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My Week in Beauty

TUESDAY

I was going to review a show at the theatre on Tuesday evening but I went looking as if I was heading for a night at the opera – or something equally glam. Why? Because I had had a meeting with Melissa, the chic PR for Tom Ford Beauty, just beforehand – and I’d been treated to a mini-makeover at the TFB counter in Frasers in Glasgow.

Melissa was in town to preview the company’s new colour collection of molten-toned colour inspired, as she explained, by “the beauty of a radiant, bronzed face”.  As a paleface, I wasn’t
sure there would be anything for me in this range, but the four gorgeous Tom Ford Cream Color For Eyes (£28), in metallic shades, were all extremely tempting – and looked as if they would complement blue eyes beautifully. I went to the theatre wearing the shimmering Platinum colour which can be layered for a dramatic look. And you know what, it’s the first cream shadow I’ve used that lasted the pace – it was still in place at bedtime.

WEDNESDAY

Caroline, an Edinburgh-based friend and fellow jazz fan, hosted a dinner party at her new flat last week and invited some of the creme de la creme of the capital’s jazz scene to attend.

I found myself chatting about beauty buys with the singer Angie King. Last time we met, at Christmas, she expressed interest in trying the then-new Lancome serum Visionnaire, and, on Wednesday, I was struck by how luminous and youthful her complexion was. The secret, she revealed, was not Visionnaire (which she had never got round to trying) but Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair (£41; www.esteelauder.co.uk), which she has been using since we last. She would certainly be a great poster girl for this, the mother of all serums.

THURSDAY

I’m still searching for a luxurious beauty parlour like Sydney’s (left) – the lavish, Surrealist-style, salon frequented by Ros Russell, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and their cohorts in George Cukor’s wonderful 1939 film The Women. But while I’m searching, I’m more than content to have a regular treatments in one of the lovely Clarins Spas. On Wednesday, I had a change of venue: instead of going to the spa in Frasers, in Glasgow, I tried out its sister over in Debenhams. It’s just as attractive as the Frasers one, but a little more contemporary in its design. My Clarins Triactive Facial (from £60) was – as ever – just what the doctor ordered. It’s the perfect blend of results and relaxation: my skin looked energised afterwards, and I was well rested thanks to the thorough face, neck and shoulder massage.

FRIDAY

My hair has been feeling tuggy and a little dry at the ends so on Friday, with a few days to go before my hair appointment, I decided it was time to try out a product I’d only put off using because I thought it might be messy (and time-consuming). In fact, Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment Plus (£16; www.ojon.co.uk) was easy (and not messy) to use.  You simply take a tiny amount of the solid, wax-like balm, warm it in your hands until it becomes an oil and work it through the hair. After 20 minutes you rinse it off. I found my hair’s texture had improved immeasurably, and the effects lasted several days – though, thankfully, the coffee bean-like smell of the product didn’t linger at all!

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My Week in Beauty

SUNDAY

A flying visit to London to see a new silent, black & white, movie seemed the perfect occasion to debut one of the most alluring items in the Christmas collections: Yves Saint Laurent Manicure Couture No6 Duo Terriblement Noir  (£24).

This double-act of black nail polishes – one shiny and one matte – echoes the inspiration behind this season’s Les Noirs collection: the tuxedo, with its satin lapels. I haven’t quite perfected (actually, I haven’t come close to perfecting) a French-style manicure using the two polishes – I’ll probably have to train one of my twin boys to do it! – but I’ve been enjoying wearing the glossy one on its own… It seemed the right choice for a silent movie screening: after all, actresses probably wore black nail varnish in those old movies as red would not have shown up ..

TUESDAY

I don’t usually have beauty appointments in suburbia, but I had one in the new Whole Foods market in Giffnock, on Glasgow’s southside, on Tuesday as it is home to an outpost for the French organic beauty company Melvita. In just 18 months, this cultish brand has established itself as a favourite of green-minded beauty buffs, has two stores in London and has become available through John Lewis and its own website.

I had a consultation at Whole Foods and was very impressed with the products and how gentle and effective they felt. I immediately switched to a Melvita cleanser as I had run out of my Clarins one. Melvita 2-in-1 Cleansing Milk (£8.40; www.melvita.co.uk) cleanses and tones the skin in one fell swipe (*makes mental note for the party season*). You simply squirt some of the cream onto a cotton pad and wipe it over the face.

It leaves the skin feeling clean, refreshed, comfortable (and my skin is sensitive) and lovely – and it’s an absolute bargain, at less than a tenner for 200ml (via the Melvita website).

WEDNESDAY

The big cultural event on Wednesday was the launch of the new American TV series Pan Am – but it failed to take off as grippingly as I’d hoped. It felt about as convincing as a Carry On film; Mad Men it ain’t.

However, as with the infinitely superior Mad Men, its influence is bound to be felt in fashion and beauty trends. Revlon, which designed the original Pan Am look back  in the 1960s, is punting it again, with matching pink lipstick and nail polish. I’m waiting for samples to arrive – and will report back..

THURSDAY

And speaking of Revlon, I gave their latest foundation, Revlon Age Defying with DNA Advantage Cream Makeup (£13.99; www.revlon.co.uk) a whirl on Thursday – and am a convert. (I reckon the big count-down to my fortieth birthday has probably made me a sucker for anything that suggests defying age..)

It may have a very complex name, but the way this foundation works its magic is actually pretty simple. Recognising that the main signs of ageing in skin are caused by dehydration and exposure to UV rays – both of which can cause damage to skin cell DNA (hence the name) – it tackles these problems. So, it’s an extremely moisturising cream foundation and it contains an SPF of 20. Not only that but it evens out skin tone and contains subtle illuminators that flatter the skin and reflect the light. The result is healthy looking and feeling skin, and a very natural, radiant finish – and the coverage is good.

I particularly like the fact that it offers plenty of what Revlon calls “play time”; time to apply and blend it. None of that racing-to-get-it-in-place-before-it-sets nonsense…

FRIDAY

Why the photo of a young Alison, you might ask? Well, because I felt like I had the skin of a six-year-old after I had my regular Triactive Facial at the Clarins Spa (0141 221 5760) in Frasers, Glasgow on Friday. My therapist, the talented Lindsay, has made it her mission over the last couple of months to turn back the clock a bit when it comes to my complexion and I must say I was particularly impressed with last week’s results. The radiance and youthful glow lasted for a few days .. and then I caught a stinking cold and have broken out in dry patches and, of course, the obligatory red, flaky skin that’s caused by blowing your nose every two minutes.

Clearly, I’ll just have to ensure that Clarins sorts me out again in time for my 40th birthday – which is now less than a month away. Eek!

Oh, and watch out for Clarins Happy Hour events, where you can have a one-to-one consultation followed by a choice of mini beauty treatments. They’re doing them at Frasers on December 5.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

There’s nothing like being treated like a supermodel to brighten up a dull Monday – and that’s exactly what happened to me when I was reunited with Jamie Coombes, Dior’s National Make-up Artist and a member of the International Pro Artist Team. I loved the makeup he did for me this time last year – he taught me how to create the look and I trotted out variations on it at every event I went to last winter. So, on Monday when I had an appointment with him at Frasers in Glasgow, I challenged him to come up with an evening look that would see me through this year’s party season. “Oooh, can I play about?” he asked. Carte blanche was duly granted.

Jamie must have been reading my mind because he immediately picked out green as the dominant colour in the smoky eye he elected to create. His first step was to apply a little foundation – Dior Forever Fluide 010 (£29.50) – on the eyelids as a base. Then, taking the Dior 5 Couleur Designer in Green Design (£40), he applied its darkest shade along the lash line and created a V shape in the outer corner. He spent quite  a bit of time smudging the dark green, and pulling the colour further into the lid while keeping the darkest part at the outside. In the centre of the lid, he applied some of the central, shimmery shade in the palette – as well as the golden shade from the Dior 5 Couleur Designer in Amber Design. 

To complete the dramatic eye look, Jamie lined my eyes using a combination of the Carbon and Navy shades of Diorshow Waterproof Liner (£17), and then applied the Carbon shade to the inner rim of the eyelids to intensify the effect.  He plumped up my stumpy eyelashes with a coat of Diorshow Maximiser (£22), a bodybuilding primer, before applying the fantastic Diorshow Black Out Spectacular Volume Mascara (£22).

After sculpting my cheeks with blusher and highligher, Jamie painted on a nude lip – the Rouge
Dior in Beige Angelique
(£22.50), the shade he used recently on Charlize Theron. That’s what I’m wearing in the photo at the top of this article. Then we experimented with a bolder – almost scary – red: Diorific High Fashion Lipstick in Dolce Vita Red (£21.50). I think the pale one is slightly too pale and the red a bit too strong with the strong eye, so I’m going to conduct further experiments at home – sticking to warm shades to complement the greens.

Meanwhile, Jamie is coming to a House of Fraser store near you over the next few weeks: Tuesday, October 25 & Wednesday 26 at Selfridges, Manchester; Thursday 27 at Harrods, London; Friday 28th at Selfridges, London;  November 1 & 2 at Jenners, Edinburgh; November 3 & 4 at Frasers, Glasgow; November 15 & 16 at Arnotts, Dublin; November 17 & 18 at Brown Thomas, Dublin and November 28 & 29 at Harrods, London.

WEDNESDAY

This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, as they’ve been doing for the last 18 years, the Estee Lauder Companies are highlighting this great cause with their own campaign.

Jo Malone London‘s contribution to the cause is one of the most covetable: Jo Malone Red Roses Body & Hand Wash (£30; http://www.jomalone.com) is a gorgeous new product which went on sale at the beginning of the month and is almost too delectable to use on a daily basis. (If you think my kids are going to get to wash their mitts with it, think again!)

£5 from every sale of the Red Roses Hand & Body Wash is going to be donated to help fund grants for research into breast cancer, here in the UK.

THURSDAY

Well, I’m not sure if my legs would have made the grade in a 42nd Street-style line-up, but they certainly stand a much better chance following the Clarins TriActive Body Treatment – The Body Sculptor (£63; selected Clarins spas nationwide) which I enjoyed on Thursday.

The TriActive Body Treatments are the first new treatments to be introduced by Clarins in four years, and I was delighted to be getting the chance to try one out at the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow (0141 221 5760). There are three variations on the treatment – The Moisture Quencher, The Firming Age Corrector and The Body Sculptor. It’s a very thorough treatment- the therapist asks if there are any areas you would prefer she skipped as the massage takes in the breasts, tummy and inside leg.. Very French, you see. I skipped the tummy – mine does not like massage since I had my twins.

This isn’t a treatment designed to send you drifting off for a wee snooze – it’s about results. The 60-minute massage is all about detoxifying, toning up the skin and “sculpting” the contours. My skin felt lovely afterwards and where I had the toning mask (upper arms), there was a distinct sensation of tightness. I wouldn’t expect visible results after one session so I may well consider booking in for a series. Just as well, then, that, until October 29, Clarins Spas are offering the chance to book six body treatments for the price of four. Call 0800 036 3558 for more details or information on your nearest salon.

FRIDAY

October is proving to be a great month for new lipsticks: in fact, we’re spoilt for choice. The latest is Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Golden Lustre (£22.50; from October 19), a sheer lipstick infused with gold. There are 12 beautiful shades in the collection – so far I’ve fallen for no.112, AKA (appropriately enough for someone who’s overdue a trip to the French capital) Rose Parisien…

The make-up maestro who created this sumptuous purpley pink – and the rest of the range – is Lloyd Simmonds, YSL’s Creative Director, and he’s going to be previewing his new Holiday collection at Selfridges on Thursday, November 3 (from 5pm) and at Glasgow’s Frasers on Friday, November 4.

During his visit, clients can have their make-up done by a member of his team – and receive a luxury goody bag and glass of champagne. Appointments cost £25, and are redeemable against any purchases made on the day. For Selfridges, call 0207 318 1358 and for Frasers, call 0141 221 3880, extension 2036.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Oooh, we’re going to experience a bit of a Weimar Republic vibe this autumn – thanks to Illamasqua, the cult makeup brand which champions alternative looks and cultures.. It’s highly appropriate, given how film noir – which gave us the femme fatale who is also a big inspiration for autumn/winter – grew out of German Expressionism of the same era as Berlin’s cabaret scene.

Which, of course, was famously immortalised in the 1972 Hollywood musical Cabaret, with the wonderful Liza Minnelli in her best-known role as Sally Bowles, an American singer who aspires to be as decadent as those around her.

Minnelli designed her iconic look for the film – the pudding bowl haircut with the widow’s peak and the Harlequinesque eye make-up – with the help of her director father, the great Vincente Minnelli. And it’s still a source of inspiration. I’m sure it’s played a part in the soon-to-be-launched Theatre of the Nameless collection from Illamasqua. Whether it inspired their new mascara, Illamasqua Masquara (£15; www.illamasqua.com) or not, who knows – but this fab separating, curling and lengthening mascara is just the job if you want to emulate Liza’s long lashes..

TUESDAY

The prettiest package I received last week was from The Body Shop which this week launches three new ranges of handcare products. There’s the Hemp collection, for those of us with dry skin; the Almond range for all skin types and The Body Shop Wild Rose collection for, ahem, “mature skin”.

Not sure how I ended up with the rose range – did someone tip them off about my impending 40th (or is it showing on my mitts?) – but it is lovely to use. Even my boys are finding the Wild Rose Caring Hand Wash (£5; www.thebodyshop.co.uk) a luxurious alternative to the usual liquid soaps I offer them. I’ll let you know if the combined assault of the handwash, the Wild Rose Targeted Hand Oil (£7) and the Wild Rose Nourishing Hand Butter (£10) shave any years off the apparent age of my hands….

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday was the day for my regular visit to the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow. Lindsay, my lovely therapist, really looks after me and is making it her mission to ensure that I continue to look as if I’m on this side of 40 – even after December, when the big day comes along. Last time I saw her, she focused the attention of the Tri-Active facial on anti-ageing for the first time and on Wednesday, she gave me some top tips on caring for the delicate skin around the eyes.

I’ve been diligently using eye cream at night and eye gel in the morning for the last few months and, as if they knew I was starting to get a bit fixated about this, Clarins has just brought out a new, improved version of its fab Clarins Eye Contour Gel (£26.50; www.clarins.co.uk) which is a must for de-puffing the eye area. Lindsay also suggested I try a couple of new additions to the Clarins repertoire: Eye Revive Beauty Flash (£26.50) and Skin-Smoothing Eye Mask (£28.99) …. Watch this space! Oh, and the Clarins Spa in Frasers (0141 221 5760) is currently (until September 3) offering a free “mini” neck and shoulder massage, and 25% off any Clarins Treatment if you book and pay when you’re instore.

THURSDAY

By coincidence, having tried out and loved their new mascara earlier in the week, I met Illamasqua’s PR Nicola in Glasgow on Thursday. Nicola is a walking testament to how wearable this apparently inaccessible brand’s cosmetics are. She looked stunning with her lilac-grey eye make-up, fanned-out lashes that would have made Bambi weep with envy, violet lips and matte purple nails. All of which worked a treat with her shock of short platinum blonde hair.

It was the nails that caught my eye most of all… Nicola was sporting one of the new Illamasqua Nail Varnishes (£13.50), four new shades with a rubbery matte finish which were inspired by the so-called Boot Girls of the Wittenberg Platz; prostitutes whose menu of services was indicated by the colour of their boot-laces… I’m not sure what Nicola’s Faux Pas shade (a dark purple) signifies (we probably don’t want to know!), but the one I’ve taken to is Vice (pictured, though it doesn’t look as maroon in this photo as it does in real life), a Rouge Noir-like dark cerise.

FRIDAY

I didn’t go out on Friday night – though I would have liked to, as I wanted to give my trio of new Benefit Velvet Eyeshadows (£13.50; www.benefitcosmetics.co.uk) an outing.

Snow Job (a minty greeny-grey), Raining Men (a grey-ish greeny shade reminiscent of my favourite new eyeshadow from Chanel – the Illusion d’Ombre in Epatant) and Tickled Mink (a taupe shade) are the gorgeous new additions to Benefit’s range of beautifully blendable and long-lasting eyeshadows.

I may have been all dressed-up, make-up wise, with nowhere to go – but I know which eyeshadows I’ll be turning to next time I do have somewhere …

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Like many of my friends, I spent Monday mourning the end of the best TV crime series since The Killing (which preceded it!) – Spiral, the French drama which (much more stylish than Law and Order) concerns itself not just with the cops, but also with the investigating judges, the prosecutors and the defence lawyers. There may be some damned good-looking actors in the cast (personally, I have a soft-spot for bad-boy Gilou) but the character who keeps me glued to the screen is the flame-haired bad girl lawyer Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot), whose wardrobe and look are always striking – and not at all your run-of-the-mill Parisian professional.  I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who’s been considering dyeing her hair red as a result of a girl crush on JK.

TUESDAY

When it comes to perfumes that are quintessentially Parisian, the house of Guerlain’s collection springs instantly to mind – and no wonder: it’s been on the go for over 150 years.

The Aqua Allegoria range may be quite a bit younger – it was introduced in 1999 – but it is steeped in the Guerlain tradition. The bottle is a classic – inspired by the original 19th century Eau de Cologne Imperiale flacon – and the fragrances are fresh and summery but very classical. This summer’s addition, Aqua Allegoria Jasminora (£35.50; from www.houseoffraser.co.uk from June 1) is a lovely fresh scent which was created by Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser using Calabrian jasmine, a lighter jasmine than is found in most perfumes. Its freshness is complemented by white flowers with green tones, along with cyclamen and lily of the valley. The bottom line? It’s a very feminine, classy summer scent.

WEDNESDAY

I’d been looking forward to my Wednesday afternoon catch-up with the Ojon PR girl for ages.. Why? Because I’d been tipped off that this fabulous haircare range was finally going to sort out the one problem that its fans have identified: the dodgy bottles.

Not only have the bottles been redesigned (no more broken lids – hurrah!) but the collection has been refined and revamped. I tried the Ojon Color Sustain (from £18; available from John Lewis from May 21) almost immediately and found it to be a worthy, possibly even superior, replacement for the old Shine & Protect products. I especially liked the Ojon Color Sustain Color Protecting Cream (£22) which protects the hair from the damaging effects of blow-drying.

THURSDAY

If there’s one company that knows how to do things in style it’s Chanel which chose Frasers in Glasgow as the site for its first Chanel Espace Parfums outside London, and invited journalists along to visit it on Thursday. Not only does this beautifully kitted-out boutique (everything about its look derives from Coco Chanel’s signature style and from aspects of her life) sell the Les Exclusifs collection of fragrances created or revived by house “nose” Jacques Polge, but it also offers customers the chance to discover the world of Chanel perfumes (48 in all) through its unique olfactive bar where concentrates of all the fragrances are sniffable on ceramic blotters. Fragrance expert Joanna Norman guided me through the Chanel perfumes on Thursday and it was a fascinating tour. What makes the ceramic blotter idea so useful is the fact that there’s no need to scoosh any perfumes – and therefore less likelihood of what industry people call “nasal confusion”. It’s much easier to identify what you like – and eliminate what you don’t. Anyone contemplating changing their perfume, or simply interested in how fragrance works should pop in and ask for a consultation.

FRIDAY

Unlike Kim Novak (pictured here, with the swoonsome Cary Grant), who showed hers off at every opportunity, my back has never really had any attention. But all that changed on Friday when I accepted an invitation to have a back treatment Clarins Spa in Frasers (0141 221 5760).

Clarins Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage (£33) proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Using the Renew Body Serum and the Smoothing Body Scrub, Lindsay, my therapist, untangled the knots of tension in my neck and shoulders and gave my back a thorough going-over, both in terms of massage and treating the usually neglected skin. The serum is great for hydrating, but doesn’t leave the skin feeling overloaded with product – perfect if congestion is an issue.

If you fancy getting your back in Cary-worthy condition, you can try out the Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage for free, if you book a Clarins Professional Face or Body Treatment at any Clarins Spa between now and May 31. To be redeemed by July 26.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Oh dear, I rather overdid it on Sunday night during a couple of back-to-back jazz gigs in Edinburgh – and felt somewhat the worse for wear on Monday. Unfortunately, unlike the uber-chic Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, I didn’t have the urbane William Powell on hand with a liquid hangover cure, but I did have Clarins Eye Contour Gel (£26.50; www.clarins.co.uk) which refreshes the eye area, while toning and de-puffing it. It’s even better if it’s been in the fridge overnight. If William Powell was around today, you can bet it would be as essential to his hangover-chasing kit as Worcester sauce and raw egg..

TUESDAY

I finished using Origins Plantscription after about six weeks and have to report that while using it, I found it had a slightly drying effect on my skin – so much so that I had start using a moisturising serum as well. I didn’t notice any improvement in the lines on my face – if anything, I became more aware of the lines on my forehead because I was studying them more closely than ever. After I finished Plantscription I switched to Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Serum (£245.50; www.houseoffraser.co.uk) and Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Rich Night Cream (£255) for my evening skincare routine. I’d been using these two high-end products for about a week when – on Tuesday – I had an appointment at the Clarins Spa in Frasers, Glasgow,  for my monthly facial.  And the first thing that my facialist, the lovely Lindsay, said when she had finished working her magic was that my skin felt significantly firmer than before. Whether this is the result of the Plantscription, or my new Guerlain evening routine, I don’t yet know … but I’ll be continuing with my super-expensive skincare ritual and shall report back anon.

WEDNESDAY

I went to see the French film Little White Lies – Ces Petits Mouchoirs – on Wednesday, with my French pal Sabine. Over our pre-movie coffee, Sabine – who had just returned from a holiday in France – was singing the praises of a face cream which her sister had advised her to track down while en vacances..

Its name (which evokes our last cinema trip – to see the superb psychological thriller Les Diaboliques)  is Diabolique Tomate by Garancia (around 33 Euros in French pharmacies), and it harnesses the goodness of tomatoes – in particular lypocene, which is a powerful antioxidant – to hydrate the skin and help with anti-ageing. So far, Sabine is very impressed – and her sister is a complete convert.

THURSDAY

Our man from Dior, Jamie Coombes, was in Glasgow on Thursday to acquaint journalists with the latest additions to the company’s vast range of beauty products. Not only did I come away with fantastic, glossy, neon-pink painted nails - Dior Vernis in Paradise (£23, with top coat) - but also with a brilliant tip which I wish I’d known last time I ran out of nail varnish remover: if you paint a layer of nail varnish over the varnish you want to take off, then wipe it off while wet, it will take off both the fresh and the old coats. Jamie showed me – and it works! He also picked out a couple of colours from the new Dior Addict lipstick collection (£22 each) for me to try – the photo shows me (just hours before I finally got that hair colour sorted out!) having the New Look shade expertly applied.

* Jamie Coombes, international make-up artist for Dior, is available to book for a personal make-up lesson in Jenners, Edinburgh (0844 8003725) on Monday April 25 & Tuesday 26, and in Frasers, Glasgow (0141 221 3880) on Wednesday 27 & Thursday 28. 



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