What makes a beauty product “cult”? 

From Brazilian bum cream to moisturisers that cost more than a sofa, Daisy Buchanan on how products become cult – and which are her favourites 

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By Daisy Buchanan on

Hello! Welcome, welcome! I understand that you’re interested in joining my cult – oh, sorry, my special organisation for the gorgeous. Here, we believe that beauty is the truth, the light and the way. Well, a way. You will be encouraged, gently at first and then quite forcefully, to spread the word that 30 quid is not too much money for a lipstick, that moisturising is mandatory and that, if you have a spare 20 minutes, you simply must spend them washing your brushes with baby shampoo. No, don’t be scared of those masked members – they’re just trying out some new Korean sheet cleansers…

The word “cult” is flung about merrily, inside and outside the beauty industry, even though it’s used as lazy shorthand for “secret thing only cool people know about”, when actual cults are so keen to get the word out that they send members to shopping centres for recruitment drives. Pulp Fiction is often described as a cult classic, when it grossed approximately $107m dollars at the US box office, and first-year university students adorn their walls with the posters when most of them were five years away from being born when the film came out. Still, the funny thing about the beauty industry is that it grows its own tiny cults. When we find something we love, we become evangelical about it, lit from within by a glow that’s part product, part overwhelming enthusiasm. We want to tell everyone but, perversely, we want it to remain mysterious and unknown. Every year, millions – maybe billions – of pounds are spent on badly kept secrets. This is why I love beauty so much – it might be mainly science and marketing, but I live in hope that I will come across some magic, too. If we were in a bar right now, I’d be clasping both your hands and whisper-shouting, “I have to tell you about this RIGHT NOW! Look!” So, because I can’t keep a secret, here are the contents of my conjurer’s bag – the “cult” goodies that I’ve come across, and the ones that other women have told me about. Join us…

Olaplex No 3

I discovered this when I was tumbling down a late-night internet rabbit hole and someone on a US celeb gossip site swore that Kim Kardashian loved this more than she loves Kanye. By the time my hairdresser (hi, Ian!) mentioned it to me, I was already an addict. It’s great if you use tongs, straighteners or highlights – it’s a “bond multiplier”, so if excessive styling is breaking your hair, it repairs it. I have very thick hair and I feel like I spend most of my life taking gowned-up selfies and making “foiled again” jokes, so Olaplex could not be further up my alley without causing a medical emergency. When I use it, my hair dries glossy, even without blow-drying it. It feels deliciously soft and strong, like Andrex. But obviously nothing like Andrex. If your hair is fine and you’re looking for something lighter, try Leonor Greyl Huile Secret De Beauté from Space NK (£29.50) another pre-shampoo treatment that will give you heavenly, carefree, 70s Rive Gauche hair. Now that’s a cult we’d all love to join.

Bum Bum Cream

As someone who is slightly less sophisticated than a nine-year-old in possession of a fake poo on April Fool’s Day, I was desperate to try Bum Bum Cream because… c’mon! Bum! It says bum on it! Grown-ups have to go into the poshest department stores in the land and ask for Bum Bum Cream! For their Bum Bums! Sol de Janiero’s heavily hyped product blends cupuaçu butter, açaí, mica, coconut oil, guaraná, pistachio caramel – and the guaranà is said to give us super-smooth, super-spherical, gravity-defying bum bums. It works! I mean, I haven’t exactly emailed Gisele’s agent and said that I’m available if she needs holiday cover, but it’s hard not to feel enormously positive and enthusiastic about your own bottom when you’re rubbing this in. The scent is the dreamiest – I smell like an angel eating churros on an oligarch’s wisteria-curtained private beach. It does take a little while to sink into the skin, but I think it’s totally worth it. If you’re pushed for time, you might want Kiehl’s 90s classic, Creme De Corps (£8.50), which is a bit lighter. Less cult, more established C of E parish with buns after the service and a waiting list for the Sunday school, but it’s great.


Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

It’s purely aesthetic, but I adore the colour of this cream, which is somewhere between pistachio and eau de nil, which is lovely to look at and makes it seem extra scientific. It’s filled with hyaluronic acid, which can retain 1,000 times its own weight in water, so it’s a plumper. It also contains papaya enzymes, which lift dead, dull skin, and “giant white bird of paradise” extract. I think this is why it makes my skin look smooth, even and less like the board game Risk, with scattered red bits and hostile patches. You can use it on top of make-up; I usually put it on after a serum, as a moisturiser (more on that later). On the theme of face products with aquatic names, I wanted to try the ultimate cult moisturiser, Creme De La Mer, but it costs a hundred pounds and it would be cheaper to become a Scientologist. Are you a member of the Cult Of La Mer? Is it worth it? Tweet me and tell me!


iS Clinical Active Serum

The glorious leader of the iS cult is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, queen of posh pyjamas – and she says this serum “changed my skin”. It’s much lighter and thinner than the serums I usually choose and it feels slightly astringent, but I could see a change by the third morning I used it, which was during a spotty period. (I have combination skin and when my period is due, it acts up and throws a rager as if it’s just got a fake ID and its parents have gone on holiday.) This serum is an (admittedly spenny) skin whisperer.


It’s also worth mentioning serum range The Ordinary, which has legions of obsessive, transformed fans and nothing that costs more than 15 quid. I should also mention Trilogy Rosehip Oil, used at night by K Middy and me before our respective weddings. There is something strangely satisfying about buying your skincare from Holland & Barrett.

Trilogy, £19.99


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