Friday, September 14, 2012

Beauty Blogosphere 9.14.12

What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.

We've come a long way, baby?

From Head...Masquerade: The invention of the beauty mask—which, charmingly enough, was onceuponatime called a "toilet mask." (via Makeup Museum)

...To Toe...
If the shoe fits: I adore Jane Marie at The Hairpin, and I adore my local cobbler, so when Jane Marie answered a recent question about cobbling, I became happier than anyone really should about cobbling. (Except, perhaps, Daniel Day-Lewis.) Bonus: Video with second-generation cobbler!

...And Everything In Between:
Targeted: Estee Lauder is suing Target in Australia for selling counterfeit MAC products. Not only are the products allegedly not actual MAC products, but Target was never an authorized MAC retailer. Oops! Target is claiming that the products came from a legitimate source in a practice known as parallel importing, in which genuine products are imported from overseas wholesalers, which is legal in Australia.

Behind the scenes: A labor organizer for the garment industry in Bangladesh—which stitches brands like Gap and Tommy Hilfiger—was murdered in April. If you wear clothes, this story is a must-read.

Video killed the magazine star: Through all the fuss about digital media killing off print, Marie Claire UK is merging the two with a limited-edition run of a print magazine that incorporates a Dolce & Gabbana advertisement—in video. When readers turn to page 34, the 45-second spot begins to play. Welcome to the future, folks.

Popeyed: Revlon head Ron Perelman is embroiled in yet another legal battle, this time with art dealer Larry Gagosian. Perelman claims Gagosian cheated him out of millions by undervaluing pieces from his collection, among them Popeye, a Jeff Koons sculpture.

Uncustomary punishment: After she was caught smuggling cosmetics for resale from South Korea without declaring customs duty, a 30-year-old Chinese woman was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined the equivalent of $78,000. The harsh punishment has drawn criticism: “It’s never easy for people to make some money from hard work. There are so many corrupt officials out there, instead of arresting them, you only target ordinary people," writes a user on Sina Weibo (basically Chinese Twitter). 

Miss Moneymaker: Clumsily translated but engaging article about the popularity of beauty pageants in China—the country sees around 300 a year. Yet it's not necessarily the public or even the participants who want them, but rather marketing teams that pay an average of around $9,400 for endorsements (and event organizers, who can earn up to $1.4 million for their efforts).

Import/export: Korean stores are selling imported products at higher price points than anywhere else in the world, with as much as an eightfold difference in prices from overseas markets. (Comparatively, whiskey is sold at a fivefold increase.) Could this be one reason domestic lines have seen sales increase 37% in recent years? Or, for that matter, why Korean cosmetics sales staffers suffer depression rates of 33%?

Geordie boys: Newcastle men spend more on beauty products than gents from any other county in England, while men in Bristol spend the least on baldness cures. I don't know enough about the connotations of different districts in Britain to decode whether these numbers adhere to stereotypes (like how in the States we stereotype Texan women as having big hair, etc.); any takers?

Here comes the groom: The obvious result from the combination of the uptick in men's grooming and "bridezilla" burnout? Being "groom-ed to perfection."

Welcome to the future: Was just alerted (thanks, Will!) to the existence of fashion based on 3-D printing. Specifically, Continuum, which currently offers jewelry and a bikini from their ready-to-wear (once printed, that is) line, is sort of amazing.

I spy: French researchers have developed a detection system for phthlates, which can contaminate cosmetics even when not a part of the chemical recipe for the actual product. 

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!: Apparently "science" has identified three factors within our control that can help us have the most beautiful breasts possible: hormone replacement therapy, not smoking, and daily moisturizing. People, I have never, ever moisturized my breasts—am I alone in this? (Thanks to my aunt Michele for the link!)

Glutenmania: Do people suffering from celiac disease need to avoid gluten-containing cosmetics? The jury is still out.

PETA still sucks, though: Strategic move from PETA in an effort to get Revlon to be transparent about its use of animal testing: buying stock in the company, in hopes that they'll be obligated to reveal information to stockholders. I'd be more jazzed about this if PETA didn't have a long, grody history of degrading women, but hey! Gotta have priorities, right? Ugh.

Like, totally flawsome: There's finally a marketing term for the tactic of showcasing personal "flaws" and incorporating them into feel-good messages for consumers tired of everything seeming perfect in brand-land: flawsome. It's even one of the top 12 consumer trends for 2012, as per We shoulda seen this coming, really.

Hostess with the leastest: For the season premiere of The Talk, cohosts and guests went makeup-free. I'm for this, and it was interesting to see the side-by-side comparisons of the hosts' normal makeup compared with their freshly scrubbed faces—but it was sort of disheartening that all but Sara Gilbert said they thought about "cheating." Whatever, transparency is good, right?

Bonus points for John Berger reference: One of the most thoughtful pieces of coverage of no-mirror experiments that I've read. Writes Katrina Onstad at the Globe and Mail, "Escaping one’s own reflection by shrouding mirrors is no small thing: It’s a gesture toward the kind of self-erasure promised by religious deliverance, whatever shape that takes. Maybe it’s particularly Canadian to have flirted with that feeling while spending time in the woods, working or camping. There, far from mirrors, you quickly forget how you look. For days or weeks, you see yourself mostly by the touch of your fingers. And then, upon return, stepping into that first bathroom, there is a startling glance – you, perfect and imperfect, caught in the glass."

Beauty in truth: After hearing from Angelika, whose relationship with the mirror changed after she started seeing herself through a True Mirror—that is, a mirror that reverses your usual reflection so that you're seeing what the rest of the world sees instead of the usual inversion—I'm super-eager to try one of these. One of my reasons for abstaining from mirrors was that I realized upon being told that I had a "mirror face" that the face I saw wasn't what the rest of the world saw—and even though psychically I've sort of come to terms with that, the fact is, looking at yourself in a regular mirror, you are literally the only one who will ever see yourself that way, as Angelika points out in her YouTube video.

Pretty pH princess: Oof, I've gotta eat my words here. I'm not opposed to "pinkifying" fields like science and math in an effort to show girls and young women that there are all kinds of ways to follow what interests you without adhering to stereotypes (of, say, lab rats with bad eyeglasses). But "princess scientists"? (via Sally)

Somewhere, there must be a strain of weed called Mother's Milk, right?

( • ) ( • ): Things that look like boobs that aren't.

Ladies Magdalene: A brief history of the Magdalene Laundries, where "fallen women" in Britain (and, I was surprised to learn, North America and Australia) would be sent for rehabilitation, i.e. imprisonment involving forced labor and abuse. I knew girls labeled as promiscuous could be sent there, but didn't know that girls could be sent there just for being pretty, thus making them more likely to be promiscuous (!)—or too ugly, making them vulnerable to temptation. (The Magdalene Sisters, a 2002 film depicting some of the abuses, is worth watching, despite it underplaying the severity of the conditions. Which, if you've seen the film, is saying something.)

Racy underthings: Lingerie blogger Cora Harrington on a lesser-commented-upon area of little diversity in the lingerie world: race and disability. I'll join my bigger-busted sisters in solidarity (my C cups support you, my G-cupped friends!) when they point out that lingerie ads seem to intentionally leave out large-breasted or full-figured women—but as Harrington points out, representation in this area is far more diverse than race representation. "[T]he sad truth is I can go weeks at a time without coming across a nice photo of a woman of color in lingerie. And if we're talking older women or disabled women, it can be months. The same simply isn't true for fuller-figured or fuller-busted women."

Game over: Danielle of Final Fashion has a juicy new series: Trend Ender, a documentation of trends and their origins, and a loose attempt to predict their demise. First up: topknots.

Owning it: Sally offers a meditation on compliments, examining how compliments angled toward praising stewardship of one's appearance might help ensure that the compliment is heard in the way it's intended. "We cultivate personal style, select our own clothing, and make decisions about how we clothe our bodies. Compliments on personal style and the clothing items we wear are tied to taste and active choices. Someone may say, 'I love that skirt,' but underneath that is, 'and your taste and personal style.'"

Lushthink: Courtney at Those Graces looks beyond the concerted "all-natural" image put forth by Lush and finds some disturbing facts: "My investigation shows that every Lush moisturizer has 3 to 5 ingredients which rank as a Moderate Health Hazard according to the Environmental Working Group." Oof! I'm a fan of Lush; I like their products, and I like that they're one of the few beauty companies that is unafraid to take stands on political issues that might actually alienate some consumers (as opposed to slapping a wholly inoffensive pink ribbon on a jar of face cream and calling it a day). But I don't like that their marketing scheme hinges upon the illusion that these are products your cool friend just whipped up in her kitchen, with no unpronounceable ingredients (like, say, triethanolaine) to muck up their philosophy—despite that not actually being the case.


  1. From listening to my mum and older women, the Magdalene Laundries and institutional abuse in relgious institutions were horrific and one of the most shameful parts of recent Irish history. There is a old convent near my boyfriend's parents' house which used to be a laundry and I always shudder going by it. The worst thing is that in Irish history after they closed down, the collective consciousness managed to forget that they existed until an unmarked graveyard was found in a convent in Dublin.

    1. Aurora, thank you for the insight from an Irish perspective. It's amazing what that collective consciousness can do to erase our own histories, isn't it?

  2. Thanks for including my post here! It's been an interesting couple of days and a lot of people work for Lush have actually made their way over to the comments section to share their thoughts. If anything, I'm incredibly impressed with the brand's ability to make thousands of people feel like its an extension of themselves. On the other hand, I'm kind of freaked out.

    1. Oooh, yes. You know, one of the strongest disagreements I've had about the issues I write about here was about Lush--I wasn't even attacking it, just pointing out that I'm suspicious of the whole beauty-products-that-smell-like-food thing, and it became a Thing. Because you're exactly right: People internalize Lush as a part of themselves. Fascinating!

  3. I see women of color in lingerie sized lingerie ads in magazines aimed at us of course. I don't think I even need to go into all that that implies. But on a semi related note. I've been looking for a brown bra that would be "nude" for my skin tone MONTHS now. I'm not particularly dark skinned or particularly light so it should be easy to find a basic brown bra and yet I've checked every store I can think of (from wal mart to soma) and all I ever come across is "nude" or "beige" for white/lighter skinned women.(Granted I am in Ohio at the moment so maybe that's a factor in the lack of availability.) At first it was sort of a funny game of "wheres waldo" between my husband and I when shopping but now I'm just pissed off about it. The lingerie industry is leaving us out in more ways than one. Makes me wonder what exactly their ultimate goal is by doing something so silly because eventually I'm just going to go buy a box of brown rit dye and call it a day.


    1. Mary, that is an excellent point about the myriad ways women of color are excluded by the lingerie industry. It seems like there's better and better makeup out there for women with darker skin, but how long did THAT take, you know?

      FWIW, I featured MySkins here a while ago, which features bras in a wider range of "nude" colors than most lines. But as several readers pointed out, where they get it right in color (sort of--it's still pretty limited) they get it wrong in sizes, as their range is incredibly narrow. May be worth a try, though!

  4. I'm a little late in commenting, but regarding the reverse mirrors: A person standing next to you while you look into the mirror will see the same image of you as you do. Also, I've been reading your thoughts about mirror faces several times now, and I can't really say that I recognize myself in that. It's weird, really, because I've been looking, and I can't find any difference.

    I want to say "I called it" on the Lush thing, but I didn't. More of a hunch, and since I don't blog... But really, it seemed too good to be true, and I had reactions to their products too, even though they're all so "good". My skin and hair tolerates next to nothing, though, so it might just as well have been the ingredients on the more natural end of the spectrum that caused problems, but who knows. I stick to my olive soap (body) and apple cider vinegar rinse (hair) and water for the rest and that seems to be enough.

    Those Magdalene Laundries sound horrible. I think we had some similar practices in Norway at around that time too. Forced labour was a common punishment for all kinds of crime. There's a painting + novel ( Albertine, by Christian Krogh ) that tells a unique but all too common story: Poor seamstress is raped by a police officer and forced to become a prostitute. Different than the laundries, but the same kind of thinking.

    1. Martha Joy, you're not the first person I've talked with (well, corresponded with...) who says that they really don't have a mirror face. Wish I could say the same! It's making me wonder what sort of psychological/mental/social/whatever differences there are between people who do have one, those who don't, those who manage to shed it if so desired...

      Fascinating that "Albertine" was banned, and that it played a role in the eventual abolition of prostitution. I wonder if it's because it exposed complicity on the part of public officers, or because it was just seen as unseemly at the time?