Cosmetics can get a bad rap from serious-minded people, but sometimes a lipstick is much more than an indulgence. Carmel Allen has used lipsticks to help raise £800,000 for research into childhood cancer with her charity Kiss It Better, which celebrated its 10th birthday today.
I remember where the whole thing started. Carmel was a much-respected beauty director on the glossy magazine that I was editing. One morning she didn't turn up for work – and phoned to say that she didn't know if she could ever work like that again. Her baby Josephine, who was not even one, had just been diagnosed with a stage 3 neuroblastoma tumour pressed against her windpipe.
Based at Great Ormond Street Hospital, over the next two years Josephine had intensive treatment, and – now aged 12 – has completely recovered. But Carmel wasn't prepared to leave it at that. Ten years ago she set up the Kiss It Better appeal --- “because that's something every parent says and does when their child is sick or injured, they kiss it better." She wanted to use her access to a glamorous world of models and makeup to make things better for all the other parents in her situation.
One child in 450 under the age of 15 is diagnosed with some form of cancer, but there are relatively few cases of each kind, so to give children the best chance of a cure GOSH runs clinical trials with other centres. The good news is that survival rates are improving as new trials lead to the developments of better, less toxic treatments for the illness. Now 80 per cent of children are cured.
The beauty giant Estee Lauder has been involved with the charity from the start. One of its main brands, Clinique, together with House of Fraser, are donating profits from lipsticks, lipgoss and nail varnish for the month of February to the Kiss It Better appeal. They are joined by accessories designer Lulu Guinness who has created a bright pink, patent coin purse in the shape of lips, especially for the promotion.
So, if it's a lipstick you're after as we head towards Valentine's Day – how about funding research into childhood cancer at the same time?