She’s one of QVC’s most trusted presenters thanks to her reputation for honest beauty advice (she’s even been known to tell you what not to buy), and with a CV that includes being an A-list beauty therapist with royal clients and Head of Training at Clarins, Alison Young’s extensive experience has earned her legendary status among industry leaders.
But it’s the customers that buy into Alison’s recommendations that really matter, which is why she’s set up her own website to share her unbiased advice on all the beauty questions women ask of her. With an unrivalled knowledge of the beauty landscape and a no-nonsense approach to finding the best products on the market, she’s helped to sell over £500m of product during her 25-year career; but what does she personally spend her money on?
We asked the 52-year-old expert to tell us about her shopping habits, and from being fussy about tissues to having to buy a new suitcase to bring back her favourite finds on research trips, she may just be the biggest beauty shopaholic we’ve interviewed yet…
GTG: Where do you shop for beauty?
AY: "Online and of course QVC – it’s just a great retailer! I love that QVC offers their 30 day money back guarantee so you know you are buying safely. They also offer such amazing supersizes, duos and offers at great prices – and the best brands out there.
"However, I also cannot walk past a counter without buying something! I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, I just can’t resist. I tell myself it’s also a great way to gauge knowledge of staff, research and to be a secret shopper, but that may just be my excuse. I test shop in Space NK , Boots and high street stores once a month – this is where a lot of my followers on my social media ( @aliyoungbeauty ) and website ( www.alisonyoungbeauty.com ) shop so I want to know what’s going on there. I am all about real women and real beauty and I know most women are shopping on a budget. Though honestly I can shop anywhere – I can go into a hardware store and come out with something!"
GTG: Which products have been the biggest success stories in your time at QVC?
AY: "There have been too many successes to recount! The brilliant thing is that when QVC launches something new – a whole new brand like Lulu's Time Bomb or a product like Tarte Shape Tape, £28 they are not available on counter so it is new, exciting and exclusive which leads to the huge success.
"When we launched IT Cosmetics , the brand had no retail presence here and was hugely popular. Many brands choose to launch new products with us globally and exclusively, e.g. Elemis' new Indulgent Bathing collection. Or they create great twists on their best sellers like Percy & Reed doing supersize shampoo and conditioners. And there are also great offers on must-have staples like Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick, £23 ."
GTG: What was the last makeup item you bought?
AY: "Oh I have many regular favourites I buy again and again, or in many different shades. I can never have too many Bobbi Brown Shadow Sticks or IT Cosmetics Illuminating CC Cream, £30 .
"I also love Nails Inc and OPI nail colours and am addicted to Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in 'Salmon', £24 and 'Nude' .
GTG: Which products do you gift to friends?
AY: "I LOVE giving products to friends! I realise I am very privileged to be able to try so many great brands so I love to include my friends in enjoying these great products. Anyone would love a colour palette from IT Cosmetics or Tarte , I gave a delicious MOJO Candle from JOGB, £65 to an exhausted friend and Decleor Aromessence D’Orient, £49 is always a beautiful, luxury gift.
" Laura Geller Balance & Brighten Powder, £26 also suits lots of skin tones so is a good one."
GTG: You have £500 to spend at a makeup counter. Which one do you choose?
AY: "Well first of all I would never spend that amount of money at a makeup counter. The last time I had a splurge was brand ‘research’ at Charlotte Tilbury when she launched. And not £500! It was a bit of a test shop of a new brand and a new team but in reality I chop and change with the brands I buy."
GTG: Have you ever had your makeup done at a counter?
AY: "Yes, over the years all of them! And what I would say is – they are all SO much better now than they used to be. It was a little kamikaze in the old days and I often used to have to rush to the bathroom to take it all back off again. I still do it – to trial, to see new techniques, to understand new sales and service approaches and trends.
"I like that Benefit offer to make over different bits of the face and are obviously well known for their brows.
"I always love Bobbi Brown – it’s like a much better version of you! I think artistry ranges are best for a complete look – e.g. brands with full time artistic teams like MAC and Bobbi Brown . Sometimes if a skincare line launches colour cosmetics it is not necessarily their forte and not as good."
GTG: What would be in your Boots or supermarket shopping basket?
AY: "Always cotton wool and tissues – but not any old kind! I am SO fussy about which brands I use and think more women should be aware of the best ones. For tissues always Kleenex Man Size, £4 as they don’t scratch and you can rip and shape so they are great for facials. For cotton wool, only non embossed cotton wool as it’s easy to split for economy without generating fibres for eye makeup remover. Use damp or with your product.
"I also always grab some Ultra Sun Suncream and Percy & Reed haircare.
"And I can never have enough Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, £32 so I will always pick that up. I love pure oils so will snap up jojoba, rosehip or almond oils from any pharmacy, wholefood or health store – they’re great as moisturisers if your skin is a bit sensitive.
"I’m always on the lookout and buy based on ingredients – if something looks interesting I will have a look on the back at the INCI and if the ingredients are good I will try it! If it's a natural product I look for good ingredients that are easily recognisable, e.g. plants, oils, essential oils – or if it's something more hi-tech, I look for TM ingredients like hyaluronic acid or retinol. I look at what’s listed first too so I know the highest concentration of actives in there. In terms of natural, I bought and like Organic Surge Shower Gel, £7.35 or the Jason brand in healthfood stores. A £5 M&S moisturiser was a great find! For something a bit more expensive – Perricone MD or Caudalie . I am a little obsessed, I will confess..."
GTG: What are your most expensive beauty buys?
AY: "I am so privileged to be able to try so many different products – but if I were to splurge it would probably be on high performance electrical products. I rate Tria Age Defying Laser, £450 and a great British company is LAB with their Pro Lift. I also recommend GloPro Microneedling Regeneration Tool, £199 . Although they are not a cheap buy they are less expensive than professional treatments and give real results."
GTG: Where do you get your hair done?
A: "My best friend does my hair at her kitchen table - it’s washed in the sink! Glamorous it is not! We worked together on my first job at a beauty salon – Essenelle in House of Fraser in Guildford – well, I made coffee and got the biscuits. I do always take my own products though - the Colour Wow Shampoo and Conditioner to protect my colour and Percy & Reed for blow dry and styling."
GTG: Are there any treatments that you regularly book in for?
AY: "When I have events or shoots, I use the wonderful June at Makeup Junkies . I often go to Shavata for my brows but I also like to be able to trial brow product so it’s a balance. I will pop into Margaret Dabbs for my feet; I use local salons near where I live in Surrey for my nails or do them myself (I am not really high maintenance) but I do love to use OPI or Nails Inc if possible. I go for Shellac if my nails are a bit poorly but usually like to swap colours and try new shades so do my nails myself."
GTG: What's next on your beauty shopping list?
AY: "The most tempting beauty item I see when I next leave the house. I am looking all the time at European, Asian and American brands which are not yet launched here. When I go on research trips I often have to buy an extra suitcase for all my ‘must-have’ beauty purchases.
"I am loving a secret new project I am working on at the moment – sorry, hush hush – oh, and I am excited about Julep which has a strong Instagram following and is now available on QVC."
For more information visit www.alisonyoungbeauty.com.
Follow Alison on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram .