Monday, February 28, 2011

Minka Kelly-Inspired Summery Makeup

Allison, before

Allison, after

Steps for creating Allison's look:

1.) I applied primer to her entire face to help the makeup go on smoothly. I used my current favorite by Mary Kay.

2.) I applied Urban Decay's Eye Shadow Primer Potion to her lids: This prevents feathering and makes the shadow last longer. I've found that there are cheaper versions that work just as well, or you can use concealer.

3.) Using a foundation brush, I applied a foundation two shades darker than her skin tone to deepen her complexion (Not recommended for everyday, but for pictures, it can work). I blended down into her neck so there was no sharp demarcation. Mixed into the foundation were a couple drops of Lorac's Oil-Free Luminizer in L2, which is a deep bronze.

4.) I used Cover Girl's Cheekers blush in Golden Pink along her cheekbones. To emphasize a tanned look, I applied NYC Smooth Skin Bronzing Powder in Sunny in a three-shape motion along her temples, cheekbones, and outer jawline. The goal is to hit the high points of the face in a way that highlights the center and gives the
bronze tone dimension.

5.) Black eyeliner was applied to both the top and bottom lids. Using Urban Decay's Naked palette, a mix of Smog and Buck was applied as the base to the lid. Virgin was applied to the brow bone and inner corners for highlight. I topped the shadow with an orange hue from the Coastal Scents 88 Shimmering Palette to emphasize a golden look. False demi-lashes were applied to the outer top lids to make the eyes stand out.

6.) A light dusting of Make Up For Ever's HD Powder was applied to the entire face.

7.) On her lips, I applied YSL's Rouge Volupte in 13, also an orange hue that emphasizes a tan.

I have no allegiance to a particular brand and want to emphasize that any brand of makeup will work for this look. I just mention the brands in case someone wants to buy these particular shades.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Don't Know What I'm Doing, But I Keep Doing It

I recently got a request for a makeup consultation. The overriding sentiment among the person was that she didn't feel sure about herself when applying makeup: "Sometimes I feel great when putting on makeup, and other times, I feel like I should never touch it again," she said.

She'd seen some of my work posted and guessed I may be coming from a place of more surety and could somehow tutor her towards that feeling. I told her flatly that I suffer the exact same inconsistent confidence about makeup. Not a great selling point, but I suffer from a case of honesty.

Truth is, it isn't just makeup. It's a lot of things in life that I've pursued. I've been a writer for as long as I can remember, but it's a fresh psychological experience every time I sit down in front of a keyboard. I never really know what's going to happen. Despite a journalism degree and nearly 10 years of professional writing, here's the thing: I still don't know what I'm doing. That's the wonder of it, and the pain of it.

A few years back, I moved into the financial services world to gain a sense of surety: The formulaic promise that if you add X to Y, you'll get Z outcome. My mind has become both comforted and numbed by the logical outcomes.

When I write, or when I do makeup, the outcome is always unknown. In a lot of ways, I'm just riding on instinct and a voice in the back of my head that says, "Try this and see what happens." I mess up a lot. I apply and see the result, then amend as needed. I write and examine the sentence, then delete as needed.

I have punishing self-doubt in both realms. And yet I keep doing it. I saw a comedy routine recently where the comic seemed absolutely scripted with his performance. Moreover, he was confident to the point of screaming many of his jokes.

At the end of the show, he confessed something: "I've been doing this for 20 years, and most of the time, I have no idea what I'm going to do right before a show. You just keep doing it, and eventually, you get better by sheer persistence and being in the game."

This thought was fresh in my mind this weekend as I attempted a few different makeup looks. I was anxious in a way I hadn't been in a while, so uncomfortable with that sense of, "I don't know what I'm doing" that I considered backing out.

The finished products on all looks were a pleasant surprise, especially to me. As I worked, I got comfortable in the skin of uncertainty. I realized it's actually a pretty amazing spot to be in.

My advice to anyone with a passion is to allow that self-doubt to propel you forward, rather than make you shrink in fear.

Keep doing what you don't know.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Product Review: Physicians Formula's CoverToxTen50

This is a lesser-known product by Physicians Formula. Suffering from some bouts of insomnia lately, I'm on the hunt for any product that promises to make you look more awake and soften any appearance of fatigue (read: under eye circles and bags). On a whim, I decided to try the product (available at any drugstore where Physicians Formula is sold).

I applied it on a day when I felt particularly tired. The promise is that within 10 minutes of application, the appearance of wrinkles will be reduced by 50%. Ambitious, huh? The images on the package mimic women before and after a mini-face lift.

The product does actually reduce all appearances of fatigue and makes you look younger. Impressed, I contacted Physicians Formula to get more information on the product for a review. After several days, I learned the company isn't talking, so I had to do a little research on my own.

If you go on the Physicians Formula website, the product's efficacy is attributed to a trademarked complex under an acronym the company created: BV-OCS. Not very helpful. Another component highlighted is GABA, which is more universal and easier to research. GABA, in the beauty product world, is known as a muscle relaxant. In theory, the product is relaxing some facial muscles that may age the skin (i.e. frown lines). While applying or wearing the product, you feel no relaxant sensation.

The top ingredients rounding out the product are mica (known for its light-diffusing properties) and a chemical often used in hair conditioners for emollient properties.

The product is $13 and produces a diffused, refreshed effect to the skin. If you can get past some of the cloak-in-dagger around the miracle ingredients, it's definitely worth a try.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beauty Tips to Prepare for Spring

It may not seem like it, but Spring is around the corner. After the long, cold winter we've had, many of you are probably experiencing problems with dryness, both in your skin and hair. The winter takes a toll on our looks with the extreme temperature changes (going from frigid cold to over-heated offices) and punishing elements like heavy wind.

With more temperate weather around the corner, we can begin to anticipate some changes to our beauty routines and makeup.

Here are some tips for preparing:

1. UVA rays (the damaging heat rays that cause skin cancer and wrinkles) jump in intensity in April: Consider upping your daily moisturizer's sun protection to SPF 30 in late March of each year. Remember to wear a minimum of SPF 15 year-round, as UVA and UVB rays exist even in the coldest winter months and cause cumulative skin damage.

2. You can probably eliminate the heavy-duty moisturizers you may be using at night and switch to lighter, more fluid formulas for day. As the weather heats up, these moisturizers can aggravate acne or make the skin feel oily.

3. If you aren't doing so, begin a fitness plan in February/March. With less clothes to hide under, it's just nicer to feel fit and healthy during the warmer months. Cramming in late Spring is hard on the body and puts you under more stress. Start with 30 minutes of brisk walking three times/week. Every other week, up the intensity and the duration by 10 minutes until you're at 45-60 minutes, 5 times/week. Also, add in a weight training program. Women naturally begin to lose muscle mass in their early 30s, so it's critical to compensate with weight training. For women of all ages, this will up your resting metabolism, along with providing other benefits. Because we lack the necessary testosterone levels, we won't bulk up. If you're not a fan of weight training, try yoga or pilates.

4. Remove dead skin: Focus on exfoliating the dead skin left over from the winter months. A good trick is to apply a chemical exfoliant (glycolic acid, alpha/beta hydroxy acids), massage into the skin, and let it sit for a few minutes. Follow the chemical exfoliation with a physical one (sugar mixed into your cleanser is cheap and effective) to fully remove the skin. Do this no more than 2 times per week. Also consider getting a pedicure to remove the dead skin and calluses that have probably accumulated from wearing heavy shoes.

5. Switch your "signature scent": Look for anything that makes you think of Spring, whether it's floral, fruity, or more clean scents. Also, perfume smells differently on each person due to body chemistry, so make sure to test the fragrance on yourself and wear it for at least an hour to see how it sets. Smell has an amazing ability to lift our mood. Combine that with more daylight hours and warmer weather and you're definitely going to feel happier.

6. Lighten your makeup, in more ways than one: Tinted moisturizers can replace heavier foundations; lighter colors can replace darker makeup. Start experimenting: think more pink or peach toned lipsticks, brighter blush, and lighter eye makeup application.

7. Add gradual tanner to your night cream: This will give you a more radiant complexion over a week's time and make you look like you've been in the sun.

8. Lighten your locks: Consider going two shades lighter or adding a few golden highlights. This will naturally brighten your complexion.

9. Deep condition: To repair your hair from the winter, invest in a good deep conditioner and do a weekly treatment. Tips for more absorption: Keep it on overnight, run a hairdryer (set to warm) over it with the product still in, or wear a shower cap with the conditioner on and stand under a hot shower for a few minutes.

10. Focus on healthy eating: Protein is one of the building blocks of collagen, so make sure that an adequate amount is in your diet. Focus on lean protein like skinless chicken, greek yogurt, and egg white omelets. Try eating smaller, more frequent meals. Also, make sure to incorporate a variety of vegetables in your diet: think as many bright colors as you can. This adds crucial vitamins that help with skin repair. Broccoli is especially known for its high vitamin C concentrations, which is necessary for strengthening collagen and elastin.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Upcoming Review: Physicians Formula Cover ToxTen50

This is a recent find in the drugstore that truly does make you look more awake and your skin refreshed. It softens fine lines and virtually erases undereye bags. As someone with insomnia lately, it was a wonderful find. The problem is, the miracle ingredients in this product are trademarked by Physicians and a little cloak-in-dagger, so I need to contact the company to get more information on how it works.

The full review will be posted early this week.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

To Youtube or Not to Youtube: That is The Question

As I've tried to expand my makeup knowledge, I've gone deeper into the abyss that is Youtube. I've found a few makeup gurus - as they're called - that I've taken to and some that I've learned from on what not to do.

Youtube is an interesting leveling game: Anyone can post about virtually anything of interest. It doesn't matter if English is your first language and you still need subtitles or even if those subtitles would still explain nothing.

I've learned to watch it with a note-taking eye: what works really, really works and what doesn't really doesn't. About a month ago, I began following a newscaster who does beauty product reviews. Her Youtube name is Emilynoel83 (in the professional news realm she's Emily Eddington).

The first time I watched her, I was overcome by how much of a newscaster voice she projects even when dissecting lipstick colors with names like Cinnamon Buns and Sunset (which I still can't find, btw!). Her hair and makeup are always perfectly coiffed. She is someone, to be honest, that I'd normally find artificial.

But her style is captivating: She gets straight to the point in her reviews, bringing that journalistic sensibility into things like analyzing the best bronzer. And she is blunt and direct with her criticisms of brands, even while smiling like a pageant queen. Once you begin scanning Youtube, you understand how hard it is for someone to get to the point and explain it well. Then there's the honesty factor: You can sense authenticity; you want to connect and feel like those five minute clips gave you something for your time.

Once I created my own makeup page and began posting pictures, I began to get a few requests for video tutorials. This is so commonplace now that most people almost expect you have a corresponding Youtube identity. I didn't and still don't. As I consider ways to broaden my reach and push myself out of my comfort zone, this is almost a daily consideration.

The concept was and still does scare me. I've read the comments sections, which seem to range from borderline hero-worship to vile attacks. Both extremes equally alarm me.

And so I've held back, keeping my real identity (I don't even use my full name on my personal Facebook account) hidden behind a cloud of makeup tips and images of other people.

Then this morning I watched a video Emily put out called, "Tagged: Your Beauty Story." I guess there's a Youtube game of tagging a guru, which prompts him or her to answer a series of questions that others have answered. Most of Emily's answers were light: she began wearing makeup when she was cheerleading; she learned about the basics from her mother and sister.

The final question she answered was about Youtube itself. She described the experience as positive - even for the negatives it involves. She said it teaches you a valuable life lesson that is easier the sooner you learn it: Not everyone will like you, what you're about, what you have to say. The point of it was it's OK: keep doing what you do and keep going. It's not just on Youtube that you learn this reality. It's in life.

I still don't know if I'll post a video tutorial and come out of hiding, but something about that last answer nudged me much closer.

Because makeup really isn't about hiding. It's about showing yourself, in more ways than one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Waxing Beautiful Will Be Expanding

Over the next couple months, this blog will be expanded to include a separate page going beyond beauty reviews and makeup. The focus will be on women's issues, including health, workplace, personal care, family, and managing all factors against today's growing demands.

The goal is to create a blog that addresses various issues affecting today's women. I still want to maintain some central focus on beauty and makeup, as it's a personal passion. But the goal is to expand coverage to give women of all ages useful information to help them manage their daily lives. I love writing about makeup and beauty, but I do worry that women today can get easily too focused on this topic without addressing areas that have much more meaning to them. We are, after all, multidimensional and need to be to manage ourselves in today's world.

My professional background includes several years as a journalist, so this will be a welcome area to move into. I hope people will get something out of this, finding the page both fun and topical.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Upcoming Product Reviews and Makeup Looks

Between now and end of March, I'll be reviewing the following products:

1. Chaz Dean's Wen shampoo and haircare products

2. Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift

3. Mary Kay brand makeup and skincare products

4. Rimmel Lasting Finish foundation

I'll also be doing a 70s and 80s makeup retrospective using Make Up For Ever and a Minka Kelly inspired makeup look. Yes, we all get why Derek Jeter loves her.

Review: Xen Self-Tanner

I was curious about this product after watching a Pixiwoo review on self-tanners, where this item was picked as the top brand. The makeup artists who comprise Pixiwoo, sisters Sam and Nic Chapman, are well-regarded for their talents. This exposure has also given them access to some of the top brands. (One disclaimer: The duo appear to have a contractual relationship with certain makeup brands, namely Chanel. They may also have relationships with other brands that drive which products they promote.)

Whatever the potential relationship, the review was a strong endorsement of the Xen tanning line. Sam Chapman, a fair-skinned British woman, describes herself as pretty deficient with self-tanners and really emphasized that this is an area where paying up gets you a better product (Xen tanning line runs $32-$56 per bottle). Her particular shortcoming is in blending, which leads to streaking issues among lesser quality self-tanning products.

Physically, I am the opposite of the Chapmans: I'm Asian and naturally much darker than they are. Why would I have any interest in self-tanning? Because even a darker girl can feel pale in the winter months. When I come home from any warm-weather vacation, I'm in love with that natural bronze look I have. My skin can easily go about five shades darker during a week-long tropical vacation. It seems to want to eat the sun, which is a good and bad thing.

I pay attention to skin cancer warnings. After a scare earlier this year that resulted in a biopsy, I'm especially aware. The idea of a tropical vacation in a bottle appeals to me even more because of this.

Yesterday, I received the Xen order in the mail: I picked the Dark Lotion, which comes in an 8 flow ounce pump bottle. I applied the product a couple hours before bed last night, putting it strictly on my face and neck.

The immediate noticeable benefits of this product: No chemical smell that's typically associated with self-tanners. It smells to me like dark cherries, the real ones and with no cloying effect (although others describe it as vanilla scented). The other thing is how dark the product is: A very rich brown that is almost alarming on first pump. Even the L'Oreal Sublime Bronze product looks wimpy by comparison.

The Xen product goes on smoothly and has a gel-like quality. There was a slight appearance of streaking to the skin, but I deliberately left it as is to see if it would wash away the following morning. This was to test Chapman's claim that you can have virtually no skills with application and still get a streak-free finish.

When I washed it off this morning, it was streak-free, as Chapman promised. The effect isn't as dark as the initial product color would suggest. Upon reading some online reviews, even very fair-skinned women who used it said they didn't appear as dark as they'd hoped.

Still, the tan you get from it is believable: No Snooki or Oompa Loompa comparisons will follow; the undertone is olive and not orange. My guess is I'm about two shades darker with one application (Update: As the day progressed and I saw myself in natural lighting, I appeared much tanner than I'd originally assessed). The product promises the effect will last seven days (I'll let you know if it falls short).

I'd recommend this product to anyone who has application shortcomings and hates the self-tanner smell. Just keep your expectations realistic: You won't look baked, just lightly bronzed.

If you can learn to blend more and hold your nose a little, stick to the drugstore brands and save yourself about $30.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Note to the Young Women Out There

After working on a few young woman in their early 20s, I've observed some consistent themes: They all want to be tan, almost Snooki-level tan. They want to have hair color that doesn't occur in nature.

They want to look like someone completely other than themselves.

First off, as someone who loves makeup, I love the game of dress-up and don't criticize that at all. I've experimented with myself tons. As I grow older, though, I realize increasingly just how beautiful people are in their natural state. That doesn't mean makeup-free, unwashed, unkempt: That means enhancing your natural coloring and not working against it.

If you are born with porcelain-white skin, it's such a beautiful trait to play up. Think of model Karen Elson, who borders on ghostly-pale. To maintain that look, she must live like a virtual vampire, wear SPF 100, and use makeup that possibly lightens her skin even further. It works beautifully on her. Best of all, she won't get premature wrinkles.

There are images of Naomi Watts in self-tanner and bronzer: It looks fake and works against her natural beauty.

People love Brigitte Bardot, but what they love is the sex-kitten image she had decades ago. She was a sun-worshiper. Google her current images and get a dose of reality: the sun wreaks havoc on you over time, if not immediately. Yes, she would look older and wrinkled today naturally, but some of that is definitely a result of laying out.

If you have dark or or olive-toned skin, go with makeup shades that play up your natural undertones. Think of Iman, who must have a PhD in how to enhance her natural coloring. She does lighten her hair, but it's done to enhance the depth of her skin coloring.

Young women, you don't appreciate just how beautiful you are: You can live like an Ivory-girl and still look beautiful. You can sleep three hours and look refreshed. Don't wait until you're a lot older to appreciate this stage of life and your beauty.

Brigitte in her sun worshiping days.

Brigitte Bardot today

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Looks - Part 2

Brooke is wearing makeup by L'Oreal: True Match liquid foundation in Nude Beige, Hip Studio Secrets professional shadow in Electrified 510, and a new product, Bare Naturale Gentle Lip Conditioner in Soft Spice. Thank you to L'Oreal for generously donating their new items to make this Valentine's look.

The True Match foundations are consistently rated very highly by beauty magazines and makeup artists, both for color shade range and for finish quality. If you are looking for a more affordable foundation option than the department store brands, this is a good product to look into. The Hip Studio Secrets line is also highly rated for its strong pigmentation. If you want a lot of bang for your buck, this product delivers: you will not need to keep reapplying to get a rich color effect.

Brooke is also wearing NARS powder blush in Sin. For a little extra illumination, I added a drop of Smashbox illuminator to her foundation. To prep her skin, I used Make Up For Ever primer, and for her eyes I used Urban Decay eye shadow primer.

Please see for more images. I originally wanted to go very dramatic for the second look, but because Brooke's natural coloring is so fair and she's so young (20), that makeup look was overpowering on her.

A Disclaimer on Future Makeup Images

Going forward, any makeup imagery I'll be doing will be on myself. I wanted to avoid this, because I find it a little narcissistic. However, any grief I cause myself will be of my own doing. I'm personally spending a tremendous amount of energy and money trying to share what I've learned and give people inspiration for their own makeup looks. I'm not creating world peace by any means, but what I'm giving out lately has felt like a lot more than what I'm getting back for this effort.

Recently a few cosmetic companies have generously offered to share their products with me, and I truly appreciate this. Still, about 98% of this endeavor I pay for out of my own pocket. This is probably the dumbest business model, so I'm rethinking some things.

When I do makeup on others, I tell them upfront what I'll be doing, my ideas, my approach. I always aim to be very accommodating and respectful towards them. I don't charge them anything, not for my service or for the makeup. I don't push any products on them to buy. This, for the most part, is just a win-win for anyone who wants her makeup done.

Yet so far, I've had very little thanks for what I've done: I honestly think I heard it once. Going a step further, I dealt with a total lack of common courtesy and insensitivity in both my personal and professional lives this past year. This may be why this is a particular sore spot. People who seem exhausted by the two-syllable saying, "thank you" just baffle me. Still, I see it more and more and hear this less and less.

In doing others' makeup, I've become an unwilling psychologist, having to suddenly contend with people's pre-existing body issues and personal hang-ups. I'm just enhancing a little with makeup. I cannot change how you feel about yourself. I've wasted a lot of time, energy, and money dealing with people who were not honest with me back.

I get a great deal of joy out of giving people uplifting imagery and ideas, helping them understand more about makeup, and brightening their spirit a little. Don't lose sight of my main point. But it isn't hard to express some basic gratitude for a free service and be a little generous in spirit back. I do this all the time, and trust me, it takes no energy out of you but gives a lot back to another person.

Friday, February 11, 2011

$100 MAC Cosmetic Contest Winner: @Purplelaptop2

Congrats to Twitter account, Purplelaptop2, on her win! She played diligently from the beginning and must have RT'd about 500 times.

For those of you who played and didn't win, I'll be running another contest soon, so please keep an eye out for it. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Makeup Images: A Retrospective of Past Eras

Within the next couple weeks, I'll be doing images from two decades, with an updated twist in the makeup. I'd love to hear back from people on which decades they'd most want to see. Please feel free to post a comment on this blog or write on the wall at

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Next Makeover: Valentine's Day - Dramatic and Sexy

I'll be doing a second version of the Valentine's Day look. L'Oreal has graciously offered to provide me with some of their upcoming products to use in the photo story, so please keep a look out for the next set of images.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Valentine's Day Romantic Makeup: Before and After

For those following Sarah (a.k.a LashGirlMe) and me last night on Twitter, here's the before and afters.

Steps to achieving this look:

1. Start with freshly washed and well moisturized skin. Make sure lips are moisturized.

2. With my fingers, I applied a couple drops of Make Up For Ever's HD Elixer, which moisturizes dry patches. Sarah, who suffers from dry skin, said, "That feels good!" as the product was applied.

3. Next, using a foundation brush, I applied a dime size amount of Make Up For Ever's HD Primer. I waited about 5 minutes for the product to fully dry, although the manufacturer says the primer dries in less time than other brands.

4. With a foundation brush, I applied Make Up For Ever's HD Foundation in #50 across Sarah's face, working from the center of the face and outward. Sarah said she wasn't aiming to cover the small pattern of freckles on her cheeks, but the foundation naturally did.

5. I applied Clarins Multi-Blush in Lichee to Sarah's cheeks, working from the apples and stroking upwards. I set the cream blush and added more color using NARS' powder blush in Desire, a bright pink. When using highly pigmented blushes, use a very light hand and try dipping it in translucent powder to avoid too much application.

6. I set the makeup with Make Up For Ever's HD Microfinish powder. The finish makes skin look almost pore-free.

7. We didn't have eye makeup primer on hand, so I used a cream concealer to prep Sarah's eyelids. Then I applied Make Up For Ever's eye shadow in N180 (a deep purple). I swept this in the crease of her eyelid, then used a blending blush to soften the line. On the eyelid itself, I used a neutral taupe. Her brow bones and tear ducts were highlighted with a pearly white shadow.

8. I curled her lashes and applied two coats of Sephora's lengthening and volumizing mascara to each set.

9. Additional steps: I applied NARS Albatross Highlighter to the top of Sarah's cheekbones, down her nose, and across her forehead. We learned once the photos were taken that the product can show up in flash photography, even if it's not apparent to the naked eye. (While I still love the product, it's not advisable to use for a night out when a lot of pictures will be taken.) I also applied a little bit of YSL's Touche Eclat to her undereye area (she's a mom of two, after all).

On first review, we both agreed that the eye makeup was too dramatic. Sarah's eyes are so dramatic and large naturally that any strong makeup makes them overpowering. I toned down the shadow by mixing a little soft brown with a lighter shade of purple from the Coastal Scents 88 Pallet.

10. For a romantic touch, a applied a soft pink lipstick, Sally Hansen's Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy's Perfect Pink. I applied a nude shade of YSL lipstick on top to give the color some dimension. I love the the natural red hue in Sarah's lips, but to soften the look and make it more romantic, I wanted to lighten them. Prior to applying lipstick, I neutralized the color with foundation.

Please keep in mind that this look can be achieved with more affordable options at any drugstore. I grew up on the cheapest brands, only recently trying more high end products on occasion.

To see more makeover images, please go to

Friday, February 4, 2011

Waxing Pioneering: Kevyn Aucoin

The first time I read about Kevyn Aucoin was in the early 90s, when he was an established high fashion makeup artist and I was in my early teens and just discovering makeup. Once a starving aspiring artist, he was on his way to becoming the highest paid makeup artist of his time, on the heels of doing a series of Vogue covers in the mid- to late 1980s. He was also one of the first makeup artists to gain celebrity in their own right.

The thing that caught my attention the most: He had a different message than anyone I'd read about before. He called attention to highlighting our uniqueness with makeup, rather than trying to mask it. Today it's a fairly common message, but 20 years ago, it was revolutionary. No one else in the fashion or makeup industry was saying it or had said it before with such clarity.

Because I was exposed to Aucoin at a time when my own self-image was shaping, this had a huge impact on me and continues to in my approach to makeup.

He was also memorable physically: Towering, athletically built, with huge lips (a feature that may have stemmed from a disease that was discovered later). He also had an accessible, genuine, and kind persona that was rare in industry where the personalities are often removed and unattainable. Janet Jackson was quoted once as saying he was proof that someone could come from a place of deep pain and become a kinder, more gentle spirit because of it. Despite his size, his voice was memorably soft with a slight lisp.

Aucoin was adopted and raised in Louisiana in the 1960s: He dabbled in his mother's makeup as a young boy, putting it on his sisters and taking photos that resembled the fashion magazine images. It soon became clear he wasn't like the other kids. Growing up gay in the deep South, he faced severe discrimination and hate crimes. He escaped to New York City as a young man, where he first offered his services for free but quickly established relationships with makeup giants, Revlon and Shiseido. Revlon would later commission him to develop the Ultima II Nakeds line, which furthered his name and distinguished him in a time immediately following 80s excess.

On Sept. 11, 2001 (yep, that day of all days), Aucoin was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor that would kill him the following year. In the later stages of his career, he put out three books, Making Faces, The Art of Makeup, and Face Forward. If you are too young to remember Aucoin or never knew of him when he was alive, I would strongly recommend purchasing one of his books to expose yourself not only to his techniques as an artist, but also his message that all of us are beautiful and need to appreciate our individuality. For Aucoin, it wasn't just the message he built his career on: It was the way he lived.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Worth Their Weight in Gold

Here are a few products that are very high end and expensive, but if you have the money to buy them, they work amazingly well. My sister and I once had a joke to not even tease ourselves by trying expensive products, because it's like exposing yourself to a desert island you can't really visit or live on. Well, I did on these products, and I remember them fondly.

Cle de Peau Concealer stick: I have undereye bags and darkness that pop up if I get a wink less than 7 hours sleep. This product is the only one that covers both with a small dab, blends seamlessly into the skin, and stays put. When I bought it, it was $60 (it's now $70). The product lasted a little over a year with daily use (never going bad). That results in $5/month, or $.16/day.

Creme de la Mer The Eye Concentrate: Got this as a sample and still mourning the loss. I don't know what magic potion the elusive wizards at La Mer put in this thing (notoriously referred to as a "miracle broth"), nor do I care. No matter how little sleep you get, put it on at night, and you'll wake up looking refreshed. At $165 per .5 ounces, I can't afford to rely on this product. If you can, go for it: it's a miracle worker.

Kinerase Extreme Face Lift: This product promises to make you look "10 years younger in 5 minutes." It may be an overstatement, but you do feel an actual tightening of the skin and you look like you just returned from a spa. At $150 per 1 flow ounce, it's like liquid gold.

YSL Teint Resist: This foundation is one of the items I got while under a trance at Saks. It's a matte foundation that keeps my oily skin looking shine free. The real test is going under harsh, florescent lights and still looking polished and photogenic. This foundation passes with flying colors.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Few New Favorites

L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara: When I first saw the spherical applicator, I was bewildered. This mascara is great for bottom lashes and the smaller lashes at the inner corner of the top lid. Because it's tiny, the application is very precise.

NARS The Multiple in Orgasm: I'm a bigger fan of this suggestively-named color in a cream stick formula than I am as a powder blush. One: It lasts forever. Two: It can be easily applied to the lips and eyes, as well. The effect is romantic and illuminating.

L'Oreal Studio Secrets color quad in Lavender Smokes: This is the deep plum shadow I've been searching for. This brand's shadows are highly pigmented and thoughtfully assembled. I love the gold flecks in the deep plum shade and the golden highlight colors. Combined together, the look is dramatic and smokey.

Cover Girl Cheekers Blush in Rose Gold: This is a deep rose color that fits almost any complexion. Apply with a light hand for a subtle effect, or layer on gradually to add depth and drama.