Beauty Cream Products

The following correction was printed in the Observer’s For the record column, Sunday 15 March 2009

In the article below we suggested using an iPulse system (the Boots Smooth Skin Intense Pulsed Light Hair Reduction System) to remove facial hair, but Boots stresses that this product is designed for use on body hair only, not on the face. Readers are advised to call 0845 120 1511 or visit if they have any concerns.

What is the most effective method of facial hair removal?

Over 10 years, the average woman will spend £1,500-£4,500 on waxing, threading or laser treatments. Other options include electrolysis, which can give good results, but it’s all down to the practitioner. “The margin between a good result and scarring is very narrow,” warns consultant dermatological surgeon Dr Andrew Markey (020 7730 1219). He uses an Alexandrite or YAG laser – it may be more expensive than going to a commercial clinic, but you are getting the skills of a top specialist.

Latest developments are in the home market. The iPulse laser (£249.99) which has just gone into 120 branches of Boots, is the brainchild of scientist Mark Clement. “Laser systems for hair removal used to be the size of a refrigerator and expensive,” says Clement. “This is a real technological advance. Boots has tested it and seen significant suppression of growth over six weeks.”

The bad news is that all these home machines warn against use by those with darker skin because of the depth of the hair follicle.

Is permanent-colour tattoo on eyebrows and as eyeliner safe?

As women get older their brows can become ragged, thin, and have patches of baldness (especially those who have over-plucked over many years). Tattooing, when done well, can be life-changing. But those two words “done well” are important. “The brow should end at the corner of the outer eye, where it meets a line drawn from the side of the nose past the end of the eye,” says Sophie Thorpe who, to my mind, is queen of permanent eyebrows. Thorpe tattoos in each “hair” individually, building the brows up and matching the colour to the natural hair. She uses semi-permanent mineral (rather than lead- or carbon-based) pigment so the colour is stabilised in the skin (then there’s no chance of it going black, purple or green). “The reason there are so many disasters,” she says, “is because therapists tattoo them in a solid block or an exaggerated shape, or don’t keep sitting the client up and checking.” It is not cheap, and you may need top-ups every couple of years (approx £550, 020 7589 5899,

I am far more squeamish about the idea of tattooing on eyeliner. However, technician Andrea Grollet has spent years perfecting her Eyelash Enhancement treatment, which tattoos a subtle line between the lashes, giving real depth to the eye. Like Thorpe, she does not use lead- and/or carbon-based tattooing inks (£395; Andrea Grollet, 020 8645 9553,

Should I use night cream?

Most people find that after cleansing at the end of the day, their skin feels the need for extra moisturising. If you don’t like the feel of night creams, don’t use them. However, research by Lancôme and Elizabeth Arden’s laboratories suggests that the skin may be more receptive to creams at night. Lancôme’s Rénergie Morpholift RARE range is designed for women over 40 and uses a bio-actioning technology combined with a micro-algae enriched formula (Overnight Repositioning and Firming Cream, £58.50,, left). Elizabeth Arden has worked with a similar premise for its Prevage Anti-Aging Night Cream. Here, time-released idebenone (one of the most powerful antioxidants) releases a constant source into the skin overnight (£115, The prices for the latest science tend to be steep.

Do perfumes have a sell-by date?

Yes. Even if it is kept in a dark cupboard it will go off eventually, so don’t leave it for “best”.

Do natural deodorants/ antiperspirants actually work?

I use lemon as a deodorant: I slice a lemon and rub one cut side under my arms, then wait for about 20 minutes before showering. It must be cut and fresh – ascorbic acid isn’t effective after a few seconds in oxygen. The acid cuts the smell and eventually minimises sweating. It works. Over time you need to do it less and less and it doesn’t stain clothes – my white t-shirts are testament to that.

What is the best way to get rid of the odd spot?

Topically, spot cures like tea tree oil do work. Using a spot treatment that has sulphur and salicylic acid (Murad Blemish Spot Treatment, £14, a few times a day can help, as can Nick Lowe’s range at Boots. The newest remedies for spots are laser-based home devices. With the Zeno, light is used as a form of heat to cure acne. You hold it on the spot for a few minutes and repeat the process over 24 hours. However, in my opinion, the Zeno Mini (£69.99) is better for the odd spot than for acne.

Do body wraps work?

The short answer is yes, but only temporarily. It’s a great feeing: you get unwrapped and have lost inches. But it won’t last – it’s only water loss.

How can you make a manicure last?

Firstly, wear rubber gloves when washing up (water makes nails more porous). Secondly, if your nails are soft, flaky or spotted then your diet could be lacking and your manicure won’t last. Try taking Silica 2500 Plus by Kordel’s (£13.65, Always use a base coat and top coat. Nailtiques has products for thin, ridged, peeling or bitten nails as well as creams and gentle non-acetone varnish removers ( Let each coat really dry before you put on the next. That means half an hour at top-coat stage.

Can I get rid of eye bags?

If it’s genetic, nothing is going to change them except surgery. A friend went to Naresh Joshi at the Lister Hospital in London (020 7460 5739) for a small operation and was thrilled with the result. Laser treatments might help, but you need a consultation with a dermatological surgeon or an ophthalmic surgeon to find the best one.

Puffy eyes and dark circles can be influenced by ill health (in eastern medicine dark circles are considered to be a problem with liver or kidneys). The age-old model trick is Preparation H Ointment (for haemorrhoids) on your eye bags, which helps them to shrink temporarily, but it’s not a good idea long term.

The skin under the eyes is very thin, so avoid ultraviolet light (buy decent sunglasses).

A cream with Retin A, such as RoC will help with fine lines, but there is no magic cream that gets rid of the problem, whatever the marketing spiel might say.

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Hair Products

Types of hairstyling products

Hair wax

Hair wax is a thick hairstyling product containing wax, used to assist with holding the hair. It does not harden like products such as hair gel, but remains pliable. Hair wax has been used for many years. In fact, a waxy soap-like substance was invented by the ancient Gauls as a hair styling agent and was not used as a cleaning agent until many years later. Hair wax is currently experiencing an increase in popularity[says who?], with many manufacturers releasing versions, referred to as pomade, putty, glue, whip, and styling paste.

Hair mousse

Hair mousse is a toiletry added to hair for extra volume and shine. It often comes in either spray or cream form. It adds volume without any clumps or buildup.

Apply to hair when hair is wet or damp, not dry. Apply all around and comb hair afterwards to make sure that the mousse is evenly spread.

Hair mousse is purple inside the can, but when released the isobutylene makes it an off-shade white.


Pomade (also called pomatum) is a greasy or waxy substance that is used to style hair. Pomade makes hair look slick and shiny. Unlike hair spray and hair gel, pomade does not dry and often takes several washes to remove – a special shampoo, though, may be used. Other de-greasers include olive oil, dish washing liquid and lemon juice. Most pomades contain petroleum jelly (and in fact petroleum jelly can be used alone as a pomade) and mineral oil, and many also contain some sort of wax. They may also contain perfume and coloring agents. A plethora of pomades are still in production today and vary in factors such as weight, shine and scent. The stiffest will have a higher proportion of beeswax while the lightest may have a higher proportion of oils.

Hair gel

Hair gel is a hairstyling product that is used to stiffen hair into a particular hairstyle. The results it produces are usually similar to but stronger than those of hair spray and weaker than those of hair glue or hair wax.


Hair spray

Hair spray (also hair lacquer, spritz, or sticky water) is a common household aqueous solution that is used to keep hair stiff or in a certain style. Weaker than hair gel, hair wax, or glue, it is sprayed to hold styles for a long period. Using a pump or aerosol spray nozzle, it sprays evenly over the hair. May leave hair feeling “crunchy” unless brushed out. Hair spray was first developed and manufactured in 1948 by Chase Products Company, based in Broadview, Illinois.

Its active ingredient is a suitable polymer or the chemical elastesse. Elastesse is a form of liquid elastic that keeps the hair stiff and firm without snapping.

The solvent used was once a compound of carbon, fluorine, and chlorine (a chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC). CFCs are nontoxic, nonflammable, and make almost ideal aerosol propellants. However, when it was learned that they cause destruction of stratospheric ozone, they were replaced with other solvents, like alcohols and hydrocarbons.

One of the polymers used is polyvinylpyrrolidine, which is also used to glue the layers of wood in plywood together. A non-water soluble polymer called polydimethylsiloxane is added to make the hold last a bit longer (the polyvinylpyrrolidine is water soluble). Pytocalcious chemicals are another family of ingredients in hair spray, which increase the amount of minerals in the hair’s root causing the hair to become stiff.

Other polymers used in plastic-based hairsprays are copolymers with vinyl acetate and copolymers with maleic anhydride.

Some hair sprays use natural polymers and solvents like vegetable gums dissolved in alcohol. One popular ingedient is gum arabic is made from the sap of certain trees that grow in the Sudan. Gum tragacanth is another herbal gum that is used to stiffen calico and crepe, as well as hair.

Hair Volumizer

Hair volumizers are used to temporarily add volume, body and shine to thin or flat hair. Hair volumizers are also used by balding men to make their hair mass look dense. They come in many forms like shampoos, conditioners, sprays, pomades and lotions.

Hair volumizers contains humectants which work by attracting moisture from the surrounding areas to the hair strand, thereby swelling the hair and making it look thicker. Various polymers present in the volumizer, coat the hair strand making it look thicker and shiny.

Shampoo and conditioner forms of the volumizers are used just like ordinary shampoo or conditioners. The spray and lotion form of volumizers are used in damp hair, near the roots of the hair; the person flips her/his head downwards and gradually blow dries the hair, with the air being blown along the shaft of the hair; once hair are dry the person can flip his/her head up.


Other types of products include serums, leave-in conditioner, hair tonic, and heat protection spray.



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