Best podcasts of the week: Jonathan Aitken’s fall from Downing Street hopeful to convicted liar

<span>Photograph: Ian Waldie/REUTERS</span>
Photograph: Ian Waldie/REUTERS

Picks of the week

Widely available, episodes weekly
This shocking series, presented by Emma Lehman, profiles the “troubled teen industry”, which convinces US parents to let them help their children with behavioural issues, only to horrifically mistreat them. Staff, survivors, families and activists explain how what are often sold as “woodland retreats” can involve sleep and water deprivation, and being locked in padded rooms. Horrendous revelations from a manipulative industry. Alexi Duggins

Lights Out
BBC Sounds, all episodes out now
This special series is a home for one-off projects led by luxurious sound. The latest batch of episodes ends on a high with Dust – in which Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason (below) and Scottish artist Katie Paterson ask how humans can connect to nature as the planet changes, with a background of erupting volcanoes and the crunch of snow. Hannah Verdier

How to Keep Time
Widely available, episodes weekly
The Atlantic’s Becca Rashid and Ian Bogost bring thought-provoking discussions on existential dread, the cult of being busy and the “social clock” that tells humans what they should be doing at every age in this spot-on podcast. They also nail the guilt of wasting time despite knowing it’s finite, while noting that that’s what humans have always done. HV

Widely available, episodes weekly
When Mosi Secret read a letter that claimed Jamil Al-Amin, who was convicted of shooting two sheriff deputies outside an Atlanta mosque, was innocent, he vowed to find out more. In this thoughtful series, Secret looks at the life of the civil rights activist formerly known as H Rap Brown and the many complex strands that cross it. HV

British Scandal: The Aitken Affair
Wondery, episodes weekly
“This guy’s not the worst there ever was, he’s certainly not the best – but he’s a really fantastic template for the scumbag MP.” Rob Delaney steps in as co-host with Alice Levine for the latest scandal in this hit series: Tory MP Jonathan Aitken, who was tipped to be prime minister but was jailed for 18 months for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Hollie Richardson

There’s a podcast for that

This week, Rachel Aroesti chooses five of the best podcasts on beauty, from two millennial men pontificating on moisturiser to a podcast on the culture of beauty and whether the industry is truly diverse.

Make Me Over
In 2020, Karina Longworth’s atmospheric and revelatory podcast about the forgotten history of Hollywood released this miniseries focusing on the (considerable) crossover between the beauty industry and the early days of the entertainment business. Each episode sees a guest host tell a strange and gripping story that is both indicative of the culture of mid-20th century America and strikingly relevant to our own; from the fat-shaming that dogged Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, to the skin-whitening undertaken by Indian-born film star Merle Oberon and the dramatic fall from grace of the hard-faced Swedish masseuse favoured by Gloria Swanson.

Fat Mascara
Journalists Jessica Matlin and Jennifer G Sullivan’s long-running beauty pod - which features interviews with influential industry bods, as well as news, recommendations and musings on cosmetics and skincare trends - easily qualifies as the frontrunner in its field. The pair not only have impeccable expert credentials - Matlin used to be beauty director at Teen Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Sullivan is the former beauty and health director of Marie Claire - but they also have the casual intimacy and propensity for gentle ribbing that is crucial for any successful podcast double act. Come for the great guests (Cindy Crawford, Laura Mercier), stay for an approach that is thoughtful, interrogative and far from skin-deep.

Dewy Dudes
Who says beauty podcasts are just for girls? Childhood pals Evan Shinn and Emilio Quezada Ibañez describe their show as “a skincare psy-op”; really it’s an amenable - and often very amusing - discussion pod in which the pair outline their latest cleansing routines, evaluate new products and occasionally engage in some frank conversation about their mental health. There is a fair dose of self-conscious irony involved - as you might expect from two straight male millennials pontificating on moisturiser - but it’s also fuelled by genuine enthusiasm: there’s little doubt these two are serious about skincare.

Allure: The Science of Beauty
Many beauty podcasts focus on recommending particular brands and products, insisting that this conditioner or that concealer really does work without actually explaining why. Not so on this enjoyably educational series from US beauty magazine Allure. Presented by the glossy’s senior staff (including former editor-in-chief Michelle Lee), it sees our hosts quiz experts and scientists on topics such as hair frizz and face masks, as well as specific ingredients (peptides, biotin, squalane), drilling down hard into the chemistry of cosmetics before helpfully translating all the technicalities into layman’s terms.

On Reflection
As a beauty journalist, Funmi Fetto (above) has a bustling CV: she is currently a beauty editor at British Vogue, beauty director at both the Observer Magazine and Dua Lipa’s lifestyle newsletter Service95, and author of Palette: The Beauty Bible for Women of Colour. In 2020, she created this fascinating podcast on the “culture of beauty”, examining the ways in which the industry intersects with representation and diversity, the arts and societal issues. There’s news, debate and interviews with the likes of Sharon Chuter, the Nigeria-born founder of inclusive brand Uoma Beauty, and filmmaker Nina Davuluri, whose documentary COMPLEXion looks at the scourge of colourism.

Why not try …

  • Discover Me, in which Lady T and Tobi Rachel interview someone they’ve admired from afar for years: Adjoa Andoh. Over three chapters they dig into her identity as a Black woman, her success and her faith.

  • Pop powerhouse Dua Lipa’s candid, uplifting and insightful conversations with the people who inspire her most in Dua Lipa: At Your Service.

  • America: A History, where every week the hosts explore the people, places and events that makes the US the country it is today.

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