Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Glowing skin in sub-degree temperatures

My skin might look like this too, if I had a permanent airbrushing crew. le sigh.

My latest makeup obsession has been perfecting the ultimate glow - that is, moisterized, healthy, glowing skin that is free of shine. Arctic-like temperatures haven't exactly helped my cause; my face is now dull and parched in some areas yet I still battle an overly enthusiastic T-zone. It's a dilemma, but some recent makeup discoveries have me thinking that I can beat old man winter.

Here are my thoughts on how to achieve that etheral glow, minus the balmy tropical weather:

Determine what your skin needs.

Here's a trick to help you figure out what type of skin you have: After you wash your face with a basic cleanser, does your skin feel tight? Tightness after washing usually indicates that your skin is dry, and needs extra moisterization. Apply a moisterizer made for day (with SPF, even in the winter) and use a heavier moisterizer (oil-free!) at night.

Most likley everyone experiences a bit of tightness, even if oily skin is a problem, in the winter. For those of you who don't sense any tightness this usually means that your skin is normal-to-oily. Either way, people with normal to oily or combination skin (like me!) still should use a moisterizer, especially in the winter. But use a lighter formulation (try Olay serum), or a moisterizer that absorbs oil. There are a ton on the market, it's just a matter of finding one that you enjoy using. Another trick is to just apply moisterizer in the areas that are dry (for example, on cheeks, around mouth, and under eyes).

No matter how dry or oily your skin is, exfoliate regularly. Exfoliation eliminates dry patches and pimple flare ups. It's also great for getting circulation to the skin and helps create the glow we're going for. Try exfolating after a warm shower, as your skin will be soft and less likely to be irritated by the abrasion of an exfoliant. Try a chemical exfoliator if your skin is sensitive to abrasion (any toner with AHA's, salycylic acid, lactic acid, etc).

After moisterizer, apply a luminizer.

Try MAC Strobe Liquid $38(CDN) if you have combination or oily skin. The liquid (as opposed to MAC strobe creme) will not leave your skin slick, instead it absorbs quickly and leaves a subtle luminosity. It also has moisterizing properties, and can be used solo without a moisterizer as suggested above. This product is fantastic, I just got a tube and love it. Try Fresh Twilight Freshface Glow $36(US) if you have dry skin and could benefit from some extra moisture. This is a light formulation, and won't cause your makeup to slide off. Really pretty rose smell too! After moisterizer and/or luminizer, apply a sheer formulation of foundation, then apply concealer.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I really do think that it is necessary to have two different types of concealer. The first being a thick, creamy formulation that is one shade lighter than your foundation. The thick concealer (blue) is applied on blemishes and redness. The second concealer in your makeup bag should be two shades lighter and should luminize. In other words, it should be less opaque than the first concealer, and more liquid. The second concealer (purple) is used for the under eye area, sides of the eyes, the tip of the nose, sides of the nose, under the eyebrow, and on the chin.

I've created this creepy layout of where the thick concealer and thinner, luminiscent concealer should be applied respectively. Applogies for how budget this is, I did it at work with office supplies (face courtesy of M.A.C.)...

Here are some concealers that I've personally tried, and some that I've heard are awesome:

Maybelline has this great double ended concealer. One is thick and covers, the other highlights. Get it, and keep it in your purse for touch-ups, it's a beaut.

Estee Lauder Smoothing Creme Concealer $20(US). This formulation is perfect, it blends, hides, lightens. Really nice, liquid formulation. Could be used as your highlighter if you don't like the idea of shine/sparkle. Clinique Airbrush Concealer $19.50(US), I've been told this is a really good concealer. I love the idea of the pen, great for around the eye area. This is a liquid formula. The Balm Time Balm $17(US). This would be the thicker of the two concealers I recommend getting. Stays put all day after you set it with a light powder.
Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclait, o.1 oz for $40(US) . I have yet to try this, but I know that many makeup artists swear by it. However, I have a hard time justifying the price considering YSL gives you less than an ounce. But, it's basically a vitamin B shot for your skin. After prepping and concealing apply creme blush.

NARS has great ones because they can double as a highlighter, they last forever in the tube and are worth the pricetag of about $40. Creme blush is perfect for this glowing look because you can really blend it into the skin so it looks like your own natural glow. Instead of powder blush which can sometimes just look like it's sitting on top of your skin.

If you prefer the control of powder blush (because it is applied with a brush, instead of your fingers) then I recommend M.A.C's Mineralize Skin Finish. It is from their new line, Blonde, Brunette, Redhead. It's a great product because you can use more of the bronzer side or the blush side depending on the look you want to create. Here's the Redhead swatch:

After prepping, concealing, and blush, finish with a light finishing powder.

I LOVE Make Up For Ever's HD Microfinish Powder. It is pure silica and works on every skin tone and texture. It smoothes everything out and sets makeup. Not dusty or sparkly. Using a thicker finishing powder will take away the glow that all the other products have created. But not using a powder means that the makeup might slide off or look too harsh. This is the perfect product.

Now sit back and enjoy the glow that will inevitably emit from your skin.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chemistry 101

I do not want to know how much money I've contributed to the Home-Hair-Colour Industry, but let's put it this way; I've put someone's kid through university, no doubt.

I've tried every shade under the sun. I think I have hair schizophrenia.

As a result, I have become somewhat of an at-home-dye expert...or tester, not sure which. So I thought I should post about it and hopefully simplify the at-home-colour process for readers.

Ultimately, getting your hair coloured by professionals is the best bet (if they're trained and experienced). Colour technicians are masters of the chemistry and timing behind beautiful hair colour. But, it tends to be expensive and time-consuming. Sometimes you just want to be able to change or amp-up your hair colour within an hour, at home, while watching Dr. Phil. Although that's probably just me.

Here's some points and ideas for those who want to achieve glorious hair colour within an hour, for under $20.

What should I do before buying a box of haircolour?
  • Determine what your current hair colour is. Is it a warm or cool colour? Highlighted or solid? Red, brown or blond family? Do this in natural light - take a mirror outside! Jot these details down
  • Fluorescent lights/incandescent lights might trick you into thinking your hair is more red, or darker than it actually is.
  • Figure out what colour you'd like to achieve: flip through magazines, find pictures of colours you love and clip them out to take with you the drugstore.
  • Take at least a week before colouring to do a few deep conditioning treatments: either buy special "extra" moisterizing conditioner and follow directions, or use your regular conditioner but keep it on for an extra 5 minutes. Do this at least 4 times before colouring.
  • Wash your hair the day before you want to colour, try not to apply styling products (it's fine if you do. But don't wash your hair the day of colouring -- natural oils protect your scalp from the chemicals
  • Don't colour dirty hair or super-just-cleaned-hair

What brand should I get?

  • Safe bets are: Loreal, Clairol and Garnier.
  • Look for PERMANENT if covering grey is an issue, or if it's a drastic change (not recommended)
  • Look for SEMI-PERMANENT (or No Ammonia) if you're not making a drastic colour change
  • Don't look at the picture of the model on the front of the box as an accurate depiction of the colour inside the box. These pictures are generally altered in post-production to make the colour match the description.
  • Pick up a box of dye that catches your eye and look at the side panel that shows how the colour changes depending on the starting hair colour. This is a better picture of what the colour will ultimately look like on your hair.
  • Finally, read the description. If you want to add red tones to your current colour, get a box that says "Warm". If you want to remove red tones from your current colour, get a box that says "Ash". If you like your current colour and want to brighten it, look for "Neutral"

I found a colour I like, now what?

  • Buy 1 box of hair dye if your hair length is shorter than your shoulders
  • Buy 2 boxes of hair dye if your length is longer, or super thick
  • If you're unsure of how much to get, the brand, or the colour: ask a beauty expert, they're really helpful. Most RexAlls and Shopper's Drug Marts have experts (Big Box stores like WalMart and Loblaws, etc. are trickier because they usually have poor selection and no one to help you)
  • Buy big plastic clips to hold sections of your hair up as you colour (not metal, it may react to the chemicals in the hair dye). If you can't find plastic ones, use hair elastics.
  • Make sure you're using colour-safe shampoo and conditioners. It makes a difference! It's not marketing hype.
  • Apply Vaseline or thick conditioner around forehead, ears, and neck to prevent staining.
  • If you notice a drip of haircolour that has stained your skin do the following: with a gloved finger rub leftover hairdye from the bottle or from your head as the dye is setting, into the dry stain. The wet dye will lift the dry dye. Then wipe excess off with a warm wet papertowel or old towel. This trick does not work for fabrics, just skin stains.
  • Follow the directions!! & Use a timer!

If your skin is...

Fair/Light (you burn easily and/or freckle. Easiest way to tell if you're fair versus medium toned, is to look at the veins around your wrist. Are the blue tinged? You're fair/light.)
  • Avoid dark browns, especially black!! Pale skin and light eyes need enough contrast that your features are emphasized, but not so much contrast that it sucks the colour out of your features.
  • Stay away from colours with purple casts (in the red family), or ashey/green (in the blond and brown family).
  • Try a strawberry blond (not orange!) or rich honey blond. Don't overhighlight; hair that's too blond starts to take on a grey/green cast.
  • Try a medium brown, that is either neutral or warm depending on how pink/red your skin tone is naturally. Use highlights 2 shades lighter to add definition.

Medium/Olive (you tan easily, but lose colour in the winter months. Easiest way to tell if you're medium versus fair, is to look at the veins around your wrist. Are they green tinged? You're medium/olive)

  • Avoid red or copper hues, which can make your skin look sallow, and tends to look unnatural.
  • If you like the idea of red hair, try a deep mahogany base that will warm up your skin tone.
  • Choose hair colours that are neutral or warm, not ashey.
  • Warm blondes and browns are best for you.
  • Don't go too blonde because it will make your skin ashey-grey.

Brown/Dark (your skin has warm tones. It tends to become ashey in the winter months because of the drying conditions. )
  • Your natural hair colour + highlights works best on dark skin tones, because it perks up your skin colour and adds dimension to your hair.
  • Drastic colour changes like bleaching, if not done by a professional, end up orange and do major damage to hair that is usually naturally dry.
  • Use semi-permanent hair colour (no ammonia) in a shade that is no more than 2 shades darker or lighter than your natural shade to add shine. The dye will gradually rinse out over 4 weeks, and roots won't be visible.
  • Colouring your hair with non-ammonia dye can often improve the texture of your hair, filling in the hair cuticle and making hair appear and feel smoother.


BLONDES: Blond colour from a box tends to look dense and opaque. It needs to be broken up with a few highlights. Try Revlon's Frost & Glow, but don't use the cap it comes with. Those caps are usless, they create the ugliest effect possible.
  • I like to use my gloved hands, and literally paint a few strands, really working the mixture into the hair.
  • You can cut up some tin foil into squares, and wrap the completed sections to keep the highlights away from the rest of your hair.
  • Focus on the front of your head, don't worry about the back or underside, as that tends to look unnatural.
  • Never highlight strands directly near your part. If you do, your roots will show as the highlights grow out.
  • Think about fading the base colour into the highlighted areas, think of what your hair looks like after a day at the beach.
BRUNETTES: Try the Loreal Preference brand, it is a permanent dye that always seems to acheive the colour on the box. Great for brunettes who hate the inevitable fading.
RED HEADS: Try a non-ammonia, semi to see if you like the tone of red. Red is difficult to completely remove when it's permanent. Red colour is also the quickest to fade, so use colour-safe shampoo and conditioner.
For any colour, colour-treated hair: Clairol's Brass Free line is great. They have a selection of colours, and they truly remove the brassiness that can occur as colour fades, or if you chose the wrong colour to begin with.
L'Oreal's Couleur Experte is a great product. It really makes you feel like you're at a salon, because the kit includes your base colour and highlights. The highlights are fool proof and always turns out subtle.

  • If you are considering changing your colour and you've never used dye or had it coloured professionally, doing it at home is not the way. Book an appointment with a recommended salon and get the first treatment done by a trained professional.
  • Touch-ups from then on, can be done at home.
  • I recommend going to a professional the first because un-touched hair may not take to the dye the way you think it might. A colourist can determine what levels of chemicals to use.
  • Un-touched hair is the easiest to colour for professional hair technicians.