Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beauty Ideas for 2012

Pick and choose which ones work for you, but here are some suggestions for 2012. Resolutions, by the way, rarely work: They're often too ambitious and too spartan. Take these more as ideas to try incorporating into your routine.

1. I will not buy something because it's trendy: Trends drive many of us to buy things we don't need and won't use over the long run. They're often driven by PR machines or advertising dollars. Wait on the trend for at least a couple weeks and consider if the product really adds something to your beauty arsenal, or if it's just a bandwagon you'll be fine staying off. Most beauty and fashion trends I've jumped on I've later regretted.

2. I'll follow sensible routines: Skincare and haircare routines don't need to be expensive or complicated, despite what we're all told. Think in terms of prevention (sunscreen, not sunbathing), routine care (washing makeup off before bed), and prevention (using a topical cream with scientifically-backed ingredients: Retinol, peptides, alpha hydroxy, stabilized anti-oxidants). My current skincare routine costs less than $20 in product, and it honestly works as well as much more expensive products I've used. We're trained somewhat to think more expensive products are better: Often, these are high-end brands that spend a lot on fancy advertising with a celebrity spokesmodel endorsing their products. They recover their costs by passing them onto the consumer. Watch out for this and for smoke-in-mirrors promises: "A revolutionary product with a patented formula that will magically transform your skin...." This reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld joke where he theorizes beautiful women are put in ads for men to confuse them into just buying the product.

3. My beauty spending will be cash-only: Why is this so important? Because our beauty spending is often emotional and impulsive. This adds up far more than any of us would think. Using cash-only forces us to think through our purchases and restricts impulse buying. I once talked to a woman who accrued over $30,000 in debt and declared bankruptcy. It wasn't big purchases that did her in; it was small, impulse buys that added up.

4. I'll focus my routine on enhancing what I like about myself and not what I'm trying to hide: We all have features we like and dislike about ourselves. I once saw a photo of Heidi Klum's face in which she marked the flaws she saw. The photo was covered with self-criticism in black ink. I thought, If a woman that beautiful can find that much fault in just her face, imagine what she'd do to a full-body image. A revolutionary approach to makeup came along somewhere in the 1990s, when the focus turned to accentuating what was right about ourselves, and not hiding what we saw as wrong. Whether it's lip service, the idea is absolutely worth embracing.

5. I'll be open to change. We're all changing, growing, and yes, aging. I've watched women break down into tears when someone tried to update a very dated makeup look or hairstyle that once worked for them. The reality is, grasping at once worked only holds us back and out of touch with the reality of what makes us beautiful today. Part of continuing to grow internally includes letting ourselves grow externally. That means change. Change is good.

6. I'll stick to supporting healthy role models: That means following people who encourage self-acceptance, tolerance of others, and sensible beauty advice. With the Internet, magazines, and television, we are inundated with choices, and everyone is calling him- or herself a "guru." Very few of them are actually experts, meaning that they weren't trained to have expertise in a particular area. That said, many of them can be helpful resources for beauty advice: Stick to supporting those who are supportive of others back, who are kind and appreciative, etc. I once liked a very popular "guru" who lashed out at me when I asked her a simple question. Anyone who can't handle feedback - no matter how constructive - needs to find another line of work.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Come Back to Me When You're Fine"

Demi Lovato (as shown in Glamour magazine) has publicly discussed her personal battle.

This is not a beauty or makeup post, so I'm putting this at the top to save time for anyone interested purely in beauty blogging.

Ironically, this post comes from reading Glamour's year-end beauty special edition. It features a pictorial of actress/singer Demi Lovato: Her makeup is gorgeous, largely because it represents a makeunder. Gone is the bright, almost garish, makeup she sported a few years ago as a Disney  actress. The makeup artist kept her face as bare as possible while adding a radiant, slightly bronzed look. The idea was to present her in a way that was naked and truthful.

In the article, Lovato talks about going through a mental breakdown and seeking treatment. The article heralds her for never trying to gloss over her hiatus. Lovato admitted that the honesty was both cathartic and painful: Being extremely truthful about your battles exposes you to all sorts of reactions. She also quickly learned who her friends are.

In 2010, I broke apart. Just writing this brings the memory to the present in painful detail. Numerous personal and professional traumas (and I mean traumas, but for legal reasons, I can't explain) turned into a perfect storm. In time, I didn't feel like I inhabited my own body anymore. Eventually, I sought professional help in the form of a week-long stay a facility that treats people who are battling social anxiety all the way to those who have eight personalities and a personal review of every mental health facility in the state.

Through the process, I lost a relationship that I'd once considered one of my closest. And the irony of it all is it's the very person who once advised me to seek help. I was recently told she considers me "too emotional" and has decided I don't belong in her life. In the thick of this, she told someone she'd deal with me when I was fine again, but not in the state I was in. To demonize someone who opts out of your life is easy: It is harder to try to understand that person is maybe fighting her own battles..

I also learned I have some amazing friends who are so kind and compassionate: I now know this with absolute certainty and in a way I never would have had I told them I was fine. They treated me like the person they'd always known - just a sadder version who needed them more. I love and appreciate them more than I ever would've had life stayed sunny. And I would turn my world upside down to be there for them in return.

When life gets hard - and it can for any of us in a breakneck moment - we have a choice about being honest, with ourselves and with others. Even for those who have no history of depression or anxiety, their emotions and mind can break down if enough trauma overloads them. In other words, it's a little like cancer and can strike anyone.

My honesty cut both ways, but in the end, it has been the very thing that helped me recover..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Makeup Shopping Style: When Going High-End is Worth It

I was browsing a local discount store the other day and picked up so many makeup and beauty products in the $2-$3 range. Then I put them down. It's odd that price-point can sometimes sell itself: My actual logic, momentarily, was, "This is so cheap, I have to get it."

I didn't get anything. This is how it's trended for me more and more. It's not because I'm wealthy (I'm not) or a product snob (not that either) or a label whore (not that at all). After about two decades of buying makeup, my shopping style has gone through its own retail therapy: I've learned that sometimes holding off on spending on a lot of cheap items is worth it to save for the bigger ticket items.

My father's drug of choice was antique cars: Years ago, he'd buy them, fix them up, and sometimes sell them for a profit. Men have their own collector's items, of course, and the market was for quality. In every other area of his life, he was Depression-era frugal: We washed sandwich bags for reuse; he made my sister and I get out of the car and pick up beach towels off the side of the road; most of our household items were generic and hand-me-down.

But my father had a passion for antique model cars: He could pinpoint the year, make and model just by glancing at the hood. That was the area that quenched his soul, so he saved everywhere else to spend there. It was impractical to his everyday his life, but it enhanced his life. So it was worth the money.

My passion for makeup runs along those lines: I will scrimp and save on clothes, cut my own hair, do my own manicures, buy generic food items - all so that I can afford a few big-ticket makeup items that I truly love. I will go against the grain and say that every time I use an e.l.f. product, I can sense it's cheap by the way it looks and feels. I know many people love this brand for its affordability and think it's worth it, which I completely respect. I, however, will pass on a cheap brand that appears cheap to save up for a quality brand that performs.

In its studio line, e.l.f. has blushes meant to dupe the Nars blushes: I finally caved and bought an e.l.f. blush to see if I liked it. Within a week, the texture was bumpy and had pilled; the pigmentation was so poor, I had to repeatedly dip my blush brush back in to get any color payoff. Nars blushes are so finely milled and so pigmented, a quick tap into the product will deliver intense color payoff. This means the blushes last forever. Make Up For Ever blushes - though not as heralded - are equally high-quality and give a beautiful finish. If I stop using them for a while, then go back, I am startled by how much pigmentation they deliver.

There are certainly times when bargain brands deliver as well, if not better, than high-end brands. Wet n Wild, Milani, and Revlon are brands that put many of the most expensive lines to shame. In some cases, however, it's more rewarding to hold off on buying bargain products and to save for more expensive items. I research products a lot before I purchase them, read plenty of user reviews, then weigh whether it's a product that will add value to my makeup collection. In an odd twist of logic, I spend money less now on makeup than I ever have before.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Mally Poreless Primer and Face Defender

Perfect Poreless Prep Face Primer
Evercolor Poreless Face Defender

I've long seen makeup artist Mally Roncal touted for giving celebrities like Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez a glowing, healthy look. As many celebrity makeup artists do, she's become a celebrity in her own right. A lot of it is driven by her own ambitions: She's created her own makeup line, Mally Beauty, which is sold on QVC and her website, Unlike some famous makeup artists, she's made herself highly accessible to her fans and customers.

Anyone who follows the increasingly popular beauty blogger/vlogger Emily Eddington (Emilynoel83) has become familiar with this brand. What first caught my eye was a video where Emily was showing products that I'd never heard of before: A powderless setting product, for example. She also featured a shadow that is three different consistencies in one. Mally Roncal seems to be trying to think ahead of the makeup curve and come up with inventive products that have a thought process behind them. Pink and girly doesn't necessarily mean fluff.

I began to watch Mally on my own and thought a few things quickly: What happy pill is she taking and where can I get some? She has the self-deprecating humor and charm to call herself things like a "drag queen." Something about her - saleswoman that she is - is sincere and infectious. Because her products aren't sold in stores, I'd never tried them before. When I finally decided to try a couple products for review, I went for two items: One is a makeup product I'm very skeptical of; the other is a makeup product that's rare.

I ended up choosing Mally's Poreless Face Primer and Face Defender (the powderless setting product). I chose primer because I was starting to think it's an unnecessary product and didn't do much for improving the wear or appearance of foundation. I chose the Face Defender because, honestly, it's just interesting that a gel-based product can mattify and smooth the skin without altering makeup at all.

The products were ordered off of, where incentives like free shipping and gift beauty items are offered to new customers. Considering the shipping was free, I expected the product to arrive more than a week from the order date. It showed up three business days later, came in a cute glittery pink makeup bag and included a guide on how to use the products.

The primer is one that Mally claims she created out of frustration: Before creating this product, she says she'd mix several primers together to get just so-so results. After using Mally Poreless Primer, I can honestly say it holds makeup better and improves its appearance better than any other primer I've used (and I've used plenty). It's a smooth, velvety consistency that blends easily onto the skin. Used alone, it improves skin's appearance, making it look more even-toned and brightened. After applying it, foundation blends onto the skin easier. When testing it, I deliberately used a foundation that doesn't wear well throughout the day: By the end of the work day, it truly looked as if I'd just applied it.

The Face Defender was a trickier product for me to use the first time: The texture is like a hard gel, so it's not easy to know how much product you're getting onto the sponge. Once I dabbed the sponge to my face, there was an instant mattifying that I could see as I went section by section. Will one application keep skin shine-free all day? If you have oily skin, probably not. But the product can be reapplied without altering makeup and without adding any cakiness that a setting powder can leave behind. The product also claims to hide pores and fine lines.

Disclaimer: Products were purchased with my own money, and I have no affiliation with Mally Beauty.