Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Most Underrated Beauty Products

Physicians Formula Bronze Booster: Delivers far more than the attention it gets.

There are products and brands that get a lot of love in beauty magazines, by celebrities, etc. Then there are products we hardly hear about: Maybe we used them years ago and recently rediscovered them, remembering how good they are; maybe we stumbled upon them and wonder why they don't get more attention and fanfare.

Here are a few products that fit both molds: some are oldies but goodies, while others are newer products that have never gotten the respect they deserve. All of them are reasonably priced, which is one thing to love and respect now more than ever.

1. Suave haircare: The shampoos and conditioners are still in the $2/bottle range, have recently been upgraded to what's called The Professionals line, and best of all, they truly work as well as products three or four times their price. In my poorest days, I've gone back to Suave and always wondered why it's a default brand; it leaves hair shiny, soft, and manageable. This is ultimately what we're all looking for in a haircare line, regardless of price.

2. Because this product is about to be discontinued, I have to give it a nod: The NYC Lip Sliders Tinted Lip Balm comes in a variety of shades, ranging from the palest baby pink to a rose tint. Each smells edible, departs a sheer but visible wash of color, and leaves your lips well moisturized. As a discontinued item, CVS has been selling each for $.75 (regular retail is $2.99). Grab a few backups and enjoy this cheap and cheerful item while it lasts. One downside: I personally dislike products that you have to dip a finger into, so if you feel the same, use it with a small lip brush.

3. Physicians Formula Bronze Booster: This matte bronzer works beautifully on olive/darker skin tones for contouring. Most importantly, applied lightly to the high points of the face, it departs a true sun-kissed glow to the skin. The product retails for $15, but PF often has manufacturer's coupons on the products, or you can wait for a sale.

4. Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure: While crackle polishes are all the rage right now, a polish that doesn't crack doesn't get much press. This polish, which provides a built in base- and topcoat, will last most a solid week without any signs of wear. The colors range from a variety of nudes to bold and bright shades, all of which are richly pigmented. A single coat is all you need to get an opaque, cream-based look. This product retails around $7.

5. Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs: Looking for a quick way to get a little color and evening of the skin tone without wearing hot pantyhose? This slight beauty oddity - bordering on body makeup - is applied via an airbrush spray. It sounds messy and intimidating, but it's surprisingly easy to use. Use a small amount in a shade slightly deeper than your natural coloring. It dries to a smooth finish, provides a believable tan, and is transfer resistant (although not waterproof). Best of all, it conceals minor blemishes but washes off at the end of the night.

6. Roc Retinol: This stabilized retinol formula is priced around $25 and delivers as well as brands twice its price. The newer formulas are enhanced with antioxidants and minerals to work in conjunction with the main wrinkle fighting ingredient. As more products with increasingly high price tags break into the market, this no-frills standby continues to hold its ground.

7. Paula's Choice Sunscreen: This is the best sunscreen I've found; no matter how high the SPF, the formula stays light, blends easily into skin like a moisturizer, and doesn't reappear as a chalky film or turn you ghostly. Nor is it so chemical-laced that it makes you tear up if any gets near your eyes. This is available at www.paulaschoice.com. Many of the sunscreens are on sale through today, so it's worth a look. The regular retail price of approximately $14/bottle is reasonable.

8. Organix Moroccan Argan Oil: The shampoo and conditioner have gotten mixed reviews, but the oil itself leaves hair soft and moisturized. Use a small amount and work through wet hair. It delivers as well as the $30/bottle brands, but it's priced at $8.

9. Jovan White Musk Body Spray: At just $8, this spray delivers a scent that's authentic to the seductive white musk we all know, never turning cloying or fading quickly. As a weekend or date scent, especially in the summer, it works perfectly.

10. Arcona Wine Hydrating Mask: Infused with the antioxidant properties of grapeseed and wine extracts and a series of moisture-binding ingredients, this $38 mask leaves skin hydrated and glowing. Arguably it's not cheap, but it provides a serious return on the investment and preps skin beautifully for makeup.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Quick Sunscreen Tips

In preparation for the long weekend, please keep these tips in mind when wearing sunscreen or sunblock.

1. Areas that are often forgotten when people apply: Ears, feet and the backs of hands. On a more aesthetic note, work the product onto your jawline and along your neck, as it helps prevent some of the jowling we see later in life. Also, use a lip product with an SPF of at least 15. Dermatologists report seeing skin cancer in the lips, since the skin is delicate and the area is often neglected.

2. Sunscreen wears off after about three hours. Even if you're not swimming, remember to reapply. If you're wearing makeup, bring a light powder that contains SPF so that you can reapply without rubbing off your makeup.

3. If your hair is colored, mix a little sunscreen in a spray bottle filled mostly with water. This will cut down on fading and brassiness from the sun. Of course, there are also hair products that contain UV filters.

4. I know some people have concerns around the safety of the chemicals in sunscreen: Options are to go with a sunblock (which is a physical barrier), an organic brand, or a sunscreen made for babies. If you want to skip it, avoid the sun at high noon, wear a hat, and stay in the shade.

Enjoy the long weekend, spend a lot of time outdoors, and have fun!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Youtube Gurus Accepting Subscriber Gifts

I posted a quick Twitter comment about this today and want to explain it a little more. There are a few Youtube beauty gurus I know of who routinely accept gifts from their subscribers. Some of them don't solicit these gifts, so I want to be fair in pointing that out. However, they do accept and say they use the products, sometimes reviewing them and sometimes not.

The reason I don't like the concept is because a Youtube guru with a high subscriber and view count has easy access to many items for free. This is a nice benefit to being popular (anyone see Xsparkage's open box video?), which any savvy product reviewer will understand and work to his or her advantage. The companies should be donating any items to the reviewers; the subscribers shouldn't be donating as much (and especially not young teen subscribers). Like the business that promoting products is, this is an equitable exchange.

A Youtube or beauty reviewer with a large following can easily reach out to companies, show his or her page or channel, and ask if the company would be willing to donate items in exchange for those products being featured. The companies and the reviewers benefit equally; a subscriber sending gifts out, while it's generous and thoughtful, isn't benefiting other than knowing she sent a gift. This may be enough satisfaction for some subscribers, which is great.

In a few too many situations, I see gurus welcoming the gift-giving by sharing their P.O. box and saying how "sweet" people are for giving them things. It's absolutely a nice gesture from the subscribers, but some gurus aren't being nice in exchange. They're taking advantage.

A Youtube beauty personality I respect highly was receiving unsolicited gifts from fans. She posted a comment immediately saying how appreciative she was, but she asked that people donate to charity in lieu of giving her things going forward. She noted in her life she's been blessed with a lot, so she'd like things to go to others who are in much greater need.

Keep in mind: Highly popular reviewers are often sponsored; they are already being paid very well to do the work they do. Some of them benefit in profit-sharing because their channels are so highly viewed. They have other features enabled that bring in profit to them.

None of this is wrong: If you are spending a considerable amount of time reviewing products and sharing your knowledge, earning a living off it is a reasonable, fair, and legitimate goal. The amount of work that bloggers Temptalia (Christine) and Nouveau Cheap do is absolutely full-time work and has my respect; they regularly post 3 or 4 new blogs per day. I just dislike seeing some other reviewers taking advantage of their fans' goodwill.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Product review: Stila Prime Pot Concealer Shadow and Base

I got this product at IMATS, so it was a quick grab. I didn't realize it wasn't a Kitten item until I got home. The Stila Prime Pot eyeshadow base in Caramel is an orange-hued cream base similar in idea to the MAC Paint Pots. The problem with this product is the pigmentation: It is so dark and deeply pigmented that it doesn't just conceal; it actually overpowers your eyeshadow and alters the shadow's color. This defeats the purpose Stila was attempting. I can't imagine this shade resembles anyone's skin color, mainly because the undertone is so orange. The darkness may be to cover bluish tones from veining, but the Prime Pot could've accomplished that with a color that occurs in nature (or, better yet, within the human race).

The product is also meant to be a primer and claims to prevent creasing. The texture is smooth, but it doesn't blend easily onto the skin; it tugs a bit. Does it seem to prevent creasing? Yes. But one could easily accomplish the same thing with cream concealer that does match her skin tone. I did this for all of my teens and 20s, before eyeshadow primers were even a concept. It works just as well.

You can save yourself $20 on this one, or buy an eyeshadow primer that really does work, such as Too Faced Shadow Insurance.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Applying "Red Carpet Makeup:" A Seminar at Make Up For Ever

We've all seen the paparazzi shots of celebrities with botched makeup jobs (Nicole Kidman's bad concealer makeup is the most famous): the white undereye powder that wasn't blended away, the bleeding lipstick on the teeth, the mismatched face and neck due to the wrong foundation color. These photos capture more than an embarrassing moment: They can break a celebrity makeup artist's career.

As celebrities are photographed more than ever, the pressure on a celebrity makeup artist to do work that survives all camera angles and flashes is increasing. Fabiola is one of those makeup artists: She preps celebrity clients for red carpet and television appearances. Her clientele includes actresses Amanda Seyfried, Lea Michelle, January Jones, Maggie Q, Minka Kelly, and Michelle Trachtenberg. Men in Hollywood also wear makeup, not just on film, but also during appearances. Her clients include Ben Stiller, Jimmy Fallon, and Ryan Gosling.

Fabiola gave a presentation and highlighted some of her main techniques at Make Up For Ever's studio in NYC during their Pro-Seminar week. She is unfailingly patient and polite, no matter how many questions she's peppered with, and is great at explaining makeup techniques and why the extra steps are taken.

As a celebrity makeup artist who prepares clients for appearances, she's responsible not just for the face but also the body makeup. She typically gives herself about 45 minutes for the face, then 15 minutes for the rest of the body: She hides things like bruises and veins with a body foundation. She also ensures that the body and face match.

When she's first assigned a new client, she goes on the Internet and looks at images to get an idea of looks that suit him or her the most. Many celebrities today want contouring makeup, but she approaches this carefully: She doesn't do things like contour a nose unless specifically asked by the client. The last thing one wants to do is insult a client by implying a feature needs "fixing."

She also brings a camera with her and takes flash photography images when she's done: The camera can pick up flaws the naked eye didn't catch, and flash images do things to makeup, such as wash it out. For this reason, Fabiola typically uses a slightly deeper foundation shade than the client's natural color, and she always blends the makeup down onto the neck.

A few additional tips from Fabiola:

1. She uses the Beauty Blender sponge to apply foundation: She finds it's the fastest at applying product. She uses a stippling motion during application.

2. She emphasizes how crucial it is to prep the skin: For older clients with very dry skin, she actually uses a a moisturizing oil and lets it sink in before applying makeup. Otherwise the makeup looks cakey and settles into wrinkles and fine lines.

3. She doesn't like airbrush foundation application: The problem she finds is the product sets and hardens quickly, making it difficult to work with.

Fabiola addresses makeup artists and aspiring makeup artists at Make Up For Ever's studio during a seminar this month.

The first look is very daytime-appropriate and almost ethereal.

After doing a simpler look, Fabiola ups the glamour factor by adding smokey eye makeup.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No-Budge, (Truly) Waterproof Eyeliner

So I did my first wedding makeup last weekend. There were two water-based elements I was up against: Cloudy with a good chance of rain and happy with a good chance of tears. I had a waterproof pencil liner, but I didn't have the most faith in it (more on that in an upcoming blog). I asked if anyone knew of a waterproof liquid liner that really holds up. Wendy, whose blog I will link below, responded that Milani Cosmetics makes a great liquid liner. She wore it on vacation: I forget what the actual events were, but it sounded like she did the equivalent of an Iron Man and it was still on at the end.


I bought the Milani Infinite Liquid Eyeliner for the bride. A few days later, I bought some for myself and tested it out of curiosity (yes, I know it's typically done the other way around). Since I didn't have tropical conditions to try it in, I tried to replicate it a little with a hot shower. I didn't wash my face, but I definitely let it get saturated under the water. When I got out, the liner was on and hadn't budged. I imagine the bride was cursing me out a bit trying to get it off, but hopefully on her wedding day it held up.

The product retails at $7 and is sold at most drugstores and at www.milanicosmetics.com. You don't have to be heading into extreme weather conditions to benefit from this: If you're someone like me with an oily t-zone and eye makeup that doesn't hold easily, this product will last and look freshly-applied all day. Despite the bullet-proof nature, the eyeliner does come off in a few wipes with a good eye makeup remover.

The ever-helpful Wendy's blog is www.luvlifebeauty.blogspot.com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blogging, Product Promotion & Concerns

Every time I attempt to do a product review, there's hesitation: I'm one of thousands of bloggers out there pushing products. It's an era unlike the one I came of age in: We had one or two media outlets for exposure to beauty products: Television and magazine advertising. Today there is the Internet - from Youtube to beauty blogs to v-logs and beyond - and the mantra seems to be, "buy, buy, buy." Literally anyone can now get on the Internet and promote products, do how-to videos, etc. The groundswell seems overwhelming in swatch and haul videos.

There is one beauty blogger I follow who will simply buy a product because the packaging "looks pretty" or she saw it really quickly and thought, "I just have to have it." Because I'm older, I can step back and be aware of two crucial things: She has a large following, which means she's likely sponsored (this means she is paid or given products to endorse). It's a very different reality than most of her audience's: Her bread and butter comes from a more-is-more mentality when it comes to product consumption. For many of us, this mentality will simply drain our wallets.

If I was a lot younger and more impressionable, this would be a damaging concept to be constantly exposed to. I'm not holding the bloggers accountable for this, but simply saying the consumer still has to be savvy about the possible motives of those he or she follows. It's like with advertising or any product promotion you see.

I will rave about products I truly think are great and warn about products I don't like, but I always do so with some reservations and a cautionary: Do not buy a product that you can't afford to pay for with cash or that would be a big chunk or your monthly budget. Also, if I am given a freebie to review by a company, I'll be honest and say so (it rarely happens, but it has occasionally). Most of the products I've reviewed have been paid for with my own money at full price. I like the autonomy of this: I don't feel like I owe the company a good review, nor do I feel like my promotion was bought. That said, since I'm buying these products, I can't review as much product as some bloggers are.

While I love sharing good beauty finds, I want to maintain a sense of reality that most of us are experiencing: This is still a very unstable economy, and being smart and conservative with your money is the wisest thing to do. Being beautiful doesn't mean constant spending on the latest fads: It's often about stretching your products, researching them carefully before you buy, and budgeting for them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tinted Moisturizer: A Waste of Money

As summer approaches, I keep reading questions about how to lighten one's makeup routine. The top question is, What's the best tinted moisturizer out there? Tinted moisturizer is like macaroni and cheese: All of the ingredients are in the name. You probably have all two of the ingredients already. I see tinted moisturizers out there for $30. This is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary. The craziest thing is they actually sell.

For summer, simply mix an oil-free, broad spectrum sunscreen moisturizer with a few drops of a matte foundation. You want to achieve a little added color, protection, and coverage in a product that won't slide off your skin or clog your pores. Stay away from setting powders and keep your T-zone shine free with blotting papers.

Summer makeup shouldn't be an added expense and effort; you're removing layers and weight from your makeup, not adding anything. Your goal is to keep skin as bare as possible while maintaining defined features and a polished look when necessary. Most, if not all, of what you need you already have. Get creative and think outside the box a little: mix darker lipstick shades with lighter ones to make them wearable in the warmer months; use your multiple sticks on your cheeks, eyes, and lips for a uniform color theme. Stick with cream shadows and waterproof gel liners to make your eye makeup as sweat-proof as possible.

These are just a few ideas to keep your summer makeup routine simple and minimalistic.