toss the gloss dishes about the beauty industry

Andrea Robinson has spent years in the beauty trenches, starting as beauty editor for Vogue and progressing to Ralph Lauren, Estée Lauder and Prescriptives to name but a few. On the very first page of her recently published book, Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks & Truths for Women 50+, Andrea Robinson promises to dish the dirt on the beauty industry — “even if it means inciting a powder-puff fatwa.” This sounds like my kind of woman.

Feisty, funny, angry but not bitter, Toss the Gloss is one part exposé and two parts down to earth beauty advice. I especially lapped up Andrea Robinson’s candid and eye-opening revelations about big beauty and how it views customers — um, that would be us. Here’s a sampling:

  • Major beauty corporations are run by men. And they singularly lack vision when it comes to the needs of real women.
  • Most of these men think we’ve lost it at 50.
  • Big beauty companies (e.g., L'Oréal) own tons of different beauty brands and have centralized research labs that create ingredients to be used by as many of them as possible. The only thing that changes is the marketing speak.
  • Don’t fall prey to testing claims — most trials have been conducted on really small samples of women.
  • Products with a doctor’s name attached to them rarely have anything new.

As an ex-magazine insider myself, I know it is horribly true that beauty editors have to write about the products that are advertised. “No editorial, no advertising,” notes Robinson. Yep, that’s why there is no good information in magazines about which beauty products really work (or don’t), and that’s why I ended up starting Truth In Aging.

Most of Toss the Gloss is devoted to giving practical tips on how 50-somethings and up can get the most from makeup. The Toss the Gloss mantra is that “good makeup reclaims you.” But good also means less. A whole chapter is devoted to purging stuff from your makeup bag. Since I purged most of my makeup more than a decade ago, I wondered if Robinson would encourage me to reintroduce a bit of makeup into my life. Her bare necessities are foundation, cheek color, lip and eye liner (but “harsh” lines are a big no), lipstick and mascara. Of these, I only use a foundation, and it is without color. Plus, I dab on concealer where needed.  I must say that the chapter in Toss the Gloss on eye makeup is inspiring, and I’ve a mind to experiment with expanding my austere repertoire.

Where I take issue with Andrea Robinson is when she makes generalities about skincare. “The tubes from Target will probably work just as well as Barney’s.” That might be true, but it is only part of the reality. Drugstores and department stores are not our only choices; there are very many independent formulators making innovative and cutting edge anti-aging products that actually work (we know because here at Truth In Aging, our community tests hundreds of them).

Nor am I impressed with her product recommendations. SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic has what I call a “product twin” with the exact same formula and for more than $100 cheaper. Robinson claims that retinol is the “only proven anti-aging compound.” This simply isn’t true, as there are other actives, such as matrixyl, with research to back them up — and they have fewer, if any, side effects.

Andrea Robinson’s years in the beauty business have made her justifiably cynical. But she has gotten past that to write a genuinely useful and fresh guide for a demographic that is mostly overlooked and mistreated by the cosmetics industry. I hope she can also  get past it all to take a look at and maybe even embrace the independent formulators such as AQ Skin Solutions, Medik8, Your Best Face, W3LL People and many, many more that give the business a good name.