Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Girl Talk and a Makeover


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: Tilth Anti-Aging Firming Cream



Tilth Beauty is a new line of skincare products focusing on anti-aging. While there are countless companies in this lucrative market, the company is dedicated to being environmentally friendly, using solely wind-power to generate all packaging. The brand name is derived from the term used for soil that properly retains moisture and oxygen; this parallel between a healthy earth and health skin runs throughout the company's philosophy. The line contains no sulfates, parabens, petroleum-based ingredients, synthetic fragrances or GMOs.

So with all that said, does the anti-aging firming cream? The consumer tends to think an emphasis on non-beauty areas like environmental responsibility and natural mean a product's effectiveness is compromised. The cream is a thick and emollient texture with no scent. It penetrates into skin quickly without any greasy residue. Skin looks firmer instantly from the hydration, but the company assures the ingredients have long-term benefits. Since I've been trying the product for about a month, I can't attest to this. I had no adverse reaction to the product:, including breakouts or irritation. The ingredients contain pistachio seed oil and almond oil (which are touted for essential fatty acid properties), so if you have any nut allergies, inquire about this ingredient. 

The ingredients combine properties focused on firming and free radical scavengers. The main firming ingredient is Renovage, a trademarked ingredient that is said to protect the telomeres in the skin: In summary, this protection is said to support cell regeneration and thereby support the firmness of the skin.

The anti-aging cream can be used for day or night (it contains no SPF, however). It works well under makeup and keeps skin feeling moisturized all day.

The product retails for $55 for 1.7 fluid ounce and can be purchased at www.tilthbeauty.com

 
Per the updated FTC guidelines, I received the sample products with compliments from BeautyStat.com, but my review is my own objective opinion. Neither BeautyStat or Tilth Beauty made any attempt to influence my opinion/review.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why I Beauty Blog & Vlog

1. I'm a woman who loves makeup and all things beauty. Let me rephrase: I could rattle off stats (for makeup brands, magazines, favorite looks, models from the 80s and on) and create a beauty version of Fantasy Football (Why aren't we?).

2. I've learned to embrace this passion in a way the doesn't cripple my self-image: It used to. I once saw makeup as an escape from how I looked and what I didn't like. Today, as Tony Robbins as it sounds, it has the opposite effect of fueling a positive self-image. I envy the girls coming of age in this decade, because the messages were much different 15 years ago.

3. I can write, and I can review: Bachelor's in Journalism and 10 years as a journalist make me dissect a beauty product and geek-out. When makeup brands started putting the 24-hour stamp on their products, I actually did test their products for a full 24 hours. Then I saw other reviewers laughing at the concept and realized I was alone.

4. I hate beauty marketing: In America, there are no standards for how to market a beauty product. This baffles me, that we are behind other developed countries with stricter standards on airbrushing, retouching, claims, and even quality control. Yes, American beauty cosmetics have looser standards on ingredients and can include things that other countries have banned for safety reasons. That said, I'm not an ingredient nazi and don't live in paranoia. My advice is to always keep yourself informed and try to keep the emotion out of your purchasing habits: Know what is good because it's been independently backed up, not because a brand claims it will work miracles (and they do literally make those claims). I love how a good beauty reviewer can level this, and by "good" I mean ethical, intelligent, knowledgeable, succinct. As beauty blogging explodes, the irony is it's becoming harder to find a truly good blogger. I don't claim to be that; I just say the marketability of blogging has unfortunately created many advertisers in blogger's clothing.

5. It pushes me out of my comfort zone: Inherently, I am extremely shy. Putting myself out there, even on paper and especially in video format, is always a test to my nature. It works in a good way.

6. I get surprised: My most read beauty review by leaps and bounds is of Kett Hydro Foundation. I wrote it in April 2011, and it still gets the most reads daily. Unfortunately, it was a negative review. All those views put some sense of accountability on me to the point where I think I should do a second chance. To other beauty bloggers/vloggers: Kett is where it's at. Review it and they will come.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Biggest Successes and Mistakes: Read This and Save Yourself Time

Biggest Successes:

1. I was 24 and had been a government reporter for three years. All my life, I'd dreamed of going to New York City. To jump from small-town reporting to financial writing in the city was one of the scariest moves of my life. At the time, I had a love interest who was looking for a woman who wanted to settle down, get married, and have kids. I chose my heart. I chose New York City and making my own way. Occasionally, I see him: He's married with kids. It's the life I could've had, but I would've always regretted pursuing my dream.

2. The workforce can be a tough place: Very few people in corporate America are transparent. In two instances, I've paid professionally for upholding something morally important to me. I won't climb at others' expenses or by neglecting my own sense of what's right. Has it cost me some rungs on the professional ladder? Possibly. But I sleep soundly at night.

3. My closest friends are people I trust infinitely: I know they are good, kind, caring, honest people to the core. They've seen me at my worst and still loved me as I am. My best definition of a good friendship (or relationship of any kind) is you're more of yourself with that person. If you don't feel that way - if you cloud your persona to impress or keep the other person happy - move on and find your tribe.

Biggest Failures:

1. I once listened to the suicidal tune "One Last Cry" endlessly over a guy I thought was the one for me. I wallowed in regret and a sense of the one that got away. Fast forward five years: I see him at a club and he has no idea who I am. Fast forward fifteen years and he's gone through one marriage (which ended in him cheating on his wife) and now has a horrible reputation for being an overgrown womanizer. I could've spared myself a ton of time and energy by not wallowing. Move on sooner. If it didn't happen, there was probably good reason.

2. I once read a quote by someone who had succeeded in every area pursued but felt like a failure anyway: The reason was she had never pursued her passion. Every success elsewhere inherently felt like a failure because it wasn't what she wanted. My true nature is creative: My truest passion is writing. I turned away from it for logical reasons: It wasn't "sure enough;" it wouldn't pay the bills; the economy was crashing and the arts are the first to go.. I've had successes in other pursuits, but that gnawing sense of failure lingers when I ignored what I really loved.

3. I stayed too long. If you're in any kind of an unhealthy situation, the only thing to do is figure out how to get yourself out. Years ago, we had a cat who adopted us. Her home was terrible (we later learned). So she just instinctively found the biggest pet lovers within a five mile radius and moved herself in. Well, it became an ugly fight with the original owner. To acquiesce, we refused to let the cat in, feed her, do anything. What did the cat do? She chose to be homeless: She refused to go home because she didn't feel safe there. One day, she approached me, emaciated and mangy. She stared at me and let out a cry demanding help. All I could think was, Wow, you're smart. Not smart in the intellectual sense; smart in the intuitive sense. She ran on instincts and trusted them. I helped her. Follow your own more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Legacy of Helen Gurley Brown and Influence of Cosmopolitan

The late Gia Carangi, who epitomized Cosmo sexuality



When I was a kid, I once saw my father paging through Cosmopolitan magazine in a check-out line and asked him to stop looking at porn. He replied that it was actually a woman's magazine. It took me several minutes to process the information that women were looking sexy for other women.

This was the early 1990s, when models were celebrities (unlike today in which celebrities are models). This was the era of huge hair, cleavage, layers of makeup: Think Kim Alexis, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Stephanie Seymour. This was when models could refuse to "get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day" and still have jobs worth getting out of bed for.

Around the same time, I saw an episode of "Oprah" with Helen Gurley Brown, longtime editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan who was a figurehead for the magazine. During the episode, she coached women on the importance of looking sexy even when running errands, since Mr. Right might be fleshing them out while they were inspecting cantaloupe at the grocery store.

After Gurley-Brown's passing this year, there were tributes speculating whether her influence moved women forward or simply caused a lot of unintended pregnancies and fueled women's insecurity. After long speculation, I think the answer is both A and B. Cosmopolitan is a jagged little pill: It's complex, a guilty pleasure, a manual for men who want to know the opposing team's playbook.

My sister once told me, "Relationships are not how Cosmo portrays them." This is true: Relationships are far more complex than appearing sexy and seducing your man. If you get past the seduction and karma sutra, he'll eventually learn you're not sexy a lot and it takes effort - a ton of it  for most of us - to appear that way.

What is freeing about Gurley-Brown's legacy is the simple concept that women love sex for their own sake and enjoy their femininity. When I think about the ultimate sexy look, I think of a Cosmo cover and someone like Frederique on it. Gurley-Brown was a woman espousing this until her death, knowing that her age didn't negate her sexuality or femininity. That alone is a liberating message for women.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation


When the glass base is almost as thick as the product inside, it's an attempted optical illusion of more product.


I love Revlon Colorstay liquid foundation, so when a whipped formula came out with largely positive reviews, I was intrigued. The original formula's universal fault is that it sets quickly and can look so matte it appears flat.

The new consistency was quizzical and seemed a little gimmicky: I guessed it was Revlon's answer to the criticism by creating a version that seemed rich and creamy. It took a while, but when I had a coupon I caved and tried this formula.

Each time, I ask myself if it's the same product by the same brand: Everything I love about Revlon Colorstay liquid foundation is lacking in this whipped formula. Even in cooler Fall weather, the formula wears down in a matter of four or five hours. I wouldn't attempt it in any kind of heat. It appears more smooth and dewy than the original liquid version upon application, but it wears down very quickly and turns streaky. Colorstay is the gold standard for being budge-proof makeup, so this product has been a disappointment for me.

The product is pricey at about $13 per jar and is less fluid ounces than the liquid version. If you look at the jar, the weight is generated by the excess glass and not the product.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Defense of Cats




Whenever I hear a self-described "dog person" talk, there's an inevitable "I hate cats" thrown in. This is because cats and dogs love in very different ways. Dogs are stage 5 clingers: Think Taylor Swift, a typical Bachelor contestant. My parents' dog greets me like the President every time I come visit, but that enthusiastic love grates in a matter of hours when I can't go to the bathroom without her.

If I'm eating, the Oscar moment starts: She looks at me like she's never eaten before, and she will never eat again. Is this charming? If you did this to anyone, even once, you'd be banished.

I'm a self-described "cat person." Before the scoffing starts, let me explain why. I understand them. They want space; they don't need you constantly; their love is transparent (feed me and I love you). They also don't eat to the point of gluttony. I've always thought this was a marker of intelligence. Dogs will eat their weight if given the opportunity (Why do you think the Tumblr "Dog Shaming" is viral?). You can leave a cat for a couple days without it having a panic attack.

My cat is willful, independent, and makes clear that he will love on his terms. I've always been this way: give me space and I will come closer. As a kitten, he would wait for me to return home from work daily by sitting at the door. On nights I returned late, I'd find him sleeping at the door. They have a sense of loyalty and love, but it's a subtler kind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Mother's Beauty Style



I don't know where my love for beauty products came from. I know for sure wasn't taught: My mother was my antithesis in this area (and in most others). Her only form of "putting on her face" was applying Revlon lipstick while backing out of the driveway. Twenty years later, it has the exact same smell - an olfactory trip down memory lane.

The other glaring discrepancy: She bought no more than $30/year in cosmetics. No no-buy intact. No self-restraint. No penny pinching (well, maybe a little of that).. She just wasn't interested. In the mid-80s, she hosted a Mary Kay party for a friend. Her purchases sat in our bathroom closet until somewhere around 2000. She didn't use them, but she didn't throw them away.

She never wore sunscreen until her 50s and her skin looks like that of a much younger woman's. She never had skin cancer. She never taught me any beauty mantra as I reached puberty: Perhaps because we didn't bond in that way, but mostly because she just wasn't interested.

When I rummage through her makeup collection - which fits in its entirety in a oval wooden container no bigger than a salad plate - it's dated, shimmery, and random: It's loaded with shimmery lipsticks, shadows, and nail polishes in colors that follow no logical thought pattern. When I ask her why she picked a certain shadow color, she shrugs and replies, "It looked pretty." This is the response of the uninitiated. The initiated will reply with a logarithm leading to their selection.

My mother still curls her hair almost daily with hot rollers she bought in the 1970s. She also perms it the way we did in the 80s. She is uninterested in updated information or products or that great invention called heat protectant. Once I came home  to a hopeless look in her eyes: Her hair had been overprocessed so badly, it looked like it break off. She literally didn't know what to do but stand there close to tears.. I took her to the drugstore and amazed her with the selection of deep conditioners. It was literally like showing the Amish the Internet.

I would be much richer woman if I followed my mother's lead, but I just can't.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I Think of Beauty

Brigitte Bardot in her youth
Brigitte Bardot today


 When I see a woman in her early 20s there's a running thought: You're beautiful; your skin bounces back; your weight resists a Big Mac; your hair grows fast and luscious. I'm not envious, but I'm 10 years out of that period in my life. And I wish I could give her a little lived-in advice: Things change, so don't count on your looks.

As many advances as there are in the beauty industry, the reality is none of them will truly stop time. When I was 24, I got into the best shape of my life. Just as I was savoring all the male attention suddenly thrown at me, something humbling happened. One night I yawned and dislocated my jaw. This led to a four year orthodontic journey in which I lived with a visibly crooked jaw. I had to slowly come to terms that my face had gone a few degrees against the definition of beauty as symmetry.

Our physicality is vulnerable to time, accidents, and countless things beyond on our control. As much as I love beauty products, makeup, and the transformative power of it all, this thought always resides in the back of my mind and keeps me a compassionate person with a sense of humor and self-reflection.

I've lived through all sorts of beauty assessments: All the way through high school, my dark and exotic looks were perceived as ugly to my largely white classmates. I was told this relentlessly. The boys who did like me were too embarrassed to out themselves to their friends. After high school, a few contacted me and told me after-the-fact.

In college and in the years that followed, I grew into my looks more and was in an environment where difference was embraced, not shunned. Suddenly, my looks were largely reviewed positively. Once, a man stopped me on the street and said, "You're the most beautiful girl I've seen today." I joked back, "It's only morning."

One very popular beauty magazine rhapsodizes on living actresses deemed as great beauties of their era. The catch? They only show photos of the actresses in their youth, even though a current photo is entirely possible. This perpetuates the idea that we're only valuable and worth a tribute when we're young and beautiful.

There are perceptions that one who's into makeup and beauty products doesn't understand the deeper meaning of things like character, personality, etc. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Embrace what makes you feel good about yourself. Just keep that enjoyment in check and know there is so much more to you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear Doctor

1. If I'm coming to you, I'm seeking help, not an argument. Please don't act like this is a "he said, she said."

2. When it takes four times longer to wait for you vs. an actual appointment, there's something wrong. I'm not causing you to be behind schedule; you're just behind schedule.

3. When you look glazed over and like you're on autopilot, I actually notice. When this happens in less than 10 minutes, I know you're burned out and waiting for retirement.

4. If you feel burned out, it's time for you to exit the practice and go to Maui or something. You do more damage than good by staying in the practice and not caring than exiting early and doing what it's obvious you really want to do: Vacation, jet ski, travel Europe, whatever.

5. You're not an expert on me: Please don't tell me you know what's right for me beyond what I know. Sometimes, you don't. Sometimes, you're actually wrong. Please take a little time to listen and actually hear what I'm saying before you jump to a conclusion. Your training and expertise don't always trump the individual situation.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Current Beauty Favorites from the Drugstore





L'Oreal EverCreme Cleansing Conditioner: One part sulfate-free shampoo to three parts moisturizing conditioners, this product will leave your hair feeling like silk. It feels like a big luxury, but at $6/bottle, there's no guilt.

Maybelline Color Tattoo shadows (Limited Edition): This line of mostly neutrals is what I'd hoped the permanent line would be: The shadows apply evenly and set to a budge-proof finish. They work wonderfully as a base for shadows but are wearable on their own.

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Finishing Powder: Formulated with broad-spectrum SPF 25, this pressed powder is ideal the sun-conscious who want to add protection over makeup. It also sets makeup without an ounce of cakiness. One of the smartest products Maybelline has released, I hope it reappears on shelves soon.

CeraVe daytime moisturizer: It's a triple-threat with hyaluronic acid (which pulls moisture from the air), ceramides, and broad-spectrum sunscreen. Built to protect the moisture barrier of skin, this lightweight moisturizer is a great value at $13/bottle.

L'Oreal Infallible shadows: These pressed pigment shadows feel like a fusion of cream and powder. They don't require primer to go on pigmented and stay crease-free. Beyond that, they last until you take them off.

Revlon Colorstay 18 Hour Shadow quads: The palettes are assembled logically and vary from office demure to night-out daring. The shadows apply smoothly, stay true-to-color and pigmented, and last all day without primer.

Cover Girl Cheekers Blushes: These come in a variety of shades, are affordable, and go on pigmented and smooth. They remain one of the cheapest makeup products in the drugstore, so feel free to experiment.

Revlon lipstick: The Little Black Dress of the drugstore, this line is a classic and rightfully so. With an infinite selection of shades, the lipsticks have the finish and wear of much more expensive brands.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Smokey Eye: Day and Evening Looks



M. wears barely any makeup in her everyday look. Surprisingly, she was interested in a smokey eye look for her upcoming wedding. I did a couple test looks on her, one of which fit the image she showed me as an example (it was a dark eye on Eva Longoria); the other was a daytime-appropriate smokey eye.

Here's my unfaltering opinion on wedding makeup: The bride should always look like herself but her best self. I was surprised by M.'s choice for her day, but I did a couple test looks so she could decide if she liked it.

I didn't get the makeup job, but it was fun doing the looks. M.'s reaction? She was overwhelmed by the amount of makeup in both looks - "It's so much makeup!" - but kept saying, "At least I like the lipstick color."


Barefaced Before



                                                                 


Dramatic Smokey Eye




Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Best of Top Makeup Brands



A quick rundown of the biggest strengths (and a few weaknesses) of some of the most popular makeup brands:

Urban Decay: Inventive and edgy, this brand ironically hit the stratosphere with a neutral palette, showing what the consumer constantly craves is a natural shade collection with a mix of textures and finishes. My opinion was Naked II was too similar to the original palette to warrant a new release, but the brand rode the popularity like a joke told one too many times. To continue to stay on people's radar, it needs to release more palettes that "make sense," meaning they have the strategy behind the Nakeds. Many of their older and newer palettes seem illogically mixed and a rundown of familiar colors.

Wet 'N Wild: This brand's saddest move has been removing the quality of the 6-pan palettes with the quantity of the 8-pan palettes (shattered shadow, anyone?). Lust and Greed still burn in my memory with the very adjectives behind their names. This brand caught everyone's attention by launching quality products at a fire-sale price. Their singles need to continue to be able to stand on their own, and they need to fix whatever is making the 8-pan palettes a fall-out nightmare. Overall, still a sturdy name that lives up to the hype.

Maybelline: It doesn't seem to know when to remove a bad product (rhymes with Hate Splash) and when to keep a quality product (Dream Mousse concealer). Though everyone buzzes about this line's under eye concealer, Maybelline's most inventive launch recently is the Age Rewind finishing powder: No other drugstore brand has put SPF in a powder compact, making being sun-smart easy on those of us who don't want to wipe off our makeup to reapply. Now I'm seeing this product on clearance, so I expect it to be ripped off the shelves yesterday. I thought the consumer loathing around Fit Me would end it come 2012, but Maybelline seems to determined to MAKE-US-LIKE-THIS. Judging by the clearance on their lipsticks, they're finally acknowledging the consumer doesn't want 800 versions of a frosty white-pink lip. While we're on the topic, I would kill to find just one shade of a neutral pink lipstick with a creme finish and not a hint of Barbie. Guessing I'm not alone.

Cover Girl: This brand has a nostalgic place in my heart like a first love. I even love that Noxema smell everyone else hates. Its strengths: eyeliner, mascaras (for the women with ample natural lashes), and affordable blushes. Unlike Maybelline, this brand will continue to display lines that haven't sold since the early 90s (Professional mascara, Clean foundation). There are times when you need to know when to fold them and take them away. Also, don't put an "age" on the consumer and market products for older skin: No woman wants that tag on her buying habits, even if she subconsciously (or consciously ) does this. The best thing for a brand is to market the products as quality and inventive. This will draw in consumers no matter what their age. Put makeup artist Pat McGrath behind more launches than a few lipsticks, and Cover Girl's stock would quickly rise.

MAC: Socially conscious, racially inclusive, creative and quirky. Their following comes from their willingness to go out on a limb and be the wildest one in the room. This brand has so much Limited Edition collections, even the MAC-aholics' heads spin when trying to remember if it was late 2010 or early 2011 that the shadow came and went. I can't keep track, so I don't keep up. Limited Edition often is a term put around products to make them seem rare and fuel us to buy quicker. The reality is most LE shades are dupable and in unlimited supply.

Revlon and L'Oreal: Knowing that they are owned by the same company (many cosmetic brands are under L'Oreal) has long made me group these two together. Their strengths and weaknesses are the same: Lipstick is by far one of the best of both brands, especially Revlon. It's always beautifully pigmented and at the quality of much more expensive brands. Their shadows and mascaras are too varied (was that Voluminous Carbon Black or Million Lashes or version 20?) and hit-or-miss to make them a safe bet.

Brands worth watching: Milani, Graftobian, Inglot, The Balm, NYX

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Trends in Makeup and Beauty That Sadden Me

As I watch and follow more media outlets - from magazines to videos - I feel a little empty inside. The reality is, right now most of us cannot afford $40 lipsticks and $60 conditioners (you know who you are, Kerastase), and $120 creams (keep dreaming, LaMer).

I love makeup and beauty as much as anyone, but the trends continue to move farther into pushing expensive products than enjoying the art, the simplicity, and the joy of makeup. It saddens me that so much of us want to look like Kim Kardashian rather than ourselves. Remember: She has so much disposable income that she can afford a top makeup artist who spends hours on her a day (by her own admission).

Other countries have put limits on how much false advertising - in the form of airbrushing - advertisements can do to represent a product's performance. America has not. Seeing an un-retouched photo of Cate Blanchett's skin was evidence that SK-II isn't creating porcelain perfection. Yet she is frequently referred to as perfect based on how these ads appear. It isn't to knock this talented actress, but to demonstrate the misrepresentations behind what get us to buy.

In one Youtube video by makeup artist Petrilude, he demonstrated how lighting can make a huge difference someone's appearance, taking them down from a filter-like beauty to real life imperfections. He used his own face as an example..

I've fallen hard myself into the trap of coveting products, never feeling quite satisfied with what I owned, and spending more money than I could afford on products that never satisfied an internal hole. The truth is, stop searching for the holy grail eyeliner, lipstick, foundation. No amount of perfection in the form of makeup will satisfy you. I know this because I've lived through this hard, expensive journey.

Six months ago, I went on a low-buy: Rather than depriving myself entirely of makeup, I limited myself to $20/month of beauty spending. That meant I had to think long and hard about what I spent my money on. I used cash only. In time, that hunger for more began to ease to the point where I could cruise a makeup aisle without any temptation.

In time, that low-buy dissipated into a no-buy. It wasn't a vow of makeup chastity: I was satisfied and defaulted to just not spending more. As time went on, I appreciated more of what I already owned, rediscovered old loves (many of them under $10 each), and found that sense of joy I felt as a teen when first discovering makeup.

I still enjoy a good haul video or magazine article on new products. Yet it's like window shopping: out-of-reach, yet fun for that very reason. Most importantly, the less I buy, the more I love makeup.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I Wish Someone Told Me About the Workforce

Carolyn Kepcher maintained her cool - and her class - when Donald Trump essentially said, "You're fired."




For anyone who's graduated college within the last four years, first, let me offer my sympathy: This is truly one of the hardest job markets in recent decades. When I graduated in the late 90s, we felt hopeful about prospects. For the most part, we could find jobs in our chosen field with time and effort.

A mortgage crisis has pushed our economy so far down, immigrants seeking prospects here are actually returning to their countries of origin. This isn't the American Dream. All dismal news aside, there are tips and strategies to give yourself an advantage and increase your odds of being hired.

Always Say "Thank You": This seems so basic, but I've seen many people who never showed appreciation for the opportunity. When I was offered a position that I declined to take for another job, the first thing that went through my mind was to send a thank you note to the hiring manager whose job offer I didn't accept. Remember that we still live in a small world where paths may cross again. Also, I was truly thankful that someone gave me an opportunity.. I recently read a quote from a woman who's a banking industry veteran: "Many people don't appreciate their jobs, but I've been thankful for every job I got."

Look for Opportunities That Others Miss: Even if you don't land your dream job, there is often a hidden gift in it. Carolyn Kepcher, formerly an executive for Donald Trump's National Golf Club, said she learned so many business skills when she was a waitress. She observed that every single table you wait on is a potential sale, and every customer is your "client": You're presenting yourself to someone who's judging your performance. As a young woman, being a waitress was probably a job she settled for; however, she took those skills into her executive positions. She now works for Bill Gates.

Don't Publicly Bad-Mouth Your "Evil" Boss: Speaking of Kepcher, she refused to bad-mouth Trump when he let her go. The reasons seemed clear: His children were entering the business world, and he was bringing them on board. Kepcher kept her class and never spoke publicly about his decision. Meanwhile, she'd been a loyal and hard-working employee of his for many years. Some bosses are truly rude and unfair, but the best revenge is to move on and succeed. Resentment of others will only hold you back.This is a lesson I've learned the hard way.

Be Nice and Respectful to All Colleagues: Whether a person is higher, lower, or at your professional level, treat that person with the respect and kindness you'd like. The old adage of the Golden Rule doesn't stop at the workplace, but many people forget this in an effort to climb. This tactic has short-term results, but in the end, you lose credibility and respect for your behavior. Your reputation precedes you no matter what field you're in. A CEO whom I will never forget treated other executives, clients, and janitors with equal politeness and dignity. I have incredible respect for people who don't base their behavior on someone's title. It's rare and one of the most clear signs of honorable character.

Take Personal Responsibility and Learn From Your Mistakes: There is a columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine who offers invaluable advice to young females in the workplace. If you get the magazine for no other reason, this pays the price of admission. The best thing is she focuses on her own professional missteps: She doesn't blame others for her failures. She acknowledges she took things too personally early in her career, and she knows she would be much farther along today had she not. She's been fired, which she freely writes about and examines without a hint of blame or self-pity. She's mouthed off to superiors (even dropping F-bombs) while seeking a promotion. A career woman who takes responsibility for her behavior - the good and the bad - is a model for how to succeed. The columnist's biggest piece of advice: Don't blame others.

Decide What Matters to You and Follow It: If your career is number one, put more than 100% of your skills, talent, and work ethic into it. If your goal is to raise a family, realize that you have a window of opportunity and plan for it. Some women can "do it all," but the hardest thing to face is most of us have to choose. I've seen more women have a baby and resign than women who've had a family and still put their focus on career. Many of these women - if not all - said choosing their family was the best choice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Respect: The Legacy of the Beastie Boys



I was a pre-teen the first time I heard the Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right." Their 80s rebelyell roused an entire generation to engage in an adolescent version of the 7 Deadly Sins. It wasn't one of my favorite songs - mainly because I was that odd teenager without the party gene - but they shook my psyche. It was one of those rare songs that you remember with astounding detail, like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Welcome to the Jungle." Once you heard it, you knew we were heading into a new era.

When hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons announced Adam Yauch's death from cancer this Friday, I was suspended in unexpected grief. A quick search online showed millions of others were in that same state.

The Beastie Boys never would've succeeded on paper: They were skinny, Jewish kids without boy-band good looks. They screamed their lyrics in almost every song, making them hard to peg in any one musical genre. An executive searching for bankable and quick commercial success would've sent them home.

Their success is amplified by their odds for failure. In the end, they succeeded because they had immense talent and out-of-the-box style that transcended musical- and racial boundaries. Everyone from hip-hop's greatest to the Dalai Lama expressed their condolences. Yauch was quietly a devout Buddhist. I discovered this a few years back when a rare photo surfaced of him bowing to His Holiness. Unlike many celebrities, he kept his spiritual beliefs largely private. That was evidence of the authenticity in his personal spiritual quest.

In life, Adam "MCA" Yauch united the most varied fans. In his passing, he fittingly did the same.

The Beastie Boys' credibility as white rappers with talent preceded Eminem's. But they also knew how to grow with their fans, rather than clinging to their youthful party-boy style that made them famous. They didn't dye the gray out of their hair. Their musical style became increasingly varied, veering into psychedelic and thoughtful lyrics as they grew older. They paid a sensitive tribute to NYC following 9/11. "You are down two towers, but you are still in the game."

The video for one of their more recent songs, Sabotage, was directed by the talented indie filmmaker Spike Jonze. The potential for creative genius was immense, and all of them delivered. The 70s "Baretta" TV show-style gave so many cultural nods and showed their sense of fun and humor was still firmly planted.

The lesson in all of this? Most of us will never become a famous musician. Many probably aren't seeking it out. The Beastie Boys didn't worry that no one paved the way for their success: They carved it out, on their own terms. Something about this - along with their music - is what has made them a force in our collective conscious.

If you don't fit anyone's mold for success, don't worry. Keep going and trust your instincts. People who are pioneers are for the very reason that nobody did what they did before. The Beastie Boys didn't seem to be hungry for success, and partly for that reason, they maintained it.

Adam Yauch, you are beloved and missed by the fans who grew with you. Continue to scream.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Ugliest Trend on Youtube

A young teenage girl stares into the camera and poses a vulnerable question: "Am I ugly? Please be honest. Am I?"

Unfortunately, it's not a rhetorical question. Teenage girls ask few of them. She truly wants to know. And to know - in her book - means asking potentially hundreds of thousands of strangers for feedback.

I'm too old to know what started this trend on Youtube, or why it's picked up so much. When I was a teenager, we dodged criticism and ridicule; we didn't invite it. And we certainly didn't make videos seeking it out.

The feedback, by and large, is as discouraging as you'd expect an anonymous group of posters would give. They range from "Your forehead is more like an eight-head" to inappropriate sexual innuendo. Essentially, you're "good enough to _______." Most of these girls look well under 16.

Parents, monitor your teens' internet use like it's border patrol, no matter how unpopular it makes you to them. I hated my father with hormonal teenage passion from 1987-1994. Today, I love and respect him more than anyone else. Why? Because he never worried about us being "friends" when I was growing up. He worried about raising me the best he could, even if it meant I temporarily hated him for it. This is the natural push and pull of parent-child boundaries that precedes a healthy adulthood.

More importantly, where are young teenage girls getting such a drive for approval over their looks? This is never where their entire sense of self-worth should come from. Has our culture dipped so far into an obsession with looks that these girls are willing to risk scathing feedback? Are parents sitting down with their teens to discuss self-worth and how it's based on so much more than something that will fade over time and can be lost instantly?

And why is this "Am I ugly?" question being asked of anonymous posters who will inevitably and cowardly feed on their insecurities?

I don't blame these young girls. I want to hug them. I also want to firmly tell them this is like pouring black ink into your heart and soul. It's one of the most destructive things you could do to yourself. The trend needs to stop. Youtube won't do it. The parents need to.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beauty in Your 30s

My gorgeous friend, Nicole: Over 30, smart, kind, & confident


I remember the dread of my last year as a 20-something: Everything swirled in my head, from concerns about the next step in my career to my own sense of identity and what I wanted to contribute. Admittedly, another major concern was the changes I'd see as I got older. Straight up, it was vanity.

There's a saying: If you're lucky, you will get older. If you're luckier, you'll get older, wiser, and look good the whole time.

I won't lie: In your 30s, things change: Your metabolism begins to slow (from decreased muscle mass); fine lines and wrinkles become more visible (due to decreased collagen production and slower cell turnover); your body bounces back slower from dramatic physical changes, like pregnancy. Most people's hair begins to gray in their early 30s. There are theories that our increasingly hectic lifestyles have sped up the process from decades ago.

Here's the good news: Hitting your 30s means being more aware of the effects your habits have on your body. If you stay up too late, imbibe too much, avoid sunscreen, you will see those consequences sooner than a 22-year-old would. That double-edged sword means, simply, take care of yourself. The good habits also are apparent quickly.

My skin is not flawless by anyone's standards, but I don't have any wrinkles yet. I will get them soon enough; my goal isn't to try to stop the aging process (a futile and soul-crushing effort). It's to avoid things like skin cancer and prevent premature wrinkling. I religiously use sunblock and have avoided tanning beds completely. It's hard to impress upon a teenager or 20-something that the bronze look she wants now (unless it's a faux bronze) will wreak havoc on the skin she has 10 years later.

My eating habits leave a lot to be desired, but I see the immediate effects of a poor diet: Too much salt, sugar, or refined foods mean I'm bloated, sluggish, and at least 5 pounds heavier. As a result, I watch my diet much more carefully than I did in my 20s. I eat a variety of vegetables (almost) daily. I include lean protein in most meals. I watch my sugar and fat intake regularly. Also, as we age, our skin's ability to bounce back decreases: Fluctuating weight leaves excess and loose skin in places like our breasts and stomach. If that isn't motivation to keep a steady weight, I'm not sure what is.

I saw my first gray hair at the predictable age of 33, right when I was going through the stresses of buying property. There's still some denial, but I've accepted it's life and most people my age are going through it, too. I dye the roots with an ammonia-free hair color once a month. Fight the urge to pluck first grays, because over time it damages hair follicles. Avoid dying the whole head, which will accumulate damage. I also condition religiously, add argan oil to my hair dye, and avoid too many styling products. There's scientific evidence that high levels of prolonged stress (think before-and-after President photos) and heavy caffeine consumption speed the graying process, so keep both in check.

I also take my cues from women around me who've aged gracefully. I don't keep to one standard of beauty: I admire all sizes, shapes, colors, etc.  I don't look to celebrities - who have the benefits of plastic surgery, personal trainers, and lots of airbrushing - for inspiration. I look at the women around me who are my age and older and reflect not just healthy habits, but the security and serenity that typically comes only with time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Makeup: It Can Make or Break Your Career

A new co-worker of mine is from another country, one where makeup is a scarcity and most women don't wear it. He's at that stage where everything about this country is a visual feast of novelty - including me and my face.

Since he also doesn't have a filter, he's started commenting on my daily makeup choices: "What are those things you put on your eyes?" (fake lashes) "How come they're there one day and not the other?" (because they're fake). You get the point.

Getting regular commentary on my makeup choices is a little grating, but it's also made me think more about how much our makeup speaks to the world: It says something about who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to be.

There is a saying in Corporate America: Don't dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want. Though it's one of those sayings that has an Anthony Robbins punchline somewhere, it's true: The way we present ourselves tells the world how to treat us. Maybe it's not the way things should be, but it's the way of the world. You either will play or not, but your choices will affect a number of trajectories in your life.

When Carrie Underwood won American Idol, she underwent a physical transformation so stunning it should've won its own award. Already a pretty girl, Underwood was immediately put in the hands of a team of hair and makeup professionals to transform her into a Hollywood glamour girl. Though her singing talent would've spoken for itself, there is no doubt that had she stayed with her old makeup and hair, her career wouldn't have gone even close to the level it's reached. Susan Boyle, anyone?

Kim Kardashian is another one: The woman who's famous for being famous is really famous for having a look people covet. It's so well-crafted that it makes the people who create it famous.

Celebrity name-dropping aside, this speaks a truth about us everyday women in the workforce: Think about the industry you're in and if the makeup you wear suits it. Unfortunately, each morning isn't about dressing up your face to suit you. When you put on makeup for work, you're doing exactly that: It needs to be to be appropriate to the corporate culture.

My vocal (and arguably inappropriate) co-worker is a reminder of how much our makeup is seen at work.


Carrie Underwood: Pre- and Post-Hollywood Makeover

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New York Fashion Week Makeup with James Vincent

Makeup artist James Vincent recapped New York Fashion Week just as the tumultuous event was winding down. Good-natured and grounded (with a wild sense of humor), Vincent is that perfect mix of industry veteran knowledge and fresh-eyed enthusiasm. He spoke during a pro-seminar at Make Up For Ever's NYC studio with both qualities in full-swing.

The first myth Vincent blew is that fashion week makeup is all about complex, artistic looks: In NYC, the looks have gone as bare as "a little concealer." The Fall forecast is a red lip - both matte and stained - paired with matching cheeks. And little else. The models were made up to appear as if they'd "fallen in snow," with the flush spreading down the cheek. At Marc Jacobs, the red lip "went high school" by pressing the color into the lip for a sheer finish. At Michael Kors, the lip was matte and polished.

There is no one red lip. There are hundreds.

New York is all about classic, understated looks. Go to Milan or Paris, and the Fashion Week makeup gets much bolder. The makeup artist translates each region's sensibilities.

Vincent, a makeup artist for nearly two decades, has done 30 Fashion Week shows. Still, he's not above learning: He took this show as an opportunity to observe Dick Page and Linda Cantello at work and was "in awe."

When he was starting out and working at a MAC counter, he taught a woman how to use lipstick for color correction. That woman turned out to be R&B producer, Pebbles, who had just signed a girl group called TLC. She was so impressed with Vincent's approach that she had him do makeup on the group. Today, Vincent's resume includes the famous faces of Reese Witherspoon, the Black Eyes Peas, Lady Gaga, and Jane Fonda.

Vincent told the group that the best way to break into Fashion Week is to contact an agency at least a season in advance and offer your assistance. Make a professional website showing your work, and keep the wild looks to a bare minimum. Agencies will want to see that you can do clean looks first and foremost. That skill can be built upon.

"Got photos of crazy fake lashes posted? Take them down," he said sternly.

His biggest advice is to present yourself at every turn with professionalism, right down to handwritten thank-you notes. "As an assistant, you're an extension of the makeup artist. By being professional, you show you don't get caught up in drama," he said. "You will make it if people think you're already successful. (Think like) you're a brand."






Thursday, February 16, 2012

Make Up For Ever's Pro-Seminars: MUAs Jen Evans and Orlando Santiago

Jen Evans, an educator at the Make Up For Ever Academy, has worked with the brand's founder, Dany Sanz. Once Evans began working at the seminar, the influence is apparent: Her style is artistic and outside of any limitations. She is inspired by painters and artists outside of the makeup world: Without copying their work, she tries to work off the style and bring her own influence to it.

Evans is an advocate of sometimes going into a look without a plan (something she admitted she did for that day's seminar): It forces your creativity and often results in a look that's more impressive than one that was thought-out.

Her tips:

She applies powder blush to a tissue, then brushes it onto the face. This creates a more diffused, natural look on the cheeks. She wipes off the blush brush to blend so that no additional product is deposited.

She improvises with what's available: Evans used Post-Its and applied them in strategic spots across the model's face, which controlled where the glitter was deposited. Scotch tape is good for lifting fall-out, since it pulls with an adhesive when being lifted off.

When applying shadow, always blend upwards: Working down will draw the eye down, creating a sad or aged look.

Foundation is an art in itself: She is meticulous at applying foundation, using a high-definition sponge and dabbing it around the face, rather than spreading it like moisturizer. She works it into the skin until it's seamless.

She applies loose powder with a large puff, pressing it into the skin. Then she goes in with a fan brush and removes excess. Once again, the pressing motion deposits product where it's needed, and the brush removes any visible product.






Orlando Santiago is an editorial and fashion makeup artist. "It may be shallow, but it's the area I love," he said. Not only in makeup style, but also in personality, he seems to be Evans' antithesis: Despite working New York Fashion Week, he came into the room with pounding energy.

Santiago, like other educators at Make Up For Ever, applies the theory of color correction. He works on canceling out things like redness with green-based primers and products, rather than trying to cover them with concealer. The goal is to reduce the amount of concealer and foundation needed by correcting the pigmention first. "You work your way up, not down," Santiago explained.

The class overwhelmingly asked wanted Santiago to create a "dewy look" on the model. He began by applying Embryolisse moisturizer, pressing it into the model's skin. He uses this as a primer.

When models come in after a night of partying, he counteracts puffiness by mixing an eye serum with caffeine into the moisturizer. He also uses "a small amount" of Preparation H.

When contouring the face, stick to cool tones. Think in terms of natural shading, Santiago explained: It's not bronze; it's a cool brown.

A dewy look can be created on a person with oily skin. The focus becomes more on cutting down oily areas than highlighting with an illuminating product.

Makeup artists like Pat McGrath are in high-demand because they can create the look of perfect skin without any appearance of makeup. "That's money," Santiago said.

Editorial makeup isn't forgiving: If an artist makes a mistake that a retoucher needs to fix, the artist won't get hired again. As camera angles become more varied, mistakes can be caught more easily.

He just scored a Revlon ad campaign. Santiago was giddy with excitement when he told the class.





Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's In My Travel Makeup Bag




I realize the video loops in one section. I'll have this fixed in a couple days. By the time of the upload, it was almost midnight, so I didn't have the energy to fix it right away.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why I Don't #FF




FF - originally a hashtag for Friday Follow on Twitter - has morphed and is on many social networking sites. I never got into FF on Twitter, but there are a few people I follow - Daniel Sandler, James Vincent - who do Follow Fridays with a purpose: They will promote people that they think will benefit people with their interests. I take their advice the way I do when a reputable reviewer gives a product a nod: More often than not, the recommendation turns out to be rewarding, interesting, etc.

Why I don't like Follow Friday: Many use it now to promote their friends, creating a sense of an online clique. I never liked cliques in high school, and I still don't. The most interesting, talented people I found independently and by using my own mind. I trust most people can do the same. If I promote someone, it's often someone I don't know personally, but who is talented and hasn't been discovered by many yet. People's time is at a premium: I don't waste it promoting products I don't really like. That sensibility extends to other areas.

My ultimate philosophy is cream rises to the top: People who offer something of substance to a wide variety of people will gain a following by themselves. Youtube beauty reviewer Emily Eddington marvels in her earliest videos that she has 1,000 subscribers. She now has over 200,000.  A large following may not happen instantly, but the laws of attraction and talent eventually even the scales.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Facebook: Social Networking Site/Publicly Traded Company worth $4 Billion

Facebook is in the earlier stages of becoming a publicly traded company on the NYSE. What this means is the investor pool is about to swell and go from private investors to anyone who wants a piece of that pie, including you or me. This also means the founder and president, Mark Zuckerberg, who is in his late 20s, is about to become a much richer man than he already was.

Reportedly, Facebook's private investor count had reached its legal limit of 500, which forces a company to open its books and become public. Would I invest in Facebook? People continue to point to the abandoned Myspace as an example of a social networking site's short lifespan. People are fickle, and popular sites can quickly go out of favor. Other questions: What will the price/share be? How big is the overall investor pie? Investors get their return in dividends, which are payouts based on their share of investments and the companies' profits. This isn't a simple or straightforward formula: Oil companies make an ungodly amount of money, but their investors get small returns.

Potentially, this could make Facebook a better place to kill time or promote your business, whatever you do here. As an investor, you are technically a partial owner of the company. We could have more say in their privacy policy (which is arguably none or hard to decipher), their constant changes and updates to the site, and what new applications are launched here.

Things that were once unknown, like how much money the company makes per year, will need to be transparent and reported regularly. The company we invest so much - or maybe so little - of our time in might return some of that investment.

Might.

Trends in Makeup That Aren't Positive



Lately, I've hit a wall with some of the beauty bloggers and vloggers I once really enjoyed. This blog is not to criticize or knock anybody: It's simply to say that in all we love about makeup, there is a downside for some of us. This is, of course, simply my opinion, and I respect others' fully.

Makeup hauling and favorites of the month: I'm feeling more and more disconnected to beauty reviewers, some very young, who promote Chanel makeup and other very high-end brands almost exclusively. Granted, they may be in a position where buying a $45 foundation every other month or creams that are close to $100 is their normal. For many of their viewers, who are in the late teens-early 20s range, this is not. In college, I was eating ramen and scrambling to stockpile coupons so I could stick to my $40/month food budget. My father refused to let me get a credit card, because he knew of the college students who got themselves in trouble. Makeup, while I wore it, was a rare splurge and even then I stuck exclusively to affordable drugstore items.

The Hunger Game: One thing that is a negative in makeup is that hunger to always want to collect more, to want to know what's new and if it's better than what they already have. Our brains our wired to want new experiences: They're wired to adapt to a novelty, a new product,  a new environment, a mind-altering substance. This is the chemistry of our brains. The problem is, this hunger in the context of makeup tends to become an expensive beast to feed. If you cannot shut this wiring down yourself, shut of the triggers that make you crave more constantly. If you need to, seek help to deal with compulsive spending. It is categorized as a legitimate addiction in the medical field.

Makeup brands and certain beauty bloggers and vloggers will be happy to feed our desire to consume: This is their bread and butter. But the reality is, feeling out of control about your spending or getting yourself in deeper than you can afford is never a wise choice. I love makeup, as much as anyone does. I have fallen prey myself to the mindset that the more I have, the better; the newer I have, the better. I've had to take responsibility for more choices and turn the spicket off. If you're struggling with this and want to slow down, I want to remind you: You can too.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Makeup Contest: A Tribute to Kevyn Aucoin



Next month marks what would have been Kevyn Aucoin's 50th birthday. This year is also 10 years since his passing. I thought it would be fitting to do a contest where people do tribute looks that reflect his style and the spirit he brought to makeup.

Please post your makeup image on www.facebook.com/makeupbyelm between now and Feb. 14 (his birthday). The winner will receive $100 worth of makeup from the Kevyn Aucoin cosmetic line. Winner will be chosen based on a look that is most reflective of his style, technique, and creativity.

He was an amazing talent and gave makeup soul.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Maybelline Color Tattoos



This is probably the most hyped product out of the drugstores right now: I heard the comparisons to MAC Paint Pots and that they outperformed them. I've bought three shades: Tough As Taupe, Bold Gold, and Painted Purple.

My thought on this product after using it for a week: It's probably the best cream shadow out of the drugstores so far, but it isn't nearly as long-wearing as the name suggests. The shades are also hit or miss: Tough As Taupe goes on very pigmented, but Painted Purple isn't nearly as vibrant swatched as it appears in the pot.

The shades also take some blending: They tend to apply streaky and uneven and take more than one application to get good color payoff. I also wish more of the shades were matte; the glittery effect makes them hard to use as a base.

This is a decent product, but it's overpriced at around $8 per pot. If your eyelids are oily, this product will likely crease after a few hours. If you're older and have some wrinkling on your eyelids, the product will settle into any wrinkles and accentuate them.

After-Work Makeover




I work with Sheena. We had long discussed doing her makeup, but the trickiest thing is trying to schedule this sometime around a work day. She is 48 and has no wrinkles. Although she is going through a rocky time, she tries to see the positive and tackle obstacles with a good attitude.

Because of time constraints, I had about 20 minutes to do this look on her (and she reminded me the entire time that "I have to go."). I used gold, bronze, and brown shadows to enhance her eyes. Though the camera didn't pick it up well, I mixed a bright pink cream blush and an orange lipstick to use as her blush. I finished her look with a caramel lip shade.

Sheena's tips (the good and the bad):

Although she has no wrinkles, she never wears sunscreen. She says she's allergic to the chemicals. I suggested she try sunblock or an organic version.

She swears by cocoa butter, even on her face. She applies it twice daily.

She loves Wen Cleansing Conditioner (I do, too).

She eats a lot of vegetables and thinks it's helped keep her looking youthful.

Every so often, she takes some "me time" by renting a hotel room and spending the weekend pampering herself. With some of her grown kids still at home, it's her only way to have time alone.

She smokes but is in a smoking cessation program.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Youtube Video: Contest Entry


Please let me know if you'd like to see more videos and what types: tutorials, reviews? It was a long decision whether to post on Youtube, considering it isn't always the most supportive forum. I finally decided I wouldn't let anyone else's negativity keep me from doing what I want. I hope you enjoy and thanks for your support.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Face of the Weekend: Purple Reigns

With a conservative day job, I stick to neutrals daily. On the weekends, I can experiment with colors and be more daring. This weekend, I wore a deep purple shadow and false lashes. When you're dark-skinned, dark-haired, like I am, you can get away with deep, bright colors without it looking overdone. (Oh, and yes I smile normally.)

Products used: Make Up For Ever shadow, Kiss false lashes, Nars Sheer Glow foundation, MAC Ambering Rose blush, NYX gloss in Natural



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Current Blush Favorite: Not the Slightest Bit Peachy-Pink



In the game of blush collectors, I'm pretty low down on the spectrum: Anyone who follows beauty blogs knows there are hardcore players in the game: In all seriousness, some have triple digit collections and are continuing to expand their collections. Mine tops out at a paltry 5-10 at a time. Why? Because I don't feel a desire to have more than that at a time, can't use more than that at a time, and I'm missing the girl-gene that wants 15 shades of peachy-pink. My vision can only detect the nuances of pink to a varying degree, then all is lost.

This blush post might be called the Anti-Peachy-Pink blog: I've become so saturated with that term in the last year that in a breaking moment, I was standing at the MAC counter and looking for the farthest departure from a pink tone that I could find. What I selected was MAC's Amberling Rose. It's a deep rose shade with gold flecks. The combination enhances medium to deep skin tones so beautifully and naturally that I'm now defaulting to this blush. When you have to remind yourself you still have other shades, you know a blush has trumped the rest. I'd highly recommend this shade to anyone in a "blush rut."

Despite being categorized as a sheer tone blush, this packs considerable color payoff. The only thing I'd caution is that it can go on dense and needs to be blended well. I've heard others say this about MAC blushes, that they can be so pigmented that many shades need extra attention with blending.

I'm not a MAC fanatic: I have nothing against the brand, but it was never on my radar as a teen because I didn't grow up shopping in department stores. As an adult, I've tried to expose myself to the brand bit by bit, partly because it is one of the most socially responsible cosmetic brands. They are way ahead of the game with their Back to MAC program, which encourages their consumers to recycle by offering free product with returned empties. They don't do any animal testing. Beyond that, MAC has really done tremendous things with raising AIDS awareness with its Viva Glam line. They don't get enough credit as an extremely altruistic and socially responsible company.

Affordable options that give a similar effect: Covergirl Cheekers blush in Golden Pink and Milani baked blush in Red Vino.