Monday, 25 February 2013
Two weeks into this trip to Paris I gave up on going to all the newly opened hyped up bars and restaurants. In part, checking out new places to go is work for me - to potentially review for HiP Paris for example. But a big part of it is that I genuinely enjoy trying new places when they open; the holy grail being that they might become a favourite I'll want to return to. Variety is the spice of


Saturday, 23 February 2013
New post up on my Harper's Bazaar blog - here.

{p.s. I DO know that foux de fa fa isn't actually French!}


Wednesday, 20 February 2013
If you haven't already seen it, here's a link to my latest post for HiP Paris - I Know I'm in Paris When...

Ten Worst Reasons To Buy Cosmetics

Sunday, 17 February 2013
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. 
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 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.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

My second Paris post for Harper's Bazaar is up now - here - on a classically left bank first few days. The next day it all changed! 

There are bits of my gathered words and pictures of Paris distributed across different corners of the internet at the moment. Hopefully all the bits will end up in the right places and won't overlap! But for anything that has to do with places you might want


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Is the name of my new blog for Harper's Bazaar, direct from Paris.

And here is the first post!

Of course, you know who that quote is from.


Saturday, 9 February 2013
The other day I realised that I have time. I have time to go to all the restaurants, all the bars, all the cafes; to go to all the old favourite places and check out all the new exciting places. I don't have to go to them all right NOW. I suppose I'm used to racing round in London a mile a minute, hopping from one thing to the next.

So that afternoon I mooched around the sedate 5th


Wednesday, 6 February 2013
I've been in Paris almost a week now and I'm still not quite settled. Here in body - the rest is all over the place. I wasn't well when I arrived and needed to find a doctor, which I was only able to do eventually with the help of friends. (Thank you!) So that was a bit scary. I was always able to navigate anything in Paris before, even without speaking decent French. I suddenly felt very foreign


Sunday, 3 February 2013

I've been out and about - the usual and not so usual. Finding my way around / to and from an unfamiliar neighbourhood, getting settled, seeing friends, lunches, dinners, walks, mooching in the 3rd and 10th - forever faves. Writing, thinking, no time for shopping yet.

Here's my room with a view. For the time being more timely updates can probably be found via my Instagram if you're on it and