Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Product Review: Kett Hydro Foundation

I got this product after seeing some raves about it on Youtube. The manufacturer offers sample sizes in shade undertones, which is helpful for a foundation that isn't available in the department stores. Kett is a high-def. airbrush foundation, but the hydro foundation can also be applied with a stippling brush. I bought the Olive sample set and found a perfect shade match in the collection.

Since I've never used an airbrush foundation, I was surprised at how watery it is. I applied the foundation with a stippling brush and was initially impressed with the results. Because the consistency is so fine, it does seem to meld right into the skin. This works well for anyone with minor skin imperfections, but such a watery product can't cover any skin issues such as blemishes.

The problem I have is the foundation never seems to "set." It stays a wet consistency and wears down easily. At work, if I touched my face, I actually saw fingerprint marks and streaking left behind. It was reminiscent of the middle school days when we used drugstore foundations that had completely worn off by the end of the day. Even applying a setting powder didn't help.

This may be my skin type: I have combination skin. Possibly, it's meant for drier skin tones that can absorb this moisture better. I know that foundations can wear differently on different people. I strongly suggest anyone curious about this product buy the sample sizes first and see how it works on you.

As an aside, Kett makes contouring products that I love. This is where a product that's fluid and blends works great.

The foundation retails at $30 for 35 ml. and is the same price for a sample set. Kett is alcohol, fragrance, and paraben free.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Makeup: The Glamour List

Lorac's Multiplex 3D Eyeshadow Palette

Let me preface this with a disclaimer: I am not a label fiend, and that includes makeup. I grew up in New England, where we pride ourselves on the basics and going as cheap as possible. If I can find something that's affordable, no-name, and works, I am giddy with a sense of having cheated the system.

All that said, there are a few items that I've tried that are worth the money and the prestige around them. They are items that I love well after the honeymoon stage.

They do what a thrifty girl doesn't feel much: They give her a sense of glamour. This is an on-all-cylinders feeling: The packaging is gorgeous, and better yet, the product works and delivers on all of its promises. Most importantly, the feeling doesn't wear off. The products are so good, they quickly hit Holy Grail status.

These are the items:

Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte lipstick: From the name to the product itself, this item is pure glamour. The gold packaging and the YSL emblem around it is gorgeous; more importantly, the product itself is amazing. The lipsticks are creamy, delicate, and have the most beautiful finish. A cheaper lipstick can duplicate the shade, but it can't copy the overall effect that this lipstick creates.

Kevyn Aucoin The Elegant Lip Gloss: Years ago, I was on a hunt for the perfect nude lipcolor. When I saw the late Aucoin's collection, I knew I'd found it. He was a master at nude makeup and was reportedly exacting about the makeup line he created. At the time, the shade was called Caramel, which Aucoin was famous for using as a shade description. The brand has since renamed all of its glosses, so I don't know for sure if that shade still exists. The gloss itself trumps many lipsticks, and it's the only one that I consider worth spending over $20 for (It retails at $27.). Like the YSL lipsticks, it's perfection in shade and feel: You really do feel a sense of elegance wearing it.

Lorac's Multiplex 3D Eyeshadow Palette: This is a more recent find, but truly every time I open this palette, I'm amazed. When eyeshadow and shimmer meet, it straddles a very thin line between extreme, gaudy makeup and dramatic yet refined makeup. This palette absolutely nails the latter. The colors range from a delicate gold to a brighter teal. Somehow, even by wandering away from the conventional shades, the palette has the taste and refinement of a black cocktail dress. On the eyes, the shades are far from sparkly. The element of shimmer is subdued yet noticeable.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to Navigate a Makeup Trade Show

Having recently returned from IMATS New York, I wanted to give a few quick takeaways for those of you thinking of attending the upcoming IMATS LA or The Makeup Show in NYC, both in May. Also, to clarify, IMATS stands for International Makeup-Artist Trade Show. Despite the name, this show is open to the public. The benefit of a trade show is direct exposure to makeup brands at a discount (running around 25% on average for the public and higher for professionals). I believe IMATS will have separate hours for professionals in LA, which I think is a good idea.

For attendees:

1.) Research the brands that will be featured ahead of time. IMATS directly linked each brand's webpage, so it was easy to go on to the page ahead of time. The benefit of this is you can figure out what items you want and what would be beneficial to have in bulk. Just because of the crowd, it was hard at the IMATS NY event to spend any time at the booths looking at the items and getting familiar with them. Create a wishlist on your phone and have it ready.

2.) Go early: IMATS opened at 10 a.m., and in hindsight, I should've been at the door at 9:58. By going early, the odds are much better you'll get first dibs on items and beat the crowd. I was going upstairs to the showroom at noon and saw many people coming down with full bags. They were smiling for a reason. The other benefit is many of the featured speakers go on in the afternoon, which means you can spend your afternoon attending the events.

3.) Plan your day: Rather than seeing a trade show as a random series of tables and events, map out your day a little. IMATS also gives information on featured speakers and events. It really stunk to know after-the-fact that some of the cast of Saturday Night Live had been there and I missed the show.

For the trade show sponsors and vendors:

1.) This is your time to shine: I had no familiarity with Obsessive-Compulsive Cosmetics prior to IMATS. However, that brand was on its game in NYC. They had the most efficiently run table and the quickest system for processing purchases (handheld card readers and e-mailed receipts - so smart!). They were ready for business, and it left a good impression.

2.) For a trade show sponsor, it's best to separate the wheat from the chaff a little: There was so much haggling at one table over who was a professional and who wasn't that it caused a huge backup in the line. Change the wristband color or something to save time and hassle for the vendors. In so many cases, I saw people say, "I'm a makeup artist," then have zero information to show for it. It also puts excessive pressure on those working the vendor booths to have to make a quick decision and potentially have to answer for it if someone isn't happy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MUA James Vincent Talks Beauty Diversity at Make Up For Ever

Makeup artist James Vincent discusses the beauty of diversity at Make Up For Ever.

Tall and tattooed, MUA James Vincent is a bull in the china shop that is the makeup world.

And that's perhaps why he does it so well. It's a world that can be pretentious, too polite, and stuffy. Someone needs to cough. Vincent does it well, breaking down myths and explaining makeup in a touchable but thoughtful way.

Vincent taught a seminar, Global Complexions, at Make Up For Ever's midtown New York studio in early March. The seminar addressed the increasing diversity of the American face: No longer one or a few shades, the country's melting pot has forced the hand of many cosmetics companies to address this with their foundation arrays. Make Up For Ever, to its credit, has been one of the top brands to showcase beauty of varying ethnicities and to answer the demographic shift with its product array: Its foundation shades are among the most diverse and reaching on both ends of the spectrum.

A major point of Vincent's seminar was to look at not only the person, the face, or the undertones of the face, but also that person's culture: In some cultures, deepening the complexion is considered more beautiful, while in others it's a virtual travesty. Vincent also emphasized shaking our perception that makeup is about putting a wash of an opaque liquid over your blemishes and skin: Instead, he focuses on correcting colors to counteract skin issues such as rosacea. Demonstrating with a green-toned Make Up For Ever primer, he showed how much redness can be brought down with a small amount of product and without covering the skin. He recommends getting a color wheel (available at any paint supply store) to help understand how colors counteract and work with each other.

He also addressed some common myths about makeup. One is that blush is meant to be applied to the apples of the cheeks. Millions of women believe and follow this without realizing that it should be used with some discretion: It widens a gaunt face. The bigger point from Vincent was to think through the makeup tips you're following or using on others and make sure they apply, rather than thinking techniques are universal.

I asked Vincent a few follow-up questions about diversity in makeup. The Q&A is below.

Q: As our "global complexion" gets increasingly varied - due to factors like interracial marriage and coupling, immigration, etc. - what's the strongest message you try to get across about our approach to makeup?

James Vincent: "The most important thing to think about is understanding and respecting different cultures and backgrounds and adapting away from ideas of Caucasian beauty and Western culture as the most valued. I think the multi-ethnic beauty will be the future, and I love the concept of beauty that is personal and powerful as opposed to media manipulated ideals. Looking for inspiration in the individual instead of in the mass media will force us to listen to our clients and respond to their needs. Artists will have to understand color theory and how it applies to every skin tone. In the end perfect skin is perfect skin."

Q: What do you observe as being some of the biggest steps in the makeup industry to address the changing face of the consumer? What do you see as some of the remaining challenges?

James Vincent: "The makeup industry needs to produce foundation shades and color ranges that are dark and deep enough for women of color, but they also need to understand that these women need to be represented in advertising and all media."

Vincent is Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine. He's experienced in makeup for film and theater, celebrity and television, and high-fashion editorial. His background includes training and product development positions for companies including MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. The co-founder of the niche makeup line Pretty Pretty, his recent clients have included Lady Gaga, Liv Tyler, Joan Jett and Jane Fonda. Vincent has also worked in television as key artist for shows including "American Idol" and "Sex and the City." Nylon magazine and Women's Wear Daily have named him as a "makeup artist to watch."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

IMATS NY and a Make Up For Ever Seminar

This weekend was a blur of events. For anyone who loves makeup, it would either make or break that passion, because the amount of it was so overwhelming. A few Youtube gurus were at IMATS NY, including the brilliant Petrilude and the one-of-a-kind QueenofBlending.

Eve Pearl of the makeup brand by the same name.

Make Up For Ever HD foundations

We always want what we don't have, and I don't have lashes naturally. So I was glued to the MUFE eyelash collection. It was so creative and beautiful.

Back to IMATS: the Kett booth. I've tried this foundation, which is designed for airbrush application. It doesn't work for my skin type, but others say it's amazing.

Make Up For Ever's eyeshadow collection

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Make Over Your Image: Wet 'N Wild Cosmetics

Swatches from the Lust Palette

This is the brand I cut my makeup teeth on in the 80s. It was everything 80s and everything wrong with makeup: frosty, glittery, cheap and cheap-looking. By the 90s, it was a punchline in the makeup consumer eye.

I completely ignored (or, more to the point, actively dodged) this brand at the drugstores for two decades. Then Emily Eddington had a video blog about the line on her Youtube channel, EmilyNoel83. The comment was that this brand is really stepping up its game: It's looking at what the consumer wants and responding to it.

For the first time since my teens, I looked at the Wet 'N Wild display in the drugstore. What I saw was impressive: They've launched a series of eyeshadow palettes in varying sizes (singles, trios, six-palettes and up). The palettes of six shadows are my favorite: They are so smartly designed in both color assembly and an equal mixture of shimmer and matte tones. Beyond that, the color density is extremely rich and lasting. At approximately $4 each, their shadow palettes hold up against some of the most expensive eyeshadow palettes I've bought from the biggest names in makeup.

My personal favorites are Lust/Desire (wine-toned) and Vanity (earth-toned). Pride is a great blue/marine-toned palette, and Greed is designed to create a smokey eye. I've so far steered clear of the trios, since they're all shimmer-based and I personally like a mixture of matte/shimmer.

I'm constantly watching this brand now to see what new palettes they're coming out with. They improved their performance at one of the smartest times: During a down economy when the consumer is looking for affordable makeup that delivers.

I'm still gun-shy of their foundations, following scarring memories from the 80s. However, as the brand improves, I continue to want to try more of its products.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Next Makeup Challenge: Bronze Makeup

I loved the fresh-faced makeup contest and seeing people's interpretation of the look. Since summer isn't far off, I'm thinking about sun-kissed, bronze makeup looks. This means a look achieved though makeup, not self-tanning products, tanning beds, or laying out.

The next contest involves posting a "before and after" photo of yourself: The before photo can be with makeup, but should show your actual skin tone. The after photo will show a bronze look achieved solely through makeup. Please list steps used to achieve the look, but products used is optional: This isn't meant to be a promotion for certain makeup brands.

The winner of the contest will get a $50 gift certificate to Sephora or Ulta. Contest closes on April 29, 2011. Winner will be announced at 3 p.m. EST on April 30. Good luck!

Contests are open to U.S. residents only.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kevyn Aucoin: What Would He Have Done Today?

His books are the only makeup artist books I've bought (the rest I rent out from the library). I stared at those books for hours on end and still refer back to them regularly. His critics said he had a tendency to "gild the lily." Everyone has a critic, and it's OK. He was an incredible talent and pioneered the industry. I hate the reverence some makeup artists get, but in his case, it's no hyperbole. To this day, I wonder what he would be doing if he were still alive. I imagine it would continue to move the industry forward.

He did a lot of celebrity makeup, but he also did a lot of makeup on everyday people, including those who didn't fit the mold of traditional beauty. I once saw him do work on a group of women who felt terrible about their looks. Many of them cried when they saw themselves afterward: They said they had no idea they could look beautiful. What impressed me so much was how humble and kind Kevyn was in response.

For his book, Face Forward, he had the idea of merging the faces of two models of different ethnicities. One of the models, Amber Valletta, said later she thought the idea would never work. When she saw the image, she was amazed at how synchronized the faces looked.

The cover shot from Face Forward by Kevyn Aucoin

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is Fresh-Faced Makeup?

The winning entry by Rhi Mendez

I've always loved the idea of this, partly because it marries the concepts of bare-faced and made-up. It utilizes makeup techniques and visible makeup to enhance the look of someone who's healthy and happy.

I wanted to see how others viewed this concept, so about a month ago I posed this question to the people on my page and asked them to be their own MUAs (I was simply tired of looking at my own makeup work, too).

The winner has been chosen based on makeup technique and a strong interpretation of the concept. Rhi Mendez will get $50 in her choice of cosmetics from e.l.f. Anyone who knows this brand knows $50 will buy you a lot of makeup.

Rhi's look epitomizes fresh-faced: In the image, she looks like she'd slept 10 hours, taken a relaxing bath, then applied a little makeup to enhance her good mood. Her application technique was simply great and took my breath away.

Still, it was really tough to pick just one winner. A second prize will be awarded to Melissa Kaye, who made a late entry tonight. Her makeup application was clean and also epitomized the concept. She will get a $10 item of her choice from e.l.f.

All others who participated will get the e.l.f. eyelash curler (which is highly rated) and a regular lipstick in their shade choice.

Please e-mail me your addresses and product choices at I'm also looking into a way of awarding gift certs through e-mail. Thanks again to everyone who participated! I truly loved looking at all the entries and thought everyone had an original and great take on the concept.

Congratulations, Rhi and Melissa!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mistakes Some Youtube Makeup "Gurus" Make

When I scan Youtube looking for new makeup artists to follow, I look for one main thing: talent. I also look for the ability to explain concisely, teach effectively, and come across as authentic and approachable.

There are many on Youtube who are doing it wrong: If you don't know how to clearly present a product or explain a technique, rehearse off camera. When I was a journalist, I once read a tip that stays with me to this day: "You have to earn your audience." In other words, there are 10,000 distractions people have, so don't waste their time. Earn it.

I turn off videos constantly: The minute a tutorial turns into a rambling session, when an artist spends more time playing with her hair and fidgeting, I get irritated that she didn't practice and move on. I watched one video tutorial where the woman's face was out of camera shot the entire time: Obviously, she didn't check the video before uploading. I kept watching to see if there would be a moment she'd notice and adjust the camera. She didn't.

Another famous Youtube personality told her audience she "didn't have time" to finish editing a video she'd been long promoting. Instead, she spent days uploading pictures of herself out partying. Yes, she has a right to have fun with friends. But keep the pictures off your page after you've told people you're too busy to complete a project.

Back to the original point, the videos shouldn't exceed 10 minutes. With editing, that's plenty of time to show a technique or look or to review a product.

Here's another major pet peeve I see more and more: Makeup gurus who distance themselves from their audience. You want people to "rate, comment, and subscribe"? Be polite, be appreciative, engage with them a little. It's a two-way game. These subscribers and viewers have helped propel some makeup Youtube personalities into quasi-fame, makeup contracts, etc. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. And don't forget about it.

I've complimented some makeup artists on Youtube or congratulated them for their good news only to get completely ignored. As I scan the page, I notice they've ignored everyone else. This is an instant formula to get me - and probably others - to unsubscribe and stop supporting you. The excuse some of them literally use is, "I'm too busy to respond." You're not. This is your business. And being rude is just bad business.

To follow-up, I got a comment I expected to get, telling me that this is a rude blog post. I specifically didn't name any names or direct this in a comment to anyone on Youtube to avoid attacking anyone. It is general feedback, which supposedly all of the "makeup gurus" ask for at the end of their videos. When I was a journalist, I had to hear a lot of criticism from people who disagreed with something I wrote. It's hard to put yourself out there, but once you do, this is part of the process: You get feedback, good and bad. Some of the criticism is actually meant to help you improve, which was the point of the post. I've seen horrible comments under videos that are meant to tear down the poster; this was hardly my intention, nor what I actually wrote (which you'll see, if you take the time to read it).

That was the point of the blog. I'm sorry if you don't get it.

Not Your Mother's Mary Kay

My first memory of makeup was my mother's pink-bottle collection of Mary Kay in our bathroom. Since we are a family of hoarders, the bottles sat in the closet for close to a decade. I avoided the brand for years with this traumatic childhood memory.

I still think Mary Kay could upgrade its brand image. The company doesn't advertise, since it depends on the Mary Kay representatives to promote the products and company. The packaging could modernize, and the brand could begin targeting younger consumers, similar to how Avon has done with its spin off Mark. line. If you catch an audience young, you gain a loyal following. Teens and young women are the biggest cosmetic consumers.

That said, this is one of the more underrated cosmetic brands. The products have a consistently good reputation among buyers, but it still doesn't get the press many other cosmetic companies do.

As I reviewed earlier, the Mary Kay primer is the best I've tried. When Smashbox Photo Finish became price-prohibitive for me, I began to search for a less expensive primer that delivered. The primer feels literally like silk and delivers at improving makeup durability and wear. The price is $22/1 flow ounce. A primer that comes in at a close second and feels very similar is Hard Candy's Sheer Envy, which is $8 for 1.6 fl. ounces. My concern with Hard Candy is the brand has an exclusive distribution deal with Walmart, which is a store franchise I dislike for some of its corporate practices. For that reason, I hold to Mary Kay as my favorite primer.

As mentioned in my Most Overrated Products blog, I am a big fan of the Mary Kay Highlighter Pen. It does what YSL's Touche Eclat does, but it does it so much better and at half the price. YSL's product is $40, and MK's is $18. The product uses light diffusers to minimize flaws like undereye circles while also brightening the face and highlighting features like cheekbones.

The Mary Kay Limited Edition illuminator comes in a peachy-pink shade and a bronze shade. I tried the bronze shade, which has a wonderful consistency and blends well with foundation. It does what I wish Nars Orgasm illuminator would do: It adds dimension and brightness to the complexion, enhancing the foundation without trying to outdo it.

Mary Kay Mineral Cheek Color: This $10 blush is highly pigmented. I put a light sweep on my blush brush and had to wipe off some of the product because the color payoff was so intense. I'd say that's a good problem. My only complaint is the product is packaged loosely in plastic containers, which means it slides when you're running your blush brush over it. Mary Kay has empty compacts, and I think you're meant to add each blush to the sturdier compact.

Finally, a product I think is a huge fail: Mary Kay Vinyl Lip Shine. I'm not a big fan of glosses in general, but this product reminded me of why for a few reasons: The consistency is very tacky (it's meant to be a buildable gloss that gives a glossier and denser finish as you apply). Second, it smells just terrible. Because it's on your lips, you can taste and smell the product while wearing it. I find it almost unbearable - like rubber or gas.

Please contact Monika Piekarcyk da Silva, Mary Kay rep, at for more information about any of the brand's products. She is extremely knowledgeable about the products and makeup application. She is also a great salesperson: Very friendly and informative without being a bit pushy.