All posts by beautysageist

It’s Earth Day, so I’m back…

At least I’m consistent. The last time I posted was Earth Day 2019. I’ve been thinking a lot of how little makeup matters at a time like this.

Though I make my living as a makeup professional, I’m appalled at the volume of product on the market. The packaging and chemicals put a tremendous strain on the environment. Most women use only a fraction of what they buy, and don’t know how to use it, even after hours watching YouTube tutorials. That’s because contrary to what the beauty industry has told them, they do not emerge from the womb expert at using makeup (or hair tools, for that matter).

I’ve seen makeup refresh, revive and renew women. When I’ve been able to help my clients get past the misleading marketing and imagery, and to dispel for them the mythology that they, qua women, are supposed to know what to do with the stuff, then the products can actually start to work for them.

We’re all doing the right thing by staying home, to flatten the COVID-19 curve. No need to dress up when there is nowhere to go, except maybe to the grocery store or a Zoom meeting. A full or even partial face of makeup isn’t really required when wearing a mask, or turning up in a box on a screen, as demonstrated by celebrities who post encouragement or entertainment from their homes and don’t seem to care if they’re bare-faced or stubbly. For the moment, it’s cool to appear as rumpled, 1.0 versions of ourselves.

We will certainly wear makeup again – I will, and I look forward to getting back to work in some new fashion. My hope is that when the time comes to throw open the doors and resume work and social interaction, we proceed with a new-found conviction that we need fewer cosmetics than we thought, and less of everything that we were sure we needed to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.

More than new clothes, makeup equipment and whatever else I have spent on traditionally, I need to write, so I hope to see you a bit more often between now and Earth Day 2021. Until then…..

Pro tip for looking good on a webcam while you’re Zooming or Facetiming (now a verb) with family and friends:

Foundation or concealer only on areas of discoloration, usually center of the face, around the nose, and of course, blemishes. It doesn’t have to be an exact match or perfectly applied – the camera won’t see this (and this phenomenon, in part, is why beauty influencers are so…uh…influential. Pay attention to brows and add some color/moisture/shine to lips.

When in doubt, add a pair of oversize frames and a funny hat – this will create a total distraction and no one will give a flying (insert noun of choice – if I include mine, you’ll never get this post) what your skin looks like.

Boom, Zoom, done.

Earth Day 2019

It’s been a long while since I posted on Beauty Sageist. Lots of other things going on, including establishing the Paint School of Makeup here in Philadelphia. But Earth Day gets me thinking, which makes me mad, which gets me writing. Anger has always been my most effective motivator.

There are too many beauty products. WAY TOO MANY. Why? Because the beauty industry is convinced (by the numbers) that you need/want/crave new products on a daily basis.

Some good news: beauty industry giants like L’Oreal and others who manufacture on a large scale are indeed thinking about their impact on the environment. But not nearly enough and not to the point where they’ll truly cut back on the profit.

Ultimately, women need very little in the way of makeup to look their best. And skin care doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.

So pause before purchasing your beauty products. Do you need it, or simply want and/or crave that new 18-piece set of lip glosses? That eye shadow palette that’s got colors more appropriate for a clown than for you is not going to change your life, but it certainly will confuse and clutter your world….. and ours. Happy Earth Day – show Her some love.

Free mascara? No thank you, Marc Jacobs…

Something rather unusual and seemingly extravagant was attached to my March 2018 issue of Vogue – a free sample of Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara

The full-size mascara retails for $26 and what they attached – using an elaborate plastic shell contraption – was what product junkies everywhere know as the “deluxe sample.” I’m, like, “wow, that’s fancy!” And I’m also, like, “wow, that’s wasteful!” Because I’m a tree hugger from Vermont and excess packaging for the sake of marketing hurts my cold little heart.

I couldn’t get an up-to-date or reliable number for American Vogue’s current print circulation, but let’s assume, for sanity, that they only sent these tricked out issues to a certain target demographic. Or maybe they didn’t. But let me pull a number out of my … say, 100,000.

If we’re to believe (and We don’t) that the full size retail product is worth $26, then one might assume that the sample would retail for half that. In fact, I don’t even have to assume, because they sell a “travel” sample for $14 on the MJ website.  Because who wants to lug around that big ol’ full size version?

So, 100,000 x $14 = $1.4 million dollars – just for the product, not for the fancy injection-molded mascara holster or the additional postage. One might ask, “how can poor Marc Jacobs make a profit?!?” One might answer, “because the product/sample costs him …uh…pennies.”

I’m not at the moral of the story yet … of course, I had to sample the product. It was not brilliant.  It did not “deliver” my “most epic lashes yet.”  In fact, by the end of the day, what had previously been on my lashes was on my cheeks. My good old, tried and true Cover Girl LashBlast Fusion Mascara ($7) would have never pulled a stunt like that.

The moral of the story: Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara, which the designer says was inspired by the “first beauty memory of his mother carefully shaving fibers from a velvet ribbon to create her own couture faux lashes”…. is not worth $26. Less hope, more wisdom.

To be discontinued …

I appreciate loyalty in friends, spouses and pets.  As for brand loyalty, I’m not as constant, especially when it comes to cosmetics.  Since I’m a pro, I’m confident that I’ll manage to find a replacement if my favorite black eyeliner is discontinued.  And no, I’m not telling you what my favorite black eye liner is.  It might get discontinued.

For some, the thought of a favorite lip color no longer being available for purchase requires breathing into a paper bag.  Not that there’s a correlation between the loyalty to the lip color and said product being flattering.  It’s just something these women feel comfortable wearing.  Like sweat pants.  Which usually aren’t flattering.  Bam.

Meanwhile, cosmetic manufacturers will continue to discontinue stuff, so that they can throw something new at your face to see if it will stick.  The beauty industry, like the fashion industry, operates according to the principle of Constant Stimulation, and keeping consumers guessing is very stimulating, and very profitable.  And given the monstrous variety of makeup on the market, it’s hardly rational to think there can only be one of something that will work.

Trust me on this one – like lovers, there’s always a replacement for whatever you think you can’t live without. It’s make-up,  after all –  not a vital organ.  Less hope, more wisdom.

WTF is up with all this contouring?

I suppose, like everything else that’s unfortunate in make-up these days, the extreme contouring trend started with a Kardashian.

But the truth is, make-up artists have been contouring their clients since the dawn of time (I know, I was there).   For the lay person, make-up is about controlling light, and using tones from light to dark to subtly enhance bone structure, or to diminish or add fullness.  For everyone on Instagram and YouTube, it’s about turning yourself into a completely different person, and apparently, that person is Kim Kardashian.

Of course, the beauty industry has run with this trend, producing mountains of specialty contouring products and brushes to go with them.  Try not to get caught up in it, unless you live in a photo instead of the real world.

Less hope, more wisdom.

Make-up: the crayons of adulthood

As the world’s most skeptical beauty professional, I find myself brooding over the psychology and sociology of makeup; its uses and abuses, and the business of it.   I have come to the conclusion that for many women – and I mean adults – make-up is a toy, and now more than ever, cosmetic companies are getting the picture.

All those tantalizing colors and textures, packaged to promote a sense of playful abandon in the buyer, are finding their way into our lives whether they’re actually useful or not.  Who cares?  Make-up is marketed and merchandised to be absolutely irresistible to our sense of play.  It’s just as much an escape as reality TV, and about as beneficial.

What retail space could look more like a toy store to a grown woman than Sephora, or Ulta?  And how many times have you heard someone say, or you’ve heard yourself say, that she/you loves to “play” with make-up?  Trust me, manufacturers are listening and delivering the goodies.

Strategies to win your inner child’s heart are getting less and less subtle, when companies like Disney are partnering with Sephora to produce Minnie Mouse-themed palettes (sold out, and available for a premium on eBay) and Crayola gets into the playpen with Clinique.  Yeah, that’s a photo of a real lip color set, not something I cooked up in Photoshop to make my point.Recently, I worked with a 50-something client who pulled the Chocolate Bon Bons palette from Too Faced (a paint box with heart-shaped eye shadows) out of her make-up bag with a complete lack of irony.   In this box of fun, amidst all of that shimmering love, was exactly one truly useful eye shadow.Go ahead and play – I’m not utterly unsympathetic to the cultivation and maintenance of a youthful good nature.  My message is simple: be aware that this is how, in part, you end up with drawers full of useless color cosmetics, feeling no more young and beautiful than when you had more money in your pocket.

Forgive them, for they know not what their faces looks like

I’ve always been fascinated by women who wear heavy, disfiguring makeup and have been beyond tempted to stop and ask questions, that is, to get an idea of what they see in the mirror.   Given the chance, and before the police arrive, I’d ask them about the thought process behind their remarkable cosmetic applications.  In addition to judging, I am sincerely curious about what motivates them to do this.

From my lofty perch, I wonder if these women are, or even can be, objective about the face they present to the world.  I reckon that they have a deficit of mature-stage self-awareness, and that this lacking must have a negative impact on super important stuff, like employment and relationships.

I was in Ulta recently, and was dumbstruck after catching sight of two sales women who had acted out, on their own persons, the grossly overdone foundation and contouring popular on Instagram and YouTube.  Their results had nothing to do with underlying skin tone or bone structure, sort of like this:

From Teen Moms 2


I concluded that they weren’t suffering from Low Self-Esteem, but rather the utter absence of self-awareness (what they see in the mirror versus what I see) and critical thinking skills (what makeup techniques may apply to them versus the InstaTubers).  I felt for them and their potential to survive in the wild.  Mostly I wanted to wash their faces.

During the exhausting television coverage of the presidential race, I also observed that some of the women – who were trying, with more or less success, to be taken seriously – were at the same time overly bronzed, contoured, baked, strobed, smoked and fleeked.

Katrina Pierson
Katrina Pierson

Scottie Hughes
Scottie Hughes






In fairness, and from my experience being up close to TV personalities, they often wear heavy foundation and eye makeup, that may or may not be applied by a professional, and may not, either way, look very good on camera or in person.  They might overcompensate for the sake of unforgiving high-definition cameras that highlight unfortunate practices like Failure to Blend.  And if you are a woman who cares more about the quality of the job you’re doing than how you look while doing it (unless those two things are one in the same), then it’s understandable when you would let yourself or someone else disfigure you with cosmetics.  But it still leaves me questioning the decision-making skills of the overdone.

You probably know someone who wears makeup in a way that you feel is too heavy or unflattering, leaving you wondering why.  Thoughts?

Less hope, more wisdom.


This girl set her make-up on fire …

Alicia Keys is a lot of things; singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress – a wildly successful and respected hit maker who recently made another kind of hit by beginning to appear in public without make-up.

In an article (“Time to Uncover“) for Lena Dunham’s online magazine, Lenny, Ms. Keys describes how her role in the #nomakeup movement began.  In a nutshell, make-up had been a chore that no longer felt necessary for the authentic Alicia.  I dig it.

Her message has rung true for thousands of women who have used the #nomakeup hashtag to show their faces in the raw.  I just checked Instagram and as of 10/3/16 at 2:30 p.m. EST, there were over 12 million posts.  Granted, some of them are of a) body parts, not faces; b) faces, but with make-up on; c) landscapes and d) dudes.  Still, nice going, ladies.

In addition to the large scale and enthusiastic support Ms. Keys has received, she has also been charged, by other women, of being, in various ways, inauthentic.

Most unscientific is the complaint that she can afford to buy beautiful skin.  Nope.  Beautiful skin is mostly heredity, and our habits – sun exposure and questionable enjoyments such as heavy drinking and smoking – determine the rest.  Come to think of it, I may be a poster child for how good genes trump beat years of extracurricular activities consistent with a rock and roll lifestyle.  If habits are everything, I should look like Yoda.  Thanks Dad.

From my experience, women know that they can look better by using a bit of make-up, and I maintain that it should take no longer for a woman to apply it than it takes a man to shave.  That’s my kind of feminism – equal output.

We spend far too much physical and emotional energy on how we look, and an obsessive concern can be a drain on our happiness and goals.   Expending a reasonable amount of time and money on style and grooming is about self-respect, while exhausting ourselves over our appearance is about exactly the opposite.  (Unless you’re Kim Kardashian; then it’s all business.)

What do you think?

Make-up stories from the Democratic National Convention

Because I’m based in Philadelphia, I was able to get up close and personal with some of the key players and willing participants who were here to take part in the events surrounding the DNC  – one for the her-story books.

First, I was hired to do make-up and hair for a senator, and the democratic party chair, from a mid-west state; this senator made history in her own ground-breaking way.  I’ll leave the rest to you and The Google.

Because discretion was required as per the client’s job description, I was left wondering about the double standard between men and women in public life.  Men who go on camera do get some make-up, usually to control discoloration and shine; if, however, they happen to wander (okay… blunder) past the make-up artist and straight onto camera, it’s unlikely that a hailstorm of tweets will come raining down about how bad or tired they look.   On the other hand, smart, rational women like my clients know that they must, at the risk of seeming shallow/vain or extravagant to constituents, have at least some styling (same has the men plus minimal eye make-up, blush and lip color), or…. yup, a Tweetstorm is a’comin.

I was also hired by Revlon to bring my team to an event hosted by Walgreens at their flagship store.  The invite-only crowd was made up of young, professional women, mostly lobbyists from the DC area, and they seemed to enjoy the pampering that the men in attendance were not privy to.  I will say that if you want a bright shade of lip color with a softly matted texture, the Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Color is a reasonable option.

Finally, I think Hillary’s make-up on the final evening was perfect: minimal eye featuring mostly liner and lashes, just enough cheek and lip color, and no overt attempt to obscure reality.

Switch to a CNN spot, wherein Donald’s national campaign spokesperson is wearing make-up like something out of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  I utterly missed her message because I was too fixated on her 4-alarm smoky eyes, bow-chicka-wow-wow lip gloss and “eyebrows on fleek.”  Honestly, I don’t think I missed anything, but you get the picture…. if you don’t, here it is.  The video, that is.  Full screen, please.

Expect more politically and socially-inspired posts until this wacky election season is over.   Less hope, more wisdom.

Self-tantalizing …

Provocative title, no?  Actually, what I mean to talk about is a self-tanning product that I quite love.

Self-tanners come in several forms, but whether a lotion, gel, foam, spray or wipe, they are mostly messy, smelly and sticky. They’re also difficult to use properly, because to apply successfully, you need to be an exfoliated, patient person with an artistic flair who is motivated to be sleek, tan and hairless.

I used to be that person, but no longer have the excess hormones required to give a crap about looking totally hot in a bathing suit.  Now I just want turn my skin down a few watts with as little trouble as possible.

I could opt for a spray tan from a Fake Tan Professional. This would require standing in a cold space, in front of a stranger, in nothing but a paper thong, while she (most likely) wages an aerosol assault on my dignity.   A lot of my bridal clients opt for this service.  They have tons of hormones and are planning beach honeymoons.

Speaking of beaches, St. Tropez (yes, a glamorous destination, but also a company that manufactures well-regarded self-tanning products) has come up with what I consider a dream strategy to avoid wearing long pants all summer.  It is the genius of St. Tropez Gradual Tan In-Shower Tanning Lotion.

You spread this mild smelling lotion onto clean, wet skin in the warmth and privacy of your own shower.   You now have to remain damp and lotion-y for three minutes (I keep a kitchen timer nearby) before lightly rinsing and patting dry. Here are some suggestions for what to do in those three minutes:

  1.  Sing “The Girl from Ipanema” – twice
  2.  Do 90 Kegel exercises
  3.  Think about which country you’re going to move to after the 2016 Presidential elections

Practically, you could apply a hair mask and shave your underarms.  Afterward, get dressed, don’t get dressed, whatever you need/want to do, but you will not be sticky, smelly or streaky.  And, over time, you will develop an even, light-to-medium tan.  Brilliant product… give it a try and let me know if you worship it like I do.