Showing posts with label rant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rant. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

(Only slightly related to) La Prairie Anti Aging Eye & Lip Contour Cream

A while ago I went along to House of Fraser on London's Oxford Street to be introduced to La Prairie products, both new releases and old favourites.  The event was lovely - the ladies from both the PR firm and La Prairie were helpful, providing in depth explanations into the La Prairie sub-ranges, and smearing creams on any available bits of skin so we could feel the textures.  BUT.  Most of the bloggers at the event were in their 20s or early 30s.  And this product, one of the new launches, costs a staggering £126 for a 20ml pot.  Are we the right people to be testing what is a very expensive, very high science anti-aging product?  Probably not.

I've been using it for a few weeks now, and my eye area does indeed look smoother, my fine crow's feet do look diminished, and my skin is undoubtedly very well hydrated and very firm.  I'm just not sure that the effects on my limited wrinkles really provide enough of a test for this product.  So I'll be handing my other La Prairie eye cream, one from the classic range, over to my Mum for a proper test.

On the upside, your £126 also includes some pretty cool packaging - this little wand comes with the cream, and you're supposed to take a dab out of the pot and apply it to the skin using the wand rather than your fingers. The wand is metallic, and therefore has a lovely cooling effect when you apply the cream with it.  Oh, and it's MAGNETIC, so you can't lose it - it sticks to the lid of the pot.  Very, very cool.

Disclosure: PR sample

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!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lament: Murad Skin Perfecting Primers

Murad recently added four new products to its acclaimed skincare line, which aim to bridge the gap between skincare and cosmetics.  There are two eye products to illuminate and perfect the undereye area, and two primers to be used under or instead of foundation to smooth the skin and leave it looking even and glowing.  

Unfortunately, despite the so-called Adaptive Shade Technology used in the primers, I can't use them.  

The tint is quite dark compared to my fair, cool skin, and if I apply the primer to my face I look just like I'm wearing a foundation that's too dark for me.  Granted, it's not a massive difference, but it's enough that I won't wear either primer - which is the problem.  Products which try to have a one-size-fits-all approach to colour rarely work, and whilst this might be a great primer in terms of its performance, I'll never know, simply because the tint is not compatible with my skin.  I wish that cosmetics companies would make their products either in a decent range of shades, or in a translucent formula, and not try to cover us all with the same shade!

If your skintone is a little deeper than mine, and you'd like to try Murad's Hybrids range, you'll find them online - BeautyBay has the full range.  The primers come in dewy and matte formulations, and cost £27 each.

Disclosure: PR sample

Monday, 15 November 2010

When Good Facialists Go Bad: Gennie Monteith

Me and Wahanda are firm friends.  They provide gloriously priced treatments via their excellent mobdeals, and I hand over my credit card details time and time again.  A short while ago, I paid £25 for a 90 minute custom facial with Gennie Monteith, a "bespoke facialist" who is described as "renound in her field".

Unfortunately, since buying the deal, I've been unable to get hold of Ms Monteith to book in my treatment.  I sent an email, and received no reply.  I called, no-one answered; I texted, no-one responded; I called again and found that her voicemail was full and I couldn't leave a message.  When I did eventually manage to leave a message, I didn't hear a peep back.

And sadly, I'm not alone in my bad experience - the reviews on her page on Wahanda are a mixed bag, with some people raving about the quality of the facial, and others complaining that Gennie Monteith didn't return their calls, failed to turn up, arrived late, or talked all the way through the facial.

I got in touch with Wahanda Customer Service today to be told that I would receive a refund - Ms Monteith has, apparently, sold too many vouchers and isn't really succeeding in booking many people in at all (or, indeed, phoning them back).  As always, I received a prompt reply from Wahanda, and my refund is on its way.

If you also bought into the Gennie Monteith facial deal for Mayfair, London - get in touch with Wahanda to get your money back by emailing [at]  As for Gennie... this kind of unprofessional service pretty much guarantees that I'll be looking elsewhere for a bespoke facial, and dissuading friends from visiting her.

Did you buy one of these vouchers?  What was your experience?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Diet Coke City collection - a tie-in too far for Nails Inc?

Disclosure - PR sample
As you already know, unless you live in a cave or have selective nail-polish-blindness, there is currently a Nails Inc/Diet Coke promotion on at Boots. When you buy two 500ml bottles of Diet Coke, you get one of the four special edition polishes above for free. The shades are (L - R); London, Paris, New York, Milan.

We received Paris and Milan to check out, and I've been wearing them (one on each hand, high-school style) for the past few days. Like all Nails Inc polishes I've tried, the wear is outstanding, application is easy and satisfying and the colours are rich and deep. The same is true of London, which I picked up for myself in Boots. I don't even like Diet Coke, but I saw Get Lippie wearing it when I last saw her and it's too good a colour to pass up for less than £2.

Which brings me to my one misgiving. I think Nails Inc make great products, but I worry slightly about their current penchant for giveaways. First on the front of magazines (most recently 3 exclusive colours for InStyle's June edition) and now with soft drinks. These polishes are supposed to be worth £10.50 a bottle - but how seriously can you take that price bracket when they're literally giving away full size products en masse, on a regular basis?

It's basic psychology - if you put two things together, and do it enough times, you get an association. Your brand becomes synonymous with free things. "£10.50?" says your consumer, "for something that comes free with a soft drink? I don't think so."

I Just hope Nails Inc haven't walked so far down the giveaway path that they can't find their way back again.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Counter Culture: "Thanks, I'm just browsing"

Photo by darkensiva on

Approaching a counter in a beauty hall can be a nerve-wracking experience. Your're lured by the array of products, all lined up and waiting to be investigated. A lush spectrum of eyeshadows, all carefully laid open for swatching. Inviting lipstick testers uncapped and shining before you. Or maybe a special display of limited edition products you've only seen or read about online, right there in the flesh. The compulsion to walk up to the counter and get to grips with the oh-so-tempting displays is powerful indeed.

But in the back of your mind, a little voice is shouting "it's a trap!". You know that as soon as you step within an undefined distance of the counter, you're in danger, and as soon as you take one of those poisoned-chalice testers in hand, you're doomed.The adversary into whose lair you've wandered - Pushy Counter Sales Person - is close at hand and poised to strike.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"Is blogging the new media?"

Whatever your opinion, we just want to share our passion for beauty.

So we were wandering along at IMATS, browsing and swatching away, when we were engaged in conversation by a woman we now know to be Sam Donald, who runs a website called Makeup Advice Forum. (No we're not bloody linking to her - there's a screencap below.)

She had clocked our press passes and wanted to know what publication we were with. She gave us her business card and chatted briefly, and she seemed nice enough, telling us "we've got a few bloggers on board at the site". We put the cards in our shopping bags and moved on, thinking nothing of it.

What we didn't realise however, was that beneath her civil exterior, Sam was positively fuming with resentment at the fact that MERE BLOGGERS had received IMATS press passes. How dare we? (How dare anyone, in fact, without due qualification or credentials, start up a Blogger account and make a success of it?)

Sam has written an impassioned article on her site, which apparently is "is qualified to sit as a [glossy] magazine" (which is why she had a press pass we suppose, although we've yet to speak to anyone today who has heard of it, or her.)

She has deleted our (very polite) comments from her site, so we will use our own (though apparently inferior) blog to respond to some of her points.

Sam believes that bloggers are not a legitimate part of what she calls "The Media" (capitalisation is hers). She's also had a good old read of our blog. She says our posts are too long and that we "talk for the sake of talking", amongst other things. Well, horses for courses, Sam. Your bitter screed about beauty bloggers and blogging was pretty long too.

Apparently we should adopt Sam's "journalistic style", which is summarised thus: "I talk about the good and bad points of a product and my articles have a start, a discussion, and a conclusion." Sounds a bit like my GCSE science write-ups, Sam. I think we'll stick with what we know.

On a factual note - Sam takes issue with this post about hygiene at department store makeup counters. She has got it into her head that the counter where Sarah nearly caught pink-eye was a Benefit counter. Though we allude to the fact that Benefit's hard-sell technique can be pretty OTT, it certainly wasn't stated or suggested in the post that Benefit have poor counter hygiene. The counter in question was NOT a Benefit counter, and we have no reason to believe that Benefit counters are in any way unsanitary. Sam has gotten the wrong end of the stick here and we apologise to Benefit on behalf of Sam, who has called their hygiene into doubt with her erroneous post.

She then expostulates about the fact that Sarah didn't march up to the management there and then and complain after the incident with the unsanitised pencil. Apparently this would have been better than "allowing them to be badmouthed across the internet." We didn't, though Sam. We deliberately left the company name out. It's you who is splashing the brand name "Benefit" around in association with poor hygiene. And it wasn't even a Benefit counter.

Additionally, Sam supposes that since Sarah went over to Clarins to borrow some remover to take the makeup off, she must have slagged off the brand to the Clarins staff too. Sam, not that it's any of your business, but actually no. The staff at Clarins were happy enough with the much more tactful explanation "I had a makeover that I don't really like."

A complaint was made later about counter hygiene, via the brand's website, after seeing comments on the blog and mulling it over a bit. It was explained in the article that Sarah did not want to get the sales girl in question scapegoated for what appeared to be a general problem. We hope that the complaint did result in some retraining at the counter, but we are not the makeup police. We're consumers.

Consumers. It says it in our About Us page, and it isn't something we're trying to hide. Unlike Sam, we don't want or expect to be classed alongside "glossy magazines", and we certainly don't wish to lay the law down about how our readers or other bloggers who stop by should think or behave. In fact, as with the example above, we get at least as much information and advice from our readers and the rest of the blogging community as we give out. Sam's antiquated model of teacher-pupil, decree-obey relationships between experts and lay people just doesn't hold any water in contemporary culture.

Sam appears to be worried that bloggers post irresponsibly, trashing products and swaying common opinion on things they know nothing about. Well Sam, that's quite flattering to us who write blogs, and quite insulting to those who read blogs, but it just doesn't work that way, at least not any more. People who write about beauty do not have guru-like respect automatically these days. They have to earn it by writing well, telling the truth, and giving readers content that they want to read.

"The Media" in its current incarnation, and these things called "WebLogs" that you've discovered Sam (apparently a discovery that in your book is something akin to finding maggots in your cold cream) are just not about that kind of prescriptivism. People read the blogs they like. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of blogs on beauty, written and read worldwide. People choose to read those they like and ignore those they don't. Brands and PR consultants recognise the power of blogging and are reaching out to bloggers all the time, creating relationships beneficial to both sides.

I think we should celebrate that variety and choice, and enjoy the richness of content available to us. Some of it may be poorly-written, biased, boring even, but there will always be something else to read if one or other blog doesn't float your boat. Blogging is democratic, in that readers choose. It's merit-based, in that the best blogs succeed. And it's open to everyone, in that anyone, professional or otherwise, can start a blog and make a go of it.

Whether snobs like Sam Donald like it or not.

Below is a screencap of Sam's article. We didn't include include all of the comments for space reasons - there are many, voicing different opinions. Almost like on a blog...

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