Caroline Hirons: The British beauty maven

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British beauty expert, Caroline Hirons: "When I'm dead, if I've done one good thing with my job it's that I've helped American women with their skincare routine."

When third-generation British skincare guru, Caroline Hirons talks, people listen. And buy. Products she recommends see a big spike in sales or just plain sell out worldwide. Her personal appearances generate lines around the block. She is, in social media parlance, an “influencer.” To date, the beauty expert counts a whopping 105,000 and 47,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively, not to mention nearly 97,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel. There is also her widely read blog. So, who is this industry maven and why is she so popular? And just what is her skincare advice?

Neither a cosmetics company executive nor a dermatologist, Caroline is a 47-year-old, plain-talking, no-nonsense mother of four, boasting a long line of beauty industry credentials. Her mother and grandmother worked at Coty, Guerlain and Helena Rubenstein counters during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. “It feels as though I’ve been in this industry since I was born!” says Caroline who got her own start in the business by working part time at the Aveda counter at the upscale British department store, Harvey Nichols, some 20 years ago. With her sales outstripping those of her colleagues, she was made manager.

Caroline’s grandmother at her Coty counter in 1966. As a British GI bride, she moved to Mississippi where her daughter, Caroline’s mother, was born. After the break up of her marriage, the resilient single mother moved back to the UK where she found work in the beauty industry. Eventually, she worked for Guerlain, leaving Caroline with a beautiful collection of antique Guerlain perfume bottles. “She always looked immaculate and smelled fabulous,” recalls her granddaughter.
Caroline’s mother in 1966. She went on to work for Helena Rubenstein and other beauty brands into the 1980s. “Our hallway at home was always filled with their tester units at the weekends when Mum was doing wedding make-ups, only one of which I was allowed to sneak in to and watch,” says Caroline.
Caroline with her husband Jim, a musician, on their wedding day 22 years ago.
“It always astounded me that people spend an hour putting their makeup on and then one minute taking it off,” says the skincare expert.

A job managing several Space NK beauty stores followed and as fate would have it, her life turned on the very day she gave the retailer notice. That’s when an encounter with Sylvie Chantecaille, creator of her eponymous cosmetics line, led to an on-the-spot job offer. “Meeting Sylvie took me off the shop floor,” says Caroline who, having trained as an aesthetician and makeup artist along the way, went on to develop facials for the upmarket brand. Several years later, after a stint at Liz Earle, launching the brand into UK stores, Caroline set up her own consultancy, shepherding beauty companies into the UK retail market.

“Corporate life is not for me,” says Caroline Hirons of her decision to set up her own beauty consultancy after spending years working for established cosmetics brands.

The blog soon followed, horrified as the beauty aficionado was by the profusion of bad grooming advice. “There were a lot of makeup blogs and it always astounded me that people spend an hour putting their makeup on and then one minute taking it off,” she says. The last straw was face wipes which, according to Caroline, should come with the warning “Don’t be a lazy cow.” That’s because “they are a quick fix that is the equivalent of using toilet paper and never showering. All they do is leave residue and alcohol on your skin.”

More blunt advice followed:

• You are obsessed with your pores. They do not open and close like doors. You say they are HUGE — then send me a picture and I can SEE NOTHING … the only person that can see your pores close-up is your ophthalmologist — or your boyfriend. Your ophthalmologist is looking at your eyes. Not your pores. And if your boyfriend is thisclosetoyou and notices your pores? He’s gay. Or not attracted to you. Or at best, rude. Rethink the entire relationship.
• You overuse the Clarisonic. A lot of you. A LOT of you. You can use it — you’re just not meant to use it every time you brush your frigging teeth. Step away from the trendy facial tool and wash your bloody face properly.
• Nothing good ever came from scrubbing your face with a peach kernel. There’s a reason they are 99p. Step away.
• If you would spend more on shoes, handbags, lipstick, jeans or fashion in general than you would on high quality skincare — you will be a 60-year-old woman (and man) with a vintage wardrobe and a face like an alligator.

Readers flocked. Her blog has garnered 70 million page views since its inception six years ago. During our interview, Caroline was no less sparing about the American approach to skin care: “American women treat their face like an inconvenience. They microdermabrasion it into oblivion. They wipe it, scrub it, sandblast it out of existence, but it’s not an old French table!” By contrast, “French women view their face as what it is — a part of themselves — and treat it accordingly — with tender loving care” whereas British women are somewhere in the middle according to the beauty expert’s observations. “When I’m dead, if I’ve done one good thing with my job it’s that I’ve helped American women with their skincare routine,” declares Caroline.

Once a week, Caroline gives facials at the Teresa Tarmey salon in Notting Hill. On the difference between British, French and American facials, Caroline notes: The French are all about massage, steaming, layering product and extractions. French women treat their face like it’s a part of them – with TLC. They can go for 2 ½ hours before they’re done. But then, they go outside and smoke a cigarette undoing much of the good! For Americans, it’s all about machinery and blasting things off. There’s minimal massage. American women want to look photoshopped. The English do a little bit of both. They like a lovely massage but recognize that good results can be had with machinery. They want results, but want pampering too. They’re in the middle.

So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Here is Caroline’s advice:

• Cleanse with a proper product like a cleansing oil or balm, at the sink, using a washcloth.
• Use an exfoliating acid toner.
• Spritz with a hydrating liquid, rosewater or zinc spray.
• Apply eye cream.
• Apply serum. This is where you should spend the bulk of your budget because that’s where you get the skin-penetrating anti-ageing ingredients. Moisturizer can be your cheapest product. You can spend $200 on a serum and $7.99 on a moisturizer as long as that moisturizer is free of mineral oils.
• Use a prescription-strength Vitamin A (retinoid) from a dermatologist.
• Apply makeup that contains SPF.

So, are there any particular products that she recommends? A few frequently mentioned in her blog are the serums from Zelens, Clinique’s Take the Day off Cleansing Balm, Serozinc toning mist from La Roche-Posay and the Perfecting Eye Cream from Goop. During our interview, she also singles out May Lindstrom (for whom she consults) and Drunk Elephant, both all-natural, American skincare brands. “They make beautiful products.”

Understandably, as she’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly, many of Caroline’s followers wonder when she will debut her own skincare line. “I think about doing a product range, but there’s no point in making something that’s the same as everything else out there,” is all the beauty guru would say. I’m staying tuned and in the meantime, avoiding face wipes like the plague.

Caroline giving facials backstage at a Stella McCartney fashion show.

Expert tipUse SPF in makeup or a separate SPF. Moisturizers with SPF don’t do a good job. “You’re not getting the best out of our moisturizer. It’s like buying a shoe and wearing it as a trouser,” says Caroline. “If you apply a moisturizer with SPF15 in the morning and sit out in the sun at lunchtime I guarantee you – you will not be covered enough.”

For more beauty tips and information, follow Delia on Instagram: @chasingbeautywithdvn.

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