Gloss, Balms, Sticks and Liners

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I work at a print shop and I remember, back in the day, when folks would be surprised that the color in the swatch book didn’t exactly match the color of their printed item. It’s not that we used a different ink, it’s that they printed it on a colored paper.

Even the most opaque ink, if it’s not black, has some light showing through it, some slight translucency, and when you’re looking at a sample on bright white stock it’s the truest version of that color. Put it even on a cream background, and the color changes slightly because the background is no longer white.

The same happens with lipstick.

We’ve all been there, right? You search through all those racks, try all the possible testers on the back of your hand or the inside of your wrist to see what matches your skin tone best, buy the top one or two choices, get home and find out that they just don’t look the same.

Why?! Frustration and buyers remorse flood your very soul. Did the saleslady give you the wrong tube? Is it the lights in the store compared to your light at home? Is there such a thing as the perfect shade of lipstick?

What happened, simply, is that your lips aren’t white. They already have some color to them and everyone’s is different. Unless the lipstick is incredibly opaque your natural lip color will affect the color you’re applying.

This is why it helps to find single-use testers or go to a make-up counter where they will give you a single-use lip brush to try a color on before buying it.

But, okay, say you’ve found the color that works for you, how do you wear it?

I swear by lip liner. As we age our natural lip-lines start to get a little blurred. This comes from everything from cold sores (if you have them–knock-on-wood, I never have), miscellaneous blemishes, sunburns and just the natural passage of time. Lip liner makes a crisp edge that you can fill in with the various products of your choice and it really does look nicer in the long run.

Also? Filling in your lips with liner, first, then going over it with lipstick or gloss can help that color last throughout the day.

Speaking of which, do you reapply and how often?

I was long in the habit of not bothering to touch up my face or my lips during the day unless I had a meeting (rarely) or was going somewhere after work (occasionally). Part of the reason, especially for the lips, was that I put my make-up on at  home and didn’t carry it around with me. I’ve since solved this “problem” by putting on everything down to the lip liner at home, and keeping the lip stick/balm/gloss in my purse to put on at the first red light and to have available for touch-ups during the day.

Even though some areas of my life might belie the fact: I’m a stickler for efficiency in a lot of ways. It just seemed terribly inefficient to have 2 sets of everything (especially since my preferences change and have gotten more expensive over time) and to be constantly taking things out of my purse to use at home then putting back. Yes, I do that with my cell-phone but I don’t want to do that with my makeup!

So, sure, I leave the house with sort of a clown-thing going on, but no one’s looking that early in the morning and I’ve got it fixed by the time I get to the office.

Finally, what’s your finish preference? I’ve taken to wearing tinted lip balm during the day and switching over to gloss for afternoons/evenings.

Maybe it’s the makeup version of not wearing diamonds before 4pm (a rule I’ve never followed, either, lol).

Products, Tools & Prime-Time Eyes

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"Glamour" by Scraps, Feb 2006

If the eyes truly are the windows to the soul…

What kind of curtains do you have up?

Are you the bare window or utilitarian mini-blinds type? Do you hang up the fancy chintz and voile only when company’s coming? Or do you dress ’em up everyday because you never know who you might meet, hmm?

I admin, most days I’m somewhere in the vicinity of mini-blinds. More on that later.

Products v. Tools

It’s not necessarily an either/or situation but I know that I’m the type that likes to have the basic building blocks and then diy them with a number of tools.

In other words: I like love gadgets!

Doesn’t matter if we’re talking make-up, in the kitchen or in my studios: raw materials and the appropriate tools are always going to win me over.

Not that I believe in gadgets for the sake of gadgets (a lot of as-seen-on-tv kitchen “tools” fall in this category), but specialized brushes and things like that? All over it!

When I was reading make-up tutorials and tips that suggested the use of eyeshadow primer, I was hesitant to purchase such a specialized product. Why wouldn’t my regular foundation work just as well?

In hindsight, here are a few potential reasons:

  • Skin around the eyes is more delicate that anywhere else on your face
  • The very act of blinking adds a certain amount of friction which means more chances for shadows, etc. to rub off
  • Standard foundations smooth, eye primers might actually be a little more grabby, helping the shadows stay in place

I still haven’t bought any.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not on-board with the idea.

It just so happened that I had a cream shadow in my make-up box that I bought without really knowing what to do with. Since it was a sparkly white I thought it would be best to use as a highlighter just under my brow line. Only I was rather inept at applying it.

So one morning I decided to just put in on my lids first, as is, overall and see how it looked. It was sheer with just a little sparkle when I gently patted it in. Then I added some of my regular eyeshadow on it and, wow! The color was more intense. Why? More was sticking to my lids.

And I’m pretty sure that just about any light-colored cream shadow would work just as well.

So I saved myself the cost of an additional product. Happy me.

Prime-Time Eyes

Eyeshadow application is one of those things that was hard for me to learn. I did just what the packages and magazines said to do but I couldn’t see anything when I was done!

Turns out my eyes are known as hooded–the entire lid just disappears when my eyes are open. Add to that the fact that I’m nearsighted and what the frames of my glasses don’t hide, the lens make smaller! Not a perfect recipe for show-stopper eyes in anyone’s book. Hence the mini-blind status. (And, no, that pun is NOT intentional, but I’m gonna leave it as is.)

Still, it’s not impossible to get show-stopper eyes, once you know what you’re dealing with. In my case, I had to play up my brow line more. The Mary Kay site (pure coincidence that I found this, but it’s pretty cool!) actually has animated tips for various eye-types that you might find useful.

The best place I’ve found for truly unique eye-shadow tutorials is Doe Deere Blogazine. Doe Deere is an amazing woman: she started her own cosmetic line, Lime Crime, when she couldn’t find eyeshadow that was bright enough for her tastes and has recently moved into super-pigmented lipsticks, as well, that are anything but your average everyday. She posts tutorials on her imaginative make-up stylings from time to time and even if they’re not your style, you can still learn a lot.

For instance: When do you apply your eye make-up? Once you’ve already got your foundation on and everything else done? She recommends doing your eyes first, especially when using loose-powder shadows, so that if there’s a stray dusting or an accident, you’re not having to start from scratch on the rest of your face. It’s little things like that that keep her blogazine on my radar.

Speaking of mistakes and fixes, I have a tip that I actually figured out on my own! You know those facial cloths that you just add water to and they lather up? Have you ever tried them dry? I had smeared my eyeliner one day and grabbed one because it was closer than a tissue: total pick-up, no additional smearing. It works to get rid of raccoon-eye in the mornings (I never seem to get it all off in the shower), accidental smears and splotches and just all sorts of clean-up touch-ups. I tear mine in half to make each sheet last longer.

A Good Foundation

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Let’s face it–a lot of us have a love-hate relationship with foundation.

On the one hand it’s goopy, messy, stains our fingertips, towels and clothes and can leave streaks if we’re not very careful. On the other hand it tends to provide amazing coverage and can hide a multitude of surface flaws.

I’ve tried all sorts of formulas–expensive to cheap–and all sorts of applicators: fingertips, sponges, even paintbrushes (which worked better than I thought it would). It’s sort of a necessary evil.

Like a friend’s mom once said: You paint the barn when it needs it, right?

So when my own mother, she of the no makeup and great skin at 50, revealed that she thought rather highly of the Bare Escentuals mineral foundation I figured it was worth a shot. Short answer: I’m completely sold on the benefits of mineral make-up

  • very little mess
  • easy application
  • generally better for your skin

And over the years I’ve tried three different brands: Bare Escentuals, Cover Girl and Mary Kay (the latter 2, of course, I’ve also used their liquid options).

Bare Escentuals was my first experience and can I just say that I love, love, love their brushes. The kabuki brush is so perfect to hold in your hand and–for lack of a better word–scrub in the powder. (No, it doesn’t take that much pressure, but it’s the best description I’ve got!). The foundation itself is light and airy but gives great coverage with only one pass, even though I tend to have very uneven skin tone. I also adore their mineral veil. (Granted, I’m a “fairly light”, so the mineral veil could almost be my foundation color!)

CoverGirl True Blends has the distinct benefit of being available in drugstores, etc. so is really good in a pinch, but it’s not my favorite. I needed far more of it than either of the other two brands I’ve tried and when the idea is maximum coverage in the minimum time (a major plus for the mineral foundations) that’s a serious detriment.

And, can I just say, they lose major points for packaging–good idea, faulty execution. The self-contained brush was nice but it’s nearly impossible to get it back into the little tube top without crimping some of the bristles. Furthermore, the lid of the dispenser end being so narrow made it difficult to get the brush into it to get the shaken-out powder. I ended up shaking it into a spare lid from a large dish and it worked better that way. Still, they do have a finishing veil, and it’s an acceptable substitute for mineral veil and that earns them back a few points in my book. Plus, they are the least expensive of the three I’ve tried.

Finally, a friend of mine started selling Mary Kay last Fall. I’d used a variety of their products about 10 years ago and it wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I just wasn’t fond of paying that much for make-up. Since then I’d become a Sephora devotee, so the price point wasn’t as big a deal. And Mary Kay had recently come out with their mineral line so, hey, why not?

Downside? They don’t have a loose veil-type powder but they do have a handy pressed mineral compact that is perfect for mid-day touch ups. I’m also preferential to my kabuki brush over theirs, though the Mary Kay brush is perfect for all-over color like bronzers or even just a hint of blush.

Upside? Excellent quality of the mineral foundation. It feels lighter than Bare Escentuals but without a noticeable drop in coverage. The price is right there with Bare Escentuals. Plus I get to help my friend make some money doing what she loves and that makes me feel good.

Beyond the Basics

You know I love the Bare Escentuals brushes and their concealer brush (which merely concentrates the foundation for additional coverage) is no exception. I have a bounty of their eye shadows and still use them almost daily but what I love most outside of their foundation is the Buxom Lips Lip Gloss. Holy bee-stung, Batman! It smells amazing, looks even better, and makes your lips tingle for ages. No funny taste and it’s slick but not sticky. Love it!

Mary Kay, on the other hand, excellent skin care line as always. I use their TimeWise products daily and they really do help with my difficult, combination, hormone-screwy skin. Also, color me amazed at the pigment in their tinted lip balm! Most of the time you’re lucky to get any kind of color at all from a balm but these are super-pigmented by comparison–I usually use it in the mornings when the full force of the sparkly Nourishine Lip Gloss that I also adore.

The 8th Art: Make-Up!

64 Arts

Dyes and colorants for the body and teeth.

Let’s put our pretty faces on, yes?

I didn’t grow up knowing a lot about make-up. By the time I was that age Mom was totally over wearing it herself and wasn’t all that keen for me to start. No bonding moments over lip gloss for us. In fact, I was only allowed to wear pressed powder for the longest time. I specifically remember my freshman year of high school when I got invited to the Prom (helps to date an upperclassman, yes?). My dress was powder blue so Mom, trying to be helpful and supportive, brought home some mascara and eyeshadow for me. Blue eyeshadow.

Now, I know that blue shades are making a comeback but even then (1991) I knew that I had no business wearing blue eyeshadow with a blue dress, especially since I have blue eyes. Nope.

But she tried, and I do appreciate it now.

Usually I’m good at learning things from books–make-up was not one of those skills that I learned that way. Thank Cosmo for the Internet, tutorials and grown-up girlfriends who can show me what to do. And, you know, what not to do.

Speaking of tutorials, here’s a great one for repairing a broken compact. Who knew it was so simple?