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Beauty lessons from past recessions

By Dimi Gaidatzi,
May 04, 2009 09:02 IST
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Bright lips

"Women are now opting for colours which make them look as if they really have good skin: a healthy cheek, a rosy lip," says Terry Barber, MAC's director of make-up artistry. "There is that economy in beauty; accentuating one area and leaving everything else pared down." Case in point: Miriam Fotou, a 30-year-old research fellow at Westminster University: "I wear MAC's Russian Red. I like the 1950s look of it, and the fact that you don't have to put anything else on; make-up is minimal." (Pound 11)

"A dramatic colour - like a bold lip - instantly updates your appearance," says make-up guru Bobbi Brown. "It's much less expensive and time-consuming than revamping your wardrobe." Christine Benson, Selfridges' beauty buying manager, agrees: "Choosing a new lip colour has got real feelgood factor and is an easy way to inject fashionability," she says. "Bright shades are the only colours to sport this season."

Hair Rollers

"In the 1980s, hairdressing was very much about a wet set with rollers," says London hairdresser Daniel Hersheson. "Margaret Thatcher was a very busy woman and the Carmen hair rollers were a quick-fix scenario for her. Her hairstyle reflected her attitude and outlook."

According to Angelo Seminara, international creative director at Trevor Sorbie, "Velcro hair roller sales have risen by 86 per cent since last August. It could be due to women leaving more time between salon appointments; they use the rollers to keep their hair looking better for longer."

Polly Ford, a 30-year-old financial services manager, started using hair rollers five months ago. "It's a cost-effective way of getting a salon look," she says. "There's something quite satisfying about learning to do a roller-set. The current economic reality is making people consider other options, perhaps looking back to the way things were done in a simpler world."

DIY skincare

At-home face masks can be made from fruit, vegetables and kitchen essentials. Emma Thomson, head of natural beauty and aromatherapy at Neal's Yard Remedies, recommends an avocado and banana mask for rejuvenating dry and tired skin: "Take one ripe avocado, one egg yolk, one ripe banana and two teaspoons of almond oil. Mix, apply to the skin, leave on for 10 minutes and remove with a warm flannel."

Jo Fairley of the independent beauty advice website, recommends "a winter-salad face mask: fresh vegetables whizzed together in a food blender, with a few drops of jojoba oil if your skin is very dry. Leave on 15-20 minutes, then rinse for fresh, perky skin."

For those whose fridges are less well-stocked, however, London facialist Amanda Lacey simply suggests cleansing the face with warm water and a few lavender drops to soothe the skin and restore calmness.

Power brows

According to Debra Robson-Lawrence, a specialist in the field of semi-permanent make-up, "The power brow is symbolic of a new breed of power women who are fighting against the current climate of economic uncertainty, rising triumphant and strong, and wanting to show it in how they look."

Brows are strong but manicured and groomed this season," says Shavata Singh, founder of the Shavata range of eyebrow products.

Rachel Wood, a make-up artist for Benefit Cosmetics, advises looking to Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Hutton for inspiration. "The power brow means not much make-up is needed; just clean skin and a touch of mascara," she says. Robson-Lawrence goes even further: "It's no coincidence that in the 1940s war years the look was for strong, dark, highly arched brows with scarlet red lips - hardly a look that reflected a country in crisis, far from it," she says.

What did they do before Botox?

Neither recessions nor world wars have deterred women from indulging in beauty products, writes Valentina Zannoni. The archives of the British magazine The Lady provide a glimpse of the lotions and potions used in the first half of the 20th century.

  • While the current solution for eradicating expression lines is Botox, in 1923 the solution was self-control. The Lady advised women to stand in front of the mirror talking to themselves. "Check any tendency you may have to screw up your eyes or frown when annoyed or excited."
  • In the July 1926 issue, "Myrene", The Lady's beauty writer, gave sound advice: "Although sunshine has a wonderfully beneficial effect on health, more harm than good may be done by sitting on the beach in the full glare of the sun." The Lady also provided a recipe for sun protection lotion which contained "prepared calamine, oxide of zinc, spirits of ether, glycerine and rose water. This can be tinted with a little powdered ochre and burnt umber to a shade that is becoming."
  • In May 1931 The Lady enlightened the reader on the "subtle beauty" of a white neck. "It is a peculiarly feminine beauty, and the most should be made of it." Following a rigorous cleansing regime, the reader is advised to finish the job with "bleaching lotions". A handy home recipe is included: "rose water, tincture of myrrh, opoponax, and benzoin, essence of lemon and finally tincture of quillaya."
  • In 1934 The Lady tackled exfoliation. Peeling skin should "have its own way" and "one of those slightly 'gritty' pastes" should be used to slough it off. "The gentle friction of one of these creams will encourage the skin to detach itself and leave the new complexion clear, white and smooth."
  • Hair has always been an important aspect of a beauty regime. In 1941, in the wake of the Battle of Britain, The Lady consoled its readership by suggesting DIY hair treatments: "the temporary banishment from one's favourite hairdresser need not mean an unkempt head".
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Dimi Gaidatzi,
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