To my personal bullshit whistle blower



Today marks the 25th death anniversary of my father. He was a brilliant inventor, a so-so entrepreneur and a progressive communist. 

He shunned all things pretentious and can speak heart to heart with anyone - from the president of the country to the street prostitute (but he does have a flaw of discriminating against idiots). 

We had intense arguments but we always have love and respect for each other. I might not be able to visit his grave (long story) and i know this blog entry might be a cheeky way to write a commemoration to him, but i go along with the times and use this modern medium to remember a person who had such a strong positive influence to my existence and the values i hold. 

As energy is neither created nor destroyed but transforms from one form to another, my thoughts and love to the 21grams of positive, passionate, pained energy unleashed unto the universe at 5 am on the 22nd of December 1988, the day he took his own life.

Positive vibes unto you Papa.

Careers in the beauty business






Author's note:  This post is only advisable to those contemplating on a  career in the beauty biz.  Can apply to bloggers who want to dig deeper, students or new graduates who want to enter the corporate side of the biz, etcetera.  Not worth shit for all others.

And forewarning, uncensored language- not for the squirmish.
 --------------

I regularly receive "Dear Auntie Rowena" emails from those aspiring for a career in the beauty business.  Through these, I have met many a passionate individual willing to share me their story- and for that i feel so privileged, thank you.  I get fielded with questions like what course to take, how do i make myself interesting enough to land a job,  what should i be training myself to do and all that shit.

I have also been told that a school in L.A. offers a major in beauty industry marketing and merchandising.  The school apparently says that "one should definitely study on their major in order to get into a beauty company because their programs are so much specialized than any other 4 year University" and for only $29,300 per year.

Well, er, fuck that.  No one is required to take a specialized course and this is definitely not a requirement to get in the biz.  Though we get people who are clever, personable, ambitious and passionate (and yes, have a college degree)- most things are learned as you go along.

But heck, some of you are more driven than others and would do anything to get ahead- and i have a lot of respect for that.  But I do not wish you to fall into financial abyss by following your passion.

So I have been promising each and everyone that i will hold online courses on the corporate side of beauty and this post is a start towards that.

First of all, i will be straight with you what this course is and is not .

Personally, I will not shove it to your face.  I do not think anyone 'needs' this course.
Will it give you practical knowledge on how the business works? Yes.
Will it give you a headway and make you do your job well? Yes.
Do you need it to get a job? No.
Do I guarantee it will land you an interview? No.
Will you be better prepared for an interview? Yes.
As well, though I have successfully managed a whole global brand,  I have my limitations.
  • I am not a chemist. I do not talk ingredients or formulations.
  • I am not a makeup artist. I do not do how-to's and do not get all ga-ga over textures
  • I have 'attitude problems'.  I will not scrub anyone's balls to get ahead. And I give my people credit for what I myself have done well and own up to their blunders. If you want to go corporate, this attitude will not do.
  • I am very good at what i do but I am not passionate about cosmetics.  And life is too short to spend your life doing things just because you are good at them.
So anyway, my plan is to have short courses where you can enroll in one or more as you want and i can release them in phases.  But to get into the succeeding ones, the first basic course i would suggest.  I have not finalized the courses but i give you more details what they are about.

As this is a start, I do not want to offer it to a lot of people, just 20 per course.  Being the course's willing guinea pigs*, the first 20 will have access to the course's future improvements and updates  - provided you give me your no bullshit feedback which i will work on.
*marketeers will call you pioneers to make you feel good buying but i am not to mince my words here just to sell.

No, i will not offer a money back guarantee, so if you are not sure, ask me more questions- i will tell you no lies.   And if in doubt, don't do it.  I have seen enough self proclaimed wunder yogi rock star guru samurai "experts" out there who will promise you invincibility to sell more.  Fuck that.  I will only do it if there is truly an unforced "need" for it. 

So, after all that and you still think you need special beauty business courses, read on what courses there are that i can comfortably offer as an "authority" -
  1.  Beauty quickie 
    A general overview of the cosmetics market from a corporate vantage point, how to evaluate a brand, how to prepare for an interview, sample actual interview questions, links to useful references.  This course is very basic but i suggest it anyway so you can have better understanding of the context of the future courses.  Though it will give you concepts and buzzwords, this does not give practical knowledge to do a good job once inside.
    Waiting list of 50 but will preselect the first 20.   Approx price 300€.
  2. Beauty business strategy.  From business expectation to industry, country, competitor analysis, to product line strategy, forecast.  This course is number heavy.  Brush up on your excel skills prior to start of course.
  3. Brand pyramid and product story.  Understand and dissect the context under which a brand operates and build the story about it.
    This course has both theory, case studies and your own brand assignment.
  4. Emotional branding.  How to train your eye on imagery and design your own brand image.
    This course is image heavy with lots of exercises.  It will help you dissect an advertisement and understand the "story" behind it.  I suggest you take this after a brand pyramid background to have more "context".
  5. Product Development.  Primer on product development: basics of product development, prepare a brief that will be taken seriously by your suppliers,  finding and evaluating suppliers, how to conduct plant visits.  Will cover all textures and packaging types.
  6. Image Development.  Construct imagery for a brand - how to plan and supervise an image shoot (with models), how to plan and supervise a product and texture shoot.  I would advise this course only after courses 3 and 4 so you can have better context in planning and which is a good foundation for execution.
So if seriously interested, push this button and send me your email.  I will perhaps ask you some standard question for preselection purposes and give you more details on when to start.

Cheers!

Rowena



WTF woman?



I believe in woman.   A fragile figure with the force of nature.

She will suffer for love and sacrifice for beauty. 
She can control with tenderness and hurt with silence. 
She can empower a nation and yet cringe from a spider.

Love unrequited, she will sing the most poignant songs;
Scorned,  not even hell can stand her fury;
Defeated, she licks her wounds and rises again.
And again. And again.

But -  how could she?

How could she believe that her beauty is lacking against a plasticized ideal?
How could she be shamed of the proof of her wise years from those peddling her a cream?
How could she think that her value is equal to the bag weighing heavy on her arm?

Yes,  she is worth it- THAT is a no-brainer.   
But the real question is not whether she is worth it- but rather- does she need it?

I believe in woman.  

I believe she can choose to refuse these silly notions made to make her feel less of the glorious creature that she is just so one can sell more creams, more lipsticks, more bags.

I believe she doesn’t need much.  And  by refusing things she doesn’t need, she has the power to leave the rest of the creatures she cohabitates with their fair share of the planet.

I believe the power of her refusal can make this planet beautiful again.

I believe in woman. 
And I count on her to believe in herself and save us all from our self inflicted doom.

Ten Worst Reasons To Buy Cosmetics

Author's Note:  This article appeared in a local Asian daily..  It is profanity-free and fit for mass consumption.  I am keen to know what you think. 
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Just when you think you have enough lipstick, mascara, foundation and moisturizer stashed to last you till the shoulder pad’s second coming, there will come a New Truly Amazing Wunderkind of a Cosmetic Miracle that will send you rushing to the checkout counter faster than Apple can come out with the next generation iPhone.
DON’T. Just not yet.
As someone who worked in the global beauty industry developing these products with  “irresistibly compelling  arguments,” I would like to give you an insider’s guide on what the claims really mean to help you thresh out the real cosmetic gems from the run-of-the-mill rubble.
Here, without further ado, the 10 worst reasons to buy cosmetics:
10.  Because “some proceeds will go to charity.”
Cosmetic companies identify with charities that they know their customers will like (children, animals, nature, aids, woman related issues), donate a miniscule amount to the charity’s high visibility PR programs and write off their expenses against taxes.
Want to really help charity? Skip the mediocre lipgloss, let the cosmetic company pay their due in taxes that help propel the nation’s growth and donate straight to the charity of your choice without commercial intermediaries.
Try Kiva.org and be instantly gratified for empowering micro entrepreneurs who try to make a difference or bahay amihan, a foundation that helps empower solo parents. 
9. Because it “contains the ingredient proven/ known to cure…”
Whenever you see this claim and feel swayed by it, walk away. It is a common play on words used by marketeers to mislead. Product contains the ingredient but in proportions too small to deliver the benefit, yet enough to get away with claiming that ingredient is there all right. So that means, ingredient, present; benefit, absent.
8.  Because it has a (pseudo-) medical practitioner’s “seal of approval”
Here’s the deal: all commercially-marketed products have to comply to one regulating body that sets the rules of what is safe for consumption.  For us, that regulating body is the BFAD/FDA which has standard regulations, procedure and government-set fees.
When a “seal of approval” is given by other medical and pseudo-medical associations, it does not mean that a product complied with additional standards. It means that the brand outbid other brands to pay a large sum to get the exclusive seal of approval. This large amount goes to the association’s coffers controlled by the association’s officers. Not that I am implying anything but read between the lines.
7.  Because it is “dermatologically tested.”
A corollary of the medical practitioner’s seal of approval, of all the claims a product can have, this is the most meaningless. Just ask this question: Dermatologically tested for what?
6.  Because it is “kind to animals.”
All products are subject to the same rules and are in the same boat. They all use ingredients that have been previously tested on animals, otherwise, they would not get BFAD approval to trade.  But the good news for animal lovers is that  companies are not required to do anymore testing for ingredients that have been previously tested. So to claim no animal testing, cruelty free –– whatevs –– is just academic. And to insist and brag that a company is really vigilant on this one, is one big income-generating PR hype.
FYI, if a product claims to be truly innovative, they will have to test on animals to prove their claims.  If they say they don’t, then be wary of that innovative claim. On another note, you cannot claim to support animal testing, then support AIDS research — because AIDS research tests on animals.
5.  Because it has “patent pending innovation.”
This is how it works: If you tweak the percentage of an ingredient in a formula, or change three dimensions of your packaging –– you can already file for a patent. That doesn’t mean it will be approved though –– the process can take months to years and most times, the patent will be disapproved or just dropped. But the beauty is the  company is allowed to claim to have a patent pending innovation –– and rake in sales. Patent pending? Just say no.
4.  Because it is “natural.”
Foregoing the obvious argument that everything surrounding us comes from nature and is thus natural, there is no one guideline or regulation about where to draw the line and what  can be claimed natural. So, what is the point?
3.  Because it is  “hypoallergenic.”
If you are not particularly allergic to a certain ingredient, why go for a hypoallergenic brand that rids itself of fragrances, all active ingredients then pay dearly for it? It is a manic preoccupation with needless sanitation that is costing you dearly. And get this: the term hypoallergenic is “self-controlled” –– BFAD has no predefined/accepted definition for it.  So, why bother?
2. Because “ X% of women agree that …”
Ah, lying with statistics! All it takes to get a favorable statistical result is a  well-chosen panel size and ambiguous questions. And if that test can be done in-house (which it almost always is), even better. And besides, your beauty is unique. No matter if 100 percent of women agree, they are not you, are they?
1. Because it is expensive.
A product is expensive because it chooses to be so. It has a higher profit margin because it has to pay for seals of approval, advertising, endorsers and its exclusive distribution channel.  A higher percentage of the product cost goes to packaging, not the formula. Expensive is not an assurance that a product is good. Most times you can find exact replicas of expensive products in a mass market brand in less flashy packaging. (However, if you are buying expensive so you can brag to your friends, that is another issue altogether.)
So far, I have discouraged you from swiping that almighty plastic. But then, when Mr. MasterCard is burning a hole in the your handbag, you ask, “Okay, ex-beauty insider,  what, in Santa Madonna’s name, are the right reasons to buy cosmetics?” 
Well, unlike purchasing electro-gadgets that require a fair amount of Google-fu and comparative reasoning, in cosmetics, what you should trust most are your five senses and the omni-sapient feminine instinct. 
Try the product first without buying. Let that overly zealous beauty rep demonstrate and make her day.Take your time to smell the faint aroma on your bare skin, feel how the texture easily subsides as you apply it, marvel at how weightless it feels, how easily it blends or how the color looks on you in different lights. Enjoy the moment and let your senses be seduced by the product.
Happy? Good. Do not purchase it yet. Walk away. (Tell the rep that you need to wear it a few hours to judge how long it lasts.) Go through the rest of your day, continue with your “leche vitrine” (the fancy French term for window shopping — literally translated, “lick the window“), see the leatest chick flick, share a bottle of New World Merlot with your bestie or a capuccino à la viennoise for the sage –– then sleep on it.
If, after this exercise, you do not have a sentimental recollection of  the product and do not care much about it –– then forget it.  If, however, it is something you fell in love with, enjoyed wearing and gave you that j’en sais quoi glow that your friends cannot put a finger on  –– and remembered the morning after ––  then you have got yourself a winner. 
Go for it. Get that product and include it in your vast beauty armament.
For in cosmetics, there is only one good reason to buy –– 
and that is because it makes you look and feel pretty.
* * *
Rowena has launched more than 700 cosmetic products, trained managers around the globe on branding by design and was responsible  for the resurrection of a top global makeup brand. Her blog, quoted and referenced by international beauty bloggers, is heralded by Elle International magazine as the cosmetic industry’s answer to The Devil Wears Prada.

Happy New Year!

Text adapted from Anne Taintor

Hope to write to you again soon!- Rowena

Stop and Smell The Bullshit

Well hello there stranger, thought your world could use some rocking today.  A little post from your friendly neighborhood bitch.

Recently, at a Body Shop in Brussels, I was asked to sign an international petition against animal testing in cosmetics. 

Oh, what a delightful gem of an idea, protecting those cute fuzzy little bunnies, I thought to myself... isn't the world such a beautiful place?

But then, an alarm went ringing in my head that said:
 "BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT!"
This is what I saw in my head:


The end.

Author disclaimer.  
The author does not take the side of pro or anti animal testing here (Well, at least not in this post).  Just that you stop and smell the bullshit  before you commend in haste  anyone's seemingly noble actions.

Top 6: Those Pestering Patents


Author's Note:  This post can also benefit male readers, with special kudos to my colleagues from engineering.  (Sorry, I missed the reunion.)
This article is part of a series countdown- Top Ten tactics to Make you buy More cosmetics.  
I have done 10, 9, 8 and 7.   

Now for the Top 6:  Those Pestering Patents.
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I got three words about patents...  sneaky little bastards.

Let me tell you why-

Publishing Vs. Patenting

If someone gets to concoct something really innovative, she can do either of two things:
  • One is to divulge it so that the whole world benefits - that is called publishing*
  • Or keep it exclusive so that whoever uses it, pays a price- that is called patenting.
This is  the main reason why cosmetic companies hire an army of researchers, formulators, engineers and chemists- because anything they "discover" while working for the company gets to be denied to the whole world for the company's financial gain.
*A little piece of  trivia- only those who publish their discoveries, innovations and inventions are eligible for a Nobel Prize.  No glory for those who dig for gold here.
Perhaps you would say- well that is fair, after all,  if they worked for it, they deserve to reap financial gains.  Right?

I would agree (my father was an inventor and when I was a wardrobe-deprived teenager, i wished he cashed in from his inventions so I could have had more of those fantastic 80's Dynasty shoulder pads - but i digress)...

...  BUT sadly, that is just half of the story.

28,462 Patents and counting... 

L'Ucifer claims to have 28,462 patents... but, tell me, are your wrinkles gone yet?

You see, 99.99%  of the time, a product will not have any stupefying effect on your skin- and yet, stupid moisturizer can have as much as 478 patents.  What gives?

Allow me to briefly explain the technicalities of patenting.

What can you patent really?   
You cannot patent just anything, silly!  You must have something über-extraordinary like ...
  • A "Miracle" Formula.  If you use whale sperm extract like everybody else, why, you can still patent your formula to contain 1. 2875%  sperm whale while rest of the world use 1.28748%.  And don't be shy about it, miracle worker you!
  • A "Magic" Ingredient.   What? Your sperm extract comes only from atlantic-swimming albino whales?  Extra patent points for you oh pioneering one!
  • An "Innovative" container.   Increase the diameter of your competitor's lipstick case by 0.025mm, change its curve by 0.0025° and round the edges .0018mm more and voila!  Don't see a difference?  Well, numbers don't lie- so advance to GO and collect 500.  Your "innovative" case is now patent worthy. 
  • A "Special" Delivery System.  So, you think my mascara wand looks like any other?    Well, mine has exactly 207 hair filaments which are 3cm long twisted 8.5 times with a torque of 500joules in a .02mm wire*.  Who is special now?
    *I might not be making sense here, forgot most my engineering studies you see.
  • A "Pioneering" Idea.  Hmm, seems to me that none of my competitors has thought of patenting this idea we all are using.  Well let me do it for them then and sue the ass of everybody else!  (See this post for more juicy details on this one.)
Ok.  But let us say for example that I have this stupid moisturizer that doesn't do shit, really. (Heehee!  Don't they all?)

And what if  I have a technically-challenged marketing bitch (who also goes by the "original" name of "marketing guru" or "marketing ninja") that couldn't be bothered to get into the nitty-gritty of patenting.  What then?

Meet  "Pestering Patent's" worthy sidekick- "Trademark, the Traitor"

Instead of calling my cream a "stupid moisturizer"*, we shall now call it the  Pro-ultraelectropixellizedhyaluruminizingpieceofmiracleXTM,  give it a snazzy logo and a "scientific" illustration of silver hexagons and double helixes and  trademark the damn thing.
* Marketing gurus and ninjas never (and i mean ever) call them "stupid moisturizers" as we have been properly indoctrinated to believe in our own shit.
You know, something like this-

For your reading pleasure, I have included here fine examples of "stupid moisturizers" other aliases.



See all these fancy products below?  They all answer to one generic name....


--- stupid moisturizer.

Now, why patent if there is nothing innovative after all?

I think you all know the answer.  But here is a clue anyway.



Patent is Still Pending yet Money's Already Coming

And you know what else is so beautiful?  The patent pending claim.  Absolute genius!

You see, after I have filed for my patents, (for a very small price, mind you) and way even before it is proven or accepted (can take a few months to a few decades) - why, I can already advertise that I have a patent pending application and give you all the illusion that I have the fountain of youth in my hands.

A concrete example- remember this product?



When it was first launched, it claimed to have been the result of 10 (or 20- but 10 bullshit year difference doesn't  matter really) years of research and 20 pending patents (or a stupid number like that).

Years hence, where are 'em patents now?

Maybe this article will give you a clue as to what becomes of disapproved/expired patent applications.

But disapproved or not, doesn't really matter.

What's important is - that I was able to launch with a big bang, made a mark on you dear consumers with an illusion of a miracle who in turn gave the Council of the Clueless enough money to wipe their arses with.

And to this I have those sneaky little bastards, patents and trademarks to thank for!

Conned to Blog

Author note:  This post is a writing exercise to get my blogging mojo back.  It is the story of how I got started blogging.  There is no useful practical make up knowledge here, though it is dang scandalous anyway. 

No Bullshit Product Review: MUJI MAKE UP BASE

In my line of work, I   never had to buy my own make up and am even paid to try them.  But since I quit the industry, I have to spend my hard earned money for it.
Even with my insider knowledge, I still occasionally get disappointments from my purchases.  Here is one.

Recently, I bought this Muji Clear Make Up Base.

I chose a clear make up base instead of foundation because:

  1. Foundations look too made-up, even the light coverage ones
  2. Foundations come only in limited number of shades (for the brand's economic reasons).  So chances are, it will be dang difficult to find a perfect match to my skin color
  3. My skin tone darkens or lightens depending on the quantity of my exposure to the sun.  So even if I find a perfect match today, it will not be a perfect match tomorrow.
  4. A clear base helps provide a good layer to hold the rest of my make up well and longer.  I can look my "natural best" without seeming like I have spent much time on myself (and well, I haven't- I only spend 5 minutes max to make my Face Zero)
I chose the MUJI brand because of the ff. reasons:
  • ORIGIN: MUJI is made in Japan.  My experience is good with most Japanese made products and brands as Japan is more stringent with its quality standards compared to FDA of US and that of Europe.
  • PACKAGING: MUJI has decent and yet non-superfluous packaging.   No box but with a sticker seal, and just a one color printing.  This means that more of the cost goes to the product rather than the packaging, ergo, I do not spend unnecesarily to show off.
    As well, they chose a dropper type of delivery system.  This means that there is less chance of product contamination which helps the product stay good longer.

  • NO TECHNOJARGON BULLSHIT: MUJI did not give me any bullshit descriptor- no techno jargon, no vitamin bullshit.  It just claims SPF 15 at the back (SPF15, is nothing impressive.  An SPF claim, though not bullshit, is no reason for me to buy a product).  Of course it could have said some bullshit in Japanese but since I cannot read Japanese, I judged only from what i read.
  • NO ADVERTISING BULLSHIT: It is not promoted by celebrities or expensive advertising.  But it was presented well in the counter.  So I don't give the company money just to blind my judgement by celebrity and/or advertising.
  • GOOD TEXTURE:  I tested the texture in my hand and it was just the right consistency, it is absorbed easily and did not leave a sticky sensation.
  • GOOD PRICE:  I bought this in Asia and paid about 6€ for a 30ml.  
I felt good when i bought the product.  It didn't make any false promises and delivered just what I needed for a fair price.

However, after about 3 months, the formula became runny and its components have separated.  %*#!!!

Now, a little technical backgrounder to explain to you what happened here.

Emulsion 101
 This product is an emulsion.  An emulsion is made of oil and water and as you know, oil and water do not normally mix.  For them to mix, an emulsifying agent is introduced.  
A good formulation which is packaged well (protected from sunlight and contamination) should remain stable for at least 3 years.   
They are tested in the lab for stability by subjecting them to an elevated temperature for a few months.  If the product remains stable (water and oil do not separate) during this time, it is assumed that it will remain stable for at least 3 years in normal climate conditions.*
Sub -note on expiration dates
*BTW, if a formulation is good, it can stay longer than the expiry date states.  Expiry date is  just a legally required guideline.   Learn to judge if a formula is good aside from the expiration date and save yourself money.


So, What happened?
The formula itself is obviously not very stable.   
Though the texture feels good, and the product has passed its  lab stability test, lab tests are just simulations and are never a 100% assurance of a product's long term stability. 
It also did not help that the packaging  is white as it could not have been enough to protect the formula from the sun and heat.  So, the texture is more exposed, more "aggressed" and thus broke down.

If you live in colder country and you can keep your product in a less aggressive environment, then this product might be worth the risk, though there is no guarantee.  

What would I do?
To avoid this formula separation, and if I were Muji, i will :
  • tweak my formulation and subject them to more stringent and longer lab testing
  • go for a darker color packaging
  • I will also refund me for this texture fiasco 
Will I buy this product again? 

Not unless MUJI has changed the formulation and the packaging-  I will not and I do not recommend you to buy it either.  

Nonetheless, I will not discourage you to try the other MUJI products in the range because of the other reasons I had when I bought this product.   BUT,  not because it is MUJI means all products are good- be sure to try the textures that they are satisfactory and hope that they do not break down on you in the long run.

There you go! My first hands-on no bullshit product review.
In the next posts, I will write to give more guidelines in choosing your textures.


DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, whether it be in cash or in kind to write this review.
I have no contact with any MUJI company representative  prior to this article- well, except of course for the sales person who assisted me in this sale.

PMS Journals: Dignity in Humility

My mum, as she wil remain in my eyes
Today, I have witnessed my mother hold on to the last vestiges  of her pride.

She is one gracious woman, who prides herself for being the proper lady.  At the age of 71, she would boast that so far, in spite of her sicknesses, she has always been in control of herself, her mind and her body functions.

In her hospital bed, with dextrose on her arm and air tube stuck in her nostrils- she insisted to go to the bathroom, resisted all efforts for a bedpan or diapers inspite of doctors orders to lie down, inspite of the fact that she cannot support her weight.  She had to be held down by several nurses.  And yet she insisted- tearing away all the tubes attached to her body.

After an eternity of battling, she gave up, peed in her bed and wept.  And I felt her tears.

Mom, the human body is frail.  It will give up on us before our consciousness does.
Accepting this takes humility.  And there is much more dignity in that.

You will always be the dignified human being in my eyes even if your body will have given up on you.

I love my mum.