Brand Breakdown: Benefit

Benefit BenetintI was trying to figure out the other day when I first encountered Benefit, the quirky skincare and makeup brand that has now spawned a host of imitators (that to my mind, never quite capture the kitschy ‘50’s essence that Benefit does). The first piece of Benefit I ever bought was back when the brand had first arrived in England, when it used to be sold at Space NK in Covent Garden (and what a frantic makeup lurker I was there! I could always be found, rummaging through the Shu Uemura displays and discovering all the hot new boutique brands like Stila, NARS and Laura Mercier when they first launched in Europe. Ah, those heady days of mud brown lipstick).

I bought a white eyeliner, the nub of which I still have somewhere in the Vault, a testament to my first but not my last piece of Benefit fabulousness.

These days the brand has grown tremendously from when twin sisters, Jean and Jane Ford, (this is a true story) were running a small makeup shop in San Francisco and were asked by a local “exotic dancer” to create a special stain to make her nipples look more flushed. They concocted a special product out of strained rose petals, which became the still ubiquitous and best-selling Benetint. You’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed out on that one, it’s a classic and for most of the 90’s that and a slick of Vaseline was pretty much all the makeup you needed.

Over the years I’ve tried many of their products, some which have stayed in my handbag, some in my kit and a few (but not many), that didn’t make it into either. Here’s a run-down on the must-haves from Benefit.

Benefit Posey Tint – I actually prefer this to the original, redder version – it’s a perfect pretty pink flush and great for when you don’t have lots of time to fiddle with your makeup, and it stays all day. Destined to be a new classic.

Bad Gal MascaraBadGal mascara – I’ll be honest and say this one took me awhile to get into. I tried it a few times and wasn’t dazzled, then I tried it again and I was hooked. Perfect for big, sexy lashes when you’re doing a smoky eye. It’s not a natural mascara and it’s not so good for precision lashes, but when you’re going for all out sex appeal, this is the one I keep in my kit.

Blush powders in Hoola, Georgia, Dandelion and my personal favourite, Sugarbomb, which I’ve posted about before. I do wish they would call them blushers instead of face powders however, as I think it’s confusing since face powders are typically either translucent or skin coloured, which these are patently not – but they are lovely, sheer blushers in flattering shades. They are quite a light product and not superpigmented, but this is what gives them their lovely, weightless flush on the skin. They weigh a ton though, and I found out why – there is a weight in the box to make them feel heavier and I guess, more luxurious. Good on your dressing table, less so when you’re lugging 40 kilograms of makeup around.

Sheer cream blusher in Oooh and Sssh! These have quite a dry texture but I love the colours, plus you get tons of product since a little bit goes a long way.

Creaseless Crème Eyeshadows – I have posted about these before and I think they are all pretty gorgeous, lovely on their own or as a base for a smoky eye.

That Gal brightener – a luminous pink highlighter that I would only use on the high points of the face, not all over. This is a welcome change from similar products of their ilk, like MAC Strobe cream (which I’m really, really bored with now). Great for the fair complected. In fact, my only quibble with Benefit is that their shade range is not as comprehensive as I would like, not going deep enough into darker skins and not enough colour selections even in the Caucasian family. However all brands have good and bad points, and they do many other products you can’t find anywhere else (like yellow concealer).

You’re Bluffing – Redness concealing wand
I don’t use this on everyone, but I find it handy to have in my kit as certain people have a lot of red in their skin and can benefit (get it? ha ha! Oooh, I’m hilarious today) from a bit of this applied either sheered out with moisturizer or mixed in with other concealers.

Ultra Shine lipglosses – Zone Out, Foxy Lady and Dancing Queen
Just yummy, pure gloss for those moments that demand a shiny lip.

All in all there are few makeup counters that give you the brand experience of Benefit, a real sense that you have stepped into a different world. What’s your favourite Benefit?

Brand Breakdown: Paul & Joe Beaute

Paul and Joe - Cream Blush This is such a gorgeous brand. It has been flying under my radar until now for a silly reason really – the packaging is beautiful art deco inspired pieces, but a lot of it is glass. So since my injury it’s too heavy for me, and it’s been languishing in all it’s French Art Deco gorgeousness, at home. That is, until I had the inspired idea to decant the foundations and eye makeup remover into lightweight plastic Muji bottles! Now I have the lovely packaging on my dresser instead, because it really is too pretty to hide away.

The brand is the makeup offshoot of Sophie Albou’s Paul & Joe, the French clothing label, and its ethos is like the clothes – simple, beautiful, feminine and classic, but always cool. The idea behind the clothes is ‘Accessible Luxury’, which I think certainly comes across in the makeup line as well.

The texture of the makeup is sheer, with an almost watercolor effect on the nail polishes and cream blushes (which are one of my favourite pieces in the line. I am OBSESSED at the moment with the shimmery peach cream blush in 03). They also do lovely eye glosses which are super cute, and lip glosses in juicy, yummy colours.

The brand sells in the US at Bergdorf Goodman, in the UK at Harrods and Fenwicks, and is huge in Japan. They are an especially good line for those with pale complexions, although they do also go reasonably deep in their colour selection, which we know is always a plus in my book. I am always a bit wary of brands that think the world is one colour! (Or a maximum of six).

They have quite a few foundations in the line, but the one I like the most is the Cream foundation. It has a lovely, silky texture and a range of colors that is quite unusual – they seem to have certain colours that are hard to find elsewhere, so if you have trouble finding the right colour for your skin in other brands, this is definitely one to check out.

They do a skincare line (the eye makeup remover is a favourite) and all of their foundations and primers have active ingredients based on skincare properties. And the packaging makes me swoon! How could you resist the pearly pink eyeshadow and blush containers, the floral printed lipsticks and the glass flacons for the skincare? It’s really beautiful, and for girly girls you’ll be in heaven.

Paul and Joe - Lipstick The other thing I really like about Paul & Joe is it has weird colours – as a makeup artist I love a strange colour that’s slightly off, and in keeping with the retro packaging, some of the colours are a bit 1950’s (but in a good way!) Salmon, candy pink nail varnish, unusual eyeshadow shades – it’s not your typical range of makeup. They bring out special collections each year, which all go on to become big collector’s items. The latest range is the Sahara range, with gorgeous blotting powder sheets and a shimmering body oil.

The surprise standout product for me in this line is the Moisturizing Foundation Primer, which is really surprising as I am Not. A. Primer. Girl. Up until now I have thought it was the Emperor’s New Clothes of makeup – yet one more product to buy, or think we should be using, that actually (excuse the expression), does bugger all. But I am loving the way the Moisturizing Foundation Primer feels on my skin, and it definitely makes my foundation go on smoother. Does it make it last longer? I’m not really sure yet. Primers need a rigorous testing cycle in different conditions, but so far, this guy is making me change my opinion of primers in general, which is no mean feat. I could be gradually moving over to the Primer Dark Side.

For summer they have a Protective Foundation Primer UV with an SPF of 40 (! Yes, 40. Ain’t no sun getting’ through that sucker. Fantastic). Unfortunately it only comes in two shades, (both on the paler side) so make sure you check it before you buy as it won’t be for everyone. Having said that, it is a good one if it’s the right colour for you as it leaves a great texture on the skin, a nice glow that reminds me of the Prada Tinted Moisturiser (also fabulous).

I can see why Paul & Joe has such a cult following, and the products are very high quality with a lovely texture to them. But the sweet packaging alone makes it a collector’s dream line. Worth a look.

Illamasqua Nail Competition

Illamasqua Nail Varnish CompetitionBy starting my blog, I have discovered a few strange things about myself that I didn’t know before: I don’t like writing in the afternoon, I’m obsessed (and probably always will be) with Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, I’ve never met a primer that I didn’t think was a load of old bollocks , and I have a secret, unexplored fetish for nail polish. Bizarre in that I have no desire to wear it myself (can’t be bothered), but I absolutely love all the colors it comes in. So when I found out about this new nail polish comp from Illamasqua, I just had to let you know.

They are launching a global competition to discover the ‘It’ colour of 2010 – right up there with the Chanel nail stars like Jade and Particuliere. Simply send in your entry describing in 50 words or less why your color should be the one. Include an image or photo of the idea (the grey of your cat’s tail, the inside of a crocus, your favourite cupcake frosting – whatever floats your boat), and the winning idea will be put into production and sold at Selfridges around the UK by October 2010. The judges are indeed a stellar line-up – the world’s most creative makeup artist Alex Box, manicurist to the stars Sophy Robson, and Pixiwoo, the YouTube makeup artists who leave Lauren Luke in the dust.

Get those thinking caps on fellas!

Brand Breakdown: NARS

Oooh, I’m having a NARS moment again! I have had times in the past when I have been OBSESSED with Monsieur Nars’ delightful range of cosmetics, and I do mean obsessed. In fact I like to think I have a commemorative palm tree in Bora Bora (where he has an island, don’t you know) that is mine, bought and paid for, as over the years I seem to have acquired my bodyweight in NARS products.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the NARS line, and you may have seen quite a lot of coverage in the glossies lately to commemorate it. Not just that, but as a makeup artist Francois Nars has had something of a return to the fashion spotlight since keying the Marc Jacobs show the last two seasons – yes, he was the maestro behind the full-on 80’s faces we saw last year, and love it or hate it, you can’t deny how influential it has been.

Francois Nars started doing makeup in the early 80’s, and his first big break came when he did Brooke Shields for American Vogue. He worked steadily over the next fifteen years, becoming one of the biggest makeup artists in the world (he was the man who Madonna entrusted with most of her videos and the Steven Meisel Sex book). In 1994 he decided to launch a range of 12 lipsticks which just grew and grew, until it was acquired by Shiseido in 2000. It continues to evolve each season with new colors arriving and only a few leaving – a nice change from so many lines that seem to have a revolving door of Limited Edition products that you can’t get your hands on.

Now, enough background and onto the wonders of the line itself! For me it’s all about the colors – colors you just can’t get anywhere else, and in combinations that you couldn’t even dream up. I love the eyeshadows, the blushes, the lipsticks, the glosses, and the brushes particularly.

I’m also liking the new eyeliner pens as the nib is nice and stiff and so far after some weeks they are still holding strong (some of those pens seem to evaporate like a rabid toddler has been doodling with them – CoverGirl and Shu Uemura, I am talking to YOU!) And after my abysmal review of their old mascara, one of the NARS angels must have been listening as they have two new formulas out and the Larger Than Life Volumizing one not only gives a full, soft fluffy lash, but that sucker is indelible. I mean, bring the waterproof eye makeup remover because it will last all week left to its own devices!

The brushes are so good all of mine have been stolen at the shows over the years, which makes me sad but is a true sign of quality. And with no further ado, and in no particular order, here are my Top 5 favourite NARS products in each category (I had to do five for each, otherwise we’d be here all day).


  • All About Eve
  • Cordura
  • Misfit
  • India Song
  • Underworld


  • Orgasm
  • Sertao
  • Penny Lane
  • Lovejoy
  • Desire


  • Belle de Jour
  • Jungle Red
  • Heatwave
  • Roman Holiday
  • Dolce Vita

Plus! All the Velvet Matte Pencils, any and all of the glosses, and the Multiples in Copacabana and South Beach never leave my side (well, except when I’m in the shower). And now Christmas is nearly upon us, it is with glee and anticipation that I realize the new collection is just round the corner!

Illamasqua Makeup Master Class with Alex Box

Selfridges, Oxford Street, London

The genius makeup artist Alex Box is doing her first master class for her eponymous line, the wonderful Illamasqua, at Selfridges on Friday July 3rd (6-8 pm), and Saturday July 4th (11-1pm).  The class costs £20, redeemable in product, and places are filling fast so if you want to go you’d better call them NOW on 0207 318 3788.

Having seen Alex work I can tell you that you are in for a real treat – she is an absolute master at what she does. To get you in the mood, here is another of her Illamasqua videos, the Siren.

Also don’t forget to check out their new blog at