Author of 'Don't Go To The Cosmetic's Counter Without Me' and founder of Paula's Choice, Paula Begoun made a flying visit to London this week to promote her brand and meet Handpicked Media bloggers and journalists from all the leading publications. We gathered in the Sofitel in London's Mayfair and found her to be warm, friendly and incredibly forthright in her views.
Paula has been reviewing and researching beauty products since 1984 and her book is over 1000 pages and is into it's 8th edition - no mean feat in itself. She believes that the cosmetics industry is a 'jungle of products' and having someone like her dedicating their life to sifting, qualifying, explaining and reviewing all the major, and some minor, brands is a very real help to avoid making expensive mistakes and getting a skincare and make-up regime right. Skincare products are evaluated by analyzing the ingredient list and comparing these to the claims made by each product - and this is where things become controversial, as you can well imagine. So if a moisturiser claims to hydrate the skin it should contain the correct ingredients to do just that - it's pretty simple really if you think about it, and that is where Paula's attention to detail really comes in.
As you can imagine with 25 years of researching products and a strong and passionate personality to boot, Paula had us all enthralled for a full 90 minutes (she was only planning to talk for about 25 and is incredibly a little shy around people). She has a way of immediately drawing you in and arresting your attention and obviously cares about what she does. Born out of a teenage acne and eczema problem which she had had since a small child, her formative years were spend in dermatologist surgeries with little success and it was only when she subsequently went to work in a beauty department of a department store (from which she was also fired due to disagreeing with their take on things) that she really started to look at the ingredients in skincare and make-up products. Although she is persuasive and thoroughly believes in her investigation and opinion I didn't agree with everything she said - it was just wonderful to spend time with someone who is so very passionate and knowledgable. For example,she is anti to the point of extreme in terms of the use of fragrance in skincare, which she sees as an irritant - which I am sure it is - but I see that there are so many other benefits to having a nice fragrance to a product that if my skin still looks good I will continue to use a product with fragrance in. But there was a lot to be taken from her talk that made perfect sense and here are a few nuggets of her wisdom...
1. Avoid skincare in pots - they go off and quickly lose efficacy when opened. Tubes and pumps are far better as they keep the product away from air and light.
2. Use an spf at all times - not just on the beach. Sunlight is damaging, we all know that, so why wouldn't you? Also, in terms of sunscreen on the beach, be wary of claims that sunscreens are waterproof - the only one's that really work are water-resistant or very water-resistant. All others should be reapplied after swimming.
3. Look out for anti-oxidants in products - these work far better than any of the so called 'new' and exciting finds that cosmetic companies are often 'discovering'. She is very cynical about the 'miracle' ingredients that come out each season and believes that they are marketing hype above efficacy in a lot of cases.
4. Speciality creams like those produced for the eye, chest or neck are not different from those on the face. According to Paula there is no research showing that they require different ingredients so buying them is totally unnecessary.
Her book is a huge tome but her rating system is simple to follow giving ratings that go from the excellent in terms of them working and being value for money to poor which basically means don't buy. I admire that she will stick her neck out often making her unpopular with beauty brands - and as I said I don't agree with everything she had to say but it has made me want to question my purchases and stop before I buy the expensive over the cheap just because they are expensive and therefore, to my mind, better. A live version of her book can be found at Beautypedia.com and her best-selling range of products can be found at Paula's Choice. Or buy the book and dip into an encyclopedia of beauty. Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me is on Amazon, £14.08.
And if you want to see her yourself, here are her thoughts on Eye Creams and other things....