I just got back from a two week jaunt in London where Burberry is more than just a trench coat, it’s a lifestyle, and grey isn’t merely a term used to describe your mood, it’s the prerequisite climate. But London brought us some of my favorite fashion and beauty icons, like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and most recently Alexa Chung, so there’s something to be said for the right mix of crappy weather and snooty poshness.
While my overall view of Londerners isn’t necessarily one of “style icon”, I do believe that there is a bit more ease in a woman’s everyday hair and makeup routine (I dare not call it grunge, but it surely isn’t glam either). Perhaps because there isn’t a salon and mani/ pedi shop on every street corner and (gasp!) not one Sephora in all of London, or maybe Brits are just too busy pub-hopping and ducking from thunderstorms to care about a perfect face and cunning coif.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t find ways to get your beauty fix on when in London. There was an occasion where I had a stylist come to the house to blow out my hair (it only cost 30 pounds, roughly $48. That’s like Dry Bar prices!). The problem with London bathrooms is that there are no electrical sockets, so my awesome Clairol hairdryer with the straightener attachments (Andis 80345 Styler Hair Dryer) that I use to blow dry my bangs — well, it never even left my suitcase. And forget about a curling iron. I went into Boots (the Brits’ version of “Duane Reade”) to attempt to purchase a curling iron and all they had were butane ones! Therefore, I borrowed the Wand (a curling iron without the clasp) from a friend of a friend because I wanted beachy curls one evening and I ended up burning my cheek – another post entirely.
Yet, the Ateliers (upscale salons), though quaint, are rather posh themselves, like a treat you reserve for that “once every six months” cut and color. You wouldn’t dare dream of walking in simply for a blowout. And as George Northwood, stylist to Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (two of my favorite Brits), said in my recent interview, ”you leave me and the whole time you’re away it looks beautiful, you don’t need to have blow dries, you don’t need to style it too much, it just sits and hangs.” And that really is the way that the Brits handle their hair: with ease and natural style.
As for the makeup, the Brits keep this pretty au naturel as well. Space NK is rather big in the UK, and the women seem to love their Armani foundations and Chanel quads. It was next to impossible to find Make Up For Ever HD anything (the foundation is a God sent), which I was desperately searching for to cover up the burned cheek. As with women everywhere, Brits seemed to have a love for full lashes and rosy cheeks (DiorShow Mascara and a MAC blush, respectively). But very few women that I spoke with even knew what BB cream was (shocking!) and even fewer were very interested in organic products (not one person had ever heard of Tata Harper).
However, I did turn quite a few of my American imports onto Simple, the skincare line that boasts a medley of natural ingredients and sells at an excellent price point. Simple actually started in the UK, but launched earlier this year in the U.S. (and I’ve been raving about their products ever since). Everyone fell into beauty lust with the Exfoliating Facial Wipes and Eye Makeup Remover, which made perfect sense since mascara was a beauty must-have.
Overall, my take away is that Americans spend at least double the amount of time getting ready — but we also have an insane encyclopedia of beauty products and knowledge. And a weekly blowout never hurts.