Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My First Bridal Work

Michelle is an athletic woman who doesn't wear much makeup, if any, in her daily life. For her wedding, amidst all the details, makeup was one of the last things she wanted to think about. In came me, someone who loves to think about makeup. Had I gone very heavy on her makeup, she wouldn't have looked like herself. My goal was just to help enhance her natural beauty. I'm definitely of the school that a bride should look like her best self on her wedding day, not like someone else or an overly made up version that would shock her grandmother.

A natural look for a bride can still require a full face of makeup: One reason is there's going to be a lot of flash photography taken. This strips color from the face. I applied a full face of foundation, concealer under the eyes (to counteract a lot of pre-wedding parties and sleepless nights due to nerves), three shades of shadow (she wanted pink and purple tones), waterproof eyeliner, waterproof mascara, brow shaping, blush and light contouring with a matte bronzer. She wore a darker lipcolor than we originally planned. Nude and very pale pinks can erase the mouth in certain pictures. I steered clear or anything shimmery, including highlighters, which can cast a glare in flash photography. A light dusting of HD pressed powder was applied, then I applied setting spray.


Sometimes we all need a break from what we've been focusing on. I have some personal matters to attend to (nothing dramatic, just life stuff that needs attention).

I may blog a bit in the meantime, but I plan to take a break, enjoy the summer more (how is it almost August?!), and focus on some other things I find really important in life. Makeup is a passion, but it's only one of many I have. I was beginning to feel a little one-dimensional and too focused on the external. All of us have so much to ourselves, beyond our looks or job title or our personal titles (wife, daughter, sister, mother). I encourage everyone to take a little time once in a while to explore that a bit. It doesn't take a week-long retreat or deep meditation to figure it out: Sometimes it's just stepping back a bit.

In the meantime, I'll be working on some projects for when I'm back: Makeovers, a makeup seminar to cover, and more. I just want to take some time away from the computer (after work, that is).

Enjoy the rest of your summer! Take time to savor the simple stuff. At the end of the day, it's what makes our lives the most valuable. Thanks to so many for your support. I'm relatively new at this, so it truly has meant a lot to me.

"The mere sense of living is joy enough." - Emily Dickinson

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The C Word

If you want to push a lot of people's fear buttons, tell them that a product will give them cancer. This is something that came up in a discussion about Philosophy's Purity cleanser (sparked by it being a sample product in the monthly Birchbox). Do I know if this cleanser's ingredients give you cancer or are dangerous? No, I don't. I'm not a chemist or a doctor, the only type of professionals really qualified to answer this.

However, a writer on another site took it upon herself to call the product harmful and say that its ingredients include carcinogens. Here are some things to keep in mind: Carcinogens exist everywhere in our environment. There is no way to completely shield yourself from them, and being exposed doesn't automatically put you in line for an early death. If that were the case, we'd all be gone. This writer didn't back her claims with a single medical journal finding, statistic, professional opinion, etc. But her article did so far to say that the product is deadly.

Here's another tricky thing: Cancer and its causes stump even the professionals. If it was a simple cause and effect, we would have created a cure for it by now and eradicated it. The causes are so varied and complex that to simplify it is irresponsible.

This is where blogging shouldn't go: No one who is not a medical professional should start trying to portray him- or herself as an authority in this area. Not only are you potentially putting yourself in line for a lawsuit, but you're also planting false fears in people and affecting companies' business, sometimes completely unjustifiably.

I was a journalist for 10 years, so I know both sides of it: The gnawing curiosity to learn more about the unknown and the danger of having a little information but not enough. If you're blogging, keep yourself in check about the potential harm you can cause. If you're reading a blog or watching Youtube, know that the free-for-all of information out there unleashes the potential for a lot of misinformation to be spread. Keep yourself informed, but watch out for being misinformed.

Disclaimer: I'm not angry. It's 97 degrees today; I'm hot, which I guess makes me feisty when I write.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Review a Beauty Product Review

The reality of a beauty product review is there are a lot of limitations, even for the most honest reviewer. One inherent problem is that many products work differently on different people. Always keep this in the back of your head when watching or reading a product review.

One makeup product that has a highly subjective quality is mascara. This is because mascaras perform differently on different types of eyelashes. People have all kinds: straight and sparse, thick and curly, long. The objective flaws in any mascara: easily clumps, dries out quickly, bleeds to the lids or under eye area. Comments about it being volumizing and lengthening need to be considered in the context of the reviewer and how her natural lashes compare to yours.

Fragrance is also a tricky product to review. This is because it smells differently on different people due to body chemistry. Objective qualities to review for fragrance are its lasting power, how strong or weak it smells when applied, and its notes (floral, fruity, etc). If a reviewer is simply saying the perfume smells wonderful, that's a subjective call. Test the product on yourself and wear it for a few hours to see how it works with your body chemistry.

Hair conditioner is similar to mascara: As someone with naturally thick and coarse hair, I could never accurately review a conditioner made for fine hair. It wouldn't perform on me the way it should. Look at whether the reviewer has a similar hair type, or if it's a written review, make sure he or she explains hair type and if the product is designed for your hair. Also, don't be seduced by products touting vitamins or pro-vitamin complexes. Hair is dead cells, so it cannot metabolize any vitamin. Vitamin E, for its moisturizing qualities, is the only vitamin that can externally impact hair.

Anti-aging products: Even well designed anti-aging products impact people differently and improve skin at different rates. I don't yet have wrinkles, so I can't evaluate an anti-wrinkle cream's performance. There is simply nothing measurable for me to evaluate. When I see the slew of very young beauty gurus on Youtube touting the wonders of Lancome's Genefique, I can't imagine what performance yardstick they're using (other than a paycheck). Objective qualities in an anti-aging product include ingredients: look for established anti-aging ingredients that have scientific backing, such as retinol, stabilized anti-oxidants, and alpha hydroxy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Upcoming: "Swat Makeovers"

Allure magazine used to have a feature I loved called "Swat Makeovers," where they picked women off the street and gave them a makeover. Sometimes the changes were subtle, sometimes dramatic. There is one image from years ago that I still look at for inspiration: They took a naturally beautiful woman and transformed her look into something much more seductive.

This concept gave me inspiration for some upcoming makeup work. I'm working on a few of these towards the end of the month with some unlucky friends and acquaintances (unlucky in the sense that I'm working on them). I appreciate their willingness to depart from their everyday look into something more dramatic or very different from what they've known. That flexibility about our looks is what keeps us growing and inspired. Images will be up late July and early August.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Too Faced Shadow Insurance vs. Urban Decay Primer Potion

Which one do you choose? This has been a debate in the beauty community for a while. What continually would be the crux was the packaging, since they used to be so different. Too Faced's is a typical squeeze tube applicator, while Urban Decay's used to be that genie style with a doe-foot applicator.

Too Faced's typically won out: The application was much easier; you could get all of the product out without doing a de-potting. For anyone who does makeup on others, it's also much more sanitary.

Then Urban Decay did the obvious and changed its packaging to a squeeze tube. This leveled the playing field. The products are very similar in amount and price; they vary by $1 and a .02 ounces. So weighing how much you get for the price is moot.

Since I own both, I used both - one on each eye - for a week to see if I could find something discernible about the product performance. I've done this before with products that often get compared, and something about a side-by-side comparison brings out things you never noticed before.

As for what a primer is supposed to do - prevent creasing, make shadow more vibrant and long-lasting - these stack up very comparably.

Here is what I noticed that makes Too Faced still the winner in my mind: It completely vanishes into the skin. There is no need to blend it out, nor does it leave a residue behind. Perhaps because my skin's olive toned, I noticed that Urban Decay's leaves a visible film that sometimes can't be covered by the shadow.

I tested this for a few days, making sure to use a comparably small amount on each eye and blend equally. Each day, I could see Urban Decay's film, while Too Faced just melded into the skin. Someone with light skin may not see this, but anyone with a darker or tanned complexion will see a slight filmy texture on the lid. Since primers are meant to make our lives easier, and products go on better, this is why Too Faced Shadow Insurance still wins out in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Hair Experiment

I glanced down at my security badge for work recently and noticed something a little alarming: My hair was exactly the same length as it was three months earlier (without a single trim). Hair typically grows a quarter to half an inch a month, so at the very least, I should have seen close to an inch in length.

My hair has stopped growing before: Typically this occurs during times of stress. Without a medical degree, my only guess is that the body's resources go to more critical areas. Odd things have restarted growth, such as scalp massage. Reportedly this increases blood flow to the hair follicles, which stimulates growth.

I've made a few changes to my routine, and I'll report back each month for a few months on whether they worked or not. They include:

1.) Virtually eliminating heat styling and blow drying. For months, I used a flat iron daily. I'd just stopped thinking about the damage that accumulates. Now I'm so determined to not blow dry my hair that I've stayed up particularly late after a shower until it dries naturally.

2.) Drinking more water and eating more lean protein: Both are areas I lapsed on several months back. Protein is the building block of hair, so a diet deficient in it will have an impact on growth. I'm also trying to improve my overall diet and have added a few vitamins. I've been warned by a doctor friend to not discuss vitamins, since it borders on giving medical advice. If you're interested in taking them, I'd recommend discussing them with your doctor first.

3.) Washing my hair every other day and switching to a sulfate free shampoo. Chaz Dean is just so darn convincing when he says we're "stripping and robbing" our hair with regular shampoo. Never has a shower sounded more like a crime scene, and never has lathering shampoo sounded more like The Accused.

There are a few more changes, but these are the main ones. I'll update on any progress in about a month.

My current (and possibly future) length

Review: Sephora Jumbo Liner 12 Hour Wear

Sephora's Jumbo Liner 12 Hour Wear, far left, and Make Up For Ever's shadow in Turquoise Shimmer.

Arguably, one of the worst brands in Sephora is its own makeup line: I got a waterproof mascara that barely tinted the lashes, much less lengthened or added volume to them. I tried a cheek stain that actually vanished when applied. Twice-burned, when I was doing a bride's makeup a couple month's back, I had so little faith in the waterproof liner that I grabbed a drugstore brand at the last minute.

This summer, my fascination is with turquoise: I was browsing Sephora and looking for that perfect eyeshadow or liner that was bright, bold, and of course, a Caribbean blue. I found it in Sephora Collection's makeup aisle. The liner was the Jumbo 12 Hour Wear. At $10 each, I was willing to take the risk and possibly be disappointed again.

Finally, I can say I'm not. This jumbo liner is creamy, richly pigmented, and truly lasts. I tried the rubbing technique after swatching it on my hand: It didn't budge. I also showered with it at the end of the day, even applying soap. Again, it stayed fully in place and as pigmented as when I first applied it. (I finally got it off by rubbing cold cream on it vigorously with a face cloth.)

Because it's a jumbo pencil, it can double as a shadow. I paired it with Make Up For Ever's Iridescent Eye Shadow in Turquoise Shimmer, which perfectly matched. With a real or faux summer tan, this is a gorgeous makeup shade.

Sephora's jumbo liner is a good dupe for Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Shadow Pencil, which is the same amount of product for double the price.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What We're Now Putting on Our Skin and Why

Missha M BB Cream, one of the more well-known brands now marketed in the States

BB Cream: This is a buzz phrase you're probably hearing more and more. When I first heard it, I thought it was a brand. It's actually a new type of makeup, a hybrid of foundation, SPF, and treatments. It stands for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm" and originated in Germany. It became widely popular in Asia, where skin free of marks and blemishes is held in high regard, and is now gaining popularity in the States. Most BB creams are pricey, retailing for around $40. Do I think it sounds gimmicky? Yes. You can accomplish what a BB cream does by sticking to a common sense skincare routine, wearing SPF, and using a less expensive foundation.

Primer: We got through most of the last century without primers, and suddenly they're marketed as a critical step in makeup application. Primers are touted for performing all sorts of functions, from filling in fine lines to counteracting skin discolorations to simply smoothing the skin so the makeup applies easier. Many contain silicone, which has a lubricant quality and makes foundation spread easier. I've read about women with breakout prone or oily skin saying the primer is making their skin worse, yet they continue to use it, convinced it's a necessary step in their makeup routine. It's not. Primers may work wonders for some, but they aren't necessary and they're an added expense. As foundation formulas improve, the need for another product to make them apply more evenly is decreasing. A simple moisturizer will accomplish many of the same benefits.

Setting sprays: These are especially popular during the warmer seasons, when women worry about their makeup sweating off. The first setting spray I heard of was Model in a Bottle, but now most high-end makeup brands have their own version. Some well known versions include MAC's Fix+ and Urban Decay's All Nighter. They contain alcohol as one of the major ingredients, which works to deliver ingredients into the skin and may also be used to absorb oils. Many also contain Polyhydroxystearic Acid, a suspending agent that stabilizes ingredients. These products do increase the longevity of your makeup, but don't put unrealistic expectations on them: Your skin will still sweat, and makeup will still eventually show the signs of heat and humidity.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tips for a Successful No-Buy

When it comes to makeup, there is such a thing as having too much. It may not seem that way, but if you're at the point where you can't use what you have before it goes bad, it's a good time to cut back. Other obvious reasons include having a tight budget or noticing you're beauty spending is becoming out of control.

A lot of people have tried this with mixed or little success, myself included. I'm currently on a form of a no-buy, referred to commonly as a Project 10 Pan, which emphasizes using what you already own before purchasing more.

A few tips for preparing and getting yourself through a no-buy, whether it's for a month or close to a year (yes, I know of a few people who've done this).

1. Don't think of it in extremes: Like a diet, if you swear off everything "bad," that's exactly what you'll crave and you'll go insane. Even during a makeup fast, allow yourself a small monthly budget. Deprivation is the key to failure, so don't put yourself in line for it.

2. Try what ex-smokers often do when quitting: Put aside whatever money you'd spend on makeup and save it for another desirable purchase, such as a vacation. Whenever you find yourself close to caving and buying makeup, think of the larger picture and something more desirable on the horizon.

3. Get rid of the triggers: Nowadays, we are inundated with beauty marketing. Unlike the past, you don't need to seek out images of new makeup collections. If your triggers are beauty magazines or Youtube hauls, give yourself a cooling off period and stay away for the time being.

4. Don't fall prey to the "limited edition" ploy: This is a gimmick by cosmetics companies to cause a stampede on their products by marketing them as unique and with a short availability. The reality is, many items from LE lines turn up again in future lines, or go into the permanent collection (think of MAC's Venomous Villains collection). There is also always a dupe for something.

5. If you fall off the wagon, get back on and keep going. Like a diet or anything else you're trying to work on, you'll have good and bad days. Life isn't permanent, either way. Don't focus on slipping up. Learn what the trigger was, come up with a strategy for managing it next time, and vow to keep going.

Most of all, remember that while makeup is a wonderful thing, it's not the only thing we work to spend our money on. Be as informed about saving and investing your money as you are about what line carries what collection.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Summer (And Year-Round) Fragrance

For anyone who loves vanilla notes in her fragrance, La Vanila will be a wonderful sensory overload. This is an organic fragrance free of any harsh chemicals and infused with 30 vitamins and minerals.

A longtime fan of vanilla fragrance, I've noticed it's easy to mess up: Buy cheap and you often get a syrupy sweet fragrance that smells like it's trying to imitate vanilla.

La Vanila smells like true vanilla: It's a comforting, warm and creamy scent that lasts all day. Despite the richness and strength, it's not overpowering. It won't enter a room before you do. It won't clear the sinuses of anyone around you.

The co-founders, two women with a background in everything from beauty to law, believe that synthetic fragrances are absorbed into the blood stream and can create irritation. They set out to create an all-natural perfume line.

My summer favorite is La Vanila Coconut, a fusion of two of my favorite scents that's perfect for this time of year. Besides a pure vanilla scent, the brand also carries Vanilla Grapefruit, Vanilla Lavender, Vanilla Passion Fruit, and Vanilla Blossom. Each well marry the two notes so that they complement, rather than compete, with each other.

La Vanila is sold at Sephora, QVC, Beauty.com, and Nordstrom. It retails for $39/ounce. The line has branched out to include lotions, SPF, and deodorant. It's a brand I keep going back to for its quality, not to mention its relative affordability. On average now, a high-end fragrance typically retails for about $80.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And the Bombshell Contest Winner is...

Congratulations, Natalie Renee! The reason I chose her is because her makeup application is so well done, and she gave a very strong impression of what she thinks a bombshell looks like. When I look at the photo outside of the context of the page and contest, I know immediately what she's trying to convey. That's how I finally narrowed it down to one person (I was literally deliberating up until a half hour ago). It was extremely hard among so many strong photos.

Natalie will win a $200 gift certificate to Sephora as the prize. I really enjoyed this contest, and I hope everyone had fun with it, too. Thank you again!