with contributions from WWD Staff
 on May 9, 2008
Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 05/09/2008

Four cities, four undercover reporters in search of a spring skin care regimen—and a satisfying shopping experience.

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


Living in Mexico City has left its mark on my face. Too many parties, over-the-top levels of daily pollution and, of course, global warming call for a beauty emergency and a hunt for products that will protect my skin from the searing mountain sun and  acid rain that are now characteristic of a Mexican spring.

Where to start? Palacio de Hierro, with its seven stores in Mexico City, is as good an option as any because it carries most of the international beauty brands. I chose the one in trendy Centro Coyoacán the southern part of the city. The minute you walk in, sales personnel in different fancy uniforms offer scented cards and ply you with informative flyers and booklets.

Chanel was my first stop. As I leaned over the luxurious counter to look at the treatment products, a saleswoman offered me a sample of a new fragrance. When I explained I was looking for skin care and protection, she quickly presented me with some creams in fancy bottles and even fancier prices (starting at $100) reeling off the names of the magical substances contained in each product as if she were competing in some sort of academic spelling contest. She spoke about the UV screens one of the products had, and how it would give my skin real protection against the dangers of sun damage. She even guaranteed that it would prevent premature wrinkling if I was in the 26-to-35 age range. “But what if I’m 22?” Because of my age, I became a nonclient and she walked away.

Lancôme was next. A relaxing space where the saleswomen actually smile! I was presented with specific products with different UV protection levels appropriate for my skin type. I then accepted a 40 minute demonstration of the products. I lay back in a comfortable chair as six different products were applied: makeup remover, a cleansing mask, a microdermoabarsion cream with aluminium crystals, different types of revitalizing tonics and a hydrating cream with a SPF 35 UV filter. The saleswoman seemed genuinely interested in what I was feeling on my face and didn’t miss the chance to give me beauty secrets and advice concerning skin care. The session ended with her applying the new spring colors on my face.  She also gave me two huge samples.

Without a doubt, the client service at Lancôme gets a super 10 on my personal checklist and the saleswoman gets a standing ovation for her selling techniques. However, I felt some of the products had excessive chemicals that left my face with a strange tingling feeling from time to time and the makeup felt heavy, though I did go back a few days later for a cute eyeliner.

Just before leaving Palacio de Hierro, the MAC Store caught my eye. I must admit I’m a huge fan of MAC’s products and consider it to be one of the best makeup brands ever, with the latest trends and avant-garde colors and technology. A young man in black offered to help me. I told him I was looking for a new skin care regime for my face, and even though he didn’t seem too sure of himself, he showed me some hydrating products with UV filters that could be helpful for my skin type. When he put the products on my face, the sensation I had was that of a profound feeling of freshness and softness. The products range from $30 to $40. It’s nice to know that your favorite makeup brand does offer skin care. Although I would have liked some samples of the treatment line to try at home, none were given, but I will definitely go back for the unique fresh tonic, not to mention the new juicy lipsticks and eye shadows I want for my personal MAC collection.

As I left, I ditched the flyers on the last counter, put the perfumed cards in my bag to scent the contents for a while and decided I read too many beauty articles in magazines, which makes me much more product-savvy than the sales associates of most brands. I headed to the nearest supermarket to check out L’Oréal, Ponds and Nivea, because all of them have new skin care products for younger skins like mine at self-service displays where nobody talks to you.