Monday, November 28, 2011

Real Beauty Tips

Some insights on traits that will make you automatically more beautiful to others and that no amount amount of outer beauty can replace:

1. Confidence: This is a sense of self beyond how others react to you or treat you. It's unshakable against other people's opinions. For most of us, it takes time to cultivate. A few are born with this beauty trait ingrained in them like their mother's nose or their father's hair color. Most of us have to work hard at it, sometimes daily.

2. A sense of humor: The ability to laugh at yourself is endearing and reflects your confidence. It also makes life 10 times more manageable.Your life is a tragedy or a comedy, largely depending on your outlook.

3. Compassion: Feeling a sense of genuine concern for others, interest in what they're going through, and the willingness to reach out and express this is a true beauty mark.

4. Intelligence: Take an interest in something far more enduring than your physicality. For all of us, this will fade with time - no matter how many creams we apply or procedures we undergo. Have a deep sense of knowledge about something that affects the world. It doesn't have to be solving the economic crisis, but be aware of the world around you, how your actions impact it, and what you can do to make it a better place.

5. Authenticity: Be who you truly are. For many of us, this is frightening, because there may be consequences: Someone won't approve. When we are honest with ourselves and others, we really live the life we're meant to live.

Hair Experiment: An Update

In early August, I embarked on an effort to improve my hair. What prompted it was looking at my work badge image and noticing my hair hadn't grown in about three months. I can't speak for everyone, but I know stress affects the rate of my hair growth. Hair and nails are dead cells: This means when the body is in any sort of duress, less resources and nutrients go to these areas.

I decided to make a few common-sense changes:

1. I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo and washed my hair every third day, as opposed to daily.

2. I drank more water, between six and eight glasses per day. I added more protein to my diet and focused on making it more balanced. Since this is the building block of hair, adequate protein intake is crucial for growth.

3. I started using a heat protectant whenever I flat-ironed my hair.

4. This sounds crazy, but it's always worked for me: I began doing scalp massages every few days. My theory is it stimulates the hair follicles and increases blood flow along the scalp area.

Then, in typical ADD-fashion, I saw the Glamour cover featuring Rihanna's red velvet hair. I became obsessed with having red hair, although not nearly as dramatic as hers. Over three months, I dyed it twice with at-home hair color. The second time, I used a brand made for dark hair. Neither time it took. Instead, I got a brassy and slightly lighter version of my natural color.

That phase aside, I kept to most of my new hair routine. It's grown roughly two inches in the last three months. The first image was taken in early August; the second image was taken in mid-November. My opinion on what worked the most was improving my nutrition. Since hair is dead cells. once it's on our head, products we apply to it can only do so much. The most impact we can have on it is what we ingest. While people talk about biotin and hair, skin, and nail vitamins, these remain controversial: The FDA doesn't regulate vitamins or claims about them. Even doctors aren't firm on whether they have an impact on our overall health.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mom Makeover

I did this quick, impromptu makeover on my mom while home for Thanksgiving. She has stayed firmly planted in her beauty routine from the early 80s: She still gets regular perms and bleaches her hair. I couldn't intervene on the hair today, but I tried to bring her look a little more into current-day. I'm not giving up: There will be a part 2 to this.

My mom is 67, so doing her makeup is a very different experience than doing makeup on someone in her 20s or 30s. She has held her age very well and battled cancer in the last year, so I thought she deserved some pampering and tips on updating her routine.

1. When applying foundation, even formulas known for being creamy or dewy can easily cake on older skin. I went in with moisturizer before and after applying foundation to help smooth it out. With more time and the right products, I would've prepped her skin with a moisturizing facial mask beforehand.

2. Skin tone can actually lighten and become more sallow as we age: I applied a foundation slightly darker than her natural skin color to warm her complexion.

3. She has amazing Susan Sarandon eyes, but one eye is hooded due to aging: This made makeup application  trickier. The application on her eyes actually was slightly different to make them appear more symmetrical. She seemed surprised to notice this for the first time. I explained to her that most people, myself included, don't have perfectly symmetrical eyes.

4. The camera muted it out a bit, but I applied a rosy cream blush (avoid powders as much as possible) to her cheeks and a matching rose color on her lips: I had her apply a lot of lip balm prior to application to help them plump a bit, and I deliberately went slightly outside her natural lip line. The blush was applied high on the cheekbones to give a lifting effect.

Actual comments:

Me: "Use heat protectant when you curl your hair."

Mom: "What's that? If I put a little conditioner in, is it the same thing?"

Me: "Stop bleaching and processing your hair for a while."

Mom: "I have a small face, so if I make my hair poofy, it makes me face look bigger."

Me: "It doesn't work that way."

Her reaction to the makeup: After some initial shock, she kept saying, "I feel like a different person."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Polished Holiday Makeup

Nicole is a dream makeup subject: She loves makeup, but she's relaxed about the whole process. The day these photos were taken, she'd spent all day studying for her master's and training for a 5K. Despite being exhausted, she showed up and let me subject her to makeup and all sorts of picture-taking. The pictures represent a persona: In real life, she is extremely down-to-earth, funny, and kind. She represents that beauty on the outside is best enhanced when there's beauty on the inside. We share a love of trash TV - "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "Hoarders" - and spent most of our makeup time discussing these shows.

For her face, I applied foundation and concealer, then set it with powder. I applied a pink cream blush to her cheeks, then dusted a powder blush in a similar shade over it. On her eyes, I applied a shimmery gold shadow, accented by teal shadow in the outer v. Her eyes were lined with brown liner, and a set of false lashes were applied. We alternated between nude and a berry shade on her lips. Face makeup and lipstick by Make Up For Ever; eye makeup by Lorac.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Favorite Foundations

Of all the makeup products, foundation is the one I'm most fascinated with. The reasons probably speak to some earlier trauma: Picture an Asian girl living a 95% white community and coming of age in the late 1980s. I had the double-curse of acne, which meant I had to try to find something to cover it. This meant I had a pink face for most of my adolescence and into my early 20s. Even my Caucasian friends sported lines of demarcation and blotchy foundation that oxidized throughout the day.

Of all the makeup products out there, foundation is the one that has come the farthest. It's also the product we expect a tremendous amount from and that can be the most polarizing (second only to mascara).

Foundation used to be like layering paint onto your skin: It was that thick, obvious, and unnatural in color and consistency. High-end or low-end, the options were extremely limited and underwhelming. Today, the types are so varied that we have the opposite problem of narrowing down our selection. It's important to remember that even a good foundation won't perform well on you if it's applied incorrectly, in the wrong shade, or not meant for your skin type.

For someone just starting out, I'd recommend getting a consultation at a makeup counter or Sephora. You'll have another person's eyes on your skin, identifying aspects of your skin and giving options you wouldn't have thought of. Many will allow you to take home a sample size to try before you buy. Even if you don't end up buying a department store foundation, you'll have a clearer idea of your skin's undertones and type.

Below are my favorite foundations:

Make Up For Ever's High Definition Foundation: For a woman whose skintone is hard to match, this brand likely has your exact match. It was extremely rewarding to go to Sephora and have the sales associate apply a shade that literally blended right into my skin. It only took about 30 years of my life to find this. This is a medium-coverage foundation that blends imperceptibly into skin and looks like a perfected version of your actual skin. The downside is it's not long-wearing, but the brand doesn't make that claim. I've mixed it with more long-wearing formulas and found a perfect hybrid.

Revlon Colorstay: This is one of the few drugstore foundations that has covered all the bases: It offers a variety of shades in varying undertones and even has formulas for both oily- and dry-skinned types. The finish is matte without appearing chalky or cakey. And, yes, I've worn it on a date and it truly didn't rub off on him. It's a great long-wearing formula that won't budge.

YSL Teint Resist: This is another long-wearing formula that offers full coverage without masking your face. The consistency is light and applies easily. The best part of this foundation - and what reminded me that sometimes paying up truly makes a difference - is it appears flawless even under harsh florescent lights.
It's easy for a foundation to appear nice under flattering lights, but one that still gives an airbrushed and true-to-life color under any light stands out.

Graftobian High-Def Glamour Cream Palette: These palettes come in a variety of undertones, making an exact match for any woman possible. The ability to mix the colors from the palette makes it something that can be used year-round, when you're tan or pale. It's also ideal for someone who does makeup on others and needs to customize shades. The foundations are creamy, blend easily, and have a beautiful finish on the skin.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blogging and the Tricky Art of Self-Promotion

I recently re-Tweeted a video of a woman who is trying to win Physicians Formula's glowy skin contest. The woman has the username Howrouge on Youtube. She's everything that someone needs to be successful: natural on camera, a great product reviewer, and absolutely genuine and nice. She isn't followed more because she keeps a very low profile. She replied with a thank you and said she knows how I feel about self-promotion. I clarified that I don't mind self-promotion, but a lot of people have forgotten the fine line between that and essentially spamming.

What is spamming vs. self-promoting? It's when you put yourself everywhere: In comments sections, on pages of high-profile beauty bloggers, anywhere to drive traffic to your site or Youtube account or blog. This probably works somewhat, but I've always stayed firmly in this mindset: If you're truly good, people will find you. Or you can drive your traffic through your own efforts, rather than tying a rope to someone else's star. You don't need to post yourself everywhere to get noticed.

Think of it this way: What is the effect on you when an advertisement keeps replaying or a song comes on the radio too much? Your blog, no matter good it is, will have the same effect on others if you're spamming it.

When I started out, I promoted myself through advertising that I paid for: My reasoning was, I wanted anyone who followed my page to have opted in solely through my own efforts. I refused to go around and post on pages of more popular beauty bloggers or companies. In the end, I knew I would stick to who I was and what I was passionate about: If people liked that, great. If they didn't, that's the way it goes. No one is everything to everyone, and it's ok. I wasn't going to morph to whatever I thought would make me popular just to get popular.

The other thing that jumps into my head about spamming your work: It becomes a game of trying to drive up your numbers and not putting quality work out there. If you're in the game trying to get sponsored or make money and not because of a true passion, most people can sense this. Beauty vlogger Xsparkage said it best when she acknowledged there are tons of people in the beauty game, and it's becoming harder and harder to get noticed. Still, she maintains to avoid spamming your work to try to stand out. For someone looking for free product or sponsorship from companies, her advice is clear: "Don't go to them. They will find you."

A few tips for self-promotion:

1. When you post a link to your blog, limit it to once per day. Yes, that's it. You've put yourself out there. Also, add a comment on why you think the link would be useful to others. Posting random links with "please follow my blog" is grating on many people..

2. If you're posting on someone else's site, do what many don't do and be polite: Ask the admin first if it's OK. Many people are happy to help someone else out, but in this day and age, people feel free to welcome themselves onto other people's pages for self-promotion purposes. Just asking first will set you apart.

3. Keep posting relevant: If you've written something topical, adding it to a site that specifically addresses that subject will interest the readers. Again, keep your posting targeted. The more you do this, the less it appears to be spam.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Product Review: Dr. Jules Nabet Zen Lotion

This is the first item I've received to review as a blogger. It's taken me a long time to review because skincare takes a little time to show a difference, if any. This product, despite its name, is not a lotion texture at all. It's a spray that you apply to your bare face that's meant to balance skin (either from feeling too dry or too oily) and offer some anti-aging benefits.

Zen Lotion has a pleasant, fresh scent that dissipates quickly after spraying. There is no residue. I've waited until my skin felt dry to apply it, and it did add a moisturizing quality. Dr. Nabet touts "revitalization skincare" as the driving force behind his brand: The products have a mix of vitamins (namely vitamins C and E), hyaluronic acid, and plant extracts all intended to have an anti-aging benefit. He also adds an element of "native oxygen," but after extensive research, I couldn't find solid information about the skincare benefits of this ingredient.

Zen lotion feels refreshing upon application, but I can't claim it has made any difference in the appearance of my skin: I saw no visible brightening or plumping effect from it. Anyone who wants to add moisture without the weight of a cream may benefit most from this product.. Zen Lotion feels cool and refreshing and may be most beneficial in the summer.

Please visit for more information about his skincare line. Product supplied by Beauty All opinions expressed above are my own and do not reflect Beauty Stat.