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Heres the (potted) history behind the hype:
Leslie takes over San Francisco-based company Bare Escentuals. Shes previously worked in development for mega-brands, including Max Factor, Neutrogena and P&G. They sell an all-natural powder that appeals to women with rosaea, scarring and other skin-sensitive issues, who cant wear normal make-up. It was sold by weight you scooped it from a barrel like you were scooping handmade muesli from a health food shop and made of all-natural ingredients (specifically, minerals) long before everything was enviro-this and eco-that.
Not long after
Leslie realises the potential of this unique product but also that it needs to be reformulated, repackaged and remarketed.
By this time, Leslie has done just that and is now a regular on QVC in America, selling her products. Her girl-friendly demeanour, self-deprecating humour and warm, lively anecdotes win thousands of fans and at one point she sells 1,300 mineral-and-brush kits in six minutes.
Leslie has turned a 12-man operation into a business with an annual turnover of $500 million. Her infomercials air 450 times a week in the States and she does regular tours of malls and stores throughout the US, meeting her fans and doling out advice and make-overs with the help of a team of make-up artists, all trained in the fine art of swirl, tap, buff (the bareMinerals catch phrase that refers to the way you apply the products). Her make-up no longer appeals just to women with problem skin whod never successfully worn make-up, but to a wider fan base who have got over the fact the products seem weird and now admire their very fine texture, the way they buff creamily and seamlessly in to the skin providing a flawless base that looks good all day (you just need to give it the odd buff to revive the luminosity as Leslie did when we were chatting), and the way they arent messy or grannyish like they previously thought.
March 21st 2009
Leslie and I meet in a back room in Selfridges where shes been doing one of her workshop/Q&A sessions. I havent got time today for a makeover, unfortunately, so I ask her what she thinks makes the products so successful. That they give great coverage is a given, she says, when I enquire. Also, although theyre powders, they buff right in to the skin and become creamier the longer theyre on the skin, so your make-up actually gets better as the day goes by. Thanks to their pure, mineral ingredients (youd recognise them all from GCSE chemistry), they allow your skin to breathe and are actually good for it, so they can even help skin look better over time. Finally, she says, some of the minerals (such as zinc) provide natural sunscreens, so you dont need chemical-heavy SPFs.
Sold to the lady whos still looking for the perfect base!
The present day
I receive my bareMinerals Get Started kit (£45) and arrange to leave work early so I can swirl, tap, buff in the comfort of my own bathroom while its still light.
Find out how I get on in Part II and in the meantime, let me know if youre a mineral make-up convert.