Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Arsenal of Makeup Tricks

If I was in a duel, and makeup was the weapon, these would be in my back-pocket arsenal.
This will be an ever-growing article, because I'm always gleaming new must-have products and makeup tricks, but here's the list so far:

1. Buy two separate face powders: The first is lighter in colour than your skintone and light in texture, used under the eyes to set concealer and bring light under the eyes (avoid powders with light reflectors and SPF if the powder will be used during photography). The second can be any powder that you love in your natural skin colour. Set makeup or take down shine with the second powder. Use both in tandum to emphasize the planes of your face.

2. As old fashioned and granny-like as this is, nothing sets foundation better and makes your makeup last longer like setting your makeup with a pressed powder and a sponge (or puff). Pressing the powder onto your skin (instead of spreading it all over your face - and into your lungs - all willy nilly with a brush) really extends the life of the foundation on your skin. It also creates an airbrushed like quality because it camouflages pores better than just dusting your face with powder. Just make sure that you're not packing the makeup on.

3. When applying eyeliner, don't think that you have to get it perfect right off the bat. Sometimes just having one solid stripe can look harsh. I find that the best way to apply eyeliner is to smudge it with a q-tip, brush, or fingertip, right after it's been applied. This ensures that it reaches the base of the lashes and looks soft and subtle. This is a great tip for women with wrinkles too as you can blend out any eyeliner mistakes.

4. To improve the staying power of eyeliner on the inner rim (waterline), dry the eyelid ledge first with a q-tip, carefully! This removes any excess moisture. Then apply the liner, and set with a brush dipped in eyeshadow that matches the eyeliner. This extra step extends the life of the liner by at least 3x.

5. You don't need to buy expensive emulsifiers in order to convert your dry shadows into wet shadow. The trick is to remove as much eyeshadow as you intend on using from the eyeshadow pot, then emulsify with either water or Visine in a separate dish or palette (or back of your hand, etc). A mistake a lot of people make is to put the emulsifier directly into the eyeshadow pot, thereby changing the chemistry of the rest of the eyeshadow. Applying eyeshadow wet amps up the intensity and longevity. Just make sure to prime your eye well beforehand, because products applied wet tend to crease more. (This trick can also be used to convert any eyeshadow into an eyeliner).

6. Curl your eyelashes! Unless you have incredibly curly eyelashes naturally, everyone needs a good lift in the morning. Curling your eyelashes really does lift your eyes and open them up, it works on everyone. For extra oomph heat up your metal eyelash curler for a few seconds with your hairdryer (on low setting!) then carefully set your lashes. The heat helps hold the lift.

7. When applying blush start at the hairline (I know, sounds 80's...but we were on to something!) then sweep to the apples of your cheeks. This way more colour is deposited along your cheek bone instead of near your nose, which can look 'dolly' like. Angle the sweep of colour depending on your face shape: if you have a narrow face, draw the shadow horizontally to widen your features; in contrast, draw the blush on a diagonal to slim and narrow a wide face. This picture isn't really demonstrating what I mean, but it shows how the colour should migrate into the hairline, and not just sit on your face like two dots.

8. Skin primers are unnecessary unless you have skin scarring you're trying to cover up (in which case they can help minimize texture issues). Apply facial moisturizer after washing your face and before applying makeup. Let dry (about 5-10 minutes), then apply makeup as usual. Same effect as a primer, less goop on your face!

9. A clean, damp washcloth can replace any exfoliator. A washcloth saturated with some face cleanser will clean pores and remove makeup better than an exfoliation scrub. This trick can also be used to remove dead skin from lips.

10. Don't apply foundation to your entire face as this tends to create a mask effect. Let some of your skin show through by dotting your forehead, nose, chin and jaw line with foundation then blending well. Apply foundation over damp moisturizer for a dewy effect, and apply foundation over moisturized skin (that's had time to absorb) for a more matte finish.

The bare minimum that everyone should attempt daily in order to have healthy skin and look polished is to do the following:

  • Drink water (boring! but true. Diet coke doesn't count)

  • Wear SPF 15 every day, higher if you're in direct sunlight for more than 15 minutes. Reapply frequently

  • Wash your face in the morning and at night with a gentle cleanser - no matter how tough your skin is, gentle is the way to go.

  • Moisturize your skin, no matter how oily it is. Everyone needs a good moisturizer that suits their skin type.

  • Makeup: Definition is key to great makeup that looks natural, so focus on the following: Eyebrows, eyelashes, & cheeks. Everyone can always use a little eyebrow defining, mascara on their lashes (after curling!) and blush or bronzer.

  • Get a good bronzer, I can't emphasize this enough! Bronzer looks great on everyone throughout the entire year. It's just about finding the best colour for your skin tone. If you are fair skinned you can substitute bronzer with blush - look for apricot or peach coloured blush to warm up your face. Medium skintones can use any bronzer they prefer really. Just avoid overly sparkly or dusty formulas, no one can pull that off. Dark skintones can use bronzers with a gold base, as this will really set off the deep tones in your skin. Avoid bronzers with orange and ash undertones.

  • Keep your hands away from your face. Don't lean, pick, irritate, etc. As much of a habit as it is for some people, hands touching and picking your face causes a lot of damage over the years.

I'll post more tips as I think of them!

**Update: thought of something about adding light to the face - which is super flattering on everyone.

A light shade of concealer or some sort of light reflective moisturizer/liquid (Like Benefit's Moonbeam) applied to specific planes of the face bring brightness to the face, creating a flattering halo effect. Here's a crappy diagram of what I mean:

The yellow fuzz represents where highlight can be applied to emphasize the high planes of the face. (Cheek bone, temple, inner corner of eyes, tip of nose, bridge of nose, & the cupid's bow)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Must-Have for every Man, Woman and Child

I recently purchased a book that's been on my "to-buy" list for ages: Paula Begoun's "Don't go to the cosmetics counter without me" (7th Edition)

I cannot say enough great things about this encylopedia-type makeup guide. As the title suggests this book is meant to be used as a reference guide for women to figure out what products they should be buying, how to sort out those rediculous ingredient lists, and finally, how NOT to succumb to glittery marketing campaigns.

Here is the description off the front cover, "A unique guide to thousands of skin-care and cosmetic products, plus the latest research on keeping skin beautiful at every age".

In this book Paula outlines basic as well as more advanced steps to taking care of your skin in and out. She then breaks down individual cosmetics companies, providing a synopsis of their pros and cons, as well as an extremely detailed description of individual products made by that specific company (makeup and skin care). Each product is labeled with a smiley, neutral, or unhappy face to give a quick idea of how good or bad the product is. Products marked with a check-mark are the best of the best. The detailed descriptions are no-b.s. She's not getting paid by any of these companies, insuring her opinions are completely unbiased.

The concept of the book is to provide a rating system for cosmetics based on their ingredient lists, what their claims are in relation to the ingredients and the price. Paula judges the products based on science, instead of offering subjective reviews (usually provided by magazines and blogs, ha!). If a product offers the right kind of SPF, is in 'stable packaging' and the claims match the ingredients, then in general, this means it is a good product.

I appreciate this book for it's depth and the fact that she offers products at all price ranges. Although it is printed in the U.S., and Paula is American, she still lists and rates Canadian products as well (such as RoC, Quo, etc). Some of you may recognize her from guest segments on CityLine too.

I truly believe this book can benefit everyone - men and women (particularly women, just because 70% of it is makeup related). This is the type of book that every household should have because her main points apply to everyone:
  • Don't feel obligated to buy all your products from one brand - as she says, no one can do all things perfectly.

  • Avoid products that promote 'natural' ingredients on the label. As many plant extracts are irritating to the skin and generally cause the opposite of what the cosmetics companies claim.

  • Remove all traces of makeup when cleansing skin - especially around the eye area as trapped makeup causes crepiness.

  • Skin scrubs are not necessary and can cause damage to the skin - a wash cloth with face wash provides the best physical exfoliation

  • Acne face washes often contain harsh ingredients which further agrevates acne, so use a mild cleanser and follow up with a combination of salycylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids.

My favorite part of this book is the Best Products Summary section. Paula lists the best of the best for each product-type, breaking it down by skin-type and price-point (ie. Under $20 & Over $20). My criticism for this book would just be the very nature of the industry - that the product reviews may become irrelevent if a company or product is discontinued. However, the book was updated and re-published in 2008, and many of the products she lists are current and have been around for ages - so they probably won't be leaving us any time soon.