Article by Beverley Harvey
With the icing on her 72nd Birthday cake barely dry, Helen Mirren stunned fans and beauty industry insiders alike by claiming that using moisturiser “probably does f**k all”.
The Oscar-winning actress commented while sitting on a L’Oreal panel in the South of France, where she was appearing in her official capacity as a brand ambassador. She went on to soften her remark somewhat by adding: “…but it just makes me feel better. I’ve always said to L’Oreal that I will only do what makes me feel better.”
One can only imagine the collective cringe that must have rippled through L’Oreal’s panel at such a revelation.
But as a woman of a certain age, what was your reaction? Mine was multi-tiered; my first thought was; ‘good on you, Helen, for being so honest’; my second was to wonder if she’ll get fired; and my third was ‘does she have a point?’
The beauty industry is worth billions
We all know that globally, the beauty industry is worth billions, and we Brits are certainly doing our bit. According to a recent study by Groupon, British women spend an average of £70,294 on their appearance in a lifetime. That’s a lot of products!
So to return to Dame Helen’s original comment; is she right? As somebody who has used moisturiser every day of my life since turning sixteen, my personal view is that it works. I say that with some conviction because to me, how my skin feels is as important as how it looks and without it, my face feels very uncomfortable indeed. It also looks dull and crepey, too. Who would opt for that over comfort and a fresh-faced glow – at any age?
But is one brand better than another and should we buy into the ‘science part?’ We know that moisturiser can cost anything from a fiver to several hundred pounds, but is there really any discernible difference in their ability to fight the aging process?
A couple of years ago, budget supermarket Aldi hit the headlines with its Lacura Caviar Illumination Day Cream, which cost £7 and was deemed to be as good as a La Prairie equivalent that costs an eye-watering £292. I’ll admit that the only reason I didn’t rush out and stock up was because at the time, there was no Aldi nearby.
In my thirties when I earned a decent salary in Public Relations, I thought nothing of paying £50 to £70 for brands like Dior, Shiseido and Lancome. These days, those brands seem conservatively priced compared to Crème de la Mer and La Prairie.
How much I’m prepared to spend
Would I pay that sort of money now? Absolutely not! Instead I’ve been a slave to Vichy for the last few years and my skin has never looked better. And by better, I do not necessarily mean younger. Calm (no breakouts please), hydrated and easy to use is what I’m looking for these days – and the fact that my particular brand of choice costs about £15 from Boots is a bonus. But it’s only one item in a cabinet-full of products that I use to look and feel the way I want to. So by the time you add in cleansers, serums, eye creams and night creams, the bill soon starts to stack up.
When I turned 40, someone gave me a card that said, ‘after 40 – it’s all about maintenance’. I’m in my mid-50s now and I can vouch for that!
At any age and every life stage, women continue to be judged on their appearance; keeping everything in the right place and for longer can be a full time job in itself. And when I say judged – we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
Because if a woman looks after herself and has the temerity to look great for her age, she’s deemed vain and obsessive and is accused of ‘having work done’; but woe betide those of us who dare to let nature takes its course, dispensing with the hair dye, and the dark arts of cosmetic enhancement – because then we are accused of ‘letting ourselves go’.
The point is, we can’t win, so why try? We all have to pick our own path through the beauty maze and do what feels right.
Helen Mirren is beautiful, stylish and sassy; who can say whether her looks are attributable to L’Oreal, or not? One thing is for sure – sexy doesn’t come in a jar.
Beverley is the author of Seeking Eden published from 6th July 2017: Urbane Publications