Saturday, 26 November 2011

Ugly bite of truth

I once mused about Keats' poem which ends, 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty...' I don't know why, but it has always been so perplexing to me, what he meant. In my post I argued perhaps it was the transparency of truth which was beautiful. Or the mastery we feel by the orderliness of knowing what is what and all is in its place. I am old enough to remember the very first series of Big Brother. I hadn't watched a single episode, but for some reason I caught the very last moments of the final. It was Craig (I think? erm, the one who pledged to give it all away to a sick child, anyway.) Watching the moment a 'nobody' becomes a 'somebody' - the 'nobody' cocooned inside a house like a mole, then with a bolt, emerging to a deafening applause; tears, money, fame - who could fail to be moved? Of course as this was the very first series and Big Brother was an unknown concept, this was a genuine evolution which one might argue has been lost since. Reality TV has now become a fixture on our TV schedules, and it is this sense of going on a journey with our protagonist which gives such joy. However, albeit that this concept has long been uncovered and subsequently manipulated, don't let the audience know that! The anger at being duped and taken advantage of is unparalleled, and the very opposite of "truth, beauty."

I wanted to touch on two programmes in the light of this: 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians', and 'The Only Way is Essex'. Both place great store in glamour and offset this with the license which gives them carte blanche: a close family and friends consciousness. I have only caught the odd episode of Keeping Up... but I get the impression that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. The pattern seems to be, some minor disaster (invariably relating to looks or object) followed by making up and realising family comes first (as long as said car/ dress/ hair/ event has been restored in the interim.) The Only Way... is more lighthearted - in that for legal reasons, the introduction clarifies, 'Some scenes have been set up purely for your entertainment.' It subsequently amounts to little more than a badly-acted soap at times, but that is its charm. The appeal of these programmes is to watch as 'nobodies', representing us the everyman, transform and develop into famous 'characters'. But with a meritocracy, the bad side is all the more bitter. At least in a caste system one knows one's place and can blame fate; in a meritocracy, jealousy becomes uncontrollable and failing becomes personal. Hence reality TV will always fall in harm's way.

Recently two of the characters from The Only Way... were attacked. The attack happened in the middle of a season, therefore the attackers became a part of the plot. The characters were featured nursing their wounds, and showed their battered backs to magazines, shared their experience in interviews, and went on to hire minders for future outings. Thus the attackers by proxy were able to indulge in some infamy for themselves.

And Keeping Up... has now been unmasked as a potentially very cynical business. Perez Hilton, the ultimate blogger, tweeted that as a gay man the fact that the sanctity of marriage was so callously thrown aside, was an insult to those who were banned from marriage. Kim Kardashian's 72 day marriage, which obviously represented a huge episode and driving theme for many other episodes, looked like nothing more than a charade. Fans who had wept (yes apparently) to think of their Kim finding her prince (yes really) felt violated. The emotions invested were scattered and the 'cast' have now found themselves defending the reality of their reality show. As this article explains, "People can deal with the wedding being over the top, but to do that and get divorced 72 days later, that is hard to swallow in this economy. When people are struggling to pay bills and rent, it doesn't make average people feel much compassion."

In summary, is this a variation of schadenfreude? You can look beautiful and go to great parties, as long as I can have a hand in ripping you down just at the point when you feel invincible. For reputation, even in this media-controlled age, as the Leveson Inquiry is proving, is sacred. The media wield so much power, and every 'reality' TV 'character', even a subject from the news already suffering untold sorrow, is enslaved by it. Reputation cannot easily be bought, and once lost it is impossible to ever fully restore. As the quote goes, "O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial." However, in an age where making a sex-tape is the starting point from which your fame springs, does the quality of your fame/ notoriety matter at all? "I thought you had received some bodily wound; there is more offence in that than in reputation. Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving: you have lost no reputation at all..."

The Happy Birthday that would have been...

It's always tremendously sad when a 'lost' birthday comes around. Today would have been Sophie Lancaster's 25th Birthday. I have already blogged about this horrible attack. I applaud Illamasqua's attachment to the cause, and the ironic belligerence of their message: "Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere" (S.O.P.H.I.E) will be a never-ending project, but with enough awareness perhaps it just might work. Find out more about Illamasqua's involvement by watching this film.

You can also win a selection of Sophie-inspired pieces, which if she had still even been in her goth phase, she would have surely loved! You'll get the S.OP.H.I.E black pencil, Pure Pigment in Zeitgeist, Intense Lipgoss in Repulse, Nail Varnish in Unnatural, False Eye Lashes in no. 21, and the S.O.P.H.I.E Wristband (as pictured above.) Click here to enter. Winner will be announced on 28th November.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Murad Hybrids Makeup: Review and Swatches

Murad, one of my favourite skincare lines, has finally now branched into makeup. Starting with primers and undereye concealers, Jeff Murad assured me at a recent launch event that next in the works will be a melanin activating bronzer, various blushers, an acne/oil controlling tinted primer, and a fully developed makeup line.

I have been testing the two available primers for months now so here is my review. The main reason it took so long is that I like to test skincare for longer, just to be sure. These 'Skin Perfecting Primers' currently come in two variations, 'Dewy' finish or ''Matte' finish. They retail at £27 (30ml) and here are some of the claims:
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores while balancing oil production
  • Adaptive Shade Technology creates a perfect skin tone match
  • Improves skin grain by tightening dilated pores
  • Soothes and reduces inflammation
  • Protects against UV induced free radicals to preserve and improve skin elasticity, firmness and tone.

I would agree, shockingly, with the promise that one shade fits all. At the launch event, it really did seem to work on every skin tone. The coverage is sheer and not designed to be buildable; however if you have virtually flawless skin, this will very visibly even out your skintone (but not conceal any major darkness or redness.) I had the feeling the Matte was fractionally darker and more neutral toned than the possibly lighter and warmer toned Dewy, but perhaps that is due to it being somewhat more dense. I tried one on each side of my face and they both blended in without trace. Both are pleasantly lightweight and very easy to apply. They also lent my face a luminosity.

Sadly I found neither could cope with my natural 'shine.' It did not extend the wear of my foundation, however it did work brilliantly underneath mineral loose foundations to make them adhere better to the skin. With my normal liquid foundations (I'm currently using Youngblood liquid mineral foundation) it did not change the wear, although it did sometimes mean I used less foundation. I am looking forward to the 'Acne and Shine Control' version, as I feel that would probably worst best with my oily skin and benefit me far more. Incidentally, both the Matte and the Dewy versions are oil free, so I had no problems with either, and they blend effortlessly into the skin. Here they are just prior to blending:

above: Matte

above: Dewy

above: L-R Matte, Dewy, Eye Lift Perfector, Eye Lift Illuminator

as above, spread

as above, the dry-down

The other two products are for under eyes. Firstly, the Eye Lift Perfector. (£25) This is the more concealing of the two, but it is very lightweight. The tips on these are anti-bacterial and are soft rubberised feel. They are clearly designed with sensitive eyes in mind. You twist to release product, so be careful not to turn it more than needed.

The claims on this are:

  • Increase skin firmness by 50% in 15 minutes
  • Minimize the appearance of dark circles

I did find this very comforting first thing in the morning, and refreshing. But, it does not offer enough coverage, so I have had to use it as a layering product. I think for young skin or those who prefer natural looking makeup this will be ideal but for anyone past their teens seeking true coverage this will need to be used more as skincare than as makeup (at least for me.) I am hoping in time it might help lessen my dark shadows so I'll keep you posted...

The final makeup product I have been using is the Eye Lift Illuminator. (£25) This is a very subtle and sheer lilac which I was advised is best used on the outer portion of the eye to lift it and act as a highlighter. Again, this promises to increase skin firmness by 50% in 15 minutes. I have been using it as a highlighter and it's extremely comforting to use in the morning, very cool on the skin and it does give some energy back to my eyes, however I noticed this product does not like to be mixed with any other makeup - as soon as I put my foundation on top, it began flaking. Again, possibly this is best for those who wear less makeup than I do, and prefer a more imperceptible lift.

I am so pleased that one of the most reliable skincare brands are branching into makeup, I always like the thought that my makeup is actively helping my skin. I will continue to incorporate these products into my routine, and especially if they can come up with one with serious shine control!

I have also tested a sample of their new moisturiser, Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture, £59, (50ml) - "the most hydrating moisturiser Murad has ever offered."

It promises,

  • Ultra-concentrated, silky moisturizing cream offers immediate and long lasting hydration providing positively radiant skin
  • Avocado, Sunflower and Olive Fruit Oils enhance skin’s ability to retain maximum levels of hydration
  • Retinyl Palmitate and Shea Butter improve texture and while restoring natural smoothness and softness
  • Collagen Support Complex boosts skin’s resilience and plumps dehydrated skin
  • Locks in moisture for 8 hours

Of course, this was far richer than my usual moisturiser, but I used it at night. Despite its oil content I did not feel it was greasy, and actually I rather liked it used very sparingly. I will continue to use this, although I suspect that sadly it will not replace my very favourite, Active Radiance Serum. (£95)

I must finally thank Murad for such a fantastic event, I was treated to a glycolic peel which made my skin instantly a thousand times better! Dr Murad and his son Jeff are wonderful and the brand is one that has truly been crafted from a real knowledge of how skin responds to treatment. If you have never tried Murad I suggest you start with a cleanser, you'll soon be hooked. (My current favourite is the Essential- C Cleanser.)

Murad products are available from Harrods and leading salons and spas nationwide including the May Fair Hotel Spa. For stockists call 0844 472 7050 or visit

The last taboo?

It is so hard to shock nowadays... Sexual product names? yawn. Swear words or anagrams? Not amusing even the first time, double yawn. S&M? So commercial! Androgny? Well now we've finally had male to female, that's exhausted. Drug use? Yes, it'll get the ad banned, but so 90s. Wait - what's this, pedophilia?

The new Marc Jacobs fragrance, 'Oh, Lola!' apparently takes its cue from his own so creative use of a perfume bottle as codpiece. But here it is 17 year old Dakota Fanning, prizing the tall bottle between her dress. Subtlety is a wasted art to Marc Jacobs it seems.

What did you think, should the ad have been banned or is 17 too old to be considered a 'child'? What is the last taboo? Would an ad campaign actually make you boycott the product if you disagreed on moral grounds?

Evelyn Lauder : August 12, 1936 – November 12, 2011

Evelyn Lauder has died, aged 75, from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer.

Despite having been such a staunch and visible advocate of Breast Cancer Awareness, Evelyn Lauder never referred to the fact that she herself had been a cancer survivor, surviving both early-stage breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It was not until an interview in 2009 with WWD that she even acknowledged any association at all, and even then she discounted her case as merely “a scare.” At the recent Breast Cancer Awareness event I went to, we were told that Evelyn Lauder's classic response, when asked by journalists whether she had a personal link to the disease, was: ' What difference would it make if I had?'

The Estee Lauder brand, despite being a huge orchestrated body of various other household names, still retained its family heritage and human face thanks to Evelyn Lauder's regular personal appearances with Elizabeth Hurley, and her eponymous BCA lipstick editions. At the October event, we were also told that at its inception, the very idea of mentioning the word 'breast' so openly was anathema. The pink ribbon was largely Evelyn Lauder's creation, and is now instantly recognised as a symbol of breast cancer.

Her belief that one day breast cancer would be eliminated, or at least managed, fuelled her passion to raise awareness. She also opened a breast cancer centre,

“I wanted to have the mall of medicine,” Lauder told WWD as the Center was opening in October 2009. “I wanted everything under one roof. I was on the board at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and at the time, the doctor who was in charge of the hospital said they were building a breast center. And I said, ‘Oh, this is fabulous. What are you going to have in the breast center?’ So he said, ‘We’re going to have oncology and we’re going to have mammography. I said, ‘Is that it?’ He says, ‘Well, what else do you want?’ And I said, ‘Well, I would want physical therapy, psychological counseling, an education center so that we could pick up information in either leaflets or online, nutritional counseling, a pharmacy so you don’t have to go running around the city to get everything, a boutique that might sell all the needs of a woman while she’s waiting for reconstruction to get the right bra and do whatever is necessary — bathing suits, you know?’” The 150,000-square-foot facility is a bricks-and-mortar testament to her vision.

It is arguable that Evelyn Lauder was the first to get a deep-rooted partnership between the beauty industry, and charity; the very idea that by treating yourself to luxury you can simultaneously give money and publicity to an important cause. And it never seemed to have any ulterior motive, any hint of scoring points, or of marketing acumen - though of course, Evelyn Lauder had plenty of that - she launched many now ubiquitous perfumes, handpicked brand ambassadors and scouted out Bumble & Bumble. Her legacy is undeniable, and I feel so sad at her passing. This article gives an intimate view of the person behind the brand, and is very much worth a read.