Tag Archives: how-to

You may not want “Bette Davis eyes”

Lining the lower lids is not good after a certain age, and I’ve had a theory about why that is for some time.  Here goes:

As we age, our skin slackens, droops, etc. – super fun.  The lower eye lid that was once tightly related to our eye ball is now sagging, and as it does, the waterline – that moist part between the lower lashes and said ball – starts to tilt outward, giving us a delightful bloodhound effect.  Lining the lower lid only highlights this unfortunate situation.

Case in point: Bette Davis in the film “What ever happened to Baby Jane?”  Yes, there are many things wrong with what’s happening here cosmetically, but as you can observe, her maniacal droopiness is glorified by the dark black liner on the lower lid.  She looks like a crazy bloodhound.

Bette Davis

Now, in real life, and although she was an eccentric life-long smoker who never had plastic surgery as far as I can tell, Ms. Davis would not be caught dead or alive looking un-glamorous.


What a broad.  Meanwhile, I’m delighted to report that I was visiting a highly-respected and gifted Philadelphia plastic surgeon recently (who shall remain nameless but whose initials are the same as Kentucky Fried Chicken if you leave out the “Fried”) and he said I wasn’t incorrect.  Bam.

So you can go for Bette Davis eyes if you want, but just make sure it’s from the right movie (like “Dark Victory” – she dies in the end, but looks divine while doing it).


Nude lips are for super models

Stone Groove Photography

According to my unscientific data collected from the field, about one woman in ten looks good in a nude lip color.

Did I say “woman?”  I meant “girl,” or at least a female who is blessed with the full lips and smooth skin of adolescence.  Yet I’ve seen so many women purchase overly-light lip colors in order to achieve the nude look, or to look natural.  If “natural” means nothing, then mission accomplished.

Still, if you’re bent on approximating the nude mouth look of, say, a Jennifer Lopez,  but don’t have the collagen to pull it off—and admitting that is the first step to recovery—make sure you’re using a clear gloss over the lip color.  Nude matte lips only work on super models in magazines, in those pictorials where they look as though they’re dying of starvation.

You should wear a nude lip color because it’s flattering, not because you admire it on someone else.   Less hope, more wisdom.

Clean make-up brushes: next to godliness

658877_origCleaning make-up brushes is something I do after every job and it’s a makeup artist’s cross to bear.  That said, you don’t need to be quite so devoted – I recommend cleaning brushes used for powders once every couple of months or so, and brushes used with cream products (like concealers) twice a month or more.

If you’re using a small brush with a gel eyeliner, then it might need cleaning after every few uses, because the product is meant to set to a long-lasting finish and the brush will get stiff with dried pigment.

To clean your brushes, I recommend Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade and Organic Castile Liquid Soap.  Those kooky labels that you’ve never read are covered with Dr. Bronner’s personal philosophy, referred to as the “Moral ABC,” at the heart of which is the idea of spiritual unity, or “All-One!”  Take a closer look at one of the labels next time you’re in Target, or better yet, go to Bronner’s website and read while in bed, because doing so will probably put you to sleep.

The charm of the Bronner story notwithstanding, the product continues to be one of the most versatile cleaning products in existence.  The “18 in 1” claim is true, for indeed one can clean one’s entire body and house with this stuff – add baking soda and white vinegar and bring down the likes of Proctor and Gamble once and for all.  The original Peppermint formula now comes in multiple scents, including Tea Tree, Rose, Almond, Eucalyptus, Baby Mild (unscented), Lavender and my new personal favorite, Citrus.

Basic brush cleaning technique: use about 1 part soap (you can try any liquid soap or shampoo, really – in fact, you can clean your brushes and wash your face with this one!) to 10 parts water.  Lather up, rinse very, very well, squeeze out and lay flat to dry.  Good idea to do this at night so the brushes are completely dry by morning.  Heed my words, because using an even slightly damp brush on a powder product will render the latter useless by compacting the pigment into something with the consistency of a hockey puck.

Seasonal tip: in the summer humidity, brushes can take forever to dry, so I use a towel to blot the excess moisture, especially from the larger ones.  In the winter, they’ll dry much faster, just like your skin (note to author: future post topic).

Clean brushes smell nice, feel plush and are good for you.  Off you go, then….

Don’t make me blush

READERSI subscribe to Allure Magazine  – mostly out of guilt, because I’m in the biz and I feel like I’m supposed to be familiar with the products and trends beauty editors are spouting on about. Some of those cosmetics will cross my path when I’m giving a make-up lesson, and more often than not, they are deemed useless to the woman who bought them, and go straight into The Naughty Basket.

This happens, in part, because every year, Allure polls their readership on their favorite products, both “drugstore” (cheap) and “department store” (expensive) varietals.  I wish I could say that they lead the reader into choosing certain products by making the poll multiple choice, but they don’t.

Which is why I’m so intrigued, flabbergasted and somewhat deflated that NARS Orgasm Blush is a consistent winner in the fancy blush category.  When I started thumbing through the results in the June 2015 issue, I literally cringed to turn the page because in my cold little heart I knew that I would once again bear witness to the consequences of choice fatigue and consumer conformity around an awesome marketing strategy.  Apparently they don’t call it a “cult” classic for nothing.


It’s commonplace for my clients to have this blush in their make-up bags when I meet them, because they’ve read somewhere that it works on “everybody.”  Not.  It’s a strong coral with too much gold shimmer for daytime, and too much orange to work on pale-ish amateur cosmetic wearers.   You need a somewhat deeper yellow-based skin tone, or at least a tan, to have a good NARS Orgasm.

Ironically, the naughty Mr. Nars makes another blush, with a less playful, more misogynistic name (“Deep Throat”) that actually does work on a lot of women (less gold shimmer, and a softer pink-coral).  You don’t need to run out and buy it, especially if you are, like me, somewhat offended by a product named after a porno about, uh, having a deep throat.

There are tons of cheek color options out there that will give you a similar effect, like Tarte Cosmetics Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in “Fearless.”  No shimmer to speak of in this one, hence more wearable for the 12 hours of day and even nighttime.   And the motivational name says it all.

Then let’s look at the rich data available on MakeupAlley.com.  “MUA Top Picks” is the most reliable statistical category because not only are the products highly rated, but because users demonstrate a keen interest in repurchasing.  If you look at blushes, not only is NARS Orgasm not at the top, it’s not in the top 156 choices, in spite of being the “most reviewed” blush.  Ta da.

Power of suggestion, slick marketing and ultimately, a desire on our part to have choosing products be a tad easier, are all at play here.  Nars admits that it’s “a combination of the shade and the name that made it so popular.”  I wager the latter, because infinite blush choices and expensive advertising campaigns by other cosmetic brands that result in the same blush being chosen fifteen times as a reader favorite suggest to me that the beauty industry has a lot more imagination than we do.

By the way, the same argument goes for another perennial winner in the Readers’ Choice issue, that is, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (26% of MakeupAlley.com users would buy again).  So many better and equally affordable choices – check out this post on a few I like.

Speaking of which, I would really like your wise comments on this topic …

Wash your face, baby …

Disclaimer: this may be the only time that I recommend a product intended for someone younger than you are.

I get “what’s the best cleanser?” a lot. Clients ask me what I use.  I answer “whatever is around,” and then I make a joke about how if dishwashing liquid was the closest thing to me, I’d use that.  Not so far from the truth.  I’m going to use something with a soap-like action so that most if not all of my make-up, including mascara, comes off in one shot.

Dermatologists like to recommend Cetaphil.  I think this is for legal reasons, because it’s fairly innocuous as far as irritants go, and because derms, like beauty editors, don’t have much in the way of imagination.  Cetaphil doesn’t do a good a great cleaning job and you’ll need a separate remover for stubborn eye make-up.

Some companies claim that their cleansers can work for “anti-aging” (my absolutely most least favorite term of all time).  Not so.  Check out this article from The Beauty Brains blog, and this review of an otherwise highly rated product from Beautypedia, which is typical of their take on high-minded cleansers .   Any ingredient that might have a chance in hell of doing you any good shouldn’t be rinsed off.

My now-healthy husband had to undergo radiation in his face and neck region, and I went on the hunt for mild, soothing cleansers for him.  Lo and behold, I stumbled upon this gem, which I’ve been using as a facial cleanser ever since (when I’m not using dish soap, if that happens to be closer):

Aquaphor Baby Gentle Wash & Tear Free Shampoo, Fragrance Free Mild Cleanser, 13.5 Ounce

Makes sense, right? A mild cleanser that won’t leave your skin feeling stripped or tight? Because you wouldn’t do that to a baby, would you?

You can experiment with other baby washes qua facial cleansers that you might like better, but I think I’ve got something here…


Make it last: eye shadow

Fading, creasing eye shadow is a complaint I hear often.  If you’re still operating in the 20th century with your makeup routine, you’re probably missing out on some of the groovy cosmetic innovations that can prevent this.

Assuming eye shadow is a thing you do (because it may not be and that may be okay), there is no reason why it should fade, or travel southward to inappropriate territories of the facial region.  The culprit is usually an oily eyelid, so the strategy is to use a product that will control the oil, and in some cases, correct discoloration.

I’m not as sold on facial primers but primers for the eyelid are fairly miraculous.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Urban Decay Primer Potion ($20). One of the first. Go for the original version that dries relatively clear or the Eden shade if you want some color correction. They also make a version that claims to be “anti-aging” but I suspect that’s a load of bunk and not worth the extra $4.udpp
  2. Two Faced Shadow Insurance ($20). A bit lighter in texture then Urban Decay. They make two other versions called “Candlelight” and “Champagne.” Even though they sound very romantic, you don’t want these. They both have shimmer, which will only highlight crepiness on the lid. And don’t go for the Lemon Drop, which claims to correct redness, but there’s not enough pigment in it to correct anything.twofsi
  3. Tarte Clean Slate 360° Creaseless 12-Hr Smoothing Eye Primer ($19). If you can get past the ridiculously long name, this is a nice one. No color correction, but seems to be more moisturizing than the others – give it time to dry down. If you’re a tree hugger like me, you’ll like this one, because the brand has a so-called “healthy, eco-chic” philosophy.tarte
  4. Laura Mercier Eye Basics ($24). If color correction, particularly brownness, is something you need, this would be a good choice. Just stay away from the Flax shade because it’s pearlized.lm
  5. Jane Iredale Lid Primer in “Lemon” ($19.50). This one is really good for correcting redness on the lid. The brand is also good for eco-types, because Jane founded her line on the idea of avoiding chemicals.jilid

Back in the day, I used foundation or concealer on the eyelids as a primer.  They can work, though not as well in terms of oil absorption.

Isn’t the 21st century awesome?