Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Solid Foundation

While I’m kind of against younger women wearing foundation because I believe we should let our naturally beautiful and youthful skin breathe, I know that many of us still wear foundation. So if we’re going to wear it, we might as well wear it right.

First off, the product you should choose is a major factor in the quality of the overall look. Foundation is one those products where you should invest a little more dough. It’s preferable to buy your foundation at a department store (such as Nordstrom, Sephora, etc.) for two important reasons. Pricier foundations have a wider range of shades and also use higher quality ingredients to produce a color that is less orange-y than most drugstore brands, and while the cheaper foundations have improved in their quality, there’s nothing like the good formulations and consistencies of the more expensive brands. Second reason is that in a department store or makeup boutique, you have the option of having the lady behind the counter test shades on your skin, so you can actually SEE which shade matches your skin tone exactly, and the more exact, the better. You can’t test out foundations in a drugstore.

So even if you don’t have a ton of cash saved up just for cosmetics, foundation is one of those products you really should invest it. It’s more worth it to buy one quality, long-lasting foundation than to buy several cheap cosmetic products. I strongly suggest that you go to the mall, and have the ladies behind the makeup counters help you pick out the right shade for your skin.

Once you have the right product, then come the tools. Typically, there are three ways to go about applying foundation: using a brush, using a sponge, and using your fingers.

Using a brush is probably the most professional method and gives the most coverage. I always apply foundation by pouring a dime-sized drop on the back of my hand. The back of the hand (and sometimes the wrist) is almost like a painter’s palette for a makeup artist because that’s where your hands have the least amount of oils, which can often ruin makeup. They serve as great places to mix makeup before applying it. I like to dip my brush into the foundation after I put it on my hand because directly dipping it into the container or pouring it on the brush or face is too heavy and makes it harder to spread the foundation evenly. Here's a great video that shows how to apply natural-looking foundation:

It includes a great trick: using two foundation brushes, the first one to deposit color and the second one to blend it out. Perfect for looking flawless, yet natural. It also has some great highlighter tricks, which I’ll talk about more in depth in another post. (Notice the makeup artist starts off by pouring the foundation onto the back of her hand.) Also, make sure that you wash your brushes (with water and shampoo) regularly (like once every two weeks or so).

Using a sponge will give the lightest coverage, as the sponge will absorb some of the foundation. Again, I start by pouring a blob on the back of my hand and then using the thicker side of a wedge sponge to blend it out a bit before applying it to the face. There are lots of different-sized sponges out there but the best shape is the wedge.

There’s also a goofy egg-shaped sponge you can get at Target called the Beauty Blender. I’ve never tried it before, but it looks fun (it’s hot pink!!) and apparently a lot of celebrities swear by it. The only gripe I would have about it is that it’s reusable, and while it comes with a cleanser, I just find it iffy using the same sponge for a long period of time. Speaking of which, if you use the regular wedge-shaped sponges, REPLACE THEM REGULARLY. Otherwise, it’s a hotbed of bacteria, especially if you apply foundation daily.

How can you say that that's not fun?

Now, last but not…well, actually, it probably IS least, because honestly, I can’t STAND it when people apply foundation with their fingers. First off, your hands have been EVERYWHERE. Germy, germy, germy. It’s like taking everything you touch and smacking it on your face. Not a good idea. Secondly, you’ve got lots of oils on your hands. Bacteria AND oil. Perfect recipe for breakouts. And lastly, your fingers are just not made for blending foundation. It usually comes out uneven and spotty. So please, ladies, use a sponge or a brush.

Remember, you don’t have to put foundation all over your face if you don’t want to. You should only use it on parts of your face where you’d like the skin to be more even-looking. And of course, less is more. Foundation should not replace your skin.

Thanks for reading, and please comment!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brow Wow

One important feature that often gets overlooked is eyebrows. Think of your face as a picture, and brows as the frame. A picture, no matter how beautiful, will not look good in an inappropriate frame. It's actually amazing the difference brows can make; they change your entire look. Therefore, we must make sure that our brows are the right shape. Now, there may often be a difference between the brows you have and the brows you want. A lot of people name off celebrities as their inspiration for their brows. And while it's not necessarily a bad thing, remember that each face has different proportions and that your eyebrows must first and foremost suit your face.

Just look at the difference when Keira Knightley's brows are changed:

Yes, there are certain places where your eyebrows should begin and end, and this is determined according to certain guidelines. (What?? There are guidelines for eyebrows??) If brows are too short on the outside ends, it makes the face appear wider. If they are too short in the inner ends, then it makes the nose appear larger. Neither of those are desirable qualities.

There's a very simple way to prevent this. Take an eye pencil (preferably white) and line it up with the middle of your nostril. That is where the eyebrow should begin. Make a small mark.

Now line up the pencil with the outside edge of your nose and the outside edge of your eye. This is where the brow should end. Make another small mark.

Then line the pencil up with the middle of your nostril with your pupil, and that's where the arch of the eyebrow should be. Make a mark here, as well. (Haha, I know I look high in this picture, but I was too lazy to take another one). =D

It also helps to outline the parameters of the brow shape you want with white eyeliner (according to the guidelines you just marked, of course, so that you don't accidentally pluck a hair you didn't mean to. There's a fine line between keeping your brows in shape and obsessive plucking; there's no need to pluck them more than once a week. Also be sure to step back from the mirror after each pluck to look at the eyebrows overall. Sometimes we tend to focus too much on individual hairs, and we end up removing more than we intended (which is also why lining the outside of the brows with white pencil is helpful). Remember that the two eyebrows don't have to be perfectly the same; they're sisters, not twins.

After plucking, brush your brows up and use sharp manicure scissors to trim any long hairs. This keeps them groomed and neat-looking, not bushy. If you have Asian ancestry, your brows may have a tendency to grow down, so brush them downwards, and trim them.

If you have sparse areas in your brows, it's important to fill them in. Otherwise, you brows look uneven. You can use brow pencils and lightly feather in color. Make sure to choose a color that matches your brow color or is a bit lighter than your hair color. You don't want to look like Groucho Marx.

My favorite way to fill in brows, however, is to take an angled brush and use matte shadow that matches your brows. Shadow is much softer and more natural than using pencil, and usually provide the best look.

For those you of you who have seriously sparse brows, a waterproof brow corrector is the way to go. These give the longest lasting results but take a while to master. I usually put a small dab of corrector on the back of my hand and dip a stiff, angled brush and work with it until it the consistency is like marker. Then I lightly feather it into the brow.

There are also several different methods of doing your brows. There's plucking, of course, probably the most convenient yet least efficient method that most people resort to. There's waxing, painful, but quick. And there's a lesser known method, threading, that is sort of a cross between the two and a method I find great for those with sensitive skin (or those of us who just can't handle the pain, like my mother).

Thanks for reading, and please comment!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top Ten Trends Fall 2009

Makeup trends, unlike other trends, such as fashion, are fairly easy. They don't require you to buy a whole new wardrobe or a new set of furniture. Rather, they're fun looks that you can play with according to what you have. They allow you to spice your normal routine up a bit. Look here for the latest:

red lips: Use a deep, velvety color, and keep the application soft. As with all makeup looks, focus on only one feature, and go easy on the eyes and cheeks. That may mean only some mascara and a neutral blush on the rest of the face.

unconventional shadow: Red, orange, violet, yellow, and even glitter were used on the fall runways this year. For a wearable look, keep the bright colors to the lid only, and skip liner to keep the color the focus. Go neutral on lips and cheeks with this trend. (As you can see from the picture below, no eyebrows are a trend this year, too, but I strongly advise against trying this at home.)

chignons and buns: Do them off-center for a more casual, less severe look.

dark eyes: Eyes were loaded with black shadow and liner, often with glittery blue, brown, or gunmetal on the lids. Lay off the mascara to make it look more modern, and again, pick nude shades for your other features.

tousled, casual waves: This trend speaks for itself. Put a wave-enhancing product on damp hair and air-dry. Don't have naturally wavy hair? Use a large-barreled curling iron, loosely wrapping sections of hair around it starting from the roots. Then lightly brush through to get a tousled effect.

messy, textured ponytails: Easy, fast, and great for dirty, second-day hair. Massage your roots, and spread a texturizer throughout hair. Gather hair into a ponytail, without brushing through, and then fluff the ends. (Models actually had their hair backcombed, but that's damaging to the hair cuticle, so I don't recommend it.)

defined brows: Take an angled brush to trace powder along the bottom of the brow. Be sure to use a powder that matches your brow color and that is matte. You don't want shimmer on your eyebrows!

hair accessories: Black leather strips can be used to toughen up a hairstyle. If you're on the bolder side, you can pin jagged, black feathers into the hair. Make the accessories the center of attention by keeping your style simple; opt for a basic ponytail or bun. This can be coupled with #3.

rosy cheeks: Swirl a pink blush on the apples of the cheeks to keep it fresh. I find blush on the cheekbones a little too tacky for my taste. People don't actually flush in the cheekbone area, so putting blush there seems unnatural.

nude lips: Use a shade that's slightly pink or flecked with shimmer. This is a great look to pair with trends 2 or 4.

Thanks for reading, and please comment!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Perfectly Coned Tresses

Let's talk cones for a minute. No, not ice cream cones (although that sounds quite yummy), but rather, silicones. What are they? They're based on Silicon, an element found on the periodic table (hello chemistry), and they act as a water-resistant lubricant. Silicones, usually found in most hair conditioners as dimethicone, form a kind of shield over the hair shaft, sealing off the cuticle (making it appear smoother) and keeping out moisture (warding off frizz). They also happen to be used in shoe polish. (So, next time when you're out of conditioner, just rub shoe polish on your hair. Ha, just kidding.) So what's the controversy?

Simply put, there has been speculation that silicones will dry out your hair (Wait, what? Didn't I just say that it makes hair smoother and frizz-free?) Yes, it does, but some people claim that when they keep out moisture, they also lock in whatever moisture is in your hair cuticle. So if your hair has no moisture, it stays that way, meaning it supposedly suffocates your hair and prevents it from fulfilling its thirst. And also, being waterproof has its downsides. It doesn't wash off easily. A dull film on your hair? Lots of buildup? Yep, you've found your culprit. (Oh well, you say, that means I must look for products that have absolutely no silicones in them and condemn any hair product that does.) Well, not so fast.

The thing is, silicones work. (Duh, that's why they use it.) To a certain point. If you use too much, too often, yes I do believe it will not be good for your hair. (But doesn't that apply to pretty much everything?) So my advice is to use moderation. If you condition every single day, you might want to alternate between a silicone-free conditioner and a regular one. And use a clarifying shampoo if you feel extra buildup. But you're not even supposed to wash your hair everyday anyway (every other day, at most). So you shouldn't even have to worry.

If you are to avoid any ingredients, I would suggest the following:

Parabens: These preservatives have an infamous reputation for being carcinogens and disrupting estrogen levels. Look for glucose oxidase or lactoperoxidase, which are natural alternatives to keep products fresh.

Sulfates: These are harsh detergents that strip your natural oils. Squeaky clean? yes. Dry, irritated skin? You got it. Look for decyl/lauryl glucosides instead. They clean just as well, without removing all the moisture.

Mineral oil: Ah, all you acne sufferers out there, beware. Two words: clogs pores. Look for beeswax. It moisturizes better but still maintains that buttery consistency you find in body creams.

Thanks for reading, and please comment!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mother and Daughter Companies

Yes, I know. I haven't been here in a while. Okay, more like a year and a half. Forgive me. I got busy. I must admit, blogging is harder than you think it is. You have to keep it up. It's like having a job. Well, anyway, enough of that. On to the important stuff.

I was looking for a good conditioner for my long, thick hair the other day and was about to check out Makeupalley for some reviews and recommendations when I remembered something The Beauty Brains had written about. According to their article, products from the same "mother" company most likely will use the same formulations and ingredients for all of their "daughter" companies. One of the best known "mother" companies, as far as cosmetics goes, is L'Oreal (I mean, come on, they practically dominate the beauty scene). I had speculated this topic myself, even before reading The Beauty Brains' article and decided that this would be a good time to see if it was really true.

So I (somewhat reluctantly) x-ed out of my Makeupalley account and went to compare ingredients of three different conditioners, all of which are made by companies that happen to be owned by L'Oreal. The first one, the one I originally had my eye on, was Redken Smooth Down conditioner (Yes, Redken is owned by L'Oreal, along with Kerastase, Matrix, Shu Uemura, and Kiehl's. Surprise, surprise). The second is Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine, and the last, but not least, is L'Oreal Vive Pro Smooth Intense. All three of these conditioners are supposed to smooth down hair. I've compiled the ingredients lists for each below. The findings? They are very similar, indeed. Take a look for yourself:

Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine
Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Amodimethicone, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Cetyl Esters, Lauryl PEG/PPG 18/18 Methicone, Methylparaben, Persea Gratissima (Avocado Oil), Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCl, Trideceth 12, Citric Acid, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot Kernel Oil), Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane Extract), Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citrus Limonum (Lemon Peel Extract), Camellia Sinensis (Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract)

Redken Smooth Down
Aqua/Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, PEG 180, Cetyl Esters, Amodimethicone, Perfume (Fragrance), Methylparaben, Mica, Linalool, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Limonene, Citrimonium Chloride, Butylphenyl, Methylpropional, Trideceth 12, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, PPG 5 Ceteth 20, Oleth 10, Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Disodium Cocamphodipropionate, Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Lecithin, Phosphoric Acid, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil), Candelilla Cera/Candelilla Wax, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylparaben

L'Oreal Vive Pro Smooth Intense
Aqua/Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Glycerine, Amodimethicone, Lanolin, Parfum/Fragrance, Cetyl Esters, Methylparaben, Camelina Sativa Seed Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Trideceth 12, Hexyl Cinnamal, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Limonene, Benzyl Salicylate, Yellow 10 (CI 47005), Citronellol, Amyl Cinnamal, Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Red 4 (CI 14700)

So similar are they, that, in fact, their first three ingredients (which are pretty much the bulk of the product) are exactly the same! Enlightening? Perhaps. If we could only figure out those ridiculously long, unfathomable ingredients, right?

What point does that bring us to? Well, why waste money on a very similar product that will most likely end in the same result? Or maybe, more fairly, are expensive products really worth the extra money?

Now I'm beginning to doubt the holiness of Redken and opting for the cheaper drugstore version. Should I? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Smoky Eye Look

Of all the makeup trends and looks out there, none other is more famed than the smoky eye. I'm sure many of you out there would love to know how to achieve it. It's simple yet dramatic.

Color choice, amazingly enough, is an important factor in the smoky eye. Stay away from blue...unless you want to look like you have undereye circles. Black, gray, brown, or dark green all work well.

Black looks good on everyone. Gray looks best on fair-skinned blondes and pale-skinned brunettes. Green and blue eyes look great with brown shadow. Brown eyes look good with dark green and gray. Brown shadow brings out the green in hazel eyes, and vice versa.

1. Apply an eyeshadow base over your eyelid to create a smooth canvas for your eyeshadow and to prevent creasing. Eye primer, foundation, and concealer all work.

2. Use either a black or gray pencil liner to trace your top lashline from the inner corner to the outer. Then, use the same pencil to line your lower lashes. Don't line close to the tear duct; otherwise your peepers will look smaller. Smudge both lashlines with a cotton swab or an eyeliner brush.

3. Sweep powder shadow (brown, gray and dark green all work with black or gray liner) over your lid and into your crease, blending the color up and outward. You can also pat a cream shadow over the concealer on your lid first, wait five minutes, then top with a matching powder shadow. This will help the shadow stay longer and look more dramatic.

4. Dust a lighter, neutral eyeshadow (such as ivory) over your browbone and the inner corners of your eyes.

5. Curl your lashes and finish with two coats of black mascara.

Any constructive feedback is greatly appreciated. Feel free to add comments, questions, complaints, praises (please, a lot of praises), requests, or any ol' thought that comes to your mind.

Thanks to any readers out there who are willing to waste some time and listen to my babbling. =]