10 Ways not to get “Beauty-duped”



Our 2016 Awards opened this morning and I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now, but today feels like an appropriate day, because….

The hype around beauty products has been inflating like a hot air balloon lately.  There’s so much money to be made in the beauty industry that I think it’s getting harder for consumers to decide which products to try and spend their money wisely. I’ve made some expensive beauty mistakes in my time (on online purchases, mainly) and I’m fast becoming allergic to the out of control hype around certain products.

It’s not just some of the brands (they tend to be the same ones spanning different products and marketing campaigns) and the (digital) marketing machines, it’s some of the beauty reviewers, too (usually, not surprisingly, because there’s a financial tie-in).

So how do you cut through the hype?

  1. Since The Beauty Shortlist’s very first post in July 2009, our mantra has been READ-THE-LABEL. The sure-fire way to know what the product contains. Don’t just fall for “free from” labels on the front packaging, just because something’s free from some things, other things you don’t want to pay for could be in the formula.
  2. Size matters. There are 3 cleansers on my bathroom shelf at the moment.  One’s 200ml, and two are 100ml. But you’d swear that one of the 100ml pumps was the same volume as the 200ml size cleanser. That’s because that brand uses a very large pump bottle, making the 100ml look like 200ml.  So this is just really to say as a side note, check how much product you’re really getting for the money you’re spending. Packaging can be deceptive.
  3. Beware of the “we only use the best…” claims.  I saw an argan oil website the other day which said “we only use the fresh white kernels from the inside of the nut to make our purest oils” – WOT? I’ve been to argan co-ops in Morocco and flew home with argan nuts in my handbag.  Inside the nuts (which look like pointed acorns and crack open horizontally) there is a tiny kernel – like a super-sized pine nut.  This is the argan kernel.  You cannot use anything else to make argan oil! All argan oil is made from those little “pine nut” type argan kernels. So claiming “we only use the fresh white kernels from the inside of the nut” is…crap!
  4. Look for certification logos. Caveat here, though – having judged 4 years of awards so far, some of the best products we’ve tested were not officially certified organic, for example, but in general these accreditations do help consumers looking for clean, green products make a choice.  Look for NATRUE (Weleda, for example), Soil Association (whose Organic Beauty Week happens this month), and other logos. The whole certification issue is a bit of a beauty jungle, the parameters all vary but I think these do help guide the way.
  5. Beware of big brands that sell very affordable products that claim to be “Pure and Natural” (one brand I shall not mention did this when they saw consumers were leaning more towards clean, green products). If the product is inexpensive and the brand is enormous, chances are your pure and natural ingredients will be towards the end of the list on the label – after lots of fillers, chemicals and who knows what.  They create new fresh/clean sounding range names to lure the natural beauty lovers in.
  6. The vloggers. Some I love, but too many have just become salespeople touting the products they’ve been paid to tout, tied in with digital agencies.  Fair enough, we all have to make a living but if a brand keeps popping up again and again there’s probably a financial tie-in. The issue is, you don’t know who to believe any more. Many of the vloggers are so young they haven’t even lived long enough to know skin well enough. Others think they’re the world’s only living authority on all-things-skin (but – ahem, hello – no, you’re not).
  7. Do a little digging. I won’t mention the magazine’s name but I did a little digging one afternoon last week. I analysed every “Top 10, 10 Best, Best Of…” different category post on a huge UK women’s mag’s website and just what I thought would emerge…emerged. The SAME 6-8 brands popped up in the 10 Best Conealers, 10 Best Lipsticks, 10 Best Whateveryoulike…it was a perpetual merry go round of Clarins, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Dior and a couple of others. With a small sprinkling of more niche brands to mix things up a bit in case anyone else noticed the blatant repetition. Not much detective work needed, it was so obvious after the first three Top 10’s I looked at had the same brands mentioned again and again. And yes, these brands have ads in the same mag #obvs. It’s tricky as magazines need ad revenue and the brands need the exposure but it dilutes the credibility factor.  I don’t know the answer to this one!
  8. Check out the winners of our Awards. We’ve been running them for 4 years, 2016 is our 5th, and it doesn’t matter whether the brand’s a small start-up from Cornwall or a global name, the best products win – end of! Credibility is key, I’ve always, always maintained that we must review products honestly otherwise there is no point in The Beauty Shortlist. About 3 years ago, everyone and his dog wanted to be featured on the blog. Not a single review was paid for and I turned away thousands of pounds. Instead, two years ago, we started charging a £50 entry fee for the Awards to cover all the work involved, the judges’ time and the 5am starts every March when the Awards take place. We are pretty ruthless in the judging, it’s an exhaustive and exhausting but exhilarating process and at the end of the day it gives us an incredible “eagle eye view” of the beauty market as it is now – from trends to emerging superstar ingredients – our mission is one mission only, to sift out the “best of the best from the rest” to help consumers discover new brands to fall in love with and choose wisely.
  9. Cast your beauty net and stick to the best bloggers.  I have my favourites, the ones I know who just tell it as it is, from big to much smaller/indie. I trust what they say.  It’s pretty easy to read between the lines and filter out the ones who are being straight up v. the ones who are pulling the wool over our eyes. Some of the biggest vloggers are the ones I trust least, because you know there are thousands of pounds tied in to contracts behind the scenes and the money can quickly taint objectivity.
  10. Choose your retailer wisely.  I have huge respect for Cult Beauty, Liberty, Fenwick, Fortnum & Mason, NET-A-PORTER, A Beautiful World, BeautyMART, Whole Foods, Planet Organic, John Lewis, LoveLula, Content and Naturisimo, for example – I know the founders and beauty buyers behind almost all of them and their beauty edits are genuinely excellent. I keep a close eye on their launches and would happily shop from any of these sites/stores.  I know I’ve forgotten a couple – sorry! (I have to say I’m less keen on the Superdrug, Debenhams, Tesco’s, etc. of this world as I think their beauty edits are not as tight but then again they’re aiming for a different market – but I see too many brands stocked there that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole). Marks & Spencers beauty is interesting, I’ve watched this develop over the past couple of years and I shop there for beauty.

Last but not least, I’m often asked which brands I rate/would recommend most.  (For recommendations, which I love doing, it so depends on the woman – your lifestyle, skin, age, lots of factors).

Personally, I’m a big fan of the facialist brands – Sarah Chapman (Skinesis), Antonia Burrell, Emma Hardie, etc.  as well as aromatherapy brands like Micheline Arcier, Blend Collective, Tisserand, Therapie Roques-O’Neil, Aromatherapy Associates and NEOM Organics.

And beautifully gentle brands like Neal’s Yard Remedies, Weleda and Botanicals.

I also love what Liz Earle is doing with her new Liz Earle Wellbeing Magazine.

While for fragrance my desert island brand would be Jo Loves by Jo Malone, MBE and also Barb Stegmann’s incredible give-back fragrance brand The 7 Virtues (which just got into Fenwick’s – check them out! They smell gorgeous and she is helping producers in war-torn countries rebuild).

…and a quick shout out to three of my favourite women in beauty, Kate Shapland who knows beauty inside out, Lisa Eldridge for her phenomenally good beauty tutorials and or Ruth Crilly, A Model Recommends for her brilliant “new mum” blogging, tried-and-tested beauty expertise and for being the real deal.

Who are yours?



One response to “10 Ways not to get “Beauty-duped””

  1. I’ve just gone through your list getting rsi from nodding at every single point 🙂 I absolutely do not take magazine lists seriously.