On 28 April, L’Oréal announced it had withdrawn iconic makeup brand Shu Uemura from the UK market, including its e-commerce site (though not its haircare). I wasn’t wholly surprised: for me, Shu had quickly lost its way following the 2004 acquisition by L’Oréal, which had tried to turn what is essentially a cult professional artistry brand into a commercial player with mass appeal. But I feel sad for the loss of what is unarguably one of the most influential makeup lines in history, and have spent the days since the announcement fielding correspondence from bereft fans who want to know how they’ll replace favourite products.
It was Shu that introduced the concept of double cleansing to the west, and his cleansing oils were the first of their type. Nowadays, cleansing oils are common, and a fair replacement for the original is DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil (from £12.50). Massage into skin dry, add a little warm water to emulsify and loosen makeup, then remove with a hot cloth for a comfy, completely clean finish.
Shu Uemura is even better known for his eyelash curlers: launched in 1991 after a painstaking engineering process, these won many awards and are a true icon in beauty. They don’t bend lashes sharply, but curl every hair into a flattering flutter. Instead, I’ll now be using the Surratt Relevée Lash Curler (£28), which is identical in mechanism, but has thicker, matte, no-slip handles for better grip. I also love those by Kevyn Aucoin (£17) and Shiseido (£20), with replacement rubber pads available from the latter (all of these superior curlers, like Shu’s, are made in Japan). If you preferred Shu’s dinky, half-lash curlers, Mac makes identical ones at £14.
When I began in the beauty industry almost 27 years ago, I saved for a Shu Uemura eye brush with money that should have been spent on food; it’s still in my kit and still going strong. Shu’s tools and accessories were exceptional. If you’ll miss the magnetic shadow palettes, DIY lip palettes, spatulas and metal mixing trays, try My Kit Co for a smaller but affordable selection of dupes. Shu Uemura’s Water Perfect Water-in-Cake Foundation, a gliding base with a moist but ungreasy finish, is lovely, but its fans may even prefer Vincent Longo’s Water Canvas (£43.50). Funnily enough, the Longo brand was pulled from the UK market some years ago, but now it’s back. Perhaps there’s hope for Shu fans yet.
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