Beauty

How To Tune Into Your Intuition

balancing scale with heart on right side and brain left side

It is clear to see that the popularity of spiritual practices is on the rise. We’re seeing crystals lined up on desks, energy healers on speed dial and more of us are choosing to swap out post-work drinks for breath work. Whether you’re engaging in these practices or not, there’s one word that’s always mentioned and written about, but seems to escape many of us, and that’s intuition. Read More…

Regrets

different flavours ice creams on the waffle cone

If I had my life to live over…
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains
and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans…
If I had to do it again, I would
travel lighter than I have…
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later into the fall (autumn).
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies…

Just sometimes, don’t you come across a poem or a poster that stops you in your tracks? That happened to me, lately, in the most unlikely setting (an Anglian Water team event in Ipswich, actually, where I happened to be a guest speaker).

Once I’d got past the cheese-y typography of this A4 sheet in their wellbeing zone, it really got me thinking about my life. (Whew. Deep stuff.) And it touched so many nerves, with me. First off, silliness. I definitely haven’t been silly enough. I’ve worried about what people would think if I skipped down the street (which I do sometimes think of doing), and I really wish I hadn’t bowed to crowd-sourced opinion lately about a grey felt hat with wolf ears, which got shouted down by my friends. (I might check out Etsy to see if it’s still available, actually.) I think the reason most of us like hanging out with kids is that we get to be silly without people staring – but it probably would make the world a happier place if we all relaxed (see Line Three) and let loose.

The barefoot thing definitely resonates. It’s only in the last 18 months that I’ve discovered the joys of going barefoot, with its wonderful earthing and grounding power. I’ll never get back all those years I spent walking beside my barefoot husband (as ever, the pioneer), my feet encased in sandals or trainers when I could’ve enjoyed toe liberation and the pleasure of foot dew-baths. Not long ago, we walked seven miles over Beachy Head barefoot. We were definitely the only tourists walking barefoot around the walls of Dubrovnik, recently, beautifully smooth, warm stone underfoot. Better late than never, but I do definitely regret the ‘shoe years’. (There’s a lot on that list that relates to not worrying about what other people think of us, actually. One of the reasons I love my husband is that he really doesn’t give a damn what other people think – and I need to learn from him, there.)

I only properly climbed a mountain a few years ago – and had never realised how triumphant it feels at the top (well, it was a foothill of the Himalayas, but it was still a mountain-top), having overcome a) my fear of heights and b) the overwhelming urge to turn round and go back down because it was just so, so hard, and scary, and my thighs were screaming so loudly in protest I was pretty sure they could hear them in Pakistan. Interestingly, my reward – apart from the view – was that something happened exponentially to my fitness on that one climb with the result that I find it so much easier to climb hills and even walk up escalators out of choice, now. So: another thing on that list which I totally agree with. More mountains.

Part of that poster’s message is about being more daring. Not just doing the same-old-same-old, but taking some risks. Trying different things. Travelling to places new. I was a bit of a scaredy-cat, as a young woman. Not so much, now – and life’s so much richer, as a result. I’ve a way to go before I voluntarily abseil down a cliff, but I can see that possibly, just possibly, I could rise to that challenge – and I can also envision the elation afterwards.

But most importantly, it’s about not having regrets. I often see people quoted, late in life, saying: ‘It’s not the things I did that I regret. It’s the things that I didn’t do.’ On a travel level, if I don’t get to Rajasthan, I’m really going to regret that. (Note to self: start researching that trip, and stop worrying about dying in a collision with a sacred cow on a road between Udaipur and Jodhpur.)

I’ve got a friend who’s basically been on a diet for all the years I’ve known her. For all that time, her weight has see-sawed – and she’s never knowingly enjoyed a guilt-free meal, at least not one I’ve shared with her. And I think she’s really beginning to regret it, since she’s fundamentally the same size as when we first met, but hasn’t ever allowed herself truly to enjoy food.

Food! Sustenance! Potentially the source of so much joy…! And I certainly don’t want to be someone who feels bad about having a generous slice of cake or a celebratory glass of champagne, and allowing myself small pleasures. (On which note: the ‘I would eat more ice cream’ line is pretty redundant, in my case. My ice cream quotient’s right up there, frankly, and I don’t regret a single lick.)

Above all, it’s about not having regrets about spending time with the people who matter to us, too. Small (daisy chain-loving) children, who become teenagers before you know it, and then drift away to university or get married and/or have babies, so that the only time you really can be sure of seeing them is when they come home for Christmas or to retrieve possessions from what was once your garage but is now a free storage unit, because at least it means you’ll see them when they do.

Friends, far and near. One of my big regrets is that recently, a team of my friends got together to cook for another mutual friend who was very sick, spending an hour over lunch with her in turn while feeding her delicious food. I was too busy to join the rota (I really was, but I should have juggled something). Well, the friend died. We’ll never get that time together, and that’s a regret which will always be a nagging, dull ache. (Another note to self: book that trip to Hay-on-Wye to catch-up with a really good, really old mate who I’ve been promising to visit for a decade, now. And haven’t got round to it.)

The bottom line is that in a world of social media and obsession with ‘likes’ and ghastly news on the TV and doom and gloom in newspapers, when everyone’s walking down the road looking at their phones and there are so very many small distractions to gobble up our days, I think we need to remind ourselves constantly what really and truly matters in life. For me, those few lines really made me check in with myself – and I’ve printed it out for my office wall, to act as a daily nudge in the direction of what really matters. Merry-go-rounds, daisies and all.

I reckon we probably all need to think about the things we’d put on a list like that of our own. I wonder: what would yours say…? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it, starting right now…?

How To Ease Aches And Pains

wooden blocks spelling posture with wooden armature

Pain is no beautifier. We furrow our brows, the light goes out of our eyes, we stoop of slouch. (And, left untended our joints may suffer irreparable damage.) At Beauty Bible, as you’ll probably know, we take a holistic approach to beauty – and so that means doing what we can to keep aches and pains, with their knock-on effect on our looks and energy levels, at bay. Read More…

Morning Anxiety: Five Tricks To Help You Feel Less Frantic First Thing

White Analogue Clock on Blue Background

If you’re not a morning person, you’re not alone. What most of us would give for a few more hours’ sleep during the working week. However, while most feel lethargic and a bit sluggish when their alarm goes off, there are others who wake up to quite the opposite scenario – a racing heartbeat, serious sweating and a whirring brain that refuses to slow down. Up until three years ago, I fell into the latter category, with my daily pangs of morning anxiety leaving me drained before I’d even gotten out of bed. Read More…

Smile, Please!

three diffrent flavoured toothpastes on a green background with mint leaves

I’m always fascinated to talk to fellow entrepreneurs. I first stumbled across Lebon in Paris, in the new Printemps beauty store – and realised it was one of those ‘duh-why-didn’t-someone-think-of-it-before’ products. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to talk to the creators of the first toothpaste brand that looks as good as it smells, smells as good as it tastes. (And happens to be organic, with it. Which definitely matters to those of us who care about what we put in our mouths.)

So no wonder this up-and-coming brand – created near perfumery’s capital of Grasse, working with one of that town’s leading fragrance houses – is revolutionising the toothpaste market, stocked in 30 countries around the world and in spiffy department stores including Joyce in Hong Kong and Le Printemps in Paris (and of course, right here on VH), just five years after launch.

Lebon turns out to be the ‘baby’ of former art historian and photographer Stephanie Palacci and her cosmetic scientist husband Richard. In fact, they were on a sojourn in Costa Rica, where the couple spent chunks of time with their two children, when the idea came to her. ‘It’s a country where smells are so powerful,’ Stephanie explained to me. ‘It was rainy season, and there were so many scents in the air – the grass, the forest, the jungle, the flowers, all the smells that you have after a tropical downpour. And it clicked for me: I wanted to have that experience when I brushed my teeth. I wanted to bring the beach, the forest, a sunlit afternoon, the joy of travel right into the bathroom for people.’

Both from entrepreneurial families, the couple had previously thought about creating a skincare brand together. ‘But everything has already been done, and we couldn’t imagine bringing something that was better to the market than was already in existence.’ Oral care, however, offered a gap in the market much, much wider than the one in Lara Stone’s smile. Sure, there was a new generation of luxury whitening toothpastes on the market. Yes, natural food stores now offered effective alternatives to the ultra-foaming mainstream brands who’ve dominated the toothpaste industry for forever. But a toothpaste that also whisked you to a desert island, a Côte d’Azur swimming pool or a beach in Rio, just as perfume can…? That had never been done. ‘When I told him my concept, Richard said: “I could do that.”’

At that time, when not ensconced in the jungles of Costa Rica, the couple were based in the South of France, where Richard worked teaching cosmetic science. Tentatively, they approached one of  most prestigious and historic perfume houses, founded in the 18th Century in nearby Grasse, which works with haute couture fragrance names and other leading international perfume brands. (Their identity remains a guarded secret, Stephanie explains – and I’ll let her off for being coy; when big brands get a whiff of start-ups’ success, there’s often an attempt to copy what they’re doing, which can crush a small brand with limited resources.)

Not surprisingly, the fragrance house became as excited by the project as the couple themselves. More surprisingly, Stephanie didn’t use her library of travel photographs as part of the briefing process. Instead, she explains, ‘we talked a lot about my memories of travel and the scent that places conjure up for me.’ It was a given that every fragrance for the range should have mint somewhere in its flavour/fragrance formula. ‘Above everything else, what you want a toothpaste to deliver is a sensation of freshness in the mouth – and nothing does that like mint,’ Stephanie acknowledges. But the complex aromas were built from there.

Tropical Crush, for instance, gives us mint in the background, playing up notes of luscious pineapple– conjuring up memories for Stephanie of drinking cocktails on Brazilian beaches – alongside anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial rooibos red tea. My own favourite, Sweet Extravagance – described by Lebon as ‘haute couture and sexy’ – offers very detectable notes of orange blossom and rose, with just a whisper of cool mintiness; a very different sensory experience, for sure, to the usual tooth-brushing drudgery. And you can turn the page for the globe-trotting stories behind the rest of the collection.

The other ‘given’, for the couple, was that their toothpaste should be organic. ‘I don’t want to have to compromise between my health – or that of my family – and a good, pleasurable moment, brushing my teeth,’ says this mother of two teenagers. The 97% natural formulas avoid sulfates, PEGs, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings (the flavours, which all come from Grasse, are 100% natural, using the best press of essential oils). More recently, Lebon added whitening options to their range, innovatively using papain extract (from papaya) for its natural brightening enzyme effect. ‘They won’t make your teeth unnaturally super-white,’ she says, ‘but they will stop staining from tea or wine.’ The chosen sweetener, meanwhile, is the natural, calorie-free plant Stevia rebaudiana.

For logistical reasons, meanwhile, although the toothpastes – and now mouthwash – are all manufactured in France, the Palaccis relocated to the countryside outside Brussels. ‘From the office I can see cows and lambs,’ smiles Stephanie. ‘But I’m 20 minutes from the Eurostar or from flights to many different destinations. Brussels is a hub, whereas Provence just isn’t. And besides,’ she adds, ‘with a growing business and a family that was growing up, I needed the support system of being near my family.’

For world-class shoppers and brand aficionados, meanwhile, there are two last factors which make us happy to trade up from our usual toothpaste choices to Lebon – despite the fairly hefty price tag. (Though in my experience, a tube of Lebon lasts three to four months. As a fragrance-lover, I definitely spend way longer brushing my teeth now my toothpaste makes me close my eyes and think of St. Tropez or Costa Rica than I did before. And what price a great smile, eh?)

Lebon toothpastes also look completely fantastic – almost certainly, the first toothpastes on the planet which will have you re-arranging your bathroom shelf, to show off your toothpaste. They couldn’t do a better job of catching the customer’s eye from across a store. But in common with many start-ups, Lebon didn’t realise quite how clever they were being there, either. ‘It’s the icing on the cake,’ Stephanie maintains.‘It just reflected our aesthetic and our taste. People often talk about how cool the packaging is, now – but we haven’t been to business school and we certainly never used a focus group. We simply did what felt and looked right, to us.’

But what customers will also notice about Lebon is that they’ve taken inspiration from the fragrance industry when naming each toothpaste. ‘You don’t buy a perfume that is just called “Rose”, do you?,’ notes Stephanie. So Lebon offer us Cap Ferrat Mood, Back to Pamplelonne, Fearless Freedom… I wanted to recreate the experience I had when I put on my Hermès Un Jardin en Mediterrannée,’ explains Stephanie. ‘The name already gets my brain working in a particular way, I know what to expect… It takes me somewhere, even before I’ve sprayed my fragrance, and I wanted Lebon to offer an experience like that.’

We’re all used to our fragrance transporting us to far-flung places, as we dab and spritz. How exciting for perfume-lovers that the formerly mundane task of brushing our teeth can has been pimped into a magic carpet ride, too. Just don’t blame Stephanie Palacci if there’s a queue for your bathroom, from here on in.

I asked Stephanie to share her other travel inspirations for the Lebon range…

Cap Ferrat Mood ‘This is the freshest one. Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat is a peninsula in the South of France; there are a lot of pine forests where people walk and jog. The mixture of different mints conjures up the freshness of that, but with a touch of vanilla for sweetness. A great kick-start to the day.’

Villa Noacarlina ‘A combination of my children’s names, Charline (now 16) and Noe (13). We were staying in Costa Rica and we had cinnamon candles burning in the villa, so we recreated that in this toothpaste.’

Une Piscine à Antibes ‘Conjuring up the famous pool at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc hotel in Antibes, looking out over the blue Mediterranean, where we love to swim.’

Sweet Extravagance ‘A reminder of a visit to Hollywood; there’s so much glitter there, and this combination of rose and orange blossom seems very extravagant, yet also has a delicate side.’

Le White ‘With antioxidant sweet mint, from Morocco, to evoke Moroccan tea.’

Fearless Freedom ‘This is more a mood than a place, from one of Richard’s ideas – designed to make you feel strong and courageous, with its powerful blackcurrant note.’

Back to Pamplelonne ‘Pure sunshine. When we visit Le Pamplelonne beach, we always have mango salad: little slivers of mango, layered with mint leaves. For me, this instantly brings back walking along sandy Mediterranean beaches.’

Shop the full range of Lebon toothpastes, here.

No Ads Ever

Pound symbol / hash symbol made of yellow pells on a blue background

Maybe we’re bonkers. Maybe we’ll go down in history as the biggest fools known to (wo)mankind, but at Beauty Bible, we’ve always had a strict policy of not doing any paid-for content across the website or on our social media platforms. Over the past few years we have become really rather uncomfortable with the growing amount of sponsored content going on around us.

Both of us (Sarah and Jo) worked our way up in an industry where editorial coverage was strictly separate from advertising. (On the magazine Jo cut her teeth on, Woman’s World, the editorial team weren’t even allowed to speak to the ad sales people, lest they somehow taint them with their commerciality!).

That’s why on our own website, we’ve never taken an ad. Not one. Nor do we take money to feature something on our #Instagram, or for promoting anything at all. And we never will, as we proudly proclaim on the front page of beautybible.com. We figure: the minute somebody paid us specifically to mention something, our editorial integrity would be permanently compromised. (It’s like losing your virginity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone – and there ain’t no getting it back!).

We believe absolutely in unbiased beauty reporting. So everything we’ve ever written about has made it there on merit. For the past 23 years, our whole Beauty Bible ‘empire’ (a very small one!) has been built on the premise of steering women to products that really work, based on the opinions of other real women. Over the years, we’ve had 30,000 of those real women trying products for us, reporting in-depth via detailed forms on their experiences over several months trialling the products. We’ve written more than a dozen books based on those results (now featured on our website, beautybible.com, because we’ve had enough of doing books, for now.) But it matters to us deeply that the results are independent and unbiased.

“Big beauty” consists of companies setting aside literally hundreds of millions out of their budgets (which formerly went into print and online advertising) to pay influencers. And everywhere we look – on Insta, on beauty sites and blogs – there are paid posts. (The fees can be eye-watering.) Yes, it’s all supposed to be visible – using the hashtag #ad, #sponsored or ‘paid partnership’. But is it always? Hmm. To quote Dazed Beauty (part of the Dazed digital empire), there’s a widespread phenomenon called “Stealth Shilling”, which is ‘the failure in properly disclosing paid endorsements.’ Even though the authorities in both the UK and the US are seeking to crack down on it, it’s still happening.

You might counter: at Beauty Bible, do we actually pay for every product or supplement we write about? No – although we do still shop for beauty like regular people, on the high street, in department stores and online, and feature our own picks. But this is called ‘editing’. We’re sent probably ten times more product than we end up featuring, and if we don’t like something (or our testers don’t), it doesn’t make the page or the ‘gram. That’s as it always has been, and the PRs (public relations people) we deal with understand that, and deeply respect our choices.

An equally worrying phenomenon, though, is that some of the advice is downright dangerous. Case in point: an Instagrammer who shared a tip recently about how adding lavender oil to her mascara was making her eyelashes grow. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, CHILDREN! Essential oils should never, ever be used anywhere near the eyes. But there’s plenty of this shocking misinformation out there, and it’s entirely unpoliced.

So personally, we’re sitting back and waiting for the backlash – when expertise, rather than the ability just to take a pretty picture or film a make-up tutorial comes back into style, and when products succeed or fail based purely on their performance and/or pleasure factor. Because as sure as hemlines rise and fall, it will happen.

Without wanting to blow our own trumpets too loudly, at Beauty Bible our expertise comes from literally decade upon decade of interviewing the world’s top make-up artists, skincare professionals, facialists, complementary therapists, doctors and other health practitioners – whose numbers we generally have on speed-dial, for fact-checking. That, and insights into make-up, skincare, haircare and other beauty categories that we’ve gleaned over the years from from reading the feedback from 30,000 Beauty Bible testers.

So: could this Beauty Bible duo sign up with one of the big-shot agencies who secure these lucrative deals for influencers? We could. But would we? Nope. Maybe the little men in white coats will indeed come and haul us away for missing out on the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’, but for us it comes down to one thing: trust. And as a beauty consumer, don’t you want to know if a product is being recommended to you because it’s quite simply a great product, based on the knowledge and longstanding expertise of the person who’s singing its praises – or because the person recommending it has had a jolly nice fee for saying so…?