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The founder of skincare brand Merumaya, Maleka Dattu, gives her expert knowledge on what beauty products to spend on and which to save on, her experience with Botox and how it feels to start her own business.
Maleka, 50, was part of the team that took Clinique to the number one market position in the UK, before moving to Origins, growing the brand and eventually taking the position of Senior Vice President and General Manager, North America based in New York City.
She then moved to Lancôme in the UK, and launched their most successful skincare product in their recorded history, Genefique.
What beauty products can't you live without?
I tend to spend the most money on all the treatment products that will stay on my skin. Particularly serums are the powerhouse of skincare and they are so readily absorbed because of the way the formula is. Iconic Youth Serum is my central product for the range, it’s a very rich one, anyone who has slightly oilier skin doesn’t need to use a moisturiser.
What products would you splurge on, and which would you save on?
I would splurge on the things that stay on your skin, if I was economising I would save a little bit of money on the things that go down the sink. Things like shampoo, I might save on, but I would splurge on the conditioner which stays on my hair for example. I might save a little bit of money on the shower gel but I wouldn’t on the body cream.
What are your top tips and tricks for readers?
At night-time if you wear make-up, always double cleanse. The first cleanse takes the make-up off, but it’s the second cleanse that really cleans the skin and gives you that facial-quality type skin. When you have nicely clean skin it’s very receptive to any treatments that you put on top of it, it doesn’t have to fight through any residue of left-behind make-up or the grime of the day that hasn’t quite been cleaned off.
You must use a serum, it’s my big ‘desert island’ thing.
What are the differences between working at a huge company like Lancôme compared to having your own beauty brand?
Every single minute of the day you carry the full responsibility of your product that is going to the customer. That is one massive thing. I feel absolutely responsible for the quality and the gorgeousness of the product that I’m selling.
It’s so wonderful that I know every single detail of everything that went into that product. The copywriting, the packaging, the décor. I know about all the ingredients – but it’s not just about the ingredients that went in there, I know about absolutely everything – every step of the way.
What are the emotional differences? Is it more stressful?
It’s a different type of stress because it’s carrying my name. The name Merumaya is the name my father would have called his business had he had the courage to leave the security of his job in a control tower and start his own business. It’s my name, but in a funny kind of way it’s my dad’s too.
I put everything I know into that, and I absolutely believe in what I do.
Which celebrities do you admire beauty-wise?
I think Adele always looks amazing. She always looks gorgeous and she’s beautiful all round, she’s got this youthfulness and vibrancy through her demeanor, and her way of communicating. She looks happy and the way she’s got the beautiful eye make-up and teased hair - the whole package is there.
I like Nigella Lawson’s look. It’s fresh-faced, it’s clear, it’s still made up, it looks great, her skin looks great. It’s got vibrancy and clarity.
Kate Winslet always looks fabulous all the time.
Have you ever had any beauty disasters?
I tried Botox once, this was a few years ago. I had give it a lot of thought. I finally went to a Harley Street practitioner, and I had Botox and I got a droopy eye. It wasn’t a hugely droopy eye, but certain people who knew me picked it up and noticed it. The disappointing thing for me was the way that the practitioner handled it. It was so badly handled.
I did try it once more because a girlfriend of mine is a practitioner. At the moment I’m just not having it. I tried it twice – the second time was fine, it was great. I just haven’t prioritised it.
What are your thoughts on plastic surgery?
If someone wants to do it - go for it! When I get to 98, and I’m in my rocking chair and I’m reflecting upon my life, if I’m going to have regrets then I want it to be over things I’ve done, and not things I didn’t have the courage to do. I think if someone really wants something done and it makes them feel good, then why not?
It’s about sensuality and experience, so many times I’ve groaned when I think about taking my make-up off, but when you get up there and you’re using something that’s divine in terms of its touch and is sensual and feminine and makes you smile because of the smell it’s so much then for me it’s so much better than something that’s so pious, really.
What are your tips for getting through the party season?
Stop telling yourself that you are so tired and start celebrating the fact that you are alive. That’s what I think."
You have just turned 50, are you comfortable with ageing?
30 was a difficult one for me as it took me until 32 to get over it. 40 was fine as I celebrated for six weeks and this one, the number bother’s me but I’m not going to waste two years worrying about it, I’m going to celebrate it as much as I can and then just get on with it as its going to happen whether I like it or not.