AROUND THE WORLD IN BEAUTY BUYS
For Sarah-Jane Corfield-Smith, the magic of travel includes undercovering beauty gems
Recently I saw one of those sentimental Instagram memes that said: ‘the world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page’. Whilst I would normally roll my eyes and scroll past this sort of thing, this one struck me as being resolutely true. For travel, as we all know, broadens the mind. Suddenly you are exposed to new foods and cultures – and if you’re a beauty junkie like me, a whole host of new experiences in the beauty aisles of the local supermarkets and pharmacies.
My first experience with a beauty world entirely different to the one I knew was aged 14 in Paris on a French exchange programme. Desperately trying to be sophisticated, I ventured into a pharmacy just off the Champs-Elysées, only to be bombarded with shelves of bottles that made no sense to me. I decided to stand and watch what the Parisian women did and copy them: A fail-safe plan I have followed ever since.
My observations revealed one over-riding factor. Whilst the women, all of different skin tones and types, chose a selection of products, there was one bottle they all picked up. I reasoned if it was good enough for all of them, I better give it a go too. I picked up the plastic bottle, filled with what looked like water, handed over my 5 Euros and walked out. It was only when I came home and a make-up artist friend of my mum’s screamed with excitement on seeing it that I knew I had stumbled across a great buy. The bottle turned out to be Bioderma Micellar Water. Little did I know that the humble plastic bottle contained a cult cleanser that is so effective and genius that make-up artists would make pilgrimages to Paris to stock up as, at that time, it wasn’t available outside of France.
Thankfully, beauty editors from across the globe campaigned for it to be shipped to other regions, the brand listened and now it can be bought around the world – including the UAE. But there is still nothing like picking up a bottle whenever I’m in Paris; it feels more authentic somehow.
From that day forward I have always used any holidays or trips to far-flung destinations to partake in similar experiments, observing what local women are buying and investigate the world’s beauty must-haves.
Atrip to Asia in 2009 opened my eyes to the weird and wacky world of Korean beauty brands, a firm favourite being Tony Moly – a brand that has cult status and is known for its playful and fun packaging. My eye was drawn to a pandashaped hand cream that I snapped up for the equivalent of Dh18s. It felt as though more thought is put into what products look like than what they do. In Tokyo, Japanese women were hoarding Hello Kitty shampoo, cartoon-adorned cleansers or panda-shaped anything – as was I.
That’s not to say there aren’t some amazing ingredients and technologies at play in these cute-as-candy products. Nearly all beauty innovations come from the East and they truly are at the forefront of ingredient discovery and delivery mechanism innovation – they just prefer it with a colourful twist.
It was in Japan that I tried (and fell in love with) my first sheet face mask; a concept I had never heard of before but now has become the way to mask. It also introduced me to the wonder that is beauty vending machines. In nearly all Japanese subways you stumble across vending machines stocking hand sanitisers, facial spritzes, SPFs, shower gels, body lotions and cleansers. They are filled with Body Shop products – the height of sophistication in Japan, yet considered very middle of the road where I am from in the UK. That’s a fascinating thing travelling opens your eyes to: What is one country’s average brand is another’s prestige.
I’m lucky enough to travel frequently to the US and that means a stop-off at the haven for new beauty finds: CVS. Years ago, in New York reporting on fashion shows, I stumbled across Maybelline Baby Lips – a fab, inexpensive tinted lip balm that I’d spotted all the supermodels using backstage. Of course, that meant I bought 10. On my last trip to New York, dealing with the inevitable jet-lag, I did the only thing that helps me in that situation: Watching shopping channels. That was how I was introduced to that next big brand you need to know about, IT Cosmetics. Created by an ex-newsreader who is a rosacea sufferer, it has been developed with plastic surgeons to solve skin issues and beauty problems. The hero product is the CC cream ($38) that covers all pigmentation, acne scarring and redness. But it was the eyebrow pencil, Brow Power ($24), that blew me away. It comes in one shade, but the harder you press down the deeper and darker the pigment gets. It hasn’t been off my face since.
And of course no trip to New York is complete without a visit to the beauty standout that is Glossier. A make-up studio filled with just the products you need – no gimmicks, nothing unnecessary, just products to give you your most natural, healthy, glow-y look ever. Their Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18) is their bestseller. Search for it on Instagram – it has its own hashtag – and you’ll see why. Rumours are Glossier is expanding outside of New York, so maybe if we start a petition it will come to the UAE. Then again – the fun is in finding it far from our shores, right?