Monthly Archives: November 2009

[Glossed Over] Method Says It’s Sorry, Please Buy Their Soap.

That creepy Shiny Suds video is history, thanks to (outraged) consumers like you. Good news for feminism? Bad news for environmentalism? It’s not clear what’s happened to Method’s support for the Household Product Labeling Act (sigh) but the company sure needs women to keep buying their eco-friendly cleaners. So nice that it realized rape narratives aren’t so much the way to our brand loyal hearts.

If you haven’t seen the video, those tech-savvy Jezebel chicks still have it (the link from my post vanished — why?) so go give it a watch and let us know if you think Method was right to yank it or not.

And PS, even if you think we’re all uptight/not getting the joke, let’s file this one under “Consumers Have All The Power.” For future reference.

[Photo: Here.]

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Filed under Glossed Over., products

The Official BSP Product Policy.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

Why yes, those are some delicious eco-friendly product samples, which just arrived from indie beauty line sumbody (tag lines: “Handmade. Pure. Earth-friendly Skin Care for the Eco-Minded Consumer.”)

And they are all packed up in lovely, landfill-clogging, styrofoam peanuts.

Oops.

This seems like a good time to outline my plan for beauty product coverage here on Beauty Schooled, and I hope I won’t break hearts left and right when I say: You won’t get much in the way of all that.

I’ve been mulling it over the past few days since the above box arrived (Hence the radio silence. Well, that and Thanksgiving — happy belated, by the way!) and this is how things shook out.

On the one hand: I do love beauty products. Um, obviously — I’m dedicating 600 hours of my life to learning as much about them as Beauty U can teach me. In fact, while in the midst of said mull, I made a point to try out most of the sumbody goodies, and I am quite enamored of both the teensy little makeup kit (Helloooo, smoky eyes that stay put!) and the Lucky Lips balm, which you can’t even see in the picture above because it’s all buried in styrofoam peanuts, but trust me, it’s cute. Plus, there’s a general expectation when you tell people you’ve signed up for beauty school and are writing a blog about it that you’ll be sharing a lot of your acquired know-how.

On the other hand: In case you haven’t already figured it out, this isn’t a “how to” beauty blog. We’re not yet suffering a dearth of blogs or magazines dedicated to reviewing new products and teaching you how to get perfectly smoky eyes or Blake Lively hair, so I’m not stressing about how to fill a void there. There are lots of people who do that well. There are also lots of people who love getting free product samples and writing up breathless reviews of them, borrowing liberally from the marketing copy on the enclosed press release, so as to keep the free products flowing. And it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. You might be very good at reviewing beauty products and love getting free products all at the same time. Who wouldn’t? They are free, first of all, plus generally pretty, sweet-smelling and covered with promises to make you pretty and sweet-smelling too.

I’m not saying you’re a (major) sell-out if you get excited over scoring a free hand cream sample at Sephora. I’m saying that almost everyone — myself firmly included, cue the image of me trying out my new free lip balm while worrying about the ethical implications of my new free lip balm — gets excited about that. And the purpose of Beauty Schooled is to ask why we get so excited. To explore our sometimes awfully complicated relationship with the Beauty Industrial Complex and our ideal of beauty itself. That means, whenever possible, putting my own beauty addictions under the same microscope we’re using to consider placenta facials or skin lightening.

So we’ll dissect marketing claims and ingredient lists, and we’ll scrutinize Big Beauty (Revlon, Benefit and friends) and indie/eco beauty brands alike. But until I’m more convinced of my ability to be an impartial, Consumer Reports-style judge, it means keeping product test drives (and their not-always-distant cousin, product advertising) off the blog.

PS. Thanks to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for adding me to their list of recommended blogs.

[Photo: Me]

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Filed under Facials, Ingredients, Makeup, products, week 5

The Makeup Practical

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school.

Learn more about the project, or catch up with weeks 1, 2 and 3.

Sometimes, practicing makeup feels like a middle school sleepover. But when we take our Makeup Practical (that’s Beauty U speak for a test that involves a physical demonstration of what you’ve learned) there’s no talking allowed. We’re suddenly aware of how warm it is in our windowless classroom, and how six people adds up to twelve eyeballs staring at you.

There’s a lot to remember. The order of the daytime makeup application: Concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, lip liner and lipstick — yes, that’s all for daytime. You forgot it already. The sanitation procedures (you have to spray your pencil sharpener with alcohol before and after you use it to sharpen your eyeliner or lip liner, and you have to sharpen them every single time). How to keep the foundation from caking and the eyeliner from running jaggedly across your client’s lids. I have yet to master these last steps.

Miss Jenny perches on a revolving stool next to you, clipboard in hand, taking notes, poker-faced. It’s enough to make Stephanie drenched in sweat by the time she’s finished. Meg’s hand shakes as she starts to stipple on the concealer. I apply eye shadow then try to think in a blind panic whether it’s liner or mascara that comes next. We use an entire roll of paper towels wiping alcohol off the sharpener.

We’re getting braver about touching each other. Miss Jenny has demonstrated how it’s okay to stand in between your client’s knees in order to reach their eyes. You balance one hand on your hip when you’re applying lip liner — don’t ask me why, but this works.

When it’s over, we are exhausted. Miss Jenny comes around to give everyone their grades and there’s a lot more debate than when we take our written exams. It’s hard to dispute a wrong multiple choice question, after all, but it’s a little more subjective to say whether Sue blended the eye shadow enough or Blanche chose the right shade of concealer.

“Look, it’s very hard to get 100 on the makeup practical, girls,” says Miss Jenny. “That would mean you were flawless. Nobody is perfect, okay?”

Of course not. That’s what all the makeup is for.

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Filed under In Class, Makeup, week 4

The Matter of Lightening Up

No, it’s not a skin condition or his attempt to woo Twi-hard fans.

Sammy Sosa is stepping up to fill the Michael Jackson void as the latest celeb-of-color to become um, less colorful thanks to skin lightening creams. The Root has a great essay on the cultural ramifications of his progression to pale. And Sammy’s not the only one: NPR is reporting that the skin whitening industry is working hard to expand their male customer base. In fact, trade publication GCI Magazine estimates that sales of male skin-whitening products in India could match the sales of female skin whiteners within five to ten years.

Seems like a good time to mention that many skin whitening treatments contain hydroquinone, a chemical that has been restricted for use in cosmetics by Canada and the EU, and is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA.

Oh, and in October, the FDA busted a shipment of Manning Beauty Cream whiteners because they contained 8 percent mercury.

Meanwhile, at the other end of skin spectrum, Tom Delay and other Dancing With the Stars contestants broke the silence and spoke out about their spray tan addiction in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Does the former GOP leader really need a faux six-pack?

At Beauty U, Blanche and Stephanie (two black women with only the most minimal interest in lightening up) have started bringing their own foundations and concealers because the makeup we’re supplied with ranges only from lily white to beach vacation toasty.

“I never realized that I was so hard to make up because of my skin color,” says Blanche after we’ve all experimented unsuccessfully with mixing shades that leave her chalky and streaked.

“They should have better products!” We all rush to say. “It’s not you, don’t feel bad!”

“Oh don’t worry,” says Blanche. “I know it’s not me that’s the problem.”

What’s your take on the business of skin?

[Photos: The Root and NPR]

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Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Facials, Makeup, week 4

[Glossed Over] People Against Dirty Campaign

Glossed Over: Where we take a closer look at what advertisements are really selling.

I am all for the sentiment behind this video, sponsored by Method to raise awareness about the Household Product Labeling Act, which would require cleaning products to list all of their ingredients on the label. At the moment, Mr. Clean and friends don’t have to tell you anything, and even if they do, they don’t have to let you know if any of the incomprehensible chemicals on the list might give you an allergic reaction, or, you know, cancer. If you’d like to see that change, enter your zip code here to send a letter to your Congresspersons asking them to support the bill.

But I am not too sure about the video itself — having been on the receiving end of unwanted ogling plenty of times (like pretty much all women who are remotely identifiable as such), those soap bubbles are creeping me out. If it’s supposed to be funny, it’s making light of an important issue (sexual harassment). If it’s supposed to be scary (because cancer in your bathtub is scary), I would have preferred the video creators to keep the focus on their own rather important issue and explain that consumers have a right to know what’s in their household products because these soap bubbles may pose environmental health risks.

It should be noted that Method hasn’t always done the best job of disclosing their own ingredient lists, though I’ll give them props for laying it all out there now. But if they’re so scared that people might associate cleaning products with danger that they don’t want to spell that out in a video advocating for more transparency, well, their friendly new ingredient lists feel more like a marketing ploy than an honest environmental agenda.

In other news, beauty products are required by the FDA to include an ingredient list. But there are some clever loopholes, like fragrance, which may contain any number of chemicals if the manufacturer deems them a proprietary formula. And they don’t have to tell you what any of their ingredients do or whether they’ve undergone safety evaluations. So kudos to Bella Sugar for reporting on this new research finding that we put an average of 515 synthetic chemicals on our skin every day. Maybe it’s time to see some legislation requiring the beauty industry to tell us more about all of that.

[Via Grist.]

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Filed under Glossed Over., Ingredients, products

Placenta. On Your Face.

I had my first Beauty U facial last night — whenever we don’t have any regular customers in the spa, the senior students borrow one of us freshman girls to practice on — and it reminded me to tell you about this.

Jezebel is pretty sure that the Daily Mail is over-hyping this placenta facial as the latest Hollywood craze business (you think?) but it’s not the first time afterbirth has made the rounds as the beauty ingredient du jour. Shiseido, Mila Skin Care, Plazan Cosmetics and other high-end brands have all offered luxe anti-aging products in recent years with this so-called miracle ingredient, derived from bovine and human, um, volunteers. (It’s especially popular in Japan.)

The companies claim that placenta, the organ that nourishes a developing baby in the womb, can boost your metabolic processes, accelerate tissue regeneration and rid your body of toxins, all to help you achieve younger-looking skin. Dermatologists dispute whether it really works.

So that means people with medical degrees are actually sitting around saying “Hmmm, can placenta make you look younger or not?” instead of asking these companies more obvious questions like, “Are you high?” and “Where the heck are you getting this stuff?”

Poole Hospital, in Dorset, England, made headlines last year when it received about $10,000 in “donations” in exchange for delivering up to 70 frozen placentas per week to Sigma-Aldrich, a biochemical company that sells raw materials to cosmetic companies. The moms who signed consent forms after giving birth thought their placenta was being donated for medical research. You know, like to help sick people. Mila Skin Care and Plazan Cosmetics say their placenta comes from maternity wards in Russia — it’s not clear whether those moms know they’re donating (or are perhaps being compensated directly) in the name of beauty science or not.

Okay, so there’s the obvious ick factor. We can be grown ups about that, I guess. But what I’m still working on: Is it okay to turn a body part (albeit a rather temporary one) into a commodity? What makes a woman donate or sell her child’s placenta in the name of erasing crow’s feet? Or is it even more creepy that she may not know it’s happening?

[Photo: Daily Mail]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class, week 3

The Fantasea Face

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Learn about the project, or catch up with Weeks 1 and 2.

We’ve been practicing the daytime face for two weeks now, so tonight, Meg and I are messing around in our FantaSea makeup kits. They’re filled with clever compartments and secret drawers, all fitted with perfectly pressed cakes of color that beg you to swirl your brushes through them, like walking on fresh snow. There’s even a black plastic comb fitted into the hinge, though no one can explain what we’re going to do with that.

“Remember girls, the daytime face should be very, very light,” says Miss Jenny for perhaps the millionth time. She’s been toning down our preferences for smoky eyes and pouty lips all week. “Very light. You need to be very restrained with your color selections.”

Meg dips her brush in a coral blush and dabs her cheek. We peer at the orange streak. “Nice and light,” I decide. She follows up with neon blue eye shadow, while I layer on the frosted pink lipstick. “Perfect for daytime,” says Meg approvingly. We add sparkly gloss, green shadow for contour, and more orange blush, then admire our Technicolor faces in the Fantasea mirrors. It’s the kind of makeup you used to put on at a middle school sleepover party, while your one friend was in the bathroom dying her hair some impractical color, before you all sat down to eat an entire pan of brownies in one sitting.

“My God,” says Meg. “We’re so pretty!”

“Oh you girls are making me laugh,” says Miss Jenny.

I think this is kind of the moment when we all realize that we’re becoming friends.

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Filed under In Class, Makeup, week 3