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Posted by 08.30.13

Twas the night before fashion week and with clothes strewn through the house, a fashionista was deciding between McQueen or Marras….

But away from such dilemmas, other fashionable folk will be hurtling towards A Night of Green Beauty at James Corbett Studio in Chelsea (5-9pm, Wednesday, September 4, 2013). Billed as New York Fashion Week’s first ever, all-organic beauty event, founders of such super green labels including La Bella Figura, One Love Organics, Dr Alkaitis, organic perfumers, Lurk, and Annee de Mamiel with her famous face-oils will be demonstrating their products.  Best of all (unlike at fashion week) everyone is welcome.

Corbett’s hairdressers will be on hand at the Tela Green Beauty Top Knot/Braid Bar, makeup artist Katey Denno will give mini-makeovers and New York Times heralded facialist, Joanna Vargas, will be sculpting visages. Not only will there be organic pressed juices from Pressed Juicery, organic wine will be served to give us strength for the week of shows ahead.

Now I do have a confession. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have been all that excited about this. See, when green beauty came along, I rolled my eyes and figured it would never take off because the products would be ineffectual. Those same eyes also glazed over when enthusiastic green beauty brand owners kept talking with disdain about chemicals being nasties. Lets get this straight: everything is a chemical; if something is made of matter it is a chemical. But as one who doesn’t revel in admitting she was wrong (“oh that internet, it’s just a fad no-one will ever put their credit card details into a computer,” she stated loftily sometime around the Millennium), I truly was not on the money about natural beauty products.

That was then. Because it is quite obvious that they work as well if not better than those devised of synthetic ingredients, in my humble experience. Think about it—if aspirin is derived from willow bark and can ease a headache, you can reason that naturally sourced  beauty products can be effectual on your skin. Indeed several years ago, I did a story on acne and saw a young woman’s “life ‘transform”—her words—when she changed from Accutane to Dr. Hauschka products and treatments.

It is a classic David and Goliath story; the smaller labels—such as those participating—aren’t the only ones taking notice, but big companies, too. Origins, for example, now places much more emphasis on the change that natural products can bring with the slogan “Powered by nature. Proven by science.”

I may have been wrong about being green—but one thing I know to be right. If you get down to James Corbett Studio on Wednesday, September 4, you will be setting Fashion Week off to a fabulous and green start (oh and James is the best colorist in New York—but you knew that anyway).

A Night of Green Beauty, September 4, 2013
James Corbett Studio
25 W 19th St (between 5th & 6th Avenue) New York, NY 10011  212-388-1296


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Posted by 06.25.13

After a cruel winter, certainly in New York, my mind has turned to faux tans. Let me talk you through a Grimm tale of—paid for—tanning at Beach Bum Tanning in Chelsea, New York. I went with my friend Kathleen and after waiting half an hour, I was up first. In the room, I asked for some wipes to take off my deodorant and makeup. The tanning lady looked at me like I was speaking in a dialect from Lapland. There were no wipes. Apparently no-one ever comes with makeup or deodorant, something I can safely dispute with Kathleen sitting outside with makeup and, as she—thankfully—confirmed later, deodorant.

I knew the tan wouldn’t go on properly on top of makeup. In fact, the tanner agreed. But after a ten-minute negotiation, I persuaded her to go off and find me some method of makeup removal. She emerged with some toner on a smelly towel. It was not a good start. However the tan was competent, it lasted about four days.

Meanwhile, with no warning, Kathleen found herself being tanned by a man. Oddly enough she found she wasn’t comfortable bending her torso over in front of some random dude for him to reach the spray under her buttocks, paper knickers or no. A quick look on Yelp found that this location tanked in other people’s opinions too.

So I decided to find out who does the best fake tan, firmly believing it sometimes takes a dose of bad medicine to make one look a bit further. All of the prices mentioned are for a full body spray.

Some good things were found. In New York, I went to have what turned out to be one of the best tans ever from Brazil Bronze Glow Bar, ($60) down in Soho. Showered, exfoliated, shaved, and moisturized the night before—as instructed—there was no nonsense about a lack of wipes. My tanner talked me through the different options, from light to dark brown, told me about their proprietary formula, and explained that she was going to tan my face a bit less than my body. Covering up my nails with emollient, my hair got a cap, and with disposable knickers on, I was all set. Now, during these sessions, you make breakdancing moves in slow motion so the tanner can reach all parts, including those not previously exposed. Mark my words—no photographs should ever be taken of what goes on between a woman and her tanner. Not a part was missed by my technician, who then left me for five minutes to fan off. It lasted a good six days and the soft touch on the face was immensely flattering and slimmed down the rest of my body. Optical illusion? I’ll take it.

Over in London, my sister Rose experienced the famed St Tropez (price according to salon) Lucky her, she had Jules Heptonstall who tans the contestants for Strictly Come Dancing—the UK version of Dancing with the Stars. Rose is a teacher and did not want to appear to her class looking like Snooki on Jersey Shore. Far from it—it was so subtle that no one noticed apart from another tanning aficionado in the staff room, and best of all it lasted a week. Rose gave it a good five stars.

Xen-Tan appeared on the tanning scene in the UK seven years ago and captured the imaginations of beauty editors because of the tan’s underlying olive tone and the no-smell formulation. I went to Beauty Essence (£35) in London and remembered why I loved it. There was very little aroma and I have to say the tanner was quite an understated expert. And wow this one lasted; I still had a bit of color ten days later.

Far, far away in Seattle, another guinea pig went to Solar Tan Seattle ($43). She reported back that it was friendly, they did the job very well, even more crucial given the dreary Seattle weather; it gave her just the boost she needed for five days. In West Hollywood, CA, I had once discovered Ibiza Tan, to which I have returned several times. The color was amazing and totally suited the no-effort/big-effort way of appearances in LA. What I loved about this was that you can get the whole body tanned for $45 but also come back for top ups or just start with say the legs ($25 for both, not each) and face ($10). Genius.

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Posted by 06.22.13

It’s not everyday that you learn about beauty through art. But when Aesop suggested a visit to Jackson Pollock’s house in the Hamptons to celebrate the opening of their new East Hampton store, I leapt at the idea. It’s quite a fascinating place, and we had the most exquisite and fun lunch under a tent during which 25 journalists moved all the tables and chairs into the beautiful sunshine (liberally applying Aesop Sage & Zinc Facial Hydrating Cream SPF 15, (ARV $45).

That summery lunch got me thinking that I never seem to just chill out and relax. I live in New York, I chose to, but listening to the sound of a police car rushing past during a yoga class sometimes makes me want to sob into my downward-dog. And the same comes to trying beauty products. It’s a scrub here, rinsed off quickly, a face mask whilst typing or unloading the dishwasher, and one of my more disastrous experiments: trying to get nail polish to dry whilst ironing (cue: frantic scrubbing of linen skirt with nail varnish remover—it never really recovered).

Thus I resolved to turn my bathroom into a relaxation zone. To prep, I threw my bathrobe and carefully calculated number of four towels into the drying machine for five minutes. I then folded and sealed them in a bin bag, for there is nothing nicer than wrapping your beautiful new body in toasty warm toweling after performing your ablutions.

I then took a shower to get the day off me—using one of my favorite soaps, the Aesop Body Cleansing Slab ($21) that includes bergamot, ylang ylang and Tahitian lime.  It’s just gorgeous and I used it to prep my legs for shaving with my Venus Spa Breeze (ARV $9.49 x 2). I washed my hair twice, conditioned with Garnier Fructis Haircare Fortifying Color Shield  (ARV $3.79). And then time for a hair mask: Garnier Fructis Haircare Triple Nutrition 3-Minute Undo Dryness Reversal Treatment (ARV $6.59).

Time to get scrubbing. Getting out of the shower into a warm towel, I started to “draw a bath” as they say in Downton, pouring in a couple of lids worth of Life Space NK Muscle Relief Bath Soak (currently reduced from $10 to $2.50 at I cleansed my face over the sink with Noxzema rinsing it off and then added a layer as a mask, a multi-tasking classic (ARV $4.79).

With one warm towel around my head and another around my body (bathrobe comes at the finale) I headed to the kitchen, shutting the bathroom door behind me. Kettle on for some herbal tea and it was time to mix up the scrub. I threw a handful of Malden or Kosher salt in a bowl with some olive oil to bind it together. Then some essential oils, in this case geranium to sooth, and for lifting my mood, enough rose until it smelled good—remember, this is alchemy, not a recipe. Sounds mad but I also like to grind some black pepper in my mix so it’s not too sweet and also because the spicy seed is a muscle soother. Of course, if you find this is a totally bizarre idea (and not just the pepper) try Alba Botanica Hawaiian Body Scrub, (ARV $10.95), which is 98% organic and contains sea salt.

Back to the nice steamy bathroom and I put on the cold tap so the bath wasn’t too hot, monitoring the temperature closely. I massaged the scrub all over, and by that I mean really got into the muscles. Scented candle lit, I put my iPhone on loudspeaker with some plipity-plopety spa music, and got in the bath. I tried to relax but the new age-y tones were so annoying that I switched to a guided meditation. Fifteen minutes later, my skin was about to prune, so a much calmer me got out of the bath and into warm towel number three. Then time for moisture—and much of it. On my face, ILA Face Oil for Glowing Radiance (ARV $100), which is divine, and really did make my skin glow—and not just because it is an oil… Everywhere else, Aesop Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment (ARV $33) to seal in the moisture, and then wrapped up in that still warm—because I had tied up the bag tightly after each towel came out—a clean bathrobe.

The downside? My bathroom now resembled a Jackson Pollock painting but it was well worth it. A cursory clean up and I flopped into bed and let sleep, instead of water, wash over me.



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