Why beauty editors are the real villains

As women's magazines proliferate, so does their ability to engender anxiety among their readers
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The Independent Online

Anita Roddick's comments about skin creams being "pap" caused an enormous fuss among female journalists last week. She'd said before that anti-ageing creams were useless, but maybe the fact that this time she urged us to eat tomatoes and drink Pinot Noir ensured her home-spun philosophy would make headlines. I admire Mrs Roddick - she has worked hard for over 20 years to build up Body Shop, selling relatively cheap beauty and bath products. Personally, I don't want to smell like a carrot or a tub of cocoa butter, but millions of satisfied customers do. I also couldn't care less if my skin cream is created by a laboratory technician in Chelmsford rather than an inhabitant of an endangered rain forest, but then again, a lot of women like their beauty aids (useless or otherwise) to come with some sort of manifesto. Using the same kind of fat that Tahitian women smear on themselves seems so eco-friendly, so politically correct.

Anita Roddick's comments about skin creams being "pap" caused an enormous fuss among female journalists last week. She'd said before that anti-ageing creams were useless, but maybe the fact that this time she urged us to eat tomatoes and drink Pinot Noir ensured her home-spun philosophy would make headlines. I admire Mrs Roddick - she has worked hard for over 20 years to build up Body Shop, selling relatively cheap beauty and bath products. Personally, I don't want to smell like a carrot or a tub of cocoa butter, but millions of satisfied customers do. I also couldn't care less if my skin cream is created by a laboratory technician in Chelmsford rather than an inhabitant of an endangered rain forest, but then again, a lot of women like their beauty aids (useless or otherwise) to come with some sort of manifesto. Using the same kind of fat that Tahitian women smear on themselves seems so eco-friendly, so politically correct.

Skin creams are like drugs. We are addicted to them, with all their ludicrous, pseudo-scientific claims, and fancy packaging. Like most women over 50, I have purchased a huge variety of useless products over the past 30 years. Yet it's obvious that wrinkles arrive, chins sag, and bags appear under your eyes. Very little can be done to turn back the clock, other than resorting to plastic surgery. Creams that claim to "lift" your skin are just the latest weapon dreamt up by the beauty industry in order to appear cutting-edge in the battle for youth.

But the real villains in all of this are surely beauty editors - those traitors to their own sex - who churn out the column inches of drivel about these products, and act as propagandists for the cosmetics industry.

As Anita Roddick points out, your skin does benefit from moisturiser - it will feel more comfortable - but the job of the beauty editor is to convince us that there is a highly sophisticated set of concoctions we can turn to in order to enhance our appearance. Could the fact that these companies spend a massive amount advertising in women's magazines be in any way connected?

I can think of no other form of journalism so hijacked by the PR industry as the rubbish spouted by beauty editors. Admittedly, I am prone to the occasional impulse purchase of some lavish pot of gunk which I will smear on my face and then wait a couple of weeks to see if there is any less luggage in the under-eye department. But I am a 53-year-old cynic with the financial means to treat skin products as an occasional fantasy purchase. We worry about young women dieting and their obsession with body image, but equally undermining is the phoney beauty culture espoused by women's magazines.

As these publications proliferate, so does their ability to engender anxiety among their readers. Not a week goes by without me being asked to supply a "tip" to one of these journals. Second only to my loathing of beauty editors is my hatred of "celebrity" advice slots, be it on dieting, make-up or hair styling. Why would intelligent women want to practise yoga because Geri Halliwell does or embark upon a diet like Sadie Frost's? Is it any surprise we are breeding a generation of young women who have low self-esteem and are permanently trying to control what they eat?

Anita Roddick is 57, and what young women need is one of their generation -- be it Victoria Beckham or Britney Spears - to announce proudly that they are not on a diet, not using "miracle" face cream and that cheap cosmetics are as good as La Prairie. This is, of course, a hopeless dream and Anita Roddick only made her attack on anti-ageing creams because she was promoting her autobiography. So was it just another round in the crusade to sell to the female market - books this time, rather than creams?

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