Within the beauty industry, there is one name that holds more power than any other. The person whose good opinion guarantees a sell-out product, and in whose advice beauty consumers trust. Before catching up with expert aesthetician and author Caroline Hirons — the most influential woman in skincare — on her recent visit to the newly expanded Beauty Hub at Arnotts, I decided to check in on her skincare blog. The one with over 120 million page views.
There, I found a recent review of Cosmoss — the skincare line launched last month by supermodel Kate Moss. “Who is it for?” Hirons writes, before answering her own question. “People who worship at the altar of Kate Moss, have no problems with their skin, and have money.”
According to Statista, global revenue in the skincare sector will amount to over $145 billion (€147 billion) in 2022 and is due to continue growing by more than 6 per cent annually. For those with industry power, there is serious money in beauty. This creates incentive to present a politically expedient public persona and carefully manage brand relationships behind closed doors. The extent of Hirons’ willingness to subvert that is what separates her from every other voice in beauty.
Despite a 25-year career, it is now, at 52, that she is at her zenith in an industry traditionally obsessed with youth.
If you give context to what you’re saying and you’re coming from a place of authority — you’re qualified
“It pisses me off when brands lie to the consumer. If [they] make claims that are too big, if they put it in language that’s purposely disguising … or trying to embolden what they do,” she says. For example, “brands saying they’re sustainable because they ship their product instead of flying it — no one flies it unless they’re in trouble and it’s late. Everything — everything — goes on a boat, a train. It’s too expensive to fly.”
The review of the Kate Moss line was typical of Hirons’ candour. Its launch was uncritically presented in much media coverage — Moss is a superstar, after all. “It would be easy for me, instead of reviewing it properly,” suggests Hirons, “to say ‘Oh, she’s a supermodel. She shouldn’t make skincare. But that doesn’t help the consumer. If they’re reading how brilliant a product is but the person writing about it hasn’t had time to fully trial it because it hasn’t been out that long, or making claims that an ingredient is ‘shown to reverse the signs of ageing by 20 years in four weeks’ … I’m like, ah, I call bulls**t.”
Hirons knows honesty is integral to her reputation. “If you give context to what you’re saying and you’re coming from a place of authority — you’re qualified or you’ve got a lot of experience, or you’ve been in the industry a long time, then you’re trusted,” she says. Through her YouTube videos, Instagram content, best-selling book, Skincare: The New Edit and recently launched app, Skin Rocks, which provides skincare education and allows people to build a bespoke skincare routine, Hirons has leveraged that consumer trust into a position of unrivalled power.
“I’m never actively trying to say to people ‘do not buy this or that brand’. But, for example, when I reviewed the Kim Kardashian skincare range for the Skin Rocks app and the suggestion was ‘you need this’, I said “Well, you need this if you can buy it without checking your bank account and you love Kim Kardashian, but it’s a lifestyle purchase, not a skincare purchase. Don’t be fooled.”
Hirons’ great-grandparents emigrated from Limerick to Liverpool, and her connection to Ireland remains strong. While successful Irish beauty brands like Skingredients and Sculpted by Aimee have been garnering recognition in the UK over the past few years, Hirons was ahead of the pack in championing Irish beauty. She recognised our voracious appetite for beauty, keen interest and spending power early on.
“I see Ireland as a player on the global stage … there is a proper obsession with beauty here and people take it seriously, which is lovely because there are places where that still isn’t the case,” she says, despite the huge employment and revenue generated by this female-dominated industry.
With her frankness, penchant for swearing and refusal to shy away from discussing politics, Hirons is no stranger to online abuse, but she also has a reputation for robustness. I ask how she manages it. “Online trolls are like a naughty two-year-old having a tantrum at the supermarket,” she tells me merrily, as she’s rushing off to her next appointment. “If you step over them and carry on with your shopping, they eventually get up and just go about their day.”
Caroline’s skincare picks
Shiseido Benefiance Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Cream (€81 at Arnotts)
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser (€7.20)
Skingredients Preprobiotic Cleanse (€29)
Sunday Riley CEO Glow Facial Oil (from €39)