You know, I am 31 years old and I think I am just getting to know my face sometimes….what really works, what really doesn’t….I survived the shimmering 70’s (hey, I was a kid) , the matte-or-die 80’s, now in the 90’s I can actually use both without feeling like I may be committing some grave faux pas. A lot of the rules laid down over time did not seem to work for me, a lot of bad makeovers jaded me quickly and it took some expense and time to finally realize that the only law of cosmetics is that ultimately, its your face. Humbly, I present some things that for me, have held true over the years. I don’t represent any particular company, or work in the industry in any way; however, I do mention names and products that have come through for me. That being said, here are some things that I have discovered over time:
1) It doesn’t always matter if it is more expensive. I have a 99 cent Wet N Wild Lipliner #712 which is a great neutral shade, slightly less pink than channel’s ‘Nude’ lipliner and similar to MAC Spice. (If you have not discovered these 99 cent wonders, check them out. Pencil #666 is famous for appearing in pro’s kits and has been mentioned in recent fashion magazines more than once). I find that sometimes, these particular items are the best for me, though I have products from companies like Stila, Chanel, and T. LeClerc right there next to them. The other day, I went to a local drugstore and bought several cheap, cheap lipsticks, melted them, and poured them into a Japonesque case. (Don’t try to meet them in the case !) Now I have several commitment-free shades to play with, and who knows, I might come up with something I never thought of before, without spending lots of money on colors I may not use.. very cases on the. Although they are not especially expensive (mine was $16 for a 12-pot mirrored compact with a brush) You can try my old method: use a plastic tray from a set of watercolors! That way, there’s plenty of room for brushes, too. In addition, you may have read or heard that cheaper versions of some products, like AHA creams, often contain more of the essential treatments than the expensive ones do. Sometimes, this is exactly the case. My favorite ‘body cocktail’ is Kiehl’s Crème De Corps (or any simple good cream) mixed with Alpha Hydroxy 10% AHA Oil-Free Gel. I mix this in my hands fresh each time I need it. I promise, the first morning after I tried this, there was a significant difference in my skin, and it was not too expensive. I can adjust the level of moisturizer as much as I need to. Of course, I don’t have any allergies to contend with; those of you who do might want to think twice before putting things together as I do. I am my own guinea pig, for better or worse. In addition, you might want to check out www.beautybuzz.com, where I found some great home-based recipes for everything from cleansers to bath oil and lotion that can be given as gifts or made for oneself. Check it out
2) That being said, unfortunately, sometimes it matters if it is more expensive, but I have gotten a little paranoid about this. I used to think if it was more costly, it had to be better. I do my homework when it’s a high ticket item …at a local mall the other night, neither the Chanel or Clinique people would tell me what percentage of AHAs or BHA’s were actually in their corresponding product. That makes me uncomfortable. I want to know, I need to know, and I expect them to know since I am paying upwards of 30 bucks for something I am putting on my face. I needed a good AHA cream….so I called my trusty local boutique and asked if Decleor carried an AHA cream. Over the phone, the owner of the shop gave me all the information I wanted. Yep, they do, its 6%, has an SPF of 12, its not oil-free but it absorbs well and quickly. I thought it was very interesting that I got all the specs on this product without even coming in (but this lady knows me by name….see my upcoming article on why I like shopping at small venues ). Well, an hour later and 42 dollars poorer, I did buy this cream for myself. Is it worth it? It was to me, and the SPF/AHA levels were fine for my needs. I love Decleor, and I have seen some significant changes in the overall texture and tone of my complexion. (By the way, they make AMAZING eye makeup remover, fast, no stinging, cool to the skin). By comparison, the Chanel had only SPF 8, and I would imagine it was even more expensive. Bottom line, you might love a product which is less or more money, because other factors affect our purchase choices….packaging, texture, ingredients, scent, brand name…to its credit, the Chanel cream I looked at had a great texture, light, and was oil-free. But without the facts, I was reluctant to buy. Looking back on my experience in the mall, I can’t help but feel as if I surprised the saleswomen by asking such blunt questions. For those of you who are those saleswomen, I certainly mean no ill will….but I am no longer afraid to quiz, poke, prod, question, clamor and chatter to find out what I am paying for. Cosmetics hounds, don’t be afraid to say no, yes, why, what, how much…….swapping is a great time to have fun and be adventurous and guess, I have had a blast doing just that, otherwise why on earth would I have a PURPLE M.A.C. lipstick !!? (I wear reds and naturals normally). Just don’t let the cost of buying on a whim be too high too often! Being burned on foundation colors that were never just right finally resulted in me going to Make Up For Ever, since the boutique I go to will customize it for no extra charge. I have strong yellow undertones but am somewhat fair. Most foundations are too pink or beige for me, or too ashen. Some of you may know exactly what I am talking about ! This is an example of one of those more expensive things that I have to purchase, but it’s cheaper than bottle upon bottle purchased of foundations which do not really match my skin at all. I can spend upwards of 22 dollars on a decent foundation by Lancome, Clinique, or Estee Lauder, but it may sit in a box the rest of its little bottled life. I spend 35 dollars on my MUFE, which, if I am not mistaken, is cheaper than a Prescriptives custom blend. And I use it, every last bit, so no money is wasted. In fact, I am on bottle number two as of this typing. If you have found a good premixed foundation, great, and congratulations. If not, don’t spend one more dime on something which does not satisfy you! More than one article has been written on the difficulty in finding yellow-based concealers/powders/foundations since most domestic lines focus on pink or beige colors. If this has been your experience, you have my sympathy. I also recommend Tubercle powders, they make many shades from yellows to peaches, but they are expensive, consider yourself warned. Another option for yellower skin is the Zen line, out of California, made for and by Asian women. I have not used this line, but I have ordered the catalog and looked over the line. Not too expensive, and nice colors/packaging.
3) What works/feels/looks good on someone else, may not work for you. This one is really important to me. A huge selling beauty review book slammed MUFE eye shadows for being impractical and too vivid for everyday use. .I was shocked, as I think the intensity of the colors makes them very versatile. A quick and educated hand can make that brownish-purple into a nice smoky plum liner. That yellow shimmer on the right skin tone provides a perfect highlight if applied lightly. While it’s true that bright, frosty blue is best left to the 1977 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, some blues can be lovely. It just takes a sure hand and the right complexion. (I stand firm behind the idea of deep grey-blue smoky eyes and a great red lip together. ) In defense of MUFE, they have so many lovely browns and other ‘tame’ shades! When I read a review of a product, I try to ignore whether or not they like the product and concentrate on what characteristics they seem to comment on. The author was correct in saying that.MUFE shades are intense, so it follows that they could be overused in the wrong hands. The loose powder shadows that they make are lovely but tricky to use until you get used to them. Shiny little iridescent things, they can scream roller disco queen. However, lightly used as an accent, or dabbed with some grey or tan, they take on a whole new feel and can provide a richness of color and tone not found in average shadows. They stay like crazy (high pigment content) and there are so many colors to choose from! Stila’s shadows are a terrific complement to this line for they are muted, softer shades that can provide some balance to the ‘watercolor’ quality of shades from lines like MUFE and Nars.
Look at it this way: you might not like a dewy face or creamier foundations, perhaps longing for the days of the neutral, matte face, a la Bobbi Brown. A perfectly good creamy foundation with good coverage might inspire discomfort in you, but is it a bad product or is it inaccurate advertising? When reviewing a product for myself, I ask “does it do what they say it does ?” If yes, and that’s what I need, then what more could I ask for ?
4) Application is often the key to using and understanding a good product. Kiehl’s Silk Groom is a wonderful product, but a little goes a long way! The same goes for those (dimethicone, cyclomethicone) silicone-based creams, gels, sprays that give shine and smoothness to the hair. Until I got more familiar with it, I had many a greasy strand to contend with. A tiny bit of this in my hand, warmed between my palms and smoothed lightly is all I needed, but I had to figure that out. Otherwise, I would have never discovered its benefits, and chalked it up as a designer version of the old V-05 hair goo that my grandfather uses !! The same is true of other temperamental products- foundations and shadows not blended properly or applied too thickly, mascara applied but not combed (if you have ever had an up-close conversation with someone with these big globs on their eyes that you can’t stop staring at then you know what I mean)……if you are still finding yourself using those tiny puff applicators that come with shadows, do yourself a favor and lock them away ! Find some good makeup brushes, travel sizes are nice because you can tote them around; full-size brushes, while less portable have those fun glamorous long handles! Your choice, but get some, because they can make that inexpensive Jane or Revlon shadow behave in a whole new way !
My own brush kit consists of a mishmash of different brands….I would love to buy a perfect matched pro set, but I have to do things a little at a time. Ø lip brush with plastic cover (stays nice and neat, no messy lip color to get all over everything). This particular brush was not expensive, its actually a art-supply brush I bought for a few dollars, but so far it has held together wonderfully. Ø Another paint brush, wide and soft-but-firm bristles that I use for applying cream shadows. Ø Stila large concealer brush ( I LOVE this sucker, it is a wonderful brush and works so well) Ø Three private label brushes modeled after McEvoy brushes, one flat and stiff for applying powder liner (I hardly ever use pencils) or shadows into the base of the lashes, the others are sort of the shape of a Pope’s hat, great for shadowing the crease of the eye, and wrapping a liner shade around the outer corner. I don’t know if anyone else makes them like this, but I love mine. These were about 20 dollars apiece, but well, well worth it.
Ø Maybelline shadow brush. I actually got a compliment on this little blue-handled brush from a makeup pro, it’s a nice fat little brush, great blending multiple colors/highlighters. Ø Revlon Pro wide shadow brush, I use it for highlighting shades, or for sheer washes of color. Ø Make Up For Ever tapered liner brush, a great and unique shape for lines or smudges Ø Estee Lauder fat powder brush Ø Garden Botanika Powder blush brush (I rarely use powder blushes but this works fine) Ø Joan Simmons Eyelash comb (this one is like a dry mascara wand) Ø Several small eyeshadow puffs (I use these to pat powder onto lipstick to help it set.) Ø Eyelash curler ( I need to be better about using this, I get lazy sometimes, but it does make the eye stand out more so I try and remember to take the extra second to use it)
What I have found is that application skill makes each product more versatile. Good brushes make a old color new again !! And I am not biased, sticking to my old rule, I pay less attention to cost and more to purpose and quality. My drugstore and pro brushes don’t care, why should I ? I want to stress again that I do not think that only MUFE or Stila or Kiehl’s or ANY one line is going to provide everything you want. I will stand by the cheapest or most expensive product if it meets my needs. Nars, meet Maybelline. I am sure you two will get along famously !!!
5) If you want to be made over in a mall, select your artist carefully. Remember that they are also there to sell products to you. I love shopping, but sometimes I feel like I am being circled like someone’s prey. Some stores aren’t like this, some are notorious for it (does anyone remember those Saturday Night Live ‘Gap’ skits ? Don’t get me started on The Gap). The best representatives aren’t afraid to be honest and listen and talk about your needs and concerns, your goals for this makeover. The best thing you can do for yourself and them is to be the same way. My favorite makeover involved me bringing along my own products, finding ways to work the new items into my existing colors.. Listen, talk, think. Be realistic, though. Nobody is going to make my 5’3 size 11 redheaded self into the next Cindy Crawford. Not without some serious medieval torture devices and some plastic surgery on the level of Cher! No way, no how! Look at your prospective artist. Do you like their style, the image that they exude ? If they are wearing makeup, do you like the work they did on their own face? How is their attitude towards you? Warm and enthusiastic, or aloof and distant? (If the great Mr. Aucoin has time to be nice, so does your local M.A.C. counterperson !!) Remember , they are the ultimate advertisement of their own handiwork. I will never forget going to this sweet Estee Lauder lady years ago, whose coloring and application were very different than what I would want for myself. She was nice, I was gullible, my mom liked her, and I liked EL a lot at the time. Lo and behold, I was pinked and blued to death, colored in corals and turquoises, just like she was. Aak !! Not only did I think I looked ridiculous, but I felt pushed into buying things I did not even like to spare her feelings. No more, no more! Speak up, be heard, state your needs, wants, concerns. This is your makeup !
6) One final thought, when in doubt, ask for samples. Go ahead, don’t be shy !! If the are available, why not be absolutely sure of the product before purchasing it ? Some companies like Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Origins and Decleor provide that opportunity to you more willingly than others. Smart salespeople know that samples can often mean more sales and happier customers. (Who among us doesn’t like extra goodies in their shopping bag ?) Have you ever walked out of the mall with your new foundation applied, or that new lipstick only to get in your car and go “Auugh!” when you discover that natural daylight puts you closer to RuPaul than Paulina ? Or bought that masque that turns your face beet red four hours after you leave the store (“You’ll feel a mild tingling sensation”……….)? It seems, sadly, that samples are increasingly something we end up paying for, not something we get for free, but its worth a shot to better increase your satisfaction and comfort with your purchase.
Many of you reading this may have spent this time thinking, “yes I know that !!”, but maybe there is someone out there, who, like me, didn’t know until she figured it out the hard way. It’s your money, it’s your color, it’s your image. Remember, it’s YOUR FACE!