The Beauty Spy: Start with the right foundation

You won't see her, but she's there, in the salons, spas and shops, and she's happy to share her secrets on how to avoid those telltale zebra stripes on your face.

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I first realised I had a precarious relationship with my foundation when my 10-year-old daughter, Bea, asked me why my face was brown and my neck white. It occurred to me as I looked in the mirror and confirmed she was right: I have always been an amateur when it comes to foundation.

You might call my relationship with foundation uniquely British. It started in the punk era when I wore a radical one called Pan Stick make-up that made me look like a ghost. I would just slap it on and go out, without a backwards glance in the mirror. I was unaware of the mess on my face, which was often full of zebra-like stripes where the make-up had gone on and I had failed to rub it in. So it is with thousands of women: unless some charitable colleague explains the error of their ways or they catch a glimpse of the stripe next to their ear, they are unlikely to notice until they take it off.

But Bea's comment spurred me to ask my friends how to deal with these useful but mercurial bits of warpaint.

"Do you suffer from zebra stripes?" I ask one of them. She looks at me as if I am slightly deranged. "You know, when you put on your foundation?" I add.

"No," she replies. "Why should I?"

"Have you ever gone out with your face covered in foundation and your neck totally white?" I ask another friend.

"Only when I'm going to a fancy-dress party," she replies.

I go to my nearest mall and tell the beauty saleswoman, Carolyn, that I am in a state about applying the right foundation. She is sympathetic. She picks up the Chanel Vitalumière Crème de Teint and shows me how to blend the lotion in the palm of my hand before putting it on.

"This warms it up," she says, "so it's easier to apply and you will avoid the zebra stripes."

It goes on smoothly. All my blemishes are hidden. "Or you could go for a tinted moisturiser," she suggests. "It will provide a lighter coverage and give you a healthy glow."

I try Estée Lauder's DayWear Plus Multi Protection Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 and Clinique's Moisture Sheer Tint SPF 15, but I decide on Dior Bronze Tinted Moisturizer SPF 10, which makes me look as though I've been to St Tropez. Carolyn shows me how to blend the colour onto my neck to avoid the look that so perturbed Bea. I feel great; healthy and glowing. I walk towards my car.

"You've caught the sun," says a friend I bump into.

"Oh no," I reply. "It's just my foundation."

M Loves

Four great beauty offers

Treat your mum this Mother's Day to some relaxation and rejuvenation with these fabulous treatments:

1. Fit for a Queen. Cleopatra's Spa is dedicating the whole month of March to Mother's Day. Your deserving mother can enjoy an Elemis Aroma Stone massage, an Elemis facial, lunch and an Elemis gift bag for Dh650. Cleopatra's Spa, Wafi, 04 324 7700

2. The Feel Renewed Mother's Day Package at The Westin Dubai's Heavenly Spa is more than three hours of pampering. Enjoy a facial, a body scrub, a body wrap, a choice of mani/pedi and a light lunch, plus pool and beach access for the day for Dh995. Heavenly Spa, The Westin Mina Seyahi, 04 511 7901

3. Kaya Skin Clinic is offering all mothers throughout the month of March a 10 per cent discount on Botox treatments and 25 per cent off an Aqua Radiance Facial at all its clinics across the UAE.

4. For busy, stressed-out mums, get a free blow-dry worth Dh100 when you purchase a Dermalogica express treatment, a Swedish massage and a mani/pedi. Pastels Salon, Jumeirah branch only, 04 394 7393

3 of the best

For that 'just washed' feeling or to give limp hair a bit more oomph, try these dry shampoos

LEE STAFFORD POKER STRAIGHT DRY SHAMPOO, DH35 An ideal product to refresh and revitalise your hair between washes and to prolong your blow-dry. Its sweet fragrance is not overly subtle but not enough to overpower your perfume.

LABEL.M DRY SHAMPOO, DH71 Refreshes hair in between washings using natural rich starch to disperse oil. One squirt from the wide nozzle deposits just the right amount of product to do the trick, plus it also works as a brilliant texturiser to give your locks a soft, velvety finish.

TONI&GUY REFRESHING DRY SHAMPOO, DH49 The ultimate style reviver. It not only perks up your limp post-party hair, but also helps to create a glossy-looking texture and volume with a diffused finish.