Even for someone immersed in the beauty biz, the deceptiveness of its marketing can sometimes be surprising. A few years ago, I was watching television when a commercial came on starring a well-known singer promoting a hair color product. Her bouncy, ample hair was a gorgeous shade of honey in the commercial, supposedly convincing her – as well as the audience – of the product’s powers. In true L.A. fashion, two days later, I spotted the same singer sitting near me at a restaurant. Until then, I’d been a fan. I enjoyed her music, and I’d considered her authentic and honest. At that moment, though, I had to hold myself back from shouting at her, “You liar!” The reason was her hair was around half the size it was in the commercial. It was obvious she’d sported fake hair in the ad, either stupendous extensions or a fabulous wig. I felt completely duped. I was mad at her – a woman I’d previously admired for being candid and relatable was comfortable deceiving the public for a big paycheck – and the beauty brand that counterfeited her curls to boost hair color sales.
No longer naïve about sham spokespeople and cunning companies, I tend to distrust celebrity beauty endorsements. In our celebrity-fueled culture, that means I distrust quite a lot. No matter A-list or Z-list, it seems every person with an ounce of fame has a color cosmetic, hair color or skin care line to crow about. Separating shysters from sincere celebrities is difficult. With a heavy dose of skepticism, I pored through lines of both shyster and sincere varieties, and identified four in the sincere category. I’m not saying these celebrity-spearheaded brands will make you have the hair or skin of a celebrity, but at least you won’t be succumbing to the worst sorts of celebrity spokespeople when using them.
Celebrity: Rob Lowe
Lowe, aka the dreamy bad boy Billy Hicks in “Saint Elmo’s Fire,” has always had a great profile – one of his plentiful great parts – and now he has a skin care brand, Profile, that’s helping other men perfect theirs. But Lowe is adamant he’s not merely a pretty face pushing products. Talking to Women’s Wear Daily about the brand, Lowe said, “I’m not the celebrity endorser, I’m not the face of the product. I’m the developer of it. I have an entrepreneurial spirit.” He worked on Profile for six years until recently launching the brand, which will enter select Nordstrom stores in the fall. The brand has five products priced from $24.50 to $59.50 to start: Action Rehydrating Cleanser, Revive Under Eye Rescue, Lift Anti-Gravity Moisturizer, Recharge Age Combating Serum and Pro-Comfort Triple Action Shave Gel. Profile’s products contain no added water so that their active ingredients aren’t diluted. “My goal, number one above all, was no bullsh–t,” Lowe asserted to WWD. While the brand has received mixed reviews so far, no BS equals A plus to us.
Brand: Reba Beauty
Celebrity: Reba McEntire
Country singers generally croon about heartbreaks, but solid relationships are better building blocks for beauty brands. Just ask country music turned television star Reba McEntire and her long-time makeup artist Brett Freedman. They’ve paired up on Reba Beauty, an extension of McEntire’s decade-old apparel line. Explaining the brand on the Reba Beauty website, Freedman said, “I’ve had my own line of cosmetics for years. I thought with my knowledge on product development and Reba’s insights on how cosmetics wear both on and off camera, we could create something pretty and pretty amazing.” Reba Beauty has exploded out of the gate with Deluxstick, a $16 combo of lip-gloss and lipstick infused with sunflower, rosemary, vitamin E and rice bran extracts to nourish lips, and stevia to add a touch of sweetness. “My first color is red and we call it ‘Fancy.’ Red is not my favorite color, but because Fancy is probably the best known song of my career, that’s why we started with red,” McEntire told WWD. Reba Beauty promises to glamourize your beauty stash, although McEntire doesn’t describe her own style as very glamorous. Speaking to WWD, she characterized her style as “tough and sexy.” “I’m not a girly girl,” she confessed. Whether you’re a girly girl, tomboy or glamazon, Reba Beauty is a beauty brand to kick up your boots about.
Celebrity: Drew Barrymore
We’ve grown up with Barrymore, and Barrymore grew up in the makeup chair, where she picked up beauty tricks from the best in the beauty business. Barrymore, who won our hearts as the adorable Gertie in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and later as the romantic leads in “Never Been Kissed,” “Ever After” “50 First Dates” and “The Wedding Singer,” was a spokeswoman and co-creative director at Cover Girl prior to launching the cosmetics line Flower at Walmart in 2013. Barrymore revealed to WWD she branched out on her own because she has “almost an uncontrollable desire to be one of the people who is creating. Maybe it is just a type of personality. I can’t sleep at night. I care.” If caring means thoroughly vetting each item in Flower’s assortment, then Barrymore cares deeply. “When it comes to red, for example, we will go through about 50 different reds and narrow them down to the two or three that we have in the line. We’ll try to get the best burgundy red, the best tomato red and a great authentic bluish red, so we will literally go through, like 10 to 20 to 30 for each,” Barrymore detailed in Walmart’s LiveBetter publication. “We also test [the shades] on every skin type, hair colour and age, and try to make sure that each particular red is an incredibly universal red. When [the shade] finally really makes everyone look beautiful with or without any makeup on, then you know it’s right.” Some of the newer Flower products Barrymore inspected and OK’d include Outstretched Lengthening Mascara with a three-way brush, Transforming Touch powder-to-crème blush, That’s So Kohl kohl eyeliner and Lip Radiance high shine lip lacquer. It doesn’t take a blockbuster budget to grab these beauty steals. Flower’s products are priced mostly from $5 to $15 at Walmart stores.
Brand: Juice Beauty
Celebrity: Gwyneth Paltrow
Put this celebrity beauty endeavor in the wait-and-see column. Earlier this year, Paltrow, the actress and lifestyle guru behind Goop, the virtual guide to all things Gwyneth approved, and natural beauty brand Juice Beauty announced they’d forged a joint venture together. Goop and Paltrow hold stock in Juice Beauty, and Juice Beauty holds stock in Goop. As part of the deal, Paltrow became creative director of Juice Beauty’s makeup. In that role, she’s leading the development of a new makeup collection with 75 or so products priced from $24 to $49 and composed of organic ingredients set to be released later this year. Discussing the project with Fortune magazine, Paltrow said, “I’m very involved in everything from textures, consistencies, color, palette. With the makeup, I’ve been very involved in everything – not the chemical formulations – but how the formulations will look and feel. All the way to the packaging and branding.” After the makeup, Juice Beauty and Paltrow are unveiling a skin care line called Goop by Juice Beauty next year. Paltrow and Juice Beauty share upscale, safe and sustainable sensibilities that could make the products they are teaming up on any easy sell to fans of the actress and the brand. However, if the partnership goes bust, conscious uncoupling could be in its future.