beauty passport

How Kate Middleton and Kate Moss Affect British Beauty Culture

Photo: David Oldham

Although Kate Middleton’s beauty routine may give some people evil pimples, she and fellow Brit Kate Moss are some of the world’s most enduring beauty icons. To learn more about the thrall of these two Kates and more about Anglo beauty culture, the Cut spoke with Alessandra Steinherr, Glamour U.K.’s beauty director. Below, she tells us about the importance of eccentric beauty, how the constant threat of rain affects skin and hair, and what the Brits don’t consider cool.

In the U.K., it’s about the story of the Kates: Moss or Middleton. It’s the rock-and-roll girl or the put-together, very traditionally British English rose. Or Cara Delevingne, for the younger girls. But that being said, girls in the U.K. don’t necessarily have a signature look; they’re always changing and it’s totally dependent upon where you are from. The girls here want to be seen as individuals. It’s not about fitting in; it’s about expressing yourself. Look at Vivienne Westwood: Eccentricity here is seen as something positive, yet tradition remains important. Punk started here, but everyone is very proud of the queen.

In France, you can say the French woman is this, even though you are talking about Parisians. But you can’t do that in the U.K because it’s all different. For example, the north of England are the biggest buyers of fake tans in the world. You couldn’t be more tan. You would have to be orange, and that is seen as beautiful! But in London, you don’t want to look like you are wearing too much makeup.

Kim Kardashian is always on The Daily Mail, which is the most popular newspaper. I think, generally, people love her and her life. Do they want to look like her? I mean, she’s beautiful. It looks like it’s a lot of work. I think in the north of England, girls would make that effort to have the fake tan, hair, and lashes and super contouring. I don’t think we see that as much in London as in other parts of the country.

However, Kate Moss is the eternal icon. She is I don’t care, I am what I am fabulous, which really resonates. The Duchess of Cambridge is all about very put-together hair. In the polls, Kate Middleton always wins when it comes to hair. I think girls here are absolutely hair-obsessed. Most of the time, it is done at home. But you also have a few young hairstylists like George Northwood, who sees Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. They also have their salons and all the cool girls are in there, floating in and out. It’s Fashion Week there, day in and day out.

I think British girls are really into their hair because the climate is so humid. For your hair to look good, you need to put a bit of effort into it. It does rain a lot, although it sounds like a cliché. When people ask me what my most important beauty item is, I say my umbrella!

People here do not really invest in their skin care as much as they do in their makeup, but that’s something that’s starting now. Here, you don’t say “I’m going to a dermatologist” unless it’s about a mole. Although people here love facial oils. Going to have a facial is something special; it’s not a part of maintenance. It’s not part of the culture to be like, I look after myself in that way. It’s not cool. It’s not seen as like, I take care of myself. We do events with readers and people are always like, I just wash my face the next day or use makeup wipes. And I’m like, “That’s what you do as an emergency not a regular thing.” They go, “I use Simple Skincare makeup-remover wipes” and it’s just like, I wish I’d invented those. But the humidity in the air and moisture does keep your skin quite young. We don’t need humidifiers at night. In that sense, as much as we don’t like it for the hair, we do like it for the skin.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

How 2 Kates Affect British Beauty Culture