Friday, December 31, 2010

Never Sleep in Your Makeup Again!

Of course we all know how terrible it is to go to bed without washing your face and fall asleep still wearing makeup.  And yet many women I know make a habit of this.  Truthfully, I've probably been one of the worst offenders.  But no more!  I keep Neutrogena's Makeup Removing Cleansing Towelettes on my nightstand so I'm no longer tempted to fall asleep wearing makeup.  These amazingly simple cleansing cloths even remove waterproof mascara!  They come in a few varieties, but I'm partial to the "Night Calming" version.  They're also widely available at nearly every drugstore.  Best of all, I can really tell a difference in my skin now that I've committed to taking off my makeup every single night, regardless of how tired I am.  With these cleansing towelettes, it's almost too easy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NARS Orgasm

NARS Orgasm
What began as a blush has spun off into lipgloss, nail polish, illuminator, multi-purpose shimmer, and a legendary following among makeup junkies the world over.  All these products feature the popular and scandalously named color that made NARS cosmetics a staple of nearly every woman's makeup bag: Orgasm.  This golden pink-peach shimmer is one of the few shades that is really and truly flattering on every skintone.  It's like magic! 

Now you can wear the gorgeous color on your lips and nails.  It's also sold in tandem with a bronzer for easy contouring.  There's even an illuminator version of Orgasm to provide a radiant glow anywhere you may need it.  For those so inclined, Super Orgasm blush and lipgloss offers up even more shimmer with glittery bits of gold.

I finally picked up my very own Orgasm blush this week and, like so many others, I'm enamored with this beautiful shade.  I want to apply it everywhere, and luckily, I can!  Next purchase is lipgloss for sure.  Hello obsession, my name is Laura...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Interview with the Makeup Artists of Black Swan

I came across this press release interview with genius makeup artists Judy Chin and Margie Durand, who were the creative forces behind the makeup for the new film Black Swan.  Pictured below is the makeup for one of Natalie Portman's final scenes; the look is almost as dramatic as the plot!  Read on to learn the products they used, what it's like to work as a makeup artist on a movie set, and how to adapt this intense look for yourself!

Q: How does a makeup artist prepare to work on a film? Do you receive guidance from the director or collaborate with the costume designer/art director/key hair stylist on the makeup look?

: When I begin working on a film I speak to the director and all of the creative team if possible. The directors inspiration and vision really drives the process and I try to deliver that vision in makeup.

Judy: As I read the script, I try to envision the characters, taking into account their background (age, personal history, affluence, profession). As I see the plot develop in the story, I make note of how these events might affect their appearance. When I’m designing the looks for a film, it’s very important to consider the director’s visual style and tastes. Occasionally, I get to collaborate with the costume or production designers. I always try to find out how the actors will be dressed, as that can have a significant influence on the makeup look. While our designs are often created independently at first, I find that the hair stylist and I work very closely to be sure that our looks fit together and bring the characters to life.

Q: How long does it typically take for you to prepare to start working on a movie like Black Swan?

: I spend a lot of time drawing and doing practical makeup tests. Depending on actor availability and camera tests, it could take three to four weeks of preparation.

Q: How does a makeup design contribute to building a movie character?

: What I’ve always loved about makeup design is its contribution to the actor’s performance. Makeup helps to create the character visually. I feel that I’ve done my job well when an actor can walk onto the set feeling like the embodiment of the character that he or he is portraying.

Q: Can you give a step by step explanation as to how the Black Swan look was created as well as the products that were used?

Margie: We applied a pale ivory foundation with a white cream highlight on the forehead and cheekbones. To create the swan eyes, we used M•A•C Chromaline in Black Black. Using M•A•C Pigment in Silver combined with Mixing Medium, we applied feathery brushstrokes over the Black Swan’s eyes. The lips were lined with M•A•C Lip Pencil in Vino and topped with M•A•C lipstick in Dubonnet. We then lined the under eye with a thin line using M•A•C Chromaline in Red.

Please let us know if you would like more detail on the products used to create this look.

Q: Does the makeup have any relation to the makeup in the traditional version of the Swan Lake ballet?

Not really. The ensemble dancers wear what might be considered a traditional theatrical eye makeup, but our rendition is more dramatic. It’s practically an opera makeup. Besides that, the only other relation might be that we did portray the Black Swan as a sinister dark foil to the more angelic and innocent Swan Queen.

Q: The ballerinas’ performance makeup in the movie is especially dramatic and visually arresting. What inspired the dark romantic makeup look?

Judy: The look was inspired by the story, and by the director, Darren Aronofsky I felt that he was looking for something dramatic and visually striking, so all of the intensity was focused in the eyes. Margie Durand realized that there were elements of our beautiful set design that should play a role in our makeup. Thus, the delicate silver branches that played across the swan’s faces came to be. The ensemble swans and the Swan Queen are delicate and romantic with a soft pink lip color, whereas the Black Swan is dark, sharp, and, angular.

Q: A ballerina has an incredibly active job, and in Black Swan, the characters wear both body and face makeup. What products did you use in the film that you were certain would hold up to the lights, movement and perspiration?

: We used pancake makeup with a spray sealant to ensure that it wouldn’t rub off on the costumes. We also used M•A•C Paint Pots, M•A•C Powerpoint Eye Pencils, and M•A•C Pigments. In addition, we applied some alcohol based pigments that are virtually water proof and rub proof.

Q: What challenges did you face when designing and applying the makeup?

: It was a challenge to makeup the Black Swan as the White Swan and then switch back to Black Swan during the long filming days. Both makeups had to be retouched because of the strenuous dancing for the close-up shots.

Judy: It would have been a huge problem if any of the makeup rubbed off onto the costumes, so we had to do many tests before we came up with the right combination of products – especially for the hands. The only other challenge was conveying to our team the application techniques, as it really was an operatic style of makeup. The shaping of the eyes and painting the whole eye in cake makeup is unusual for modern makeup artists. Most people are a bit intimidated by pancake makeup and they dismiss it as “old fashioned,” but it can be really beautiful if done properly. In the end, the whole team worked really hard and did a stunning job.

Q: Did you use any products in a non-traditional way?
Judy: We mixed the M•A•C Pigment in Silver with a sealant to create a waterproof liquid. We then used this metallic liquid to paint our delicate silver branches across the little swan faces.

Q: Black Swan makeup tutorials have popped up all over the Internet. Why do you think makeup fans are fascinated with this look, even before the film’s release?
Judy: What’s not to be fascinated with? The look is intense, alluring, and sexy with a bit of danger mixed in. Frankly, I’m flattered and pleased that there has been this much interest in the Black Swan makeup.

Q: How can the everyday woman translate the dramatic Black Swan makeup into an evening look?
Judy: There are a lot of aspects to this makeup that are standard elements for a classic beauty makeup. The highlights and contours along the cheekbones, nose, jaw line, and the pout of the mouth can all be adapted to a contemporary makeup. I also think one could incorporate the dramatic eyeliner – the angles and the intensity – into a very seductive, catlike smoky eye.

Margie: Think 1920’s vamp makeup: create the smoky Black Swan eyes with slender, silver eye liner applied under black wingtip liner and add thin wisps of silver liner over the eyelid, too. Rim the waterline with black liner and top it off with full, feathery false eyelashes. Apply a very matte foundation with contoured cheekbones and a hint of shimmery blush on apple of cheeks. Lips can be matte or glossy in dark eggplant, wine and even black colours!

Check out the rest of the interview over at Beauty Banter!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lipstick 101: Which Shade is for You? Part Two

Part one was all about the different types of lipstick formulas.  Now here's part two, how to choose the perfect color! 
Source: Wiscombe Art
The Basics
The easiest trick of all is to simply choose a color that's about two shades darker than the natural color of your lips.  According to Bobbie Brown, these are the most natural and flattering shades.  Head to a makeup counter where you can test out lipsticks, apply the color to one lip only, and compare.  If it's a shade or two deeper than your bare lip, you've found a great color!  Even if you plan to find a great lipstick at the drugstore or somewhere else you can't try them out, I'd recommend doing this first.  You'll know what shades to look for. 

Simple, right?  If you want to try other colors like red (which, trust me, nearly anyone can pull off red lipstick), different shades flatter different skintones. 

Fair Skin
If you're fair skinned, look for pink, berry, and red shades that have some blue-ish undertones.  If you want to wear a neutral, try to find a peach color with a pink undertone.  Loud pink shades should be avoided.

Medium Skin
If you have a medium skintone, shades with yellow undertones will look better.  You can wear deep reds in addition to pinks with brownish undertones.  For neutrals, you can even wear warm brown shades.  Just make sure to avoid super pale browns. 

Dark Skin
Those with dark skin look good in deep reds with blue undertones and dark plum or even purple shades.  Again, pale beige colors should be avoided.     

One more thing: 
Also keep in mind the season; sometimes shades that look absolutely ridiculous in fall or winter will look gorgeous in the summertime, and vice versa.  For example, I have a coral red that just looks silly this time of year.  But I can't wait to wear it this summer! 

Look for part three of Lipstick 101 to learn about how to get rid of annoying lipstick stains, coming soon! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hair Products You Need to Try Right Now

I've had several requests for a post about amazing hair products.  Here are my top three essentials.  My hair has never looked better!

This is THE most popular hair treatment right now.  It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when this trend began, but chances are you've heard numerous celebrities mention their devotion to MoroccanOil.  What's marketed as MoroccanOil is really called argan oil, and a few other companies like Josie Maran sell it too.  Until a few months ago I was horrified at the thought of using oil of any kind on my hair, but the hype is to be believed!  I never understood what having "manageable" hair meant until I tried MoroccanOil for myself.  My hair is smooth, shiny, and healthy; this product somehow perfectly separates my long layers in exactly the right places and even looks like I've taken the time to style it.  All it takes is an evenly distributed dime sized amount on towel dried hair.  Avoid your scalp, though; oil still doesn't belong on your roots. 

Static Guard
While another perk of MoroccanOil is that it seriously cuts down on the staticky flyaways that plague my fine hair during winter, I still need a little extra static protection between shampoos.  Static Guard is another miracle product.  Two or three quick sprays on your hairbrush is all you need to eliminate static!  This product is multipurpose, too.  Just try to use it sparingly, as the fumes can get a little overwhelming if you spray too much. 

Dry Shampoo
This is quite possibly one of the best inventions ever.  On mornings when I sleep too late and don't have time to wash my hair, a few sprays of dry shampoo makes my hair look instantly clean and full of volume.  Really!  I make sure I always have at least two cans, I use it so often (I sleep late a little too much...).  There are many, many brands out there to choose from, but Tresemme's Fresh Start is one of the cheapest and easiest to find.  It's just about everywhere and only $3.99 per can!  It does leave a sort of powdery residue behind that brushes out with no problems, but my hair is also blonde so the residue is less noticeable for me anyway.  Dark haired lovelies might want to tread a bit more carefully with this brand.  Luckily, I hear Bumble and Bumble makes excellent dry shampoos to coordinate with any hair color!        

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Nail Polish That Makes Everything Instantly Better

I try to update my blog every 2-3 days and usually write entries about a week in advance.  However, this schedule has been derailed due to illness and a few other upheavals as of late.  Luckily, I'm feeling well enough to tell you about the amazing manicure I got a few hours before I came down with the worst virus of my life (also luckily, the two events were unrelated).  I may be sick, but my nails look like a party!

This probably won't surprise anyone, but I'm partial to red nail polish and rarely wear anything else.  I was at the nail salon and all ready to request OPI's I'm Not Really a Waitress, but then another bottle caught my eye.  It was a sparkly, orange-y pink duo-chrome shade from OPI called The Show Must Go On and inspired by the new movie Burlesque (which you HAVE to go see).  I haven't worn glitter on my nails since I was eleven, but this was way too festive and fun to resist.  It's probably the most gorgeous and unique color I've ever tried, and I fully plan to purchase my very own bottle to use whenever I want.  Unfortunately, my camera isn't doing the color justice so I'm borrowing this one from clever polish blog Nailin' It

If you're in the Birmingham area and are in need of a manicure, try the new Canterbury Nails in Cahaba Village.  The salon is beautifully decorated and the staff is excellent.          

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lipstick 101: Which Type is for You? Part One

Lipstick can be intimidating to purchase, especially since so many women are used to relying on lip gloss or not wearing lip color at all.  It can be tricky to figure out what shade and formula works best for you, but being informed will definitely take out some of the guesswork!  Here's part one of what you need to know:

First, not all lipsticks are created equal.  There are a lot of different formulas depending on the kind of finish you want, but most fall into one of the categories listed below.

Matte lipsticks have a "flat" finish; there is no shine or gloss, just thick opaque color.  They last longer than other formulas and are great if you want a retro or more serious look, but beware: matte lipsticks can be extremely drying.  Layer it over a lip primer (I've found lip balm also works well) and make sure your lips are exfoliated. 

Moisturizing is the opposite of matte.  These lipsticks contain extra vitamins and moisturizing properties to add shine and keep your lips hydrated.  They're much less drying due to less wax in the formula, but the color can fade quickly so you'll need to reapply more often.

Cream lipsticks are the best of both and kind of an in-between.  The color isn't as flat or pigmented as a matte lipstick, but it's not as shiny as a gloss or moisturizing lipstick.  It doesn't last as long as matte, but doesn't wear off as quickly as moisturizing.  Most lipsticks will fall into this category.

Other Types
Long wearing lipsticks are designed to last much longer than regular lipsticks.  They are the most drying of all and usually come with a primer or gloss to help seal in the color and keep lips moisturized.  Frost lipsticks are a little more shimmery and typically come in pale colors.  If you insist, use extra caution with these to avoid looking like you're stuck in the 1980s.  If you want shine, go with gloss.

Now that you know the different types, it's time to pick a color!  Part Two of Lipstick Buying 101 will tell you all about how to choose a shade that looks best on you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Easiest Retro Eyeliner Trick Ever

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to master Brigitte Bardot-esque winged eyeliner.  So chic, so sexy, so difficult!  Occasionally it will look okay enough to satisfy my perfectionist self, but more often than not I end up late for a very important date as a result of several time consuming erase-and-attempt-again cycles.

But guess what?  Ever since I discovered this nifty little trick, I've achieved a flawless cat eye every time.  Take your credit card (or driver's license, rewards card, what have you) and line it up with the corner of your eye at about a forty-five degree angle.  Use it as a straight-edge to extend your eyeliner upwards past your lash line just a little, and voilà!  Instant winged eyeliner, perfectly even on both sides!  Experiment with the angle and placement of the card for a little variety.

This look obviously calls for liquid black eyeliner.  My favorite has an utterly ridiculous name, but is super cheap and even easier to use.  InColor FabuLiner is $2 at the drugstore and looks like a tiny Sharpie.  It's perfect for drawing on a thin, precise line but you can also make thick lines for more dramatic definition.  Bonus: it never, ever smudges.  If black is too harsh for you, try CoverGirl's Perfect Point Plus eyeliner in charcoal.  It isn't liquid, but grey eyeliner is softer, equally chic, and a little more modern.  Ms. Bardot would be so proud.           

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Complaint: Dry Skin

Baby, it's cold outside!
Winter is pretty full of extremes.  One minute you're walking outside, icy wind whipping at your face; the next minute you're rushing indoors and being blasted with overly enthusiastic central heating.  Not surprisingly, this can leave your skin dull and dehydrated.  You should already be using a moisturizer (and you are, riiight?), but sometimes in winter your skin needs a little extra protection and hydration. 

During the colder months, I switch from my regular moisturizer to Philosophy's When Hope is Not Enough replenishing cream at night.  It's similar to Hope in a Jar, but is more emollient and even more hydrating.  It's full of extra vitamins and keeps skin smooth and protected. 

Foundation tends to look cake-y when your skin is dry, which is pretty common in winter.  For daytime, I switch from my regular Bare Minerals foundation to a tinted moisturizer a few times a week.  My skin feels so much better!  The coverage is lighter so you might want to use a little extra concealer.  I also apply powder to set it and avoid looking too greasy.  Tinted moisturizers are pretty widely available; you can pick one up from just about anywhere that sells makeup.  If you've already got a great liquid foundation, get experimental and try mixing it with a little bit of your regular moisturizer, which works just as well.

It's super easy to keep your skin healthy and hydrated during the harshness of winter by simply switching out products you're already using for those that are extra moisturizing!  What other switches do you make to your winter makeup and skincare routines?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Steal! Too Faced "Glamour to Go Sexy in Seconds" Palette

The picture doesn't do the colors justice, really.  I would buy Too Faced Glamour to Go: Sexy in Seconds palette just for the blush alone.  And since it's priced at just $20, that's completely reasonable!  The blush is a near perfect dupe of NARS's legendary Orgasm blush, which I've had my eye on and is $26 a pop.  For a single blush!  And even a single Too Faced blush is regularly $20, so a whole palette for the same price is definitely a steal.  The eyeshadows are gorgeous too, and I really want to start experimenting with lighter lip colors (so 1960s chic!).  The only disadvantage is that the palette doesn't come with any applicators or brushes.  And as far as I can tell, Sexy in Seconds is only available for a limited time at Dillard's.  Or online, of course. 

What do you think?  What are some of your favorite makeup palettes?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

If It's Good Enough for Madonna...

My skin has been freaking out lately.  I'm talking worse than it ever did in high school.  I'm simultaneously dealing with acne and fine lines, plus way more redness than usual.  I was desperate enough to commit to drinking an apple cider vinegar concoction, but luckily I started reading about these miracle oxygen-containing beauty products first.

Madonna gets regular oxygen facials and insists they are the reason her skin looks so amazing.  Kate Middleton swears by her oxygen-infused cream.  These are just two of the celebrities who have been raving about the skin healing properties of oxygen as a beauty product of late.  Developed by a Nobel prize winning scientist and perfected by the spa geniuses at Bliss, oxygen facials quickly became one of the most popular spa services across the country.  The theory is that oxygen delivers nutrients to your skin that replenish cells and leave your skin healthy and rejuvenated.  Stress, aging, the environment, lack of sleep, and diet all slow down the oxygenating process.  Products that contain oxygen act to detox your skin and speed up the process, stat! 

The best part?  Now you don't even need to head to a spa to experience the amazing properties of oxygen facials for yourself.  While Bliss naturally makes the Holy Grail of at-home oxygen facials, I found the $84 price tag a little limiting and began scouting for others.  Once I discovered Ulta sells a $20 oxygen product system, I immediately brought it home to see if this could work miracles for my own skin.

C. Booth's Oxygen Infusion Cell Rejuvenation Peel System is quite possibly the best $20 I've ever spent.  For the first step, you apply a mask of "glycoprotein rejuvenation crystals" to clear away dead skin cells and prime your skin for maximum oxygen uptake.  It looks like a cream, but feels weirdly like a gel.  The second step is a "super oxide activation spray."  It acts to strengthen your skin, process oxygen quicker, and protect itself from harsh environmental elements.  You spray it directly over the crystals and leave it on about three minutes.  I wanted to avoid the comparison, but this mask felt incredibly refreshing, like drinking a glass of cool water or deeply breathing fresh air.  It tingled and felt clean and pure.  

The results were better than I could have expected.  My complexion is radiant.  An hour after rinsing off the mask, the aforementioned redness is drastically diminished and my blemishes have also decreased.  It even reduced the scarily deep forehead wrinkle I mentioned in my anti-aging post.  My skin looks clear enough to actually skip foundation tomorrow.  Did I mention this was after one application?!  Yes!  I could go on and on about this oxygen system with infomercial-caliber enthusiasm.  Seriously, go try it.  You won't be disappointed.         

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is Nothing New? Holiday Looks, 1955 vs. 2010

Check out these extreme instructions circa 1955 on how to get the popular geisha-inspired holiday look of the year.  Step one made me positively cringe: "Pluck away your entire eyebrow from the highest point of the arch to the outer corner," it suggests!  I'm curious how many women actually tried the look at home.  Eyebrows aside, I think she looks gorgeous.

It seems the Asian influenced look is now popular again for the 2010 holiday season.  NARS has released a set of extremely limited edition Kabuki-inspired lipsticks in an elegant handmade bento box container, complete with a unique kabuki lip brush.  The set is gorgeous, expensive, and nearly impossible to attain; each is priced at $125 and only one thousand sets were created for sale in the U.S.  But take a look at how pretty they are!  I can't believe these are lipsticks!

Once again, François Nars picked Daphne Guinness to be the face of his innovative new product.  Anyone else notice the striking similarity to the look of the woman in the first photo?

What's more perfect than red lipstick and black eyeliner?  This classic trend that was hot in 1955 is back!  It's an especially great look for New Year's Eve parties.  Depending on the shade and intensity of your lipstick and how thickly you apply the eyeliner, it can be as subtle or dramatic as you want.  But please, it goes without saying: leave your eyebrows alone!      

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mom Knows Best: Top Anti-Aging Tips!

If you're anything like me, you're probably taking one of your biggest sources for makeup and skincare advice completely for granted.  For years I dismissed her advice, not on purpose, but because really, who pays attention to that sort of thing till they're twenty-something?  Now I'm discovering that my mom knew what she was talking about all along.  She knows more about makeup and skincare than I do, knows which products work and which don't, andddd (drumroll, please!)...knows how to prevent signs of aging and has the wrinkle-free skin to prove it (whereas I'm two months away from twenty-three and can already detect the beginnings of fine lines plus a scarily deep forehead wrinkle).  I definitely need some preventative action.

I sat down with my mom this weekend and actually listened to her best anti-aging tips.  Now I get to pass them on to you!

Sun Protection
Her first suggestion is the easiest and the most important: stay out of the sun.  We've all heard a million times about the dangers of tanning and sun exposure, but listen up because they are 100% true.  Avoid the sun whenever possible and especially try to avoid it between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, when the sun's rays are most direct and intense.  Yes, even in winter.  This also goes for tanning beds.  Just don't.  Buy a bronzer and get some good self tanner if you can't stand being pale. 

Whenever you do need to venture outside, always always always apply sunscreen that's at least SPF 30.  A lot of foundations contain SPF 15 these days, so chances are you're halfway there already!  I'm extremely careful about which sunscreens I apply to my face; I honestly never found a traditional cream formula that I really liked.  Then I heard about Peter Thomas Roth's Instant Mineral SPF and became instantly hooked.  It's a mineral powder sunscreen that you simply brush on!  No messy cream, no annoying reactions with your makeup, just a quick wave of the brush and you're instantly protected from UV rays!  Best product ever.

Another essential product to prevent signs of aging is a moisturizer.  Skin needs to be hydrated, especially if you have dry skin, but also if your skin is oily, too.  Surprised?  So was I.  Turns out, all skin types need a moisturizer.  There are about a gazillion brands and types available, so choosing what's best for your skin can definitely be intimidating.  One of the most popular moisturizers that works for all skin types is Philosophy's Hope in a Jar.  It feels thick and luxurious, but still remains lightweight.  Friends of mine who struggle with acne and dry skin alike all seem to agree that this is one of the best moisturizers out there.  If you'd rather have a drugstore option, Aveeno's Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer is pretty decent and probably your best bet.  Plus, it's SPF 30!

This is where it gets intense, with treatments specifically designed to prevent wrinkles and target those that already exist.  My mom is most impressed with Dr. Denese's Advanced Firming Facial Pads.  You wash your face, then use one of these miracle pads before applying your moisturizer.  They contain enzymes to exfoliate, smooth out fine lines, and even shrink pores, leaving you with younger looking skin and preventing future wrinkles. 

Triple Strength Wrinkle Smoother also by Dr. Denese provides a more concentrated approach to solving and preventing wrinkles; you just apply the cream where you need it most.  For me, this is definitely my forehead.  When I use this product, I can almost feel my skin tightening.  It's serious stuff, but not at all harsh for even the most sensitive skin.

Perhaps most important treatment of all is a great eye cream.  Again, Philosophy makes the best with their Hope in a Tube.  It's useful for both eyes and lips and is specially formulated to target fine lines in these particular areas.  Also, when applying any sort of product around your eyes, make sure to use your ring finger.  This also prevents unnecessary tugging and wrinkling on the extra sensitive thin skin around your eyes.            

In short:
To treat and prevent wrinkles in your twenties, the best things you can do are: stay out of the sun as much as possible, wear sunscreen, invest in a great moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated, and start using an intense eye cream.  Even if you aren't concerned with wrinkles at the moment, it's still a good idea to take preventative steps.  Baking in the sun or the tanning bed definitely won't do your skin any favors and moisturizing simply makes your skin look better at any age.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mascara Review! Sephora's Advanced Lash Booster

Is it my imagination or have my eyelashes gotten longer?  This Advanced Lash Booster mascara from Sephora's eponymous house line of cosmetics contains a special lash growing serum right along with the mascara formula.  I've previously blogged about trying out a commercial eyelash growing serum here, but unfortunately that went as I expected and I've been using it, um, intermittently at best.  But an eyelash growing serum contained in a product I'm going to use on a daily basis anyway?   Genuis! 

I've been using Advanced Lash Booster almost a month now, and while I can't tell yet if my eyelashes have actually grown, this mascara certainly makes them look longer.  The formula lengthens, curls, and never, ever clumps.  It's pretty similar to Sephora's Atomic Lash but with a little less curl and tremendously more length.  I can't decide which I love more.  But these Sephora mascaras are, without a doubt, the best I've ever purchased.  You can't go wrong with either.

This lash growing serum within a mascara concept mostly got me wondering about other cosmetics that serve a dual purpose.  For example, I see different foundation formulas offering up anti-aging properties and acne fighting components.  Do these actually work?  I can't imagine that an anti-aging foundation could replace intense retinol and vitamin creams, but it couldn't hurt, right?  I'm definitely intrigued.

What sort of dual purpose products have you tried?  What have been your experiences?       

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revlon's Fire and Ice Lipstick (plus vintage advertisements!)

If you've been following this blog, it's obvious I'm a mascara junkie.  However, I haven't really written much about my other cosmetic obsession: red lipstick!  I've learned most red shades suit my skintone, so I can generally just grab a random red lipstick off the shelf at Target and be good to go.  Which is exactly what I did this afternoon when I spotted Revlon's classic Fire and Ice lipstick repackaged in a lovely vintage inspired tube.  It's gorgeous!  

This color is legendary and universally flattering.  It was first distributed in 1952 and has been popular ever since.  I frequently hear women complain they can't pull off red lipstick, but Fire and Ice looks good on nearly every skintone.  It was even a favorite of the late celebrity makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin.

The print advertisements for Fire and Ice were also groundbreaking.  They featured model Dorian Leigh with matching red lips and nails alongside a quiz: "Are You Made for Fire and Ice?" (Sample questions included "Do you secretly hope the next man you meet will be a psychiatrist?" and "Does gypsy music make you sad?")  Revlon is even attempting to recreate the ad featuring Jessica Biel.  Here's a comparison:

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any quiz this time around.  Oh well.  

Purchasing Fire and Ice instantly put me in mind of this 1960 Revlon TV ad for the brand new color Berry Bon Bon.   I cannot even begin convey the amazing-ness that is this commercial.  You'll have to watch for yourself.

Applying Fire and Ice didn't exactly leave me with "the excitement, the dazzle, the feeling of champagne!"  But it was enough to cheer me up a little after a difficult day.  Seeing this glamourous set of lipsticks right alongside matching nail polishes definitely made me happy. 

What do you think?  Do you love red lipstick (and the vintage advertisements!) as much as I do?  Are you afraid you can't pull off red?  Have you ever wanted to wear an ankle bracelet?! (Another pressing quiz question from the 1952 ad!)              

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter Complaint: Chapped Lips

It's that time of year again!  Seasonal changes can cause major shake-ups in your skin and hair routines.  Winter weather hits and suddenly your skin is dry and flaky, your hair is a static-ky mess, and your lips are chapped and painful.  But don't fret!  Getting rid of chapped lips easy! 

Take note: the information provided here is for mild occurrences only.  If your chapped lips are severe and/or chronic, you might want to seek a physician's advice.  There are prescription treatments available and it could be indicative of something more serious than a winter annoyance.

First, exfoliation helps tremendously.  Dampen the edge of a washcloth and rub it over your lips until they're smooth.  This gets rid of the dry flaky skin less painfully and way more effectively than biting your lips (yeah, we're all guilty of it sometimes).

After you've exfoliated, apply a thick layer of one of Philosophy's super moisturizing Lip Shines before bed and leave it on overnight.  I swear, you'll wake up with brand new lips.  This is a whole level up from the likes of Chapstick and Carmex.  They come in about a million delicious flavors (I'm partial to Red Velvet Cake) and release new flavors pretty frequently.  And since they've dropped in price, they're now only ten dollars!  I've tried other products but always go back to this one to treat my chapped lips.  It really works.

Now that your lips are no longer chapped, the final step is prevention.  You could keep using your Philosophy Lip Shine, but I personally can't stand that kind of thick lip gloss texture during the day so I prefer to use lip balm.  This is when classic cherry Chapstick comes in handy.  Burt's Bees is also extremely popular.  Whatever lip balm you like, the key is to choose one that is moisturizing and sun protecting.  Lips are more susceptible to sunburns so try to pick a balm that contains SPF. 

Lip balms are everywhere and generally pretty cheap, so it's super easy to experiment.  This winter I'm trying out the Smooth Spheres line from eos.  The packaging is clever and fun, the application couldn't be more perfect, and it does a fantastic job of keeping my lips smooth and hydrated.  Plus, it's all natural, smells delicious, and is only three dollars!  Who could ask for more?  This company is genius.                        

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Never Look Tired Again!

In these busy times, sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice in order to get more things accomplished.  It's no big secret that one of the biggest give-aways that you're tired and not getting enough sleep is the appearance of your eyes.  But even if you're exhausted, there's no reason to look like it!  Here are some useful ways to appear more rested when you've had four hours of sleep (or less).

If your eyes are puffy, reach for an eye cream or serum that contains caffeine.  Caffeine naturally reduces swelling, which will make your eyes look wider, awake, and overall more rested.  I like Garnier's Nutritioniste Skin Renew Daily Eye Roller, seen at right.  As the name implies it works best when used daily, but I've also found it effective with more intermittent use.  You apply it with a roller ball to cool and soothe the thinner skin underneath your eyes; this alone leaves me feeling more awake and refreshed.  Store it in the refrigerator to get extra fast results.  The coldness will also work to reduce swelling.  

To reduce the appearance of dark circles, choose a primer or concealer that is brightening, or a product that reflects light.  Make Up For Ever and Urban Decay make great brightening primers, which can be applied over the dark circles first and increase the effectiveness of your concealer.  I think the best light reflecting concealer available is Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat.  It was specially developed to cover up dark undereye circles and goes on smoothly like a tinted moisturizer.  It's expensive, but lasts a long time and is SO worth it.  This product is magic.

Urban Decay makes a great more affordable concealer in a pencil format; it sounds odd, but the product goes on like a thick cream and dries matte.  Since it's a matte finish it won't reflect light, but it definitely covers up the dark circles and lasts throughout the day.  At a little more than $5, CoverGirl's Fresh Complexion Concealer is the best bargain.  It's a liquid formula that blends really well with your foundation.

If you want more than one concealing option, Benefit offers up the best variety of products in a neat little package with their Confessions of a Concealaholic palette.  It contains a brightening primer, other specially formulated eye brighteners, and a myriad of different concealers so you can experiment and determine what works best for you.

Another trick to looking more awake is to line your lower lashline and inner corner of your eye with a shimmery pale or white eyeliner.  Make sure to blend it well, though, otherwise it can look a bit unsettling.  The same shade can be applied on your brow bone, just beneath your eyebrows for extra brightening effects.  Again, it's most flattering if you blend it.  A stark white line is not the ideal here.  This technique can take a bit of practice, so I don't recommend it if you're running late and have never tried it before.

Finally, applying a shimmery neutral eyeshadow and curling your eyelashes can open your eyes even more.

Worried you won't have enough time for all this?  I swear, with practice it can take less than ten minutes to look awake and pulled together, even when you're exhausted.               

Monday, November 15, 2010


I’ve previously blogged about my desire to duplicate NARS’s rich purple Daphne eyeshadow and I finally figured out a decent copy that costs around $7! I combined CoverGirl’s single eyeshadow Purple Pop with the middle fuchsia shade in Rimmel’s Dark Angel palette. Purple Pop is more blue-based, while Dark Angel has more red pigments. Neither eyeshadow has as much of a matte finish as Daphne, but together the shade is pretty close, even if it's difficult to tell the colors in the picture below. 

The two looked good when I applied alternating layers on my eyelids, but I decided to see what happened when I crushed the solid powders and combined them together as loose powders. I’m not usually a fan of loose eyeshadow powders, but I wanted a way to apply both colors at once and save myself some time (switching back and forth between colors got old fast).

The verdict?  I really, truly hate loose eyeshadows.  There is purple pigment all over my room now.  Loose eyeshadow gets everywhere.  Fortunately, it's the perfect Daphne color!  I didn't expect this experiment to turn out so well!  Understand: I'm usually terrible at this sort of thing.  Even with projects as simple as crushing and combining eyeshadows.  But it was a success!  It looks way better than applying alternating colors.  I'm inspired now and want to mix more eyeshadows!  The possibilities are clearly endless.

Have you ever made your own shades?  What colors would you most want to duplicate?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DIY exfoliating face mask

After a few too many stressful weeks in a row, one of my girlfriends and I felt we desperately needed a night to chill out and relax.  We'd been talking about doing some DIY face masks since summer, and decided this would finally be the perfect time.  We chose a recipe from the wondrous Beauty Bets that simply mixed one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of orange juice. 

The baking soda is said to fight acne and exfoliate skin, while the acidic enzymes found in orange juice supposedly tighten pores and brighten your complexion.  I've previously written about some expensive exfoliators and why they're worth your money, but I've honestly never tried a homemade mask like this before and wanted to compare results.  I don't expect it to be as fabulous as ExfoliKate, but maybe this is decent enough to cut down my ExfoliKate usage to once a week?

The recipe made enough for the two of us, so we gathered around her bathroom mirror and each applied a thin layer over our faces.  It hardened and started to flake off after about fifteen minutes, so we rinsed it and inspected for results.

Immediate impression? My skin feels ridiculously smooth and clean.  My whole face feels tighter.  My friend is similarly pleased with how smooth her skin feels.  We're both waiting to see any differences in acne.  A word of caution, though: I'd only recommend using this at night before bed.  My cheeks turned a bright shade of pink, which does happen sometimes when I exfoliate too much.  I applied some moisturizer to calm my skin down a bit, and that seemed to work well.

Ultimately, I think the baking soda may have been a bit too harsh for my skin, so this isn't something I'd want to use on a regular basis.  Maybe next time I'd use less baking soda (I seem to recall us pouring in a lot more than a tablespoon to make the mixture less liquid...oops).  But it was fun to try and I was really impressed with how much it smoothed my skin.

What are your best DIY skincare recipes?  I'd love to hear them!  If you try this mask, let me know what you think of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Worthy Investment: Exfoliators

No matter what sort of products you apply to your skin, from foundation to anti-aging serums, it won't do a bit of good unless your face is exfoliated.  Simply washing your face isn't effective enough at removing the top layer of dead skin cells that settle on your face and dull your complexion.  I write a lot about cheap versions of products you can find at the drugstore, but exfoliators are one product on which I think it's okay to spend  extra money.  While these products are definitely an extravagance (and so far have pretty much been Christmas gifts from my generous mother), the results are truly incredible.  Until recently, exfoliating systems such as those discussed here have been available only at spas and your dermatologist's office.  So yes, these are pricey, but are even more expensive when done by an aesthetician.  Think of these as bargain versions of spa facials or microdermabrasions you can do in the privacy of your own home without the hassle of appointments and inconvenient business hours. 

The first exfoliating system I fell in love with was Clarisonic.  This incredible gadget was developed by the man responsible for Sonicare toothbrushes.  Clarisonic is a cleansing brush that rotates 300 times per second!  It deep cleans your skin, removes up to six times more makeup than washing your face alone, and reduces the appearance of pores.  I've been using mine about a year now, and I can definitely see a difference.  My skin is smoother, my pores look smaller, my foundation goes on better, and my skin has never felt cleaner.  It sounded gimmicky at first, but the hype is to be believed.


Another exfoliator I adore is Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate.  First, it smells AMAZING.  The scent is fruity and spicy and for some reason makes me think of Christmas (weird, I know).  ExfoliKate was developed by skincare expert Kate Somerville herself, and the results are purported to be exactly like getting a facial at her L.A. spa, but in less than a minute.  That's how long it takes for the fruit enzymes in this product to break down those dead skin cells and leave your skin looking polished and smooth.  ExfoliKate has improved my complexion possibly even more than Clarisonic.  I use it two or three times a week and leave it on for about a minute (sometimes two if I'm feeling really hardcore).  But therein lies the danger: don't be tempted to go all "more is more and therefore better!" with this stuff.  My mom left it on for about ten minutes and it took a couple of days for her sensitive skin to recover.  Seriously, about one minute is all you really need to get amazing results.  It's that powerful..       

What do you think about exfoliators?  Do these really seem worth the money to you?  What sort of extravagant beauty products are you willing to spend more money on?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lipstick Rescue!

The lipstick was brand new.  I'd purchased it for my Halloween costume (Joan from Mad Men- I needed lipstick that would flatter red hair!) and had been wearing it even after the party was over.  The color was also flattering for my blonde hair and subtle, perfect for days when my favorite red lipstick was just a little too much.  I wore it to a fundraising event where I volunteered and kept it tucked in the pocket of my jacket throughout the day.  A few hours later when I needed to reapply, I discovered my lipstick looked like this:

Nooo!  There is also lipstick gunked up inside the cap : (

What to do?!  I found this new kit from Sephora that can save the day!  It's an empty lipstick palette to fill with your own colors that comes with a tiny spoon and silicone cup.  You just scoop your messed-up lipstick into the silicone cup, follow microwaving instructions to melt the lipstick, and pour into one of eight wells in the palette!  This is also ridiculously useful for getting that last bit of lipstick out of the bottom of the tube so it doesn't go to waste, or for mixing and creating your own shades.  I can't wait to rescue my fallen lipstick and get the most of out my favorite Chanel red that's nearly gone.


What do you think about this innovation?  Is it genius and something you'd like to try?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Mascara! Review: Sephora's Atomic Volume

I got a gift bag from Sephora this week that included lovely trial samples of mascara, eyeshadow, and tinted moisturizer.  I've never actually used tinted moisturizer before, so I'm excited to try it out and give my skin a break from the Bare Minerals I wear daily.  The eyeshadow colors are Pink Beige and Swimming Pool, which are pretty self explanatory.  I'm not sure I can pull off the blue so much, but the beige is gorgeous and just the right mix between subtle and shimmery, which I really like for daytime.  But first, I couldn't resist trying my new mascara!

The first I sampled is Sephora's Atomic Volume.  The applicator boasts a sort of "brush within a brush";  both a brush side and a comb side to "create maximum volume and extend eyelashes from root to tips."  It promises to deliver these results in just one swipe!  At $15 a tube, it's about twice what you'd pay for a drugstore mascara.  Is it worth it?

Photo credit:

First impression: Oh my gosh.  This could be the mascara I've been looking for.  It may even be better than my beloved Rimmel Sexy Curves.  They were so right about the one swipe.  My lashes looked instantly longer.  There is absolutely no clumping to speak of.  My only gripe is that it doesn't really thicken my lashes; mascaras I typically use make it look as though I have a million eyelashes. While Atomic Volume doesn't seem to do this, it does lengthen the eyelashes I have like nothing else.  I'm truly impressed at the results I got from just one coat of mascara.  I curled my eyelashes after applying the mascara early this morning (which is a bad, bad thing to do, I'm a horrible example) and now, at 4:30 in the afternoon (nine hours later!), my eyelashes are still perfectly curled.  I even got a few compliments on how much longer my eyelashes looked.  This mascara is definitely a keeper. 
Next up to try is Sephora's Lash Extension mascara.  It's formulated with one of those lash growing serums I wrote about in my last post.  I love that the serum is in a product I use daily anyway; this is going to be way, way easier than remembering to apply RapidLash every night.  Expect a review soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

And now, a few words on eyebrows...

Want to know a secret?  My eyebrows, it seems, are starting to thin.  I have no idea why this is happening; it’s through no fault of my own.  Luckily I naturally have very low maintenance, nicely shaped brows.  I’ve never had them shaped, or waxed, and have never, EVER touched them with tweezers (Public service announcement: Eyebrow shaping is best left to professionals.  Your brows may never recover from accidental over-tweezing.  Really, they don’t always grow back if you pluck too much.  Go to a salon or one of those nifty threading places that have recently been popping up.)   Right now I suspect a combination of stress and genetics is the underlying source, neither of which is diminishing anytime soon.  But my sparse eyebrows are unacceptable.  Steps need to be taken.
Ever since the release of prescription eyelash enhancing serum Latisse, over the counter versions have been appearing everywhere.  New mascaras are even being released with lash growing formulas.  My eternal quest for glamorous old movie star eyelashes has been well documented, so of course I wanted to try this trend.  I picked up an over the counter serum called RapidLash.  And lo, what does it claim on the box?  “Great for eyebrows!”  Yes! 

Because I’m a nerd and actually like reading product package inserts, I’ve learned I can expect to see results in 4-6 weeks if I faithfully apply the serum every night.  Unfortunately, dealing with delayed gratification is not one of my strong suits (I want results and I want them now!), but hopefully this time I can stick with it and actually see results.  Getting my eyebrows back to their former state would definitely be worth it.
In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of eyebrow gels, pencils, and powders for instant results.  I wasn’t a fan of the slicked-down look I got from gels.  Pencils seemed a bit too harsh and “yes I have drawn in my eyebrows” obvious for me.  The powder formulas were by far my favorite. 
I finally found the natural, subtle look I wanted in Urban Decay’s Brow Box kit.  Inside this pretty purple and black lacquered box is a mirror, two pans of eyebrow color that matches the shade of my natural brows nearly perfectly, a teeny applicator brush that's exactly the right size, a mini pair of tweezers, and wax.  The wax included here isn't for hair removal; it's to provide texture and keep the powder in place.  Since I've been using it, my friends don't believe that my eyebrows are thinning.  This is definitely one of the best kits and products I've ever used.          

Has anyone else tried these eyelash enhancing serums?  I've heard rumors that while the over the counter kind do promote healthier and stronger lashes, they don't actually do much in the way of making your eyelashes longer. 

And I'm curious what sort of maintenance your eyebrows require, since I've never really done much with mine.  Let me know!

When Good Cosmetics Go Bad: Part One

Did you know makeup has a shelf life?  It's true!  It's not good to keep a makeup bag full of products you've had for years.  Your makeup will actually expire after a certain length of time.  And although makeup does contain preservatives similar to those in food, it's still possible for bacteria like Staphylococcus to grow and cause nasty infections.  But don't worry!  Keeping track of how long you've been using a product and being vigilant about hygiene and disinfection can prevent bacteria growth and prolong the shelf life of your favorite products. 

Here are some general estimated guidelines about the shelf life of different products and when it's best to throw them out.  They do vary from source to source, since the FDA doesn't require cosmetic manufacturers to provide actual expiration dates (the phrase "up to X years/months" is key here).  And please, if your makeup changes color, consistency, or smell, this is a sign the preservatives have broken down and it should be discarded immediately. 

Lipstick lasts the longest at anywhere from 2 - 4 years, according to one apparently lax source; another expert recommends throwing them out after 12 months.  Regardless, storing them in the refrigerator prolongs the shelf life.

Eyeliner pencils, lip liners, and eyeshadows will last up to 3 years.

Powder, concealer, and nail polish are good for up to 12 months.

Mascara should be discarded after 4 months, always.  If you're going to take just one bit of advice in this entry, let it be this one!  Mascara is the absolute worst offender in terms of bacterial growth and since it's being applied in such close proximity to your eyes, using ancient mascara can be kind of dangerous.  It's doubtful you'll go blind or anything, but the risk of infection definitely increases.  And you should never "pump" your mascara wand in and out of the tube.  The only thing this accomplishes is pushing air and bacteria into the tube, which dries out and contaminates your mascara.

Liquid foundation lasts up to 12 months.  If the texture thins or thickens, or if the ingredients settle or separate, it's time to throw it out.  Liquid foundation in a tube helps prevent bacteria from getting in; wide mouthed jars expose the foundation to air which, again, dries out the product and exposes it to more bacteria.

Worried that you won't be able to keep track of all these expirations?  Fear not!  A company called Beauty Alert sells handy stickers to label your cosmetics with the date you open them.  Also printed on the stickers are different expiration times: 3, 6, 12, and 18+ months to remind you when to throw the old product out.  Find them online at Beauty Alert.  Photo below courtesy of Beauty Alert's website.

Part 2:  How to disinfect your products and properly care for your makeup brushes (which can also harbor bacteria), coming soon!

Mascara Reviews UPDATED

I'm something of a mascara junkie.  My biggest inspirations for style and makeup come from from Old Hollywood movie stars, so I'm obsessed with getting long, gorgeous pin-up girl worthy eyelashes.  False lashes are the best way to achieve the look, but they can be challenging to apply and aren't very practical for everyday wear.  So I love experimenting with mascara. 

Currently I'm using Smoky Lash by Make Up For Ever.  Initially, I loved it.  Not only did it give my lashes serious volume and length, it darkened them perhaps more than any other mascara I've tried.  But now that I've been using it about two months, it flakes off constantly.  I'll take out my compact for a lipstick touch-up and discover little black flecks underneath my eyes and all over my cheeks.  Not so attractive anymore.  Plus, a few hours later it isn't even apparent that I'm wearing mascara at all.  This was great the first month, but I definitely wouldn't buy it again.  Next!

Earlier today I picked up L'Oreal's Telescopic Explosion mascara.  The customer reviews on Target's website made this mascara seem a bit lackluster; people seem to be kind of ambivalent about it.  Then again, the original Givenchy (which, fun fact, is pronounced jee-vaun-shee, not give-en-chee) version has similar reviews on, so I wanted to try it out for myself.

First impressions?  It takes me FOREVER to apply mascara.  I put on at least two coats, sometimes three, and reducing the wand to 1/4 of a regular mascara wand is certainly not going to save me any time in the mornings.  But it's perfect for reaching those tiny lashes toward the inner corners of my eye that are so difficult to get to.  While other reviewers warned against clumpy, spider-y eyelashes, my actual result isn't like that at all.  It did clump at first, but my eyelashes eventually separated and curled and lengthened as promised.  Some friends watched me apply it and were amazed at the difference it made; the effects seem to last, too.  Overall, it's not bad, and for $7.99, it's pretty good.  The time issue is what concerns me more than anything.  We'll see how it goes.

UPDATE:  Okay, I'm not sure what happened but applying this mascara for the second time was AWFUL!  I definitely experienced the looked like I had exactly four eyelashes.  It did not curl, it did not lengthen, it did not do anything but make my lashes look like short little stumps.  I'm really disappointed, especially after getting such great results last night.  I'll try it one last time (maybe it just takes practice and technique?) but if my eyelashes look like that again, this mascara will have to be abandoned.

As much as I love trying new mascaras, there's one formula I always go back to: Rimmel's Sexy Curves.  Everything about this product is wonderful, from the applicator to the packing to the formula.  It flawlessly does all the things a mascara is supposed to do.  It lengthens, curls, and when I wear it I'm frequently asked if I have on false eyelashes.  One coat looks good, two coats look better, and three coats look amazing.  I liked Sexy Curves so much I ended up trying all of Rimmel's mascaras.  If you're looking for a truly great drugstore mascara, buy Rimmel.  I was pleased with them all, but Sexy Curves still remains my absolute favorite.

Are you a mascara addict like I am?  What are some of your favorites?  Which mascaras would you never spend money on again?