A beauty editor for ten years, Philippa Pearne knows a thing (or five hundred) about looking good. She reveals the key to amazing skin, “the best mascara ever invented”, and the one secret to true confidence.
There’s a myth that glossy magazines are unfriendly places. Now, this might on occasion be the case (The Devil Wears Prada was based on something), but not in my experience. What is true is that beauty departments tend to be populated by gorgeous, glossy creatures. Fortunately, they’re also completely delightful, knowledgeable and generous with their tips and products. (And, despite what documentary maker Richard Macer would have you believe in the recent BBC Inside Vogue, having a keen interest in foundation does not preclude you from having an intellect or, indeed, wide-ranging interests elsewhere).
Philippa Pearne was, until the birth of her gorgeous son Bertie (the cheeks, people. Look at the cheeks. I am obsessed.), Beauty Editor at Glamour magazine – and she is truly lovely, inside and out. She now fits freelancing for glossy titles around Bertie’s busy schedule. I loved reading her Beauty Uniform: it’s funny, informative and unexpectedly moving.
What did your mother tell you about beauty when you were growing up? What did you learn from her?
As a child, whenever I smelt the waft of Hermes Caleche coming from upstairs I knew it meant that my mother was getting ready to go out. That scent will always remind me of her and the cuddle she gave me just before she and my dad left the house. It’s not a sad memory (well, maybe a little), I just remember feeling pure admiration and love for her. My mum was, and still is, very glamorous: most of the time her nails are done, her hair is blow-dried and her makeup is carefully applied, plus she has always stayed very slim (although she will tell you otherwise), and she has a great set of pins on her! She has naturally dark, Mediterranean-esque skin, which – regrettably – wasn’t passed down to any of her three daughters (a life long bug-bear for me) and I think this has kept her looking younger.
My mother is part of the reason I love makeup so much. I used to study her applying the usual foundation, a swish of bronzer, lashings of mascara (always Max Factor 2000 Calorie and always with her mouth wide open) and every time the finishing touch would be a pink lipstick, usually Clarins. And with pretty makeup comes where you store it: her rickety dressing table drawer, where she kept all her ‘treasure’, still has the same squeak it had when I used to open it to have a sneaky peek (read: rummage) when I was little.
For my adolescent skin, she once bought me a pot of Johnsons ph 5.5 moisturising cream and even now the smell takes me back to my youth – it was my first beauty product and although not quite right for my post-baby skin now, I keep a pot of it in my bathroom anyway, just to open and sniff it now and again.
Were you a born beauty editor?
I definitely wasn’t a born beauty editor. My view of a beauty editor was that they always looked perfectly polished, neat and beautiful, none of which applied to me when I was growing up. I had terrible acne, my hair was a bit wild, I was a messy eater, incredibly untidy, and not what you would call a pretty child. I once even looked in the mirror and happily admitted to myself “It’s okay, you’re just one of the ugly ones.” I can remember exactly where I was standing when I thought that. So to have the word ‘beauty’ in my job title is as much a surprise to me as it would be to all the teachers, fellow pupils and family members who knew me back then. I’m definitely not saying I’m beautiful or even that pretty to be honest (you should see me at 7 o’clock in the evening after a long day with Bertie, or perhaps not…); it’s just amazing how your perceptions as a child can be completely warped by what you think a particular type of person ‘should’ look like.
I knew I always wanted to write for a living, but not necessarily about beauty. However, after university, I began a week of work experience at Woman & Home magazine and found myself spending more time in the beauty cupboard than at my desk. I went on to do various beauty internships at many magazines and after a year and a half of solid work experience, I landed my first job at Cosmopolitan as Beauty Assistant. After three years there I moved on to Glamour magazine as Beauty Writer and eventually became their Beauty Editor three years later, which was hands down my proudest career moment (that along with interviewing Kate Winslet) and turned out to be the best job in the world.
How would you sum up your beauty philosophy?
One thing I have learned during my 10+ years in the beauty industry is that it doesn’t matter how beautiful you are, if you’re ugly or unhappy on the inside, it’ll show on the outside. And trust me, it does. I love this by Roald Dahl: ‘If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sun beams and you will always look lovely’.
Your skin always glows – what’s your secret?
I usually only have time to cleanse in the morning so I use Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser with Shea Butter and then I apply Darphin Vitalskin Replumping Energetic Cream to give it a quick shot of hydration and (hopefully) a gorgeous glow. It smells delicious and is honestly one of my all-time favourite products. In the evening I devote a bit more time to my skin and like to scrub the day away. I use a gentle one – Origins Ginzing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser – and then Clarins Multi-Active Nuit to moisturise. When I have more time to pamper I do my own little facial which goes: cleanse, then scrub with something a little stronger like Darphin Age-Defying Dermabrasion, my favourite face mask (Decleor Hydra Floral Ultra-Moisturising & Plumping Mask), and moisturize. This makes my skin look plumped and what I like to call ‘re-surfaced’ the next morning. I can always tell when I have been lazy with my skincare routine because my skin just looks dull and my makeup doesn’t go on as easily.
Do you have to spend a fortune on beauty products? Is it a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ or are there some budget products you wholeheartedly love and use?
I honestly believe that if you like a product, then that’s worth every penny you spent on it, whether it costs one pound or fifty. If you’re happy, then that’s all that matters because that’s what makes you confident. So if you feel confident wearing a £25 mascara then you should go for it – where’s the harm in feeling happy? My all-time favourite eyeliner is Rimmel London Soft Kohl Eye Pencil in Sable Brown which is £2.99 and I often use Nivea Purifying Toner (£1.75) when I’m in a rush. There are things that I spend more money on like my foundation (Bareminerals Complexion Rescue in the summer; MAC Mineralize Moisture SPF15 Foundation in the winter) and concealer, but only because I have found these ones work best on my skin – everyone is different. The other thing I don’t compromise on is body lotion: my absolute all-time favourite is Lancome Nutrix Royal. It is SUPER hydrating (some might find it a little oily, but I love the sheen it gives my skin during the summer). I love it so much that I’ve even got my mum onto it – we buy it in bulk.
How has your beauty routine changed since you became a mother? Do you have any ‘new best friend’ products (HELP US ALL!)? And has your attitude towards yourself changed?
Since becoming a mother I’d say I use 50% less product than I did when I was young free and single. But I made a conscious effort not to ditch my routine completely, as I know how easy that can be with a tiny human to take care of. My daily eye makeup look used to be a full smoky eye, which I now realise was rather on the heavy side for day-time. Now I just do the top half of that smoky eye (eyeshadow, a bit of blended smoky top liner and mascara) and leave out the bottom half (smoky liner under my lashes and a kohl black/brown liner along my bottom waterline). I tried out the full look again the other day and I couldn’t believe I used to go to work looking like that every day. It was just too much.
Having a baby has really upped my confidence – I have this beautiful boy to put first now and he has somehow made me realise who I am as a person and given me the confidence to feel content with the way I look, something I never felt before I had him. Okay, so I could have a smaller nose, smoother skin and bigger boobs, but I now know that it’s okay not to be perfect. I think this realization is what makes all mums beautiful, despite the crippling tiredness and occasional horrendous feeling of failure/guilt/despair.
The biggest mistake women make is to hide behind their makeup like I did. I feel more myself and much less self-conscious now that my eyes aren’t half closed with all that eyeliner. I was so scared of people seeing me without it, but as soon as something life-altering (like a baby) comes along, that guard is forced down whether you like it or not, and you realise you didn’t need it in the first place. Having said that, in my opinion there’s always time to apply a bit of makeup and I rarely visit the playground without at least a dab of concealer and one coat of mascara!
What are the three best things we can do for our skin? (Do you actually do the whole ‘eat 14 avocados and drink 8 gallons of water thing’?)
I have interviewed many models and celebrities in my career. Every time I asked them how they got their skin looking so clear and healthy, the answer was always ‘I drink plenty of water’ and my heart would sink – were they trying to sound boring?! I wanted to know what products they used, if they had an amazing never-heard-before bedtime ritual, if they ate anything in particular that they noticed really made a difference and whether there was a special concoction of domestic goods that made an amazing facial scrub!
It’s true of course – water is the source of all good for one’s skin and inner health. However, I’m not one for counting how many glasses I have a day (perhaps that’s why I don’t have supermodel skin – interesting). But seriously, life’s too short. I believe that everything in moderation makes for a very happy mummy. Who has time to put themselves on a special diet when they’ve got a demanding toddler pulling at their arm?! Eat as healthily as you can, yes, and drink water where possible but don’t say no to that hot chocolate at the soft play café. Why deprive yourself of pure joy?! And God knows, we all have to get through the soft play experience as happily as possible.
And your body – are you all about Pilates, P.T .or brisk walks?
Working as a part-time freelancer (read: full time, really) and being a mum doesn’t exactly give me a lot of time to squeeze myself into the active wear and do some exercise. By 7pm I am absolutely shattered so I’d choose a long hot bath over going to the gym any day, and when Bertie goes down for his lunchtime nap I am mostly working. Running around after him is energetic enough – I have definitely lost a few pounds since he started walking six months ago – but thankfully, we have a very active Cockapoo who needs walking daily, so Bertie and I get our exercise through him. We are very fortunate to live in the countryside so we walk along the canal, around the lake, across the playing fields or into town – anything to get the heart rate up and to give us all a bit of fresh air
And for a special occasion? How do you make yourself feel instantly dressed up?
I build on my daytime makeup look – there’s never time to start again! I don’t add more foundation, just concealer on the bits that need it, as adding more thick base would make my skin looked caked. I accentuate my eye look a bit – perhaps using a darker, more intense pigment over the top of what’s there already, and I add a glow to the top of my cheekbones. But for special occasions it’s all about the lips – once I’ve added a bit of colour to my mouth my look is complete and I instantly feel ready to go out.
Let’s talk self-tan….you are a golden goddess even in the dead of winter! Is there a product you swear by?
He Shi Express Liquid Tan applied with a tanning mitt before you go to bed is great for an all-over glow. I have to be careful on the face as it can look a little heavy when I wake up the next day, but if that happens I just splash my face with cold water which takes the top layer off and I’m left with a golden base. The James Read Sleep Mask is brilliant for girls who like a really subtle glow the next morning or to top up a natural summer tan.
I have a love-hate relationship with my hair – when it looks bad it looks truly awful and when it looks good, I am the girl off the hair adverts. You wouldn’t know it but it is naturally very curly and I have to straighten it regularly to get it to look how I want. My curls aren’t what you’d call ‘cool’ curls. They are very uncool. So GHD straighteners are my best friend and I’m not sure what I did before they were invented. It would take a lot to prize them away from me.
My signature style is a bob – I have regularly experimented with having long hair, but always end up looking a bit like Rachel from Friends circa 1996. I know that’s what we all wanted back then, but it’s not a trend that’s high on my priority list now. My hair guru is Michael Tough at Headmasters in Guildford (I have always been a Headmasters girl and it has to be local as I just don’t have the time to travel far away for what’s already a three hour appointment): he cuts and colours it and knows exactly what I like and what I don’t. He is extremely talented and I sometimes lose sleep over the fact that one day I know he will leave Guildford for the bright lights of London and forget me and my hair forever.
Kerastase is the ultimate hair brand in my opinion. There is a product for every hair type out there and it always delivers. Despite the curls, my hair can go quite flat on top so the Volumifique range is perfect for me. I also like to use an oil on the ends of my hair (L’Oreal Professionnel Mythic Oil) and a heat protection spray as I straighten it so much (John Frieda Frizz Ease Heat Defeat Protecting Spray).
What about scent?
I am a Chloe girl through and through. I wore the original Chloe fragrance on my wedding day and since then she has launched more, all of which I equally love. My favourite of all is See by Chloe. It’s fresh, rosey and beautiful. I always get compliments when I wear it. I don’t believe in switching fragrances depending on occasion but I do love a spritz of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess during the summer. The coconut-y smell instantly takes me back to sunny holidays.
How do you fragrance your home?
I have candles all over my house. They are almost taking over and have to be removed from nosy toddler hands daily. I mostly go for Neom, Jo Malone and Miller Harris. I also love a Jo Malone room diffuser. Nothing makes me happier than walking into a room that smells of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir.
You’re on a desert island. You can only have three products. Go…
It would all be makeup!
- Nars Creamy Concealer – in my opinion no one should own any other concealer. It is AMAZING.
- Estee Lauder Sumptuous – the best mascara ever invented.
- Benefit Hoola Bronzer – for contouring and warming up my skintone. I’ve been using it since I was about 20 years old.
When do you feel most beautiful?
Brutal honestly? While some might say ‘I feel most beautiful when embracing my natural beauty – makeup free with wet hair’, I’m afraid I am the complete opposite. I feel most beautiful when I have had twenty minutes of child-free time to put my face on (albeit a much more subtle version of my pre-Bertie look), my hair is actually clean and blow-dried and I’m wearing something I haven’t already worn three times that week. That’s the honest truth – when I’m groomed, I’m ready for whatever the day decides to throw at me and I feel at my happiest. That, hand in hand with doing something lovely with my boys. The dog included.
Follow Philippa on Instagram and Twitter @philippapearne