Beauty Tips

Time For Some (Offtime)

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When was the last time you concentrated on something – really, deeply, fully concentrated, without feeling the magnetic pull of your phone to check anything from your Instagram likes to the weather for your walk home? Hmmm. Thought so. We live in an age of scattered attention, when it sometimes feels like we’ve lost the ability to focus on anything for more than five minutes at a time. Read More…

The Importance Of Self Reflection

I can

One of the more extraordinary and wonderful things that happened to me in the last decade was – as some of you already know – appearing as Lauren Laverne’s castaway on Desert Island Discs last summer. But one of its lasting legacies (other than the e-mails which are still coming in) from people who enjoyed it is that it reminded me of the importance of self  reflection. Read More…

The Argument For Having A Low Key Christmas

Silver christmas horn ornament on black suface with gold glitter

Normally, my Christmas is the sort of military operation. I’ve been known to buy the first of the following year’s Christmas presents in February, I tend to get panicked if I don’t have the crackers before Bonfire Night, and if you stand still long enough in my house during advent, you’re likely to find a bauble glue-gunned to a limb. Or be swagged with pine. Or just possibly sprayed with glitter. And if anything doesn’t seem to be going ‘to plan’, I am, as a rule, not a happy camper. 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… 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.

Jo Fairley’s Desert Island Beauty Picks

top down view of a vynyl record player with recond ontop and orange label in centre

So this is what happens when you shout at your radio. Half-joking. (Well, completely joking.) As a Desert Island Discs listener from the age of knee-high (my mother never missed an episode), I was standing in my kitchen listening to it on catch-up. (Thank heavens for podcasts.) Now, that week’s castaway happened to be someone I knew – but in truth, they weren’t being that interesting. So I said out loud (and quite loud) to my radio: ‘When are you going to ask me???!’

Which meant that naturally, when just four days later an e-mail landed in my inbox titled: ‘Desert Island Discs’, inviting me to be on the programme, I did wonder whether my Pure Evoke radio had (like Apple’s Alexa) somehow been listening to my every word and communicating directly with Radio Four.

I promptly hyperventilated, repeated ‘OMG’ about 73 times (I was away from home at the time), then rang my husband in tears. Because it is, quite simply, one of the most exciting things ever to have happened to me. An amazing honour. Something that has literally made the huge amount of hard work I’ve put into my various businesses (Green & Black’s, the Beauty Bible website, my bakery and wellbeing centre and The Perfume Society) all worth it. And completely surreal, actually – not least when I discovered after the show aired that it is the most listened-to radio programme in the world.

I had no idea quite how time-consuming the experience would be, however. Ever since then, the emails, Insta-messages and Facebook Messenger missives have been pinging constantly. I’ve reconnected with two (nice) old boyfriends, a couple of other long-lost friends and had no less than five missives from fellow pupils of the school I went to (and dissed in my broadcast), telling me they also had equally scathing put-downs from the same Scripture teacher who told me I’d never amount to anything. (And I quote: ‘Jo Fairley, if you ever make so much as a Girl Friday, I’ll eat my hat.’).

Now in my case, that ignited rocket fuel under my chair to prove her wrong – but some of the others weren’t so resilient and took years to get over the blows to their self-esteem. There was even one e-mail from a (slightly older) pupil who’d been told she would ‘burn in hell’ because a) her parents were divorced and b) she’d been spotted dancing on Ready, Steady, Go!

The recording experience itself – fuelled by squares of Green & Black’s and tea served in a Desert Island Discs mug – was beyond fun. Lauren Laverne is loveliness itself and if you listen, I think you can hear what a hoot the whole recording was. Although afterwards, the fear set in. Because it would, I think, be impossible to ‘fake it’ during the interview – it’s like sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch, with the music triggering heart-felt emotion as only music can. Only unlike that private experience, you suddenly realise your soul-baring is about to be shared with millions of others. I hadn’t realised until after the show aired that I’d basically been holding my breath for several weeks.

It got me thinking, though, about how the ‘desert island’ idea could be applied to other areas of life. Food, for example. (Miso, peanut butter, ACTUAL butter, Green & Black’s Sea Salt chocolate, veggie sausages, my home-made fennel pickle, Marmite and Brillat-Savarin cheese – though that’d pretty soon be making a break for it, in the heat! – would all be in my Desert Island pantry.) And naturally, it got me thinking about my beauty must-haves.

Now technically, I’m only allowed a single ‘luxury item’ on the island – and it turns out, I wasn’t the first guest to say I wanted to take my pillow, as my choice. But I happened to be listening to an old episode in which the ‘inventor’ and debut presenter of DID, Roy Plomley, allowed legendary film star Marlene Dietrich to take a whole box with various luxuries in. (And do listen to the show in the podcast archive – she chose an Adam Faith record, among others!). So, working on that basis, here’s what I’d stash in my desert island ‘vanity case’…

This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray. Even though I’ve a hunch my pillow will help me to drift off in my shell-bedecked, palm-frond shelter, I’d feel slightly insecure if I didn’t have this to hand for insomnia emergencies. (I’m thinking: weird rustlings in the undergrowth.) Just the best sleep-beckoning spray ever.

Coola Face SPF30 Mineral Sunscreen. This summer 2019 skincare must-have (for me) will be coming with me. A light-as-air, effective sunscreen without the chemical SPF ingredients which have so troubled my skin in the past. It’s a great base for make-up (um, not that I’ll be bothering with that.)

High Strength Hyaluronic Acid Capsules by VH. I’m not quite sure what would happen to my skin if I stopped taking HA – and I’ve no intention of finding out. Skin-plumping, joint-easing, eye-soothing… If I was really limited to one supplement for the rest of my life (and I really hope that never happens), it’d probably be this all-rounder.

Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil. Taking an actual bath might prove problematical but I’m hoping that somewhere on the island there’ll be a waterfall and I can smooth this into my skin and shower before bedtime. I rely very much on its legendary, soothing blend of vetiver, patchouli and sandalwood to calm a whirring mind. (I’d find being alone on the island pretty stressful generally, so I’d better have a vat of this, I think.)

Alida Foot File. Because – as I never tire of telling people – happy feet make a happy woman (in this case, a happy castaway), and nothing buffs them more effectively than this Beauty Bible Award-winner.

Neurophroline Serum by GoW for VH. My new fave skincare treat. With a wonderful slippy texture, definite firming and brightening powers, this will help counter some of the skin stress caused by UV exposure – which is going to be pretty unavoidable.

Thyme Out. To tackle all those mozzie bites, scratches (from foraging for my dinner), nicks and general skin niggles. (And also because I worry that the itchiness Thyme Out has essentially been keeping under control for months might boomerang back if I dared to stop using it.)

Guayusa Leaves. I rely on this for daily get-up-and-go to help me tick things off my ‘To Do’ list and keep me generally going like the Duracell Bunny. And I’m going to need every bit of energy to build the raft which – as someone who is most definitely unsuited to roughing it – I’ll need to get me back to civilisation, a comfy bed, hot and cold running water, fluffy towels. And to my husband – who as several million Desert Island Disc listeners now know, is truly ‘wonderful’…