Telling people that I’m a feminist who works in fashion and writes beauty garners a weird variety of responses. I’ve organized marches where I’ve been challenged on my lipstick, I’ve been at business meetings where people don’t know what to say. When I find people who understand that all feminism means to me is the freedom to make my own choices, it’s a relief because I’m sick of reciting the same speech about liberty and expression over and over.
For me, beauty is a lot to do with self-care. My body responds dramatically to stress and my depression and anxiety can often manifest in my face – I simultaneously break out and go scaly-dry. There is nothing that makes me more self-conscious than bad skin, it sends me into a spiral of not wanting to leave my house, so a few weeks ago I decided to book in for a facial.
Now, I’m not interested in relaxing facials. If I want to relax, I will go for a massage – if I’m going for a facial, I want extraction and exfoliation. If I’m trusting someone with my skin, I want to know that they know what they are talking about, that I’m not going to break-out or scar, that the tools are sanitized, that everything’s above board and that it's not something that I can do myself at home.
The poor regulation in the beauty industry is something that I consider to be a feminist issue – in 2011, when French-made PIP breast implants turned out to be filled with dangerous and non-approved silicone, were rupturing, toxic and potentially cancerous, the poor response from legislators and media alike reminded me what a pitiful state the beauty industry is in.
The general response seemed to be that if women were vain enough to get their boobs enhanced, they deserved to be responsible for risks that they never signed up for.
Salons often cut corners in sterilizing equipment, spreading risk not only of fungus and gross bacteria, but also potentially BBVs. Basically, regulations are lax because nobody seems to care that much about women’s bodies a lot of the time (unless they’re restricting what they’re allowed to do). So I’m incredibly militant about who I let perform procedures on me, because if external regulators aren’t doing their jobs properly, there’s very little accountability.
So I went to Hilary at Clinica Fiore, who felt a little bit like my beauty soulmate. Clinica Fiore is a Medical Cosmetic skin clinic in Covent Garden, offering treatments from manicures to stem-cell rejuvenation – if I’m trusting someone with my pores, it’s gonna be somewhere that can also perform stem-cell treatments. I went for an assessment beforehand, to meet Hilary and the team, and didn’t want to leave.
A self-proclaimed feminist who talks about women’s right to choose and going fishing with her feminist grandfather, she moved to London a few years ago after 25 years in LA. With the most perfectly buoyant, toned and natural skin I have ever seen, I was happy putting my face in her hands.
What was particularly nice was being offered the opportunity to talk to someone – not only about my lifestyle and what I could alter to aid my skincare regime – but someone who was happy to talk through the intricacies of new technologies and the problems rife in the beauty industry.
When I asked her about the mark-ups on procedures like Botox, and how certain clinicians can do cut-price offers, she explained to me that when Botox has nearly reached its shelf life, you can sell it back to the manufacturers, who sell it on to clinicians who do not mind using expired products in their client’s faces. She utterly assuaged my slightly obsessive fears about sterilization and I booked in to see her a few days later.
I don’t get paid to write nice things about beauty companies or treatments, I promise. I spoke to Rebecca about the integrity of xoJane the other day and how important it is that our reviews or discussions of brands and products are authentic unless clearly stated as sponsored. I just want to let you all know that if you want a facial, there is somewhere ace that you can go.
Hilary gave me one of the best facials I have ever had. I didn’t break out afterwards. She used this weird high-frequency zapper thing to ensure that bacteria from my extractions didn’t spread, and has inspired me to change my skincare regime. She didn’t sell me any products but we spoke generally about adjustments I could make (I went to Space NK afterwards and bought a Clarisonic which has since changed my life) to keep my skin happy, and it has been.
There’s no point in going into precisely what happened on my face over 90 minutes because it was specifically adjusted to my skin type and it’d be really boring to read. But all I can say is that, if you’re in London, you should go for a free consultation at Clinica Fiore – because they’re super nice, bloody brilliant and don’t try to hard-sell you into a face lift or anything. And, most importantly, they’re trained, they’re sterile, and with facials from £55, they’re pretty cheap.
I’d really like us to come up with some sort of comprensive ‘XO recommends’ guides – I find it really difficult sourcing reviews where I don’t think that the writer has just been paid off. What’s your favourite beauty treatment and where do you get it? Seriously, I want to know. Do you care what mine are? I have a city-full of suggestions.
Olivia is on Twitter @oliviasinger when she’s not reviewing beauty treatments.