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Showing posts from 2011

Beauty Ideas for 2012

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Pick and choose which ones work for you, but here are some suggestions for 2012. Resolutions, by the way, rarely work: They're often too ambitious and too spartan. Take these more as ideas to try incorporating into your routine.

1. I will not buy something because it's trendy: Trends drive many of us to buy things we don't need and won't use over the long run. They're often driven by PR machines or advertising dollars. Wait on the trend for at least a couple weeks and consider if the product really adds something to your beauty arsenal, or if it's just a bandwagon you'll be fine staying off. Most beauty and fashion trends I've jumped on I've later regretted.

2. I'll follow sensible routines: Skincare and haircare routines don't need to be expensive or complicated, despite what we're all told. Think in terms of prevention (sunscreen, not sunbathing), routine care (washing makeup off before bed), and prevention (using a topical cream with…

"Come Back to Me When You're Fine"

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This is not a beauty or makeup post, so I'm putting this at the top to save time for anyone interested purely in beauty blogging.

Ironically, this post comes from reading Glamour's year-end beauty special edition. It features a pictorial of actress/singer Demi Lovato: Her makeup is gorgeous, largely because it represents a makeunder. Gone is the bright, almost garish, makeup she sported a few years ago as a Disney  actress. The makeup artist kept her face as bare as possible while adding a radiant, slightly bronzed look. The idea was to present her in a way that was naked and truthful.

In the article, Lovato talks about going through a mental breakdown and seeking treatment. The article heralds her for never trying to gloss over her hiatus. Lovato admitted that the honesty was both cathartic and painful: Being extremely truthful about your battles exposes you to all sorts of reactions. She also quickly learned who her friends are.

In 2010, I broke apart. Just writing this brin…

Makeup Shopping Style: When Going High-End is Worth It

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I was browsing a local discount store the other day and picked up so many makeup and beauty products in the $2-$3 range. Then I put them down. It's odd that price-point can sometimes sell itself: My actual logic, momentarily, was, "This is so cheap, I have to get it."

I didn't get anything. This is how it's trended for me more and more. It's not because I'm wealthy (I'm not) or a product snob (not that either) or a label whore (not that at all). After about two decades of buying makeup, my shopping style has gone through its own retail therapy: I've learned that sometimes holding off on spending on a lot of cheap items is worth it to save for the bigger ticket items.

My father's drug of choice was antique cars: Years ago, he'd buy them, fix them up, and sometimes sell them for a profit. Men have their own collector's items, of course, and the market was for quality. In every other area of his life, he was Depression-era frugal: We was…

Review: Mally Poreless Primer and Face Defender

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I've long seen makeup artist Mally Roncal touted for giving celebrities like Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez a glowing, healthy look. As many celebrity makeup artists do, she's become a celebrity in her own right. A lot of it is driven by her own ambitions: She's created her own makeup line, Mally Beauty, which is sold on QVC and her website, mallybeauty.com. Unlike some famous makeup artists, she's made herself highly accessible to her fans and customers.

Anyone who follows the increasingly popular beauty blogger/vlogger Emily Eddington (Emilynoel83) has become familiar with this brand. What first caught my eye was a video where Emily was showing products that I'd never heard of before: A powderless setting product, for example. She also featured a shadow that is three different consistencies in one. Mally Roncal seems to be trying to think ahead of the makeup curve and come up with inventive products that have a thought process behind them. Pink and girly doesn't…

Real Beauty Tips

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Some insights on traits that will make you automatically more beautiful to others and that no amount amount of outer beauty can replace:

1. Confidence: This is a sense of self beyond how others react to you or treat you. It's unshakable against other people's opinions. For most of us, it takes time to cultivate. A few are born with this beauty trait ingrained in them like their mother's nose or their father's hair color. Most of us have to work hard at it, sometimes daily.

2. A sense of humor: The ability to laugh at yourself is endearing and reflects your confidence. It also makes life 10 times more manageable.Your life is a tragedy or a comedy, largely depending on your outlook.

3. Compassion: Feeling a sense of genuine concern for others, interest in what they're going through, and the willingness to reach out and express this is a true beauty mark.

4. Intelligence: Take an interest in something far more enduring than your physicality. For all of us, this will …

Hair Experiment: An Update

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In early August, I embarked on an effort to improve my hair. What prompted it was looking at my work badge image and noticing my hair hadn't grown in about three months. I can't speak for everyone, but I know stress affects the rate of my hair growth. Hair and nails are dead cells: This means when the body is in any sort of duress, less resources and nutrients go to these areas.

I decided to make a few common-sense changes:

1. I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo and washed my hair every third day, as opposed to daily.

2. I drank more water, between six and eight glasses per day. I added more protein to my diet and focused on making it more balanced. Since this is the building block of hair, adequate protein intake is crucial for growth.

3. I started using a heat protectant whenever I flat-ironed my hair.

4. This sounds crazy, but it's always worked for me: I began doing scalp massages every few days. My theory is it stimulates the hair follicles and increases blood flow a…

Mom Makeover

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I did this quick, impromptu makeover on my mom while home for Thanksgiving. She has stayed firmly planted in her beauty routine from the early 80s: She still gets regular perms and bleaches her hair. I couldn't intervene on the hair today, but I tried to bring her look a little more into current-day. I'm not giving up: There will be a part 2 to this.

My mom is 67, so doing her makeup is a very different experience than doing makeup on someone in her 20s or 30s. She has held her age very well and battled cancer in the last year, so I thought she deserved some pampering and tips on updating her routine.

1. When applying foundation, even formulas known for being creamy or dewy can easily cake on older skin. I went in with moisturizer before and after applying foundation to help smooth it out. With more time and the right products, I would've prepped her skin with a moisturizing facial mask beforehand.

2. Skin tone can actually lighten and become more sallow as we age: I appl…

Polished Holiday Makeup

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Nicole is a dream makeup subject: She loves makeup, but she's relaxed about the whole process. The day these photos were taken, she'd spent all day studying for her master's and training for a 5K. Despite being exhausted, she showed up and let me subject her to makeup and all sorts of picture-taking. The pictures represent a persona: In real life, she is extremely down-to-earth, funny, and kind. She represents that beauty on the outside is best enhanced when there's beauty on the inside. We share a love of trash TV - "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "Hoarders" - and spent most of our makeup time discussing these shows.

For her face, I applied foundation and concealer, then set it with powder. I applied a pink cream blush to her cheeks, then dusted a powder blush in a similar shade over it. On her eyes, I applied a shimmery gold shadow, accented by teal shadow in the outer v. Her eyes were lined with brown liner, and a set of false lashes were …

Favorite Foundations

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Of all the makeup products, foundation is the one I'm most fascinated with. The reasons probably speak to some earlier trauma: Picture an Asian girl living a 95% white community and coming of age in the late 1980s. I had the double-curse of acne, which meant I had to try to find something to cover it. This meant I had a pink face for most of my adolescence and into my early 20s. Even my Caucasian friends sported lines of demarcation and blotchy foundation that oxidized throughout the day.

Of all the makeup products out there, foundation is the one that has come the farthest. It's also the product we expect a tremendous amount from and that can be the most polarizing (second only to mascara).

Foundation used to be like layering paint onto your skin: It was that thick, obvious, and unnatural in color and consistency. High-end or low-end, the options were extremely limited and underwhelming. Today, the types are so varied that we have the opposite problem of narrowing down our s…

Blogging and the Tricky Art of Self-Promotion

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I recently re-Tweeted a video of a woman who is trying to win Physicians Formula's glowy skin contest. The woman has the username Howrouge on Youtube. She's everything that someone needs to be successful: natural on camera, a great product reviewer, and absolutely genuine and nice. She isn't followed more because she keeps a very low profile. She replied with a thank you and said she knows how I feel about self-promotion. I clarified that I don't mind self-promotion, but a lot of people have forgotten the fine line between that and essentially spamming.

What is spamming vs. self-promoting? It's when you put yourself everywhere: In comments sections, on pages of high-profile beauty bloggers, anywhere to drive traffic to your site or Youtube account or blog. This probably works somewhat, but I've always stayed firmly in this mindset: If you're truly good, people will find you. Or you can drive your traffic through your own efforts, rather than tying a rope t…

Product Review: Dr. Jules Nabet Zen Lotion

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This is the first item I've received to review as a blogger. It's taken me a long time to review because skincare takes a little time to show a difference, if any. This product, despite its name, is not a lotion texture at all. It's a spray that you apply to your bare face that's meant to balance skin (either from feeling too dry or too oily) and offer some anti-aging benefits.

Zen Lotion has a pleasant, fresh scent that dissipates quickly after spraying. There is no residue. I've waited until my skin felt dry to apply it, and it did add a moisturizing quality. Dr. Nabet touts "revitalization skincare" as the driving force behind his brand: The products have a mix of vitamins (namely vitamins C and E), hyaluronic acid, and plant extracts all intended to have an anti-aging benefit. He also adds an element of "native oxygen," but after extensive research, I couldn't find solid information about the skincare benefits of this ingredient.

Zen lo…

Prince: The Man, The Music, The Makeup

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Apollonia starred as Prince's love interest in "Purple Rain" and epitomized his vision of beauty.

Anyone born before 1980 probably remembers Prince at the height of his career: Twenty seven years ago, in 1984, he released Purple Rain, an album which far eclipsed its movie version and still rightly tops many Best Albums of All Time lists. The music and videos were as much a visual feast as they were a study in musical genius: Prince broke all the rules back then. To this day, his music and the looks he championed push cultural comfort zones.

At the time of the album's release, I was still forming opinions about my looks, which were morphing constantly under growth spurts and impending puberty.: Images of Christie Brinkley were everywhere. Makeup contracts weren't yet signing models of color; it was considered an event when a magazine put one on its cover. 

Prince's vision of beauty was the opposite of its time: The women in his videos and  movie were all dark…

Erica Carr: A Beautiful Mind

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I first met Erica Carr in a closet, of all places.We were both working at the Make Up For Ever booth during The Makeup Show in New York City last Spring.

Sometimes, being composed and quiet is what makes you stand out the most. A closet has a great way of amplifying who we really are. Erica was a model of efficiency, hard work, and composure the entire time. She was also extremely pleasant and down to earth, no matter how stressful things became. Unlike some of the other volunteers, she understood this was a team effort and acted in a way that was supportive of everyone.

Many of us exchanged contact information or business cards after the weekend. One day I realized Erica had "liked" my makeup page on Facebook, and I friend requested her. That's when I realized she's a business owner, running a hair and makeup salon, Erica Carr Makeup and Hair Studio, in the San Francisco area. She is currently booked out until 2013 with work. Her success doing weddings in Hawaii is…

A Collective Letter to the Cosmetic Brands

1.) We don't ever use those cosmetic brushes you put in the palettes and blushes. No matter how great the product, these are always designed cheaply and as if we're putting makeup on a Barbie. I once read someone found a use for one as a keyboard brush. Otherwise, we literally never use them.

2.) Limited Edition is a nice psychological ploy to get consumers to think your products are special, rare, and soon to be extinct. The game has become so excessive that it's tiring the consumer. A makeup brand shouldn't throw out a Limited Edition collection more than a couple times a year, and the focus should be on truly creative products that are being market tested. To just see recycled shades or everyday shades is baffling and makes the brand seem out of good ideas.

3.) Relate to your consumer not as a beast you feed, but as the sounding board that feeds you. The smartest brands right now are communicating with the consumers as if chatting with a girlfriend: They're see…

Finding Use for a "Hated" Product

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I bought Urban Decay's eyeshadow primer in Eden when it was touted as a primer and concealer in one. Riding high on many recent happy purchases, I assumed this one would fall in the same category.

The problem with Eden primer potion is your skin tone needs to be almost exactly the pale yellow shade of it for it to blend well: Otherwise, it makes your eyes look like they're coming down with jaundice.

This isn't a total fail for Urban Decay: I should've looked more at what the color is and tested it at Sephora. I kept the product, thinking it would work on lighter skinned people I'd do makeup on. When I tried it on a few different Caucasian skintones and they looked just as scary, I just decided it was a universal fail.

One day I had a thought: The product is opaque, yellow-based, and it's made to not crease and to last. Yep, I painted my walls with it. No, kidding aside, I tried it as an undereye concealer. It works beautifully under the eyes, when just a few …

Embarking on a Makeup No-Buy: Why, What, and How

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At the end of August, I decided to stop buying makeup and started what many know as a makeup no-buy. It's exactly as spartan as it sounds: You banish yourself from makeup counters or the makeup aisles of drugstores. Or you learn to window shop really well.

The timeframe I decided on: Six months. Yes, half a year. Why that long? I did an honest assessment of my makeup collection and estimated that's how long it will take to make a real dent in it. I don't own a lot of makeup by many people's standards, but I have enough to last me that long. I have eyeshadows in every shade imaginable; I have six (yes, six) foundations; I have lipsticks and lipstick palettes to carry me through the next two seasons. If I'm being really honest with myself, I don't need more for a long time.

My mindset had also hit a place where more just felt excessive: A lot of people are motivated to enter a no-buy as a last-ditch effort to curb their urge to spend. But I think it's import…

Current Favorites

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Favorite products probably won't be a regular part of my blog, but there are some items I continue to reach for lately and thought I'd give them a quick nod. As a disclaimer, I have no affiliation with any brand, so these are my unsolicited raves.

Make Up For Ever's Liquid Lift Foundation: This is a lesser known foundation by the brand, but once I tried it, I wondered why it doesn't get more attention. Don't be thrown off by the name (if you're young): The finish is simply radiant and undetectable, which is a desired effect no matter what your age.

Urban Decay's Naked Palette: Yes, this product gets a ton of kudos and hype, but I wanted to add that my love for it hasn't worn off in nearly the year that I've owned it. I've used it virtually every day and only recently hit pan on one shadow. The colors are imaginative, unique, and yet wearable. For anyone who still questions if it's worth the money, it truly is.

Milani Baked Blush is Luminos…

How I Contour and Highlight: A New Spin on the Old Technique

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The technique applied on myself

Contouring and highlighting are makeup's gift to women: Done well, it can give the face all the right definition. The trick isn't to try to redefine the face but to work with the natural bone structure and accentuate it. I don't personally like powder or matte bronzers for contouring; I don't think they give enough definition. What I use is a stick foundation in shades much darker and lighter than my natural complexion. My current product of choice Make Up For Ever's Pan Stick: The rich pigmention, creamy formula, and wide application work well for both contouring and highlighting.

I hit the places that many have seen in Kevyn Aucoin books or tutorials: The contour shade is run along the underside of the cheekbones, along the jawline, along the sides of the nose and at the tip in a V-shape, at the sides of the forehead, along the underside of the lower lip and under the base of the nose. The highlight shade is run along the tops of t…

My Biggest Makeup Challenge

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The finished product (or part of it)

One of my first clients was someone I never pictured: A very masculine-looking man in his late 20s. He found my page on the Internet and reached out initially with an e-mail account using a female pseudonym.

Once I realized he was a man, my main concern had nothing to do with gender identity: It was with my own abilities. In all my years of practice with makeup, I'd never considered the techniques of how do makeup on a man.

There were added challenges: He didn't want to appear drag in any way. If you scan video tutorials, many male makeup looks are drag queen or essentially a look that's a parody of a woman. Nor did he want the Jared Leto guyliner look.

Ava (certain identifying details are changed) is someone who truly thinks he was born in the wrong body. He identifies with being female much more strongly than being male, but he's facing certain realities: Transgender surgery is extremely expensive, time-consuming, and painful. He…

Makeup Confessions

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1. I have no idea what NC shade I am. I don't even know what that stands for.

2. I don't own a single Sigma or Mac makeup brush. I have no idea what all those numbers stand for.

3. I don't own a single MAC eyeshadow: When I watch beauty gurus, I feel like they've lapsed suddenly into another language.

4. Blush looks pink, peach, rose, etc. to me. I overload on the nuances and don't understand people who need 8 shades of pink. I think peachy-pink is overused and often inaccurate in color descriptions.

5. I wish the trends in makeup focused more on technique and less on product: Makeup can truly be an art and not just another vehicle for product consumption. The emphasis on product can be a little soul-sapping at times.

6. I love that Francois Nars himself admits the success of his blush is due in part to the sexually blatant naming conventions.

7. I love Nars' quote: "Relax, it's just makeup." It strips a lot of the mystique away and makes it seem…

Product Review: L'Oreal Voluminous False Lashes

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It was probably inevitable that a L'Oreal would continue to expand the success of its Voluminous mascara line by adding a version called False Lashes. This version is so new, it's not even listed on the company website. However, it's available in some stores, including Ulta and Walgreens. This mascara is packaged in a sleek gold case and promises to build a false lash effect with fibers. I'm at a disadvantage, having never used a false fiber mascara: Typically, these fibers are made of nylon or silk and bind to the natural lashes to enhance length. False fiber mascaras are very popular in Asia, given Asian lashes are typically very short and grow straight (believe me, I know).

This mascara is truly a mixed bag: It actually adds visible length to your lashes, but the formula is so dry and clumpy that you need to use extra caution while applying. It's best built slowly, applying a coat and letting it dry before adding another. If you're someone who is already ad…

What I've Been Up To

In August, I decided to go on a little hiatus. I'd been blogging regularly about beauty products for six months and had hit saturation. Bless those who can do it continuously for years on end, because I don't have the stamina or the wallet for it. The products I review I purchase myself, and I only purchase them if they truly intrigue me and I want to try them. I'll never start collecting makeup just to have new items to show. When I find a product I absolutely love, I'm excited to write about it and let others know my thoughts on it. When I think a product is overrated or not worth the money, I'll let people know about that, too.

I knew I'd hit burnout when I began to see makeup collections, haul videos, new products that all blurred together. I couldn't stomach the term "peachy-pink" without wanting to reach through the computer screen and strangle whoever coined it and everyone that defaults to it. There has to be a new, more creative term out…

Product Review: Diorskin Nude Glow Healthy Glow Summer Powder

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Fresh off the summer, many of us are probably in search of a product that will help maintain some of that bronze radiance. I rarely get excited about bronzers: They are either shimmer or matte and pretty much all look the same in the pan.

This product is interesting because it doesn't fall into either category: It is both shimmer and matte bronze tones woven together with highlight shades. The powder comes in two shades: Aurora (for fair complexions) and Sunset (for medium to deep skintones). What's ingenious is that the product imparts a radiance to the skin that isn't a bit frosty or muddy. The effect is an all over warming to the skin that mimics that first tan we get in the early days of summer. The powder contains four shades of bronze woven together; that variation is what gives the skin a more believable and dimensional glow.

It's best used like a beauty powder and brushed upon the high points of the face: It can be used for contouring, but because it isn't…

And the winner is...

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Congrats, Maggie! Superb job at recreating the 80s in all its excessive glamour.

Thanks to everyone who entered: Your looks were all inspirational and so well done.

Day to Night Summer Makeup

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Nicole, before


Nicole, after: For daytime summer makeup, think "natural, fresh, glowing."



For nighttime summer makeup, intensify the look with dramatic false lashes and a bright lip to play up your tan.






Eye makeup: Urban Decay. Foundation, blush, lipstick: Make Up For Ever

Happy 40th Birthday, Maybelline Great Lash! Now Please Go Away.

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This is one makeup product that has a great PR machine behind it: Somehow it's survived 4 decades without package redesign or reformulation and still makes magazine editors' Best of lists year after year. This is what tipped me off to the real possibility that those lists are driven by top advertising and other politics.

The reality: The consumer doesn't like this mascara. I thought it was just me until I read reviews on consumer sites like MakeupAlley (which gives it an average rating of 2 out of 5 "lippies") and other beauty discussion boards. The overwhelming consensus is this product doesn't deliver: The formula is signature Maybelline wet, which means it doesn't hold curl and weighs your lashes down; the brush is too sparse and small, which means no volume or essentially weight-lifting the brush to get anything out of the product. What I hear is that Great Lash doesn't clump. The thing is, so many mascaras are sophisticated enough not to clump. …

The Artistry in Makeup Artistry

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David Hernandez is an editorial/high fashion makeup artist who has been a pro-educator for Make Up For Ever for 15 years. He is perfectly suited to lead a seminar, The Artistic Advantage, focusing on the artistry in makeup: For one, David doesn't believe in rules, in makeup and in life. He also shows the beauty in taking technical perfection in makeup, then destroying it a bit, literally casting makeup paint haphazardly down a model's face during the session.

"When you put limitations on things, you stop being an artist," he said.

He is passionate about the art, but he's just as quick to be self-effacing and crack a joke about himself. As a high fashion makeup artist, he's learned to MacGyver many makeup techniques: At the backstage of a fashion show, there is no such thing as perfect time allotments and having every brush and product on hand. Models often rush in from other shows wearing makeup already, and David is expected to turn their look into something…