Thursday, June 30, 2011

Makeup Tag

Make Up Tag!

I saw this on Kendyl's blog, which is and thought I'd continue the tag.

1. How old were you when you started wearing makeup? 12 or 13

2. How did you get into makeup? It was a gradual process, but I was always fascinated with fashion and beauty magazines and that sparked a love of makeup.

3. What are some of your favorite brands? L'Oreal, Wet N Wild, Milani, Nars, Urban Decay, and Make Up For Ever.

4. What does makeup mean to you? When I was younger, it meant hiding a lot of who I really was. Today, it actually means the opposite: I try to bring out more of myself with makeup. I love the creativity of it, the art form that it can be made into, and the way it transforms how we see ourselves.

5. If you could only wear 4 products on your face what would they be? Make Up For Ever's HD foundation, Milani Liquifeye in Black, Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso, and NYX lipgloss in Natural.

6. What is your favorite thing about makeup? Some days it's as basic as it makes you look and feel better about yourself. Some days it's far more: the possibilities of what you can do are increasing as makeup becomes more multi-tasking, the color ranges are broader, etc.

7. What do you think about drugstore makeup vs high end makeup? Most of my life, I've used drugstore makeup, so it's my first love. High end makeup, to me, is not a status symbol. I'll go to high-end when I can't find something comparable in the drugstore. Sometimes high-end is worth the extra price and sometimes not.

8. What is one tip of advice you can give to a beginner? When I was growing up, there was no such thing as broadcasted makeup tutorials (Youtube wasn't even a thought), so we learned by analyzing pictures and experimenting. My biggest successes with looks often came from many fails. The best way to learn is by doing. In some ways, I think all the tutorials have removed people's ability to think critically about their personal makeup style and what works for them.

9. What do you think about the beauty community on YouTube? Youtube has been the great equalizer for a lot of things, including makeup now. Anyone can get in front of a camera now and call herself a makeup guru. That's good and bad. It's opened the door for a lot of unknowns to establish themselves and build a following. It's allowed established makeup artists to reach new audiences. The downside is there's an increasing amount of chaff you have to sift through to get to the wheat. People that are just looking to get sponsorship or make quick money turn me off. People who are happy to get popular for the sake of being popular are out there. You have to be careful who you support and follow.

10. What is one makeup trend you never understood? Orange lipstick. I know it's the It Thing right now, but I can't wait until it's over.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Product Review: Eve Pearl Salmon Concealer

To really appreciate Eve Pearl's Salmon Concealer, you need one thing: A huge lack of sleep. I bought it at IMATS NY in April and since then, my opinions on it wavered.

Then the summer heat took over this week. I've never slept well when it gets this hot. Today I'm going on close to a week's worth of little sleep. When I looked in the mirror this morning, my usual under eye circles had taken on the darkness of ongoing bad sleep. Beyond that, they had the blue undertone which is caused by blood pooling.

This was the time to test the product. The point of a salmon or peach concealer is color correction, not so much concealing. This concealer's texture is what people debate: It's light, which goes against our understanding of fighting under eye circles. I have the Bobbi Brown Corrector, which is the same color concept but has a much denser quality.

Applying Eve Pearl's product this morning and seeing the darkness vanish with little effort made me finally appreciate it. It wasn't density or opaqueness that was covering my circles: It was the canceling effect of colors on opposite ends of the color spectrum.

If you have dark under eye circles, analyze whether they're just a darker shade of the rest of your face or if they have a blue or purple undertone (there is a marked difference). If they're just darker, using a concealer a few shades lighter than your skin tone will hide them. If they have a blue undertone, you want to focus more on the peach or salmon pigmentation and less on density.

The product is pricey at $35-$37 each, but it has the deepest pigmentation of any corrector I've seen, including Bobbi Brown's and Pixi's. A little goes a long way, meaning it will last you a long time. Infused with anti-oxidants and other skincare ingredients, the product is also marketed as a treatment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dealing With a Sudden Change in Skin Type

I've always known myself as two things for sure: Erica and oily-skinned. The rest was up for debate. From the time I hit puberty until recently, I was in a constant battle with shine. At one point in high school, a guy sat down next to me and said blankly, "You have really oily skin." It came out as smooth as a Barry White song.

Then about a year ago, my skin changed, seamlessly and overnight. It didn't just dry up a little: My skin went from one extreme to the other. Suddenly, I was constantly feeling dry. My instinctual first thought was to pile on the face creams just to alleviate that uncomfortable tightness. I went through a few different drugstore creams, but none of them made a real difference.

What's hard about going from one skin type to the next quickly is you don't know how to manage it: You spent your life dealing with another skin type, so the remedies for your new symptoms are unfamiliar. It can be caused by all sorts of things, from climate changes to hormonal fluctuations to a possible allergic reaction.

For me, I think the obvious cause was age: Now in my 30s, estrogen levels have changed. This is why women sometimes fight acne in their 30s, even when they never suffered from it earlier in life. Slower cell turnover means oil and dirt get trapped in your pores. Physical or chemical exfoliation often become a necessary step in your regular routine.

I ended up finally finding a topical product, Kate Somerville's Quench Serum, that made a huge difference. But I don't think looking at just topical solutions is always the best approach; the problem is, they run out (or in my case, they're expensive). For me, my diet had taken a nosedive in the months preceding the change. Improving my diet became a longer term and more common sense solution to just thinking in terms of cosmeceuticals. I also began taking Omega 3 and drinking more water, which I think ultimately made the biggest difference.

Keep in mind that your skin is a reflection of your general health and even your emotional health. If you're dealing with a sudden skin type change, look beyond obvious and quick solutions and try to get at the root of what might be causing the change. Ask around, from your friends to your doctor, for advice. Sometimes there ultimately isn't a solution, just remedies, but even those will make a difference with effective steps.

Skincare changes I made:

1. Went from oil-fighting makeup to hydrating formulas. Stopped using setting powders and switched to a setting spray.

2. Began a weekly chemical exfoliation routine using 10% alpha hydroxy acid. Dry skin is often trapped skin, so just layering more products on top of it will likely break it out. Exfoliating the dead skin cells makes a difference in how well moisturizers penetrate the skin.

3. Began using products with a humectant, and not just an emollient, quality. This means they pull moisture from the air and leave your skin feeling hydrated longer term.

4. Read up on dealing with dry skin. Even just small steps made a difference, like leaving a wet face towel on the door knob of your bedroom to add moisture to the air during the night. Avoid anything that seems gimmecky or extreme.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beauty Doesn't Have a Weight Limit

I was asked a question regarding my "bombshell" contest that upset me a bit: The question was, Does this have an age and weight limit? I've deleted the question from my page, in case the person doesn't want attention called to her.

First off, the answer is absolutely not. Again, I want to emphasize that this contest is being judged on makeup application technique and a strong portrayal of the individual's idea of this concept. It is not a Miss America contest. It is not about perpetuating one standard of beauty.

I've used all young, slender women and teen girls in my makeup images so far. This wasn't a deliberate effort: I've posted a few times asking for women over 40, and I've tried to get women over 40 on my page. I just haven't been successful yet. Same goes for plus-size women.

Years ago, I read an article by chef Nigella Lawson about owning your age: When she turned 30, she threw a big birthday party for herself, in part to declare the age with pride and so she could never fudge it later. She focused on the things she's gained as she's moved along through her forties: wisdom, insight, and no longer needing other people's validation to feel good about herself.

One top beauty magazine recently included the ages of its editorial models: The oldest by far was 24, while the rest were 16-20. This a reminder that the beauty images we're inundated with feature women who are extremely young. And even those women have the benefit of professional makeup artists, flattering lighting and photography, then airbrushing to make them look supernaturally perfect.

All in all, I want to emphasize that a beautiful woman has no age- or weight limit. It's not lip service: I truly want to be a part of those encouraging a broader standard of beauty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Product Review: DiorSkin Forever Extreme Wear Makeup

This is a long-wearing foundation with SPF 25, but the debate about its level of coverage is ongoing: Some reviews call it light to medium and some call it full. Having used this foundation for a few weeks, I'm on Team Full Coverage.

With acne long in my past, I've been using light to medium coverage foundations for years. I forgot how heavy a full coverage could feel. Dior's foundation is meant to stay on, be water resistant, and cover a multitude of sins: It does all of those things well. One particular beauty of it is it covers my newer and persistent problem: undereye circles. I actually forget to put on concealer sometimes after applying it.

What's hard to get over is how thick it feels on the skin (I've consistently decreased the amount I apply). It also seems to stay a wet consistency. Those two factors ensure you never forget you're wearing it. The question for anyone considering this foundation is what's more import to her: Covering perceived flaws or not feeling her makeup. Unfortunately, Dior Forever makes you choose.

The foundation retails for $46 and can be found at Sephora or

Monday, June 20, 2011

"What is a bombshell?"

In light of the current contest I'm running (closes July 1), I was asked today, What is a bombshell? If I'd responded, I would've ruined the contest. The point of it is to give people the freedom to envision and recreate that look themselves.

We know through popular culture some of the bombshell icons: Marilyn Monroe is the most enduring of them all. But to limit that definition to a blonde with large breasts and a throaty voice is to limit ourselves. There is no one definition.

I created this contest to give women a chance to channel something they may not normally feel. Maybe they think it seems vain or conceited. But there is nothing wrong with showcasing your unique beauty with confidence. Oddly, this is something women are rarely given an opportunity to do without some criticism.

Some widely regarded bombshells from different decades:

Marilyn Monroe


Sophia Loren

Youtube Beauty Gurus: The Class Acts

So I've done a couple posts about Youtube beauty gurus that behave badly. In all fairness, I wanted to spotlight the ones that seem in the game for the love it, have true talent and passion, and try to keep themselves on an ethical platform. They don't spend their time pushing jewelry sites and the like; they focus on the art of makeup. Think Youtube is simply a forum for gag videos? These makeup artists have used it as a springboard and a legitimate teaching tool.

Lisa Eldridge: She is a seasoned and highly respected makeup artist currently based out of England. She often takes looks she created for high fashion magazines or celebrities and translates them onto the Youtube screen. The wealth of knowledge and her generosity at sharing it is immeasurable: watch her videos, and you've essentially gotten an education in makeup. She carries herself with an aura of class not typically seen anymore; tempered with kindness, she doesn't come across as the least bit snobby or rude. When I was doing a bride's makeup, I struggled with figuring out how to use SPF and make her look good in the photos. After a number of gurus didn't answer me, Lisa promptly responded and let me know I could go up to SPF 15 without issue.

Pixiwoo: These London-based sisters have immense talent. They recreate many celebrity looks, but they aren't tracers: Their personal touch on makeup shows they know the art form. Some of my favorite videos include the natural rapport they have with each other: Nic complains that Sam steals her brushes and doesn't pack for their trips; Sam denies it. Beyond that, they explain makeup application in a way that looks easier than it is. Nicola Chapman is about to have a baby, and Samantha Chapman is working on her brush line, Real Techniques. There may be a slowdown in videos, but hopefully they'll pick back up.

Gossmakeupartist: Another British makeup artist, Wayne Alan Goss is known for concise tutorials and product reviews. Beyond that, he seems driven to keep the trade and his Youtube channel run by pure intentions. Established as he is, he will still often buy products he reviews, perhaps to show the viewers he isn't driven by the bribery of freebies or money. He has dispelled so many widely held makeup myths. His focus is to teach people to think through why they're doing makeup a certain way and ask if there's a better way. He isn't youth or generic beauty focused, often pointing out the beauty in older women and women of color.

Emilynoel83: Emily Eddington sets the bar high: She treats her channel like a profession, turning out regular videos that are informative and high-quality. As someone who gets up for her news job at 1:30 each morning, she seems to have an energy source the rest of us don't. Beyond that, she is extremely polite and kind to her viewers, making an extra effort to respond to them individually and express her appreciation. She is often ahead of the curve on products that are both affordable and quality-made: That is the marker of a good guru - she isn't riding the wave; she's making it.

MissChievous: Her looks are the most creative of the aforementioned. She uses bright colors that aren't necessarily wearable for daytime, but that keep people inspired by how makeup can transform and be about creativity. As time has progressed, her talent with makeup has visibly grown. She recently recreated a look she'd done a couple years back, saying she knew she could improve upon it now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

But I digress, Dad

On Father's Day, I'm thinking of my battle with my father over cosmetics. My love of them started early, around 12 or 13. Despite my parents never fighting me over wearing them, the bigger battle was the expense: My father didn't understand anyone spending money on makeup. He didn't even refer to it as "makeup": It was something like "that crap on your dresser."

My fashion and beauty magazines angered him even more: At one point he said the pile was so high that it could be a fire hazard if stacked.

As the king of frugality, spending money on something non-essential was a travesty. He grew up with a Depression-era mindset, and it's never left him. One moment seared in my then-teenage brain is when he tried to teach me that soap can double as a shampoo. We didn't use store-bought soap: We used this generic item my parents bought in bulk called Caleo. It was essentially probably recycled soap residue from other brands. I remember slack-jawed watching him explain how he takes a shower, including a traumatizing demonstration of rubbing soap all over his head.

His military background never left him, either: He tried to implement the five-minute shower on my sister and I as teens. Even in the fanciest restaurants, he ate his meals like he was in a mess hall and expected us to do the same. To this day, he still has to sit with his back against the wall in case "the enemy" tries to attack. No one dares tell him we're in the Olive Garden.

Now that I'm an adult, he doesn't ask how much about my cosmetic expenses. He had the wisdom to know when to let go. He spent about 20 years trying to convince me to avoid them completely. Now he's acquiesced. About 10 years ago, we were talking, and I asked him for advice on a moral dilemma. He looked at me and said, "I can't tell you what to do. I've taught you everything I know to equip you for this world. Now you have to make your own decisions."

Thank you, Dad - both for teaching me everything you know, and for trusting that I would know what to do. As far as makeup goes, you lost the battle. As far as being a father goes, you won the war.

My father, circa late 1960s.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Make Up For Ever's Rouge Artist Intense

I have a makeup phobia: Bright lipstick on myself. I can admire it on someone else, but I've always felt like it's the cosmetic equivalent of a loud shirt or a skirt that could double as a tube top. And in my modesty, that doesn't work.

Oddly, when Make Up For Ever released its Rouge Artist Intense line, I was drawn in like a moth to the flame. The line is known for dense pigmentation, similar to how the brand is known. The colors range from perhaps the most well-known shade, Moulin Rouge (a deep red), all the way down the color spectrum to peachy nudes.

Make Up For Ever generously donated a lipstick for me to review: It's number 36, Satin Fuchsia. The first time I opened the package, it was stunning. Literally. This colors in this line are like the colors we know, but they're all taken up a few notches in intensity.

Since the lipstick line is already highly pigmented, a bright shade could be blinding. The following are images of the shade. The first two images are of the color without any altering. Lauren, the model, can carry this color much better than I could. After the photos were taken, the photographer asked that I tone down the shade a bit. I added a swipe of a neutral lipstick on top and created two muted shades out of this color.

The lipsticks can look dry in the tube, but they're moisturizing on the lips and apply smoothly and evenly. The finish is matte, richly pigmented, and carries an element of glamour. I've since bought lighter shades that are very wearable. The lipsticks retail at $19 and can be purchased at Sephora.

Photos by Rebecca Brown Photographer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Contest: Bombshell Makeup - Prize is $200

I know I promised that I wouldn't make people continue to put on makeup, but it's a makeup page, and I love seeing your take on looks :). This is the big giveaway I mentioned a few weeks back: Post an image of yourself at in your interpretation of a bombshell makeup look between now and July 1, 2011 to enter.

The winner will be announced on July 2 at 3 p.m. EST. The prize is a $200 gift certificate to Sephora. I will also post my own image (but of course I'm not entering myself).

Good luck, everyone, and I look forward to seeing your entries!

Contest rules: Open to U.S. residents only, must be 18 years or older. Please keep entries focused on the face and do not include revealing clothes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Makeup Tips that Make a Difference

The following are some of the best beauty tips I've come across in my many years of scouring beauty magazines and books. I've tried to consolidate the tips into one blog, giving credit if I remember where I saw it. Some of the tips are universal. Some were things I discovered in all of my years experimenting.

1. Apply undereye concealer only where there is darkness/puffiness, not around the entire undereye. - Wayne Alan Goss (Gossmakeupartist). The first time I tried it, I noticed what a difference it made. It seems obvious, but many of us have been concealing by rote for years. What you're trying to do is counteract and diminish the darkness, so if you cover the areas that aren't dark, it has a way of highlighting the entire area and thereby emphasizing the problem.

2. Get a color wheel from a paint store: This is the easiest way to learn and understand complementary shades and how colors cancel each other out (green vs. red, purple vs. orange). You can also learn how mixing various shades creates a new shade. This means spending less on new lipsticks and other makeup.

3. Dark colors make certain features recede and light colors bring them forward: When highlighting and contouring, keep this mantra in your head. The cheekbones are the easiest feature to apply this theory to: Take a makeup stick and sweep the dark shade under the length of the bone to give the illusion of a deeper recess; take the highlight shade and sweep this lighter color on the tops to give the illusion of them being higher.

4. To create the illusion of a fuller mouth, hit three spots: Highlight the cupid's bow, add a shimmery color to just the center of the bottom lip, and add a little dark contouring under the bottom lip (just above the chin). All of this plays on the philosophy of #3: You're bringing forward areas your want to stand out, and creating shading to pull other areas back. The overall effect is the look of fuller lips.

5. Sweep blush starting at the apples of the cheeks, but working your way up the cheekbone, rather than moving the brush in a circle. The sweeping motion draws the eye up and gives an instant lifted appearance to the face. Especially as you get older, this trick makes a considerable difference.

6. When bronzing your face with makeup, think about keeping the center of the face a little lighter than the high points of the outer edges (temples, cheekbones, jawline). Tans are not a one-dimensional wash of color; real tans are multi-dimensional. Keeping the center of the face slightly lighter gives a spotlight effect on this area, which draws the eye. - Scott Barnes, celebrity makeup artist

7. Match your foundation to your neck, not your face. On many of us, the colors are actually slightly different. So even if you're matching it to your face, there will still be a mismatch with your neck. I'm still not a fan of applying foundation to my neck, so consider this rule when picking a foundation.

8. Use a slightly off-white pencil to line the inner rims of the lower lash line. Using a perfectly white shade is jarring, as most people's eyes aren't that color. Going that white emphasizes the eyeliner, rather than creating the illusion of a larger eye.

9. Go opposite of your eye color to make it stand out: Blue eyes stand out the most in neutrals/browns; brown eyes look great in deep blues and purples. The contrast, and not a match, is what emphasizes the eye color.

10. To give yourself that lit-from-within glow, apply a well-pigmented cream blush before your foundation. The cream blush will come through the foundation with a more natural effect than blush sitting directly on top.