Monthly Archives: January 2012

My Week in Beauty


A dressy night at an event at the elegant brasserie in Glasgow’s Millennium Hotel, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, was the perfect occasion to road-test some of the latest make-up from Estee Lauder. Creative make-up director Tom Pecheux’s new collection is called Pure Color Topaz and was inspired by the colours of the Arizona desert. Being fair-skinned, I wasn’t sure how much of this gold, copper and teal themed range would suit me but there does seem to be something for even us pale faces.

At the Lauder lunch last week, everyone pounced on the Estee Lauder Pure Color Illuminating Powder Gelee in Topaz Chameleon (£28; A pearlised copper blend of liquid, powder and gel, it can be used as a bronzer, a blusher or – as I used it on Sunday – as an eyeshadow. It went brilliantly with the Estee Lauder Pure Color Gelee Powder Eyeshadow in Cyber Teal (£19), and I finished the dramatic eye look with the  Estee Lauder Pure Color Intense Kajal Eye Crayon in Blackened Black (£16) and the new Estee Lauder Double Wear Zero-Smudge Volume + Lift Mascara (£19.50).


‘Tis the season of the skincare launch, so on Monday I had coffee at the Malmaison Hotel in Glasgow to hear the latest Aveda and Darphin news from chic PR double-act Cemo and Poppy. Amongst the numerous innovations from the two natural beauty companies, I was particularly smitten with the sound of the new moisturiser for the early signs of ageing, Ideal Resource (£50), and the newly relaunched (in a smaller tub) Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm with Rosewood (£30;

So much so that almost as soon as I got home, I used it to take off my make-up. A tiny amount goes a long way – I’m on red alert, however, as my cheeks have flared up so it’s maybe not the best choice for sensitive skins.


Charlotte, the new PR from Origins and Ojon, two more natural beauty companies from the Lauder stable, took up residence at Glasgow’s Blythswood Hotel on Wednesday to share the news from her brands. As a loyal fan of Ojon – whose haircare products are the ones on which I rely most of all – I was delighted to hear about its new anti-ageing hair range, as well as its new trial size sets.

Origins’ big launch for 2012, following last year’s mega launch of Plantscription, is Dr Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Skin Tone Correcting Serum (£46; from March 1).

Targetted at women of 35 and over, it is the latest serum to take on age spots and discolouration, which were recently named as women’s top ageing concerns. I’ll need to find a tester for this one as age spots (touchwood) don’t seem to be an issue for me – though this serum does claim to be preventative as well as being able to improve the appearance of age spot-afflicted complexions. ..


I was finally enticed away from the Chanel nail colours which have held me in their sway over the last few months – Pirate, Rouge Carat and the new one, April – by one of the loveliest shades that I’ve seen so far for spring: Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Teal Topaz (£14;

It proved the perfect choice (teamed with a black dress, of course) for the party I was attending at the Glasgow St Enoch branch of the Orkney jewellery company Ortak.  Little did I realise when I painted my nails that I would soon be painting enamel in the same colour palette of teal, turquoise and green on to a silver pendant as part of a demonstration of the new range of enamel jewellery inspired by the elements.


I’ve always liked the actress Julianna Margulies – even when she played Nurse Hathaway, you know: the one who snagged George Clooney in ER. I love her current show, The Good Wife, and have been struck in the new series by her new hair-do, which involves the first fringe I’ve ever seen her with.

Coincidentally, one of my girlfriends has always had the look of Julianna about her – and when I met her for coffee on Friday, she revealed a newly cut fringe and bobbed hair which took years off her and added to the glow she already has from being pregnant.  When asked if she had had her hair coloured as well as cut (I knew she was struggling with the fact that she couldn’t get her roots done), she said that her Iranian hairdresser had given her a great tip: brush dark brown eyeshadow on to the roots each day until she can safely get her hair coloured. So it seems that the Bobbi Brown palette I gave her for Christmas is getting put to an unexpectedly novel use!

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My Week in Beauty

Meryl - and her seldom-washed hair - in the wonderful 1979 film Manhattan

I love Meryl Streep – and was delighted that she won her Golden Globe on Sunday night. I wasn’t sure about the country ‘n’ western lapels on the dress she was wearing on Sunday night but loved the Margo Channing-style dress complete with pockets – which I adore on dresses and skirts.

Apart from her exquisite looks (those cheekbones! that radiant complexion! the intelligent sexiness she exudes!), what I like about our Meryl is the fact that she comes across as quite human and fallible – and completely unthreatened by all the younger actresses. And she seems to be surprisingly down-to-earth.

Once asked by a journalist for one of her beauty secrets, she replied: “I don’t wash my hair often. My record was three weeks.”


Weirdly, I was reminded of Ms Streep on Tuesday when I met with two of the PR team from Guerlain – Helen, with her long fair hair could easily have passed for one of Meryl’s daughters, or Meryl herself, circa Manhattan.

The Guerlain girls were in Edinburgh to show the beauty press some of the French company’s latest launches – though the guys at the table next to us could have been forgiven for thinking that I was being recruited as a secret agent, and being shown the latest spy gadget. Why? Because the tantalising item of beauty hardware which was being demonstrated was Guerlain G Noir (£35; available from Harrods now, and nationwide on Feb 1), the new, refillable, mascara inspired by their phenomenally successful Rouge G lipstick which comes in a bullet-style case complete with pop-up mirror.

The G Girls took me by surprise by presenting me with a belated birthday present – of three of my favourite Guerlain staples: Orchidee Imperiale Exceptional Complete Care Cream, Meteorites and Precious Light, the best eraser of signs of tiredness under the eyes that I have come across – and believe me, in recent months, insomnia has guaranteed me plenty of opportunities to test them out!


Apart from going to see Grease at the King’s Theatre in the evening (brilliant, escapist fun – just the antidote to the January blues), the highlight of Wednesday was lunch with the Estee Lauder girls at Le Chardon d’Or in Glasgow to hear about their latest launches. These include a gorgeous, light, anti-ageing foundation – Estee Lauder Invisible Fluid Makeup – which I’ll be trying nearer its February on-counter date, and some beautiful-looking new blushers, Pure Color Blush, which are due out in the spring.

But first comes their jewel-like Estee Lauder Pure Color Cyber Eyes (£19;, extremely shimmery and vibrant shades of individual eye shadows – which would have been perfect for Christmas. Luckily, I have a glamorous, 1930s Shanghai-themed banquet to attend this weekend –  here’s hoping I end up with pretty Cyber Eyes and not messy panda ones….


I had my first treatment of the year at the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow, on Thursday and it was just what the doctor ordered. I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks – not, unsually, during the “chill-out massage” itself, but later on. At bedtime..

While I was in the spa, I sussed out some great promotions that they’re currently running. One is the Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion is currently on sale in a 400ml size (double the normal size) for the 200ml price of £29 – while stocks last. Also, until February 5, you will receive a special size night cream plus a mini mascara when you buy any Clarins Face Treatment
Oil (the praises of which I was singing last week) or day cream.


I’m having a domestic day today – gutting my study (I feel such a sense of accomplishment whenever I throw something out – or reclaim a bit of floor space) and pondering the sartorial possibilities for Sunday’s 1930s Shanghai banquet… Since we’ve been asked to wear frocks with a Chinese flavour, I figure this dress code should extend to the beauty choices I make too.  So it’s lucky that Helen and Sophie from Guerlain gave me a bottle of Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau (from £37, available from Feb 5) a new, light and refreshing twist on one of the original orientals (from 1925). I’ll try it out over the next couple of days and if I don’t take to it, then I may give its younger sister, Vol de Nuit (from 1933) an outing – as she is a longstanding favourite of mine … and was probably all the rage in 1930s Shanghai.

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2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My Holidays in Beauty

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I last updated my beauty journal – and a lot has happened. Mainly the fact that I’ve turned 40 – and I have to say, it was not only painless but entirely pleasurable. I had a fab party that was everything I’d hoped for and more, I felt great and I got some nice compliments on my hair and make-up (Chanel nails, Clarins eyeshadow, YSL mascara Dior base, Dior, Ojon-treated hair and Clinique lipstick, since you ask). What more could a girl (ahem) want?!

Skincare staples over the last few weeks have been Shiseido White Lucency Clarifying Cleansing Foam (£29, ), a brilliant wash-off cleanser which seems to calm redness-prone skin, Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner (£24,, an exfoliator disguised as a toner which is faster to use than the conventional wash-off equivalent, and the brand new Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil (£29). After several weeks’ use, I am now noticing an improvement in the shininess of my skin – it hadn’t quite kicked in at the time of my birthday, however. The logic is that putting oil onto oily skin cancels out the skin’s urge to produce excess oil.. If a permanent shine is the bane of your life (with me, it tends to happen after a drink or if someone points a flashing camera at me! – see picture), I’d recommend experimenting with facial oils.

I’ve more or less given up on blotting papers and have reverted to good pressed powders – notably Guerlain Meteorites Pressed Powder (£34) and the brand-new  Clarins Ever Matte Mineral Powder Compact (£25, from February) – and have realised that I often don’t look shiny in real life; it’s those damn photos where the flash bounces off my forehead (and nobody else’s) that have given me this complex.

Clarins Eye Quartet in Smokey Passion/Dior Rouges d'Or in Victorine in action

I’m going to be gutted when I run out of the two limited edition cosmetics which have seen me through all the Christmas nights-out and parties: Clarins  Eye Quartet Mineral Palette in Smokey Passion (£30) and the Dior Les Rouges d’Or lipstick in Victorine (£22.50).

And speaking of favourite products of 2011, I rounded them all up for a “Beauty Oscars” feature in the Daily Record at the end of December. Here’s hoping the next 12 months produces such fantastic finds as Diorskin Forever Fluid SPF25 (£29.50), Chanel Illusion d’Ombre  (£22.50), Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet (£23.50),  Lancome Visionnaire (£58), Guerlain Rouge Automatique (£24.50), Sisley Phyto Mascara Ultra Stretch (£27), YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Shocking (£22), Chanel No19 Poudre (from (£61), Clarins Eye Contour Gel (£26.50), Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask (£88), Clarins Extra-Firming Body Lotion (£39.50), Nanoblur (£19.99) and Estee Lauder Resilience Lift Firming/Sculpting Eye Creme (£40). Happy – and beautiful – New Year!

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Style on Film: Vertigo

Like Jimmy Stewart’s character, I’m a bit obsessed with Kim Novak’s wardrobe and look in the mesmerizing 1958 psychological thriller Vertigo. Appearance is everything in this haunting tale of obsessive love from Alfred Hitchcock – and this black and white ensemble not only reflects the simple elegance of the woman for whom our hero falls; it also suggests her split personality. Novak’s clothes were designed by the great Edith Head – but she had a very specific remit from the notoriously hands-on Hitchcock. Here’s the sumptuous evening gown Madeleine wears – with antique jewellery – when she knows she’ll be seen for the first time by Scottie (Stewart).The redoubtable Edith Head once said: “To be a good designer in Hollywood, one has to be a combination of psychiatrist, artist, fashion designer, dress-maker, pin cushion, historian, nurse maid and purchasing agent too.” For Vertigo, her inner psychiatrist had a good work-out as Kim Novak wasn’t the most compliant of stars and was particularly unhappy with some of the clothes she had to wear while playing Madeleine. In particular, she hated the dove grey suit which Head designed according to Hitchcock’s instructions. Head later said that she hoped that Novak would be so taken with the evening gown that she would agree to compromise on the grey suit. Here’s how that contentious suit started life .. This suit (which Novak wore without the hat) is what Madeleine is wearing during the most crucial scenes at the beginning of the film – and it is this ensemble which the pathologically obsessed Scottie recreates for the Madeleine look-alike, Judy, whom he makes over in Madeleine’s image. Novak hated the grey suit, believing that the colour washed her out and claiming that the style was very restrictive (she didn’t like wearing a bra and this suit required the correct upholstery..) She even objected to the footwear – “I don’t wear black shoes,” she explained. Head promptly referred her to Hitchcock.Hitchcock asked Novak what her problem was with the black shoes. According to Jay Jorgensen’s excellent book  Edith Head – The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer (Running Press), she said: “Black shoes always sort of make me feel I’m pulled down . I’ve always felt that your feet should be the same as the top of your head, so that you’re connected. Wearing black shoes would make me feel as if I’m disconnected.” Hitchcock listened and allowed her to ditch the shoes when playing Judy, but insisted that she wear them as Madeleine. Novak agreed. Hitchcock wanted the suit to be grey because it was washed-out and he was keen that the character look as if she had just emerged from the San Francisco fog.

Novak is quoted in Jorgensen’s book saying: “I thought, ‘I’ll live with the grey suit.’ I also thought, ‘I’m going to use this. I can make this work for me. Because it bothers me, I’ll use it and it can help me feel like I’m having to be Madeleine, that I’m being forced to be her. I’ll have it as my energy to play against.’ It worked. That suit and those shoes were a blessing. I was constantly reminded that I was not being myself, which made it right for Madeleine.” It seems that Novak did win on the shoes front when it came to famous black and white ensemble that Madeleine wears when she and Scottie share their first kiss… Check out the neutral (tres 2012) footgear:Winter white coats are so chic – and this outfit is the one which seems to best represent the elegant Madeleine. Here’s another shot: Ironically, given the usual stereotype of the brassy blonde, Madeleine is a class act while it is the brunette Judy – the other character played by Novak – who is the more vulgar of the two women, in terms of personal style. Once Scottie has moulded Judy into a Madeleine doppel-ganger, they decide to launch her “new” look with a night out. For the final scenes of the movie, Judy slips into this gorgeous black chiffon halterneck dress, the deep neckline of which evokes the 19th century fashions worn by Carlotta, the subject of the portrait which so fascinated Madeleine. Confused? You will be – but I don’t want to give anything away in case you’re going to go and watch this beautiful film for the first time.The single-most influential aspect of Kim Novak’s appearance in Vertigo wasn’t one of her outfits, however: it was her pinned-up hair – which, as Scottie realised, helped define her look. Text (c) Alison Kerr (2012)


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