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?      

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Make it Last!

A close friend of mine recently posed a question: what are some things I can do to make my makeup stay on all day?

My initial response was old school. I suggested she "set" her foundation with translucent powder. Powder smooths out your skin and makes the foundation last throughout the day. She bought some basic Maybelline loose powder (which also absorbs oil and shine better than pressed) and was extremely pleased with the results.

Although many powders are available, my personal favorite setting powder is Guerlain's Meteorites. Guerlain is a legendary, classic brand; the Meteorites are tiny lavender scented pearls of powder in a beautiful case inspired by Marie Antoinette's jewelry box. Applying this powder makes me feel glamorous even on the worst days. Each pearl is a different color and not only does it set my makeup, it also brightens my complexion. A more affordable option is Physician's Formula's Mineral Correcting powder, which applies much the same concept as Meteorites.

A more modern solution is a miracle product called a primer. A primer should be applied over your face before any makeup is applied. Not only does it smooth your skin, it provides a base for the foundation and other makeup to "stick to", therefore your makeup is more likely to stay on all day. Primers also lessen the need to apply a lot of makeup. Unfortunately it seems they have not made it to the drugstore yet, so no cheaper versions are available. A primer may be a bit of an investment, but one that is well worth it. Expect to spend around $30.

Now even primers themselves are becoming more complex. Smashbox and Make Up For Ever make a variety of primers to cater to your individual needs, whether you require an extra wrinkle fighting product, a pore minimizer, need to decrease redness, and more. Whatever skin issues you are experiencing, it's likely these companies have a primer to combat it.

The very latest product to battle disappearing makeup is Urban Decay's All Nighter setting spray. This spray claims to respond to temperature changes and keep ALL your makeup in place for 16 hours. Admittedly, I was skeptical and had to stifle a laugh in front of the Urban sales rep. But nothing could have prepared me for the results. My makeup still looked exactly the same as I had applied it that morning, even after a late night out with friends! This product truly delivered all it promised.

Got a fabulous tip I haven't mentioned? Comment and let me know!

On the Cheap!

"Drugstore" brand makeup can be a more affordable alternative for trying new makeup trends without making the commitment to spending lots of cash. Sure, giants like Sephora and department store makeup counters will gladly let you test their wares to your heart's content, but exactly how is that $23 lemony shade of eyeshadow (a hot color for fall) going to look with the rest of your wardrobe? Will it still be trendy and relevant when the next season rolls around? And okay, who has ever actually finished an entire pan of eyeshadow? I know I haven't. These days I find it difficult to justify spending $23 on a single eyeshadow unless I really, really love it.

That's one area in which brands like Rimmel, Maybelline, and CoverGirl excel: budget friendly options to experiment! To discuss differences in quality and which brands have the best blush, mascara, etc, would be another post in and of itself (coming soon!); for now let's discuss the perfect opportunity to play with new colors and other makeup trends.

Cosmetic brand Hard Candy recently partnered with Wal-Mart and has set up shop with interesting trends mimicking Urban Decay, especially lots of glitter makeup. Glitter eyeliner is not an everyday sort of product, but Hard Candy makes it simple to try without the cash commitment at $6 a pop, as opposed to $18 for one of Urban Decay's eyeliners. L'Oreal has finally come out with a mascara wand similar to that of Givenchy's Phenomen'Eyes mace-shaped applicator, which I'm also eager to try. Rimmel and Maybelline often have the best palettes of eyeshadow colors, taking the guesswork out of matching and blending shades. Maybelline even includes mini-instructions of which shade goes where stamped into the top corner of their eyeshadows: lid, outer corner, crease, and brow-bone. I'm currently looking for dupes of NARS's new fall colors, particularly a knock-off of Daphne, a deep rich shade of violet (inspired by heiress and style icon Daphne Guinness, who also deserves her own blog post).

What are some of your favorite drugstore makeup trends? I'd love to hear what you're trying!