Are You an Unapologetic Product Tart?

cosmetic product tart

My followers on Twitter are a smart self confident, sassy, sometimes sarky bunch of well informed with-it hipsters who know what they want and aren’t short of an opinion or two.  Its a bit of shame really.  I was hoping for a bunch of adoring fans who doted on my every word.  I suppose my idea of ‘followers’ is a bit old fashioned.  But it does mean that I get some good ideas from them.

One such came from a follower who described herself on her bio as an unapologetic product tart.  What a great thing to be I thought.  Are you one? I think you should be.  Here’s why.

It isn’t obvious from the huge diversity of packaging and even the ingredient lists, but in a given category of product there isn’t a huge difference between what they are all made of.  All shampoos for instance a basically a blend of a couple of fairly similar detergents.  The cheapest ingredients, thanks to economies of scale, tend to be the ones that are used most.  The ones that are used most tend to be the ones that do the job best.  So basically the mid market products are pretty much as good as it gets. The formulations vary but the ingredients are pretty similar.

By contrast, humans are quite diverse.  We all have different genes and come out in all different shapes and shades.  When you are picking a skin cream for example, what you are actually looking for is a product that restores your skin’s barrier function to its optimum level – though I doubt many people think of it in precisely those terms.  So you want to find one that matches your particular skin needs.  This is very much a question of the precise way the blend is made up.  And it varies over time.  I find that I need more oil nowadays than I used to when I was younger.

So I think tartiness pays off when it comes to personal care products.  I cannot think of one good reason to be loyal to a particular brand.  Try out loads, and try them across the range. Ignore the price tag.  There are plenty of very good cheap products.  And expensive ones aren’t going to break the bank either.  If you work out what a small proportion of your budget you spend on personal care it is hardly going to make the difference between a comfortable old age and being thrown out on the streets.  Even a Creme de la Mer habit will set you back less than smoking 20 fags a day.  (Fags= cigarettes for American readers.  Apologies for any misunderstanding there.)

The only caveats I would add are that there are a few things I would avoid.  Party plan style selling can be an expensive way to buy your products.  The big exception is Avon, but that is because they are so big they make their stuff in very large quantities so the prices are reasonable.  The Avon ladies I have spoken to have all been very knowledgeable and quite impressive.  I don’t know if I have just been lucky or if Avon have a good training programme in place.  Other companies operating the same basic model that I have observed have seemed to be overpriced and represented by idiots.  I admit that I haven’t spent a huge amount of time participating in this kind of thing, but I do have an  idea of the economics and they aren’t stacked in your favour.

Small companies make some great products and companies you have never heard of are worth giving a try.  Most of the well known brands are well known primarily because they advertise rather than because they have any great formulation secrets.  But I would be very wary of any company – regardless of the size – that uses any kind of scaremongering.  In particular avoid the ‘my daughter had a rash and when I investigated I found that all the products in the shops were full of toxins so I had to start this company to do something about it’ format.  The stories are bogus and the companies are run by people who out to make a quick buck.  The ones to look for are the ones who show some genuine passion for what they are doing.

If you are buying a small company’s products, if possible buy them directly from their own website.  The sites that collect lots of brands together and sell them take a very big cut, and I am not sure what they bring to the party.  Dealing direct makes a lot more sense.  I also like to see an individual looking website.  It shows that there is a real person behind it.  I don’t mind if it doesn’t look slick.  In fact I prefer it if it doesn’t.

The tartier you are the more likely you are to find a product that suits you.  No need to be apologetic at all.

If you want to follow that tart that got me going on this post, this is her blog.

6 thoughts on “Are You an Unapologetic Product Tart?”

  1. Excellent post Colin. I’ve never thought of Creme de la Mer that way before. But at today’s “fag” prices, your right.

  2. Rebecca Wright

    Hi Colin,

    I am definately a product tart. I dont see the point in sticking with one type of moisturiser for the rest of my life and I do like a bit of variety.I do sway more to the natural products however, I dont mind using one that is not so ‘natural’. In fact i bought one one from Superdrug yesterday and to the untrained eye it looks rather plastic. I was interested in your opinion of the ingredients if you are still doing this sort of thing. Its called ‘Swiss Apple’ by Superdrug with UVA and UVB protection:
    Ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane, aqua, propylene glycol, HDI/trimethyol hexullactone, crosspolymer, glycerin,dimethicone, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, glyceryl stearate citrate, methylpropanediol, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane ( long one), dimethicone crosspolymerm ethylhexyl triazone, polysilicone – 15, panthenol, tocopherol acetate, malus domestica (swiss apple) fruit cell culture extract, biosaccharide gum- 1, lethicin, phenoxyethanol,caprylyl glycol, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate /vp copolymer, parfum, silica, disodium edta, xanthan gum.

    I found have it on right now and find that it is very powdery but has left my skin feeling and looking quite fine. I do hope you respond as it took me quite some time typing that ingredient list.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. You did a great job of typing that lot in Rebecca. That formulation certainly isn’t natural. It is based on silicones. What they are trying to do there is use the natural tendency of silicones to spread out and form a thin film to get the sunscreens to spread widely. This should make them more long lasting.

    The dry skin feel comes from the C12-15 alkyl benzoate. Without that this formulation would feel very slippery indeed. The apple thing is a recent trendy story about using stem cells from apples because they do something or other that is a bit vague and which sounds a bit unlikely but they probably have a graph somewhere that proves it is really great. Or something.

    But apart from the apple story it looks like a good formulation on paper. The only trouble with silicones is I find that they can sometimes build up a bit on the skin if you apply the product too frequently. But you can get some sensational skin feel with them if you put the work in.

  4. Hi Colin,

    Thanks for responding. I did think the ingredients were a bit silicony? What is interesting in the packaging is that it has a list of stuff on the box listed that is not actually in the ingredients. to be fair they dont actually say its in the cream. This is it:
    PhytoCelTec (whatever that is): promotes a more radiant and younger looking appearance….
    Hyaluronic Acid: …exeptional moisturising properties…(not sure its in there)
    Capuacu Butter – acts as an effective emmolient….(can’t see it in the ingredients list)
    Vitamin e – yes its in there
    Pro vitamin B5 -…moisturising and conditioning agent..

    Am I right by thinking (and i am trying to not be cynical) that you can put any old rubbish on the packaging as long as you dont say explicitly it is actually in there. That way people are alluded into thinking stuff thats in there?

    1. Putting any old rubbish on the packaging is a good way of describing the process of generating marketing pack copy, but the people who actually write it probably wouldn’t put it that way.

      If you are interested the ASA’s website has a very well written guides on what is and isn’t allowed, but I find keeping abreast of adjudications is the best way of understanding it. This is a recent one that is quite fun. Somebody challenged Neals Yard as to whether they could describe their formulators as scientists. – The complaint wasn’t upheld.

      You can’t really get away with saying something is in the product when it isn’t. But you certainly can get away with having only a trace amount of it. Have a look at my post on tip ins , but you need to watch your language. I heard a story of a company that got into trouble when they wrote on the pack that the product was “bursting with” something or other. It only contained a fraction of a percent which was judged by the authorities to not really count as bursting with.

  5. “In particular avoid the ‘my daughter had a rash and when I investigated I found that all the products in the shops were full of toxins so I had to start this company to do something about it’ format.”

    I could kiss you!

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