Wednesday 1 February 2012


Miss Malcontent has moved

Hope to see you soon,

Farewell friends,



Tuesday 24 January 2012

The Final Curtain

When I began this blog, back in 2007, very few other British beauty blogs existed. As a working beauty editor (albeit a freelance one), I had constant access to the latest product launches, and felt that if I was able to put them through their paces before Mrs Bloggs paid good money for the ‘promise’, I’d be helping those root out of the beauty wheat from the cosmetic chaff (and chuff). I loved writing the blog, got a lot of attention for my blunt and oft-brutal reviews, but also felt that I’d maintained my integrity – being an honest blogger had a positive impact on my editorial career, and doing the job I do now, I still approach every product write-up with that same blogger’s mindset. But, to bridge the gap between then (2007) and now – when there are hundreds upon hundreds of committed beauty bloggers & vloggers, sharing news several times a day, pipping every launch to the post, snapping product, competing for exclusives – I’m just not up to the task anymore. I have a full time job, a full time child… and this baby blog of mine has a malcontent of a mama whose heart flew the nest. I’m proud of what it was; I’m proud of the content it still contains, but calling myself a blogger does a disservice to those who live, breathe, and sniff it.

I’ll continue to serve up snapshots at

And will undertake a steady consolidation of Miss M’s content over to We Make Up – there is, after all, a directory of product reviews still accessible here that I’d be loath to lose.

But, to put it simply, this homepage is no longer my home.

Farewell, and thanks for reading.

Monday 12 September 2011

#145 Turkish Delights (and frights)

The things getting me through a 40 degree holiday this year - which has been more tiring and physically draining experience than I've ever known, thanks to the toddler's newfound running feet - are:

- Liz Earle Botanical Aftersun Gel - soothing, immediately cooling, nicely non-tacky on dry-down. Good smell too.

- My Bobbi Brown Oil-Free Tinted Moisturiser is holding up really well out here. On my oiliest spots (chin, nose, forehead), I've been moisturising with ESPA Cellular Hydration Complex (yep, the one before they discontinued it), then their Tea Tree Gel. My foundation then goes on really smoothly and stayed remarkably un-slicky looking for the majority of the day.

- Japonesque Tweezers. These have proven their worth, snagging even the least cooperative straggler, and seem to have sped up my plucking sessions by half.

And Kalms. Lots of Kalms. The only way I seem to be able to switch off after the buzziest of beach-to-bed days.

What's not floated my boat this summer:

- Clinique Targeted Protection Stick SPF35 . Just far too greasy. Melted down into my eyes on my last day at the beach. Not pleasant.

- REN Moroccon Rose Body Cream. Do not ask me why - for I am neither a biochemist nor a dermatologist - but for some reason, this cream has not done my skin any favours. I have bumpy backs of arms (something that ordinarily clears up within 48 hours of me entering the sea), and I've been left with tacky limbs almost all week long. Not happy.

Thursday 4 August 2011

144 The BANNED and the BEAUTIFUL

As a beauty director in the full-time employ of a woman's magazine that relies upon its advertisers, hmmm, this is tricky. Last week two adverts were banned by the advertising standards authority – following Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson’s campaign against ‘overly perfected and unrealistic images of women’ in adverts.

The adverts featured the actress Julia Roberts and the model Christy Turlington promoting LancĂ´me's Teint Miracle foundation and Maybelline's the Eraser foundation.

You’ve probably seen them? Both women look preternaturally perfect – pore/line/hairless. But they also look like ‘themselves’ – and having seen both women in real life, I can say that sincerely, and attest to the fact that, yes, their facial configuration is maintained. We’re not slimming noses, trimming eyelids, changing lips. Light and shade is what’s being played with here… to an extreme, yes, absolutely.

But beauty imagery has rarely lived within the realms of reality. As Lucy Beresford said when I interviewed her for a feature in PSYCHOLOGIES magazine, ‘I just don’t think it is damaging to see beautiful women advertising beauty products. Psychologically beauty has always been linked to fantasy, and is therefore often about archetypes or ideals.’ As such, an airbrushed version of Julia Roberts – already a phenomenally beautiful woman – becomes almost mythically ‘ideal’ – a modern-day Helen of Troy: flawless. This is familiar territory. This does not shock or disappoint me. I am used to it. I do not think it harms me in any way.

This is, after all, an advert. Does it make some women feel bad? Do people look at the image and think, ‘I hate my lines, I hate my wrinkles, I hate my spots, I hate my freckles’ – I want to have a CGI-complexion just like Julia’s – or do they look at it and think, ‘I know that’s not reality, because it’s selling me something.’

Perhaps because I fall into bracket B, I found Jo Swinson’s campaign intriguing. Had it been me, I would’ve picked on the over-sexualised, derogatory, degrading stances taken by so many beauty brands in a bid to sell ‘sexy’ to little girls. Now, that’s something I’d really like to shout about.

But in terms of bare-faced fact, of course Swinson is absolutely right. This is false advertising. Using a celebrity head, or eye-lid, chock-a-block with extensions to sell a volumising shampoo or mascara is mendacious. The product is making a visual promise it cannot deliver in reality. It does so brazenly – ‘no, our mascara is not good enough to give you the look of actual false lashes, so we will stick false lashes on and admit it, but hope you’ll still buy it and hope to look as though you’re wearing actual false lashes.’ With the pulled ads, the ruling is that the images are misleading. That the ban was upheld surprised me greatly.  After all, what beauty advert is not misleading? From the supremely slim and lithe limbs showcased in shaving ads (utterly hairless yet being shorn nonetheless), to the invisible ‘pure’ pores of those deep-cleansing foams… the exaggerated before and afters as ubiquitous as those blindingly bright smiles.


But, back to that fantasy thing… in my mind, I know that I will never, ever wake up looking like Julia Roberts. Or Eva Mendes. Or Cheryl Cole. But getting ‘airbrushed’ skin? I know this is possible. Cosmetic airbrushes do exist. SK-II Air Touch Foundation, for example – wowee. That stuff took years off and added hours of sleep on. And I could show you the before and after pictures to prove it.

Many believe that this ban is a sign of things to come… that consumers are growing increasingly tired (and cynical) of over-inflated claims. But that there are many beauty products out there which employ sound science and ground-breaking technology – in those foundations designed for use in an HD-TV generation for example – seems beside the point here. If the world’s most beautiful women are not deemed beautiful enough to sell a face cream without getting a bit of ‘help’, what does that say about the rest of us? Lost causes?

I think the ban will serve simply as a warning. Brands will become a bit more cautious… and then it will be business as usual.

That these idealised images can prove harmful to a woman’s sense of self-esteem is inarguable (swot up on the PSYCHOLOGIES Beauty Manifesto, for a deeper read)… but I believe such things are far less harmful to women than so many other insidious, institutional and oft-ignored and damaging issues. That’s my sticking point. Airbrushing is as old as the Hollywood hills. And ‘retouching’? Well, what about those portraits of Anne of Cleves that coaxed Henry into a blind marriage?


People like to hark on about the good old days when movie stars were allowed to break the mould… when people looked unusual and idiosyncratic beauty was celebrated. I am not convinced by this line of thought. Those old gals succumbed to more than their fair share of jiggery-pokery too – eyebrows shaved, realigned, re-drawn, hairlines moved back or up at the sides, noses shaved and slimmed (permanently and painfully), hair colour altered at a director’s whim, and slimming pills dolled out like popping candy, in a bid to shrink starlets down to size.

Swinson’s conclusion:

"Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don't reflect reality," said Swinson. "Excessive airbrushing and digital manipulation techniques have become the norm, but both Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts are naturally beautiful women who don't need retouching to look great. This ban sends a powerful message to advertisers – let's get back to reality.

My conclusion:

Let’s focus on positive imagery and confidence-boosting messages. Do away with the beauty ‘rules’. Break all moulds. Stop selling sex in lieu of scent. Fantasy has its place, and that does not bother me. But when fantasy masquerades as empowerment… that really, really does.


Friday 17 June 2011

#143 Passion Project... or Cash Cow?

I've had a wee look behind the velvet curtains these past few weeks. Taking on more consultancy, and meeting up with a series of beauty insiders in pursuit of the very best pages for my magazine, I've had my aspirations deflated. Do you want to know who is behind most beauty brands? Two people. One's in a suit and the other's in a lab-coat (if you're lucky. If not, the other's in a suit too, flogging ready-made things over the internet, which get mixed together in a place where the labour is cheap, and no waiting). One pays, and one enables. But who brings the passion to the table? Unfortunately there are more brands than I could possibly name (even those little 'homegrown' varieties, that seem so much like happy endings), that were set up by business executives, investment bankers, financiers who had no knowledge of, or personal interest in, the actual meaning of a 'beauty product'. We know that every product makes a promise. It's an emotional thing. We pick it up, smell it, rub it in, wish for it to do all those things it says it will... because we're drawn into the story on sale. Whether you want to be the clear-skinned jet-setting businesswoman, or the ageing gracefully stay-at-home mother, the whisper is the same (I know what you want. I care about you. I will work for you. I promise.)

I've had my innocent little mind burnt before. Brands I'd held up as true reflections of a private passion were rather more pictures of filling gaps in gaping markets. And an entrepreneur whom I'd long admired - a household name, synonymous with changing the face of beauty retail - is by all accounts someone who cares not a jot for her people, but rather the glow you get after making all that green.

Don't get me wrong. I get 'business'. I also understand that there are some enormous brands out there that are producing very impressive ground-breaking science-led launches, and offering advanced skin solutions at affordable prices to those who'd otherwise remortgage their house to get the same benefits.

I'm also as driven to be successful as the next woman, but if my brand is all about passion, about a belief in doing something better, about providing a solution when there's none to be found, about working on something for my friends, my family... on making people feel good... I'd like to think I'd put my money where my heart is.

To this end I've taken on a rather lovely consultancy project that, of course, I'm unable to say anything about, suffice it to say, it's a big deal, promising great, affordable, green products with a host of exciting and interesting USPs... watch this space. Working with people who care, who get ill because they care, too much, is how I work to. If it matters, it ought to give you a belly-ache. That's just me.

But among this school of beauty sharks are some true, soulful, passionate people. I've been to lunch with them. We've shared secrets. They've made me smile. They get a bit too loud when talking about what matters, because, that's what really matters!

Geraldine Howard of Aromatherapy Associates

Tanya Kazeminy Mackay of Mama Mio

Rebecca Hopkins of Balance Me

Kathy Phillips of This Works

Imelda Burke of Being Content

Sarah Chapman, of Sarah Chapman Skinesis

Yes, good women all, with the goods to back it up.

Thursday 19 May 2011



Ordinarily this is absolutely not my bag. I have never accepted money for reviews - certainly not false good reviews! - but when ESPA approached Handpicked re their new Lift & Firm range, I had the inside track.... having met with founder Sue Harmsworth a few weeks before the line hit shelves, and secreted a few products into my bathroom cabinet for testing, I didn't need a payment-prod to get typing on this one...

Here's why:

The new Lift & Firm range is comprised of 5 new products:
Lift & Firm Intensive Serum, Moisturiser, Eye Serum, Eye Moisturiser and Face Mask.
It's a lovely tight little range of targeted treatments designed for 40+ skins.

Mama Malcontent got a full set to trial (I'd already thumbs-upped the mask), and here is what she said. "It all smells lovely for a start, not fake floral or astringent or overpoweringly 'nice'. It's clean and simple, a bit like a breath of fresh sea air. I stuck with it for 3 weeks, cleansing every night with my normal wash-off, then the first time I used it I exfoliated with a Kate Somerville product, before rinsing off and using the Intensive Serum. It's got a great feel to it - silky without being siliconey - and sinks in beautifully. You only need a couple of drops but I was tempted to put some more around my eyes, laughter lines and across my neck because it felt very pleasant. I then massaged in the Moisturiser, tapped on a couple of drops of the Eye Serum, then a drop of the Eye Moisturiser under each. Interestingly, because I normally use a face oil and a cream, I noticed the difference in using a serum and cream - my skin felt 'watered' rather than 'oiled' and I liked it!

The next day I did the same thing, but used the Mask first. It's lovely this. I like Argan Oil already and this has rather a lot in it (I'm told by my daughter it's lovely high-grade stuff too), along with nice sounding things like Pellan Silt and Frankincense. I put it on before a bath, left it on for 20 minutes, and skin really did have a noticeable soft, bouncy feel to it afterwards. Those superficial dehydration lines looked better, and deeper lines across forehead, and under eyes, softened too. So, yes, it hydrates nicely and makes an immediate difference because of it.

I continued using all the products - so mask 2-3 times a week - and everything else (eye serum in morning, eye moisturiser at night, because I like a fresher feel in the day and a creamier treat before bed), and my skin feels 1) softer; 2) lines look a bit softer which I can tell is because my skin is just better 'fed' and getting more hydration etc, and 3) does indeed feel a bit firmer.

It's been a very busy and chaotic few weeks with not a huge amount of sleep - and I'm convinced that I'd look knackered if not for these products. I look tired, but wouldn't scare off little children - result!

Oh, and I also like the fact that none of these products feel 'heavy'. They sink in, soothe, smell good - and nothing needs to be massaged in over & over before skin drinks it up. I've used some very very expensive creams in the past (thanks, again, to my daughter!), which have felt sticky and oily, and none of the Lift & Firm products do any of that.

You do feel the difference sooner than you see it... and I fully intend to stick with it for 6-8 weeks because first impressions are positive ones."

So, there you have it. Right from the Mama Malcontent's mouth.

Monday 18 April 2011

#142 All Good Things

Oops, I did it again. Life got in the way. But it's given me time to discover a whole host of new, very good things, all of which I've come to rely on when said life is more chaotic than calm.

Bobbi Brown's Oil Free Tinted Moisturiser SPF15 - great. Manages to make even ropey skin look healthy, and works well in summer, because despite the brightest rays, it remains natural and unnoticeable. Holy grail stuff this.

Revlon's Just Bitten Lip Stain. I layer up Passion and Frenzy, for a deep, pink-hued berry mouth. Lasts an age, and is wondeful under lippy too - as the latter wears off, the former stays put, ensuring you're not left with the dreaded fade out.

Kiehl's Line Reducing Eye Brightening Concentrate. This is my new night-time treatment - I use Prevage with SPF during the day. I have absolutely no doubt that the combination has lifted my lack-of-sleep induced circles into a far less frightening realm. Hell, I was even described as 'rested' looking last night. Ha!

All for Eve Body Butter. As far as fuss-free, but efficacious, formulas go, this is a winner. It is delightfully creamy, but not sticky -and rubs in to leave limbs soft, almost damp with moisture, but not tacky.

Nuxe Soleil Prodigieux Beautifying Self-Tanning Body Lotion. My excitement at having found a pleasant body hydrator, that can be rubbed in - clumsily - wherein skin develops a wholly natural golden hue, is insurpassable. Where have you been all my life? Legs were bared for the first time in a year, and the result did not send small children fleeing.

Margaret Dabbs Exfoliating Foot Mousse Scrub. Satisfyingly gritty, this contains both tea tree and emu oil - the result, zingy, smooth, refreshed feet - that are also bright and soft.