Tag Archives: beauty philosophy

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?

Smart beauty shopping: three questions to ask yourself before you buy

Visiting the cosmetics section of department store is sort of like running the gauntlet (an ancient form of punishment wherein one must run between two rows of assailants who repeatedly strike at one’s person).  A useful analogy, considering the crap women have to put up with from beauty retailers, who are coming at them from all sides with the latest products.

One way to stop overzealous sales people in their tracks is to pretend that they are, for example, your husband, your child or a pet.  “No” should be much easier using this simple visualization tool.

In addition to growing a pair, here are three questions you can ask yourself before you lay out your hard-earned cash on a new beauty product:

What’s my budget?  Don’t get sucked into the vortex of luxury cosmetic brands if you can’t afford it –  expensive products aren’t necessarily better and if you believe that they are, then you should be able to support your beliefs financially.

Do I like the scent and or/ texture of this product?  This is an especially important question when buying skin care products, which only help you if you’re consistent with them.  You should like the way a product smells and how it feels on your skin so that you’ll actually use it.

Do I like the packaging?  For some, packaging is a major factor when making a cosmetic purchase.  Will it be on display, or tucked away in a cabinet, and if the former, do you care what it looks like?  Maybe not, but a poorly designed compact or palette, the kind that break almost instantly, get scratched up, and/or become a crumbled mess kind of bum me out.  I look for packaging that suits my simple aesthetic and that delivers a satisfying “click” of quality, like the seat belt of a fine German automobile.

Now go get ‘em, tiger….


Maybe she’s born with it?

Most women don’t know how to apply make-up very well.    While this cosmetic incompetence is divine for my job security, it has also inspires me to ponder the existence of a Make-up Gene.

Indeed, there seems to be an assumption on the part of many grown-ups that girl babies emerge from the womb knowing how to apply make-up.   The beauty industry runs with this notion, giving its consumers a ton of choice, but very little to go on in terms of how to use the stuff, leading to lots of unwise purchases and even more frustration.

“My mother never taught me,” is the excuse I hear most often from women about why they’re god-awful with make-up.  The accused, who probably had no time to bathe let alone to apply lipstick, takes the blame yet again for an alleged deficit in her child.  This is why I have cats.

I also have four brothers and no sisters, and my mother never once attempted to teach me anything about make-up.  She was the sort who would go into a department store and proceed to stick her finger into every unchaperoned eye shadow tester, then smoosh it onto her lid (an unsanitary practice that to this day provokes me to breathe into a paper bag).   It’s not your mother’s fault – get over it.

My mother was a writer, but she also produced beautiful watercolors on a whim, designed and made a lot of her own clothing, and decorated her house enchantingly with flea market/curbside treasures.  My father is an architect who could have as easily been a painter or sculptor.   Perhaps I picked up an Art Gene from them, but don’t think I can do much else besides paint faces.  I’ve had occasional success with line drawings intended to make fun of people, but that’s about it.

In conclusion, I do not support the idea of a Make-up Gene and I don’t want to hear another word about it.  Nor do I want you to feel bad because you’re not awesome at applying make-up.   I’m sure you’re awesome at many way more important things, like running a company, inspiring others and driving safely.   Besides, I can help you improve your make-up application situation.  Call me.