suggestion. It stands to do damage rather than good for the victims; surely some money for the women of Juarez is better than no money at all. If the collection is indeed pulled, there will be no proportion of proceeds to be donated.

Whilst I understand the drive to get MAC to commit to a higher proportion of proceeds to be donated, the amount of vitriol being directed at MAC and Rodarte seems disproportionate to the crime.  Yes, they have named some products and used imagery in bad taste.  If this had been a charity collaboration from the start, though, with the same images and names, I suspect there would be far less controversy surrounding it.

There has been talk of MAC "exploiting" women by using Juarez-related names and imagery in this campaign without highlighting the underlying cause more explicitly.  Honestly, I feel that the backlash has the wrong companies in its sights: if we want to blame someone for exploiting women, we should blame the companies who operate the factories, blame the governments who don't protect women, blame the corporations who demand margins that make the low pay and poor conditions a reality.  MAC and Rodarte might have been insensitive, yes, but they are not exploiting anyone.  Conversely, they have inadvertantly highlighted the issue - ultimately, how many of us can honestly say we had heard of Juarez and its mistreated women before all of this kicked off?

Now that we do know about it, our energies would be far better invested in campaigning for organisations who make a positive difference in Mexico than in campaigning against the organisation who accidentally brought it to our attention.

For more information, visit the Wikipedia article, Amnesty's broader page on the Violence Against Women Act, or find out how you can help, visit Amnesty's Take Action pages.
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