Jessie loves mascara!

Jessie Char is a lovely-seeming human being whom I only know via the Internet. (Perhaps that will change someday; I’d like that.) She put out this generous offer on Twitter:

I was sure she’d be full of great advice, so I asked if I could round up some of the best nuggets in a blog post. (This might end up being for my Mug Shots online dating photo happy hour clients, or just for the world at large.)

Tube mascara rocks!

Jessie’s main advice was tube mascara, tube mascara, tube mascara. Me too, but I’m still not 100% satisfied with Clinique Lash Power; totally gonna try Jessie’s recommendation of Kevyn Aucoin volume mascara. Here’s more of her advice, in case y’all also find it helpful!

Jessie’s sneaky mascara tip

I’ve never thought to try this (I’d worry about germs and it drying TOO much) but I know exactly what Jessie means about new mascara being too wet. Gonna try this on an affordable drugstore purchase!

Newbie makeup help

It’s not all detailed deep dives into the world of mascara. She’s full of more basic accessible tips too. The only thing I’d add is that when you go to the MAC counter, find the person whose makeup looks most like you want yours to look, and talk to them. (Lots of reps are super costumey for fun, but most newbies will feel less intimidated talking to someone rocking a more natural look, I suspect.)

Drugstore mascara options

I love me some fancy tube mascara too, but I can’t always justify the purchase. I figured you budget folks might also appreciate Jessie’s lower-end recs, and her strategy for making the most of all your mascara purchases.

Cramming in my good hair days

Weird shadow, but I still think I look nice here. :)
Look, we tried. Hard.
I don’t know why my hands look giant. I have normal hands.

I’m in Hair Crisis Mode! OK, not crisis, but possibly Professionalism Transition Urgency Status.

I’ve been growing my hair out basically ever since Halloween of 2008. Weirdly specific timing, but here’s why I know: Grant and I were planning on being Margot and Richie Tenenbaum for Halloween, and we really went overboard on selecting the perfect costume elements, but when I went to my hairdresser and told her to cut my hair just like a picture of Gwyneth as Margot so it was the right length when straightened, well, she kinda badgered me into getting a short stacked bob instead which kinda ruined the costume (as did the fact that we are each approximately double the body weight of the characters we were dressed as, but shut up, we know that).

I believe I was singing along with "Living on a Prayer" at the Rickshaw, the night before Grant's proposal. How's THAT for a freakish memory?Anyway, even though the stacked bob was NOT what I asked for or expected, I think I rocked it for a while. But then very shortly thereafter, Grant proposed to me (awww!), so THAT’s why I knew the time frame, and of course for the next year and a half I was diligently growing it out so that I could have Wedding Hair. You know, slightly curled, long, romantic, blah blah blah that is what wedding hair is, at least lately. (It sort of seems like these things are cyclical, which is a little ridiculous. I mean, of COURSE it would have looked awesome if I’d been married with shorter hair. But you just get up in your head about this stuff when the Bridezilla Bug bites you.)

Weird shadow, but I still think I look nice here. :)Well, that wedding was in 2010, and I think I pulled Wedding Hair off quite well, thanks to Carina the Traveling Stylist. But I’ve been growing it out ever since then, mostly for lack of a better idea. It’s getting kind of crazy and scraggly-feeling and unmanageable. It never looks like that wedding pic; it mostly looks wild and unruly and kind of like I should be in some sort of late 60s-early 70s cover band. But I really love the look and feel of it on “good” days, and I’ve always wanted to try having it as long as I can get it until I simply must hack it off. I figure now’s my window, before we yet have hair-yanking children. So I keep leaving it long, and therefore sometimes scraggly.

Yet I’m doing more and more video work for my business, and while I can handle a podcast recording Skype session looking slightly less than perfect, I really hate doing a proper interview like this one or a polished advice video without looking like I’m bringing my A game. A combination of sanity, time, tendinitis, and just way too much hair means that I almost never bother taking the time to blow-dry and or straighten it these days, because I just can’t pull that off on a regular basis. It’s too much!

So I’ve decided that I’m going to shell out for a Swink blow-dry, and then pack as many different videos (including outfit, eyewear, jewelry, and bangs-management changes) into the same day, so it looks like it was spread out, haha. I’m also borrowing some professional floodlights from an artist friend, so I’ll be well lit in addition to being well coiffed, dressed, and generally groomed. (And lashed. I’m getting falsies put on too, since they help make your eyes pop on video. Although let’s hope they don’t come off halfway through! One time that happened to poor Rachel Maddow during her show and we could NOT LOOK AWAY.)

What do you think? Will it be super obvious that all of my videos were actually shot on the same day? With wildly vavoomier hair and lashes than usual? I mean, I don’t really care that much, to be honest… most of my clientele would totally “get” that I had to pack all my glam into Media Day, and be kinda charmed by it, I like to think. After all, I’m all about helping REAL people, the kind who don’t necessarily look like they’ve always just stepped out of a shampoo commercial when there isn’t a special occasion. I think it’s fair game to channel a bit more polish than usual when it’s for one of my red carpet moments! (Oh speaking of polish, I should probably slap some of that on too. You never know what might get me gesturing at the camera.)


Side note: I remembered hearing Melissa Rivers talk about her book Red Carpet Moments AGES ago on a podcast. Well, I looked up this little video-interview about it, and I was horrified. Both by Melissa’s looks (just because she seems like she’s had a lot of work done, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given her mother, but I sort of thought the apple had fallen farther from the Restylene tree) and because the audio quality is AWFUL, especially when the interviewer is asking questions. 5by5 has really spoiled me on audio! And my Retina MacBook Pro has spoiled me on image quality. That book cover image (generated from Amazon) is atrocious. I blame them/the publisher, though. I hope you can get past it. <3

Anyway, I’ll post a video here too so you can see how I did!

My Skype makeup station

Ever since I went full-time with my online dating consultation business, I’ve been working from home and conducting way more meetings and client appointments via video chat. This is great because it saves me gas and transportation and scheduling time with local people, it allows me to help clients in other parts of the world, and it makes it simpler for me to meet with people in a more intimate way without having to drive anywhere or even put on pants. Seriously. I can conduct meetings pantsless. I don’t, mind you, but the fact that I COULD delights me.

But in my increased world of video chatting, I found that I’ve been underestimating my need to prepare. There’s this sort of mental switch that says if you’re working in the comfort of your own home, you needn’t bother getting all primped and ready for a traditional office-like work day, and you don’t build in the “commute time” to get to meetings. But I keep forgetting and failing to prep, even though of COURSE I want to look polished and professional in my video meetings. And if I wanted to scramble to primp for a meeting that’s coming up in a few minutes, it used to take me longer than I expected because my office is on the main floor and my master bathroom where I keep all my crap is way upstairs. My hasty IMs of “be there in two minutes!” sometimes turned into more like seven, and well, that’s unprofessional and unnecessary. PLUS, I often work in my office, lose track of time, and have to rush out the door for a meeting or event, and wouldn’t want to take the time to run upstairs for proper primping supplies, ya know?

Stupid wonderful vanitySo I ordered myself this terrible vanity product from Urban Outfitters, and it does the trick. But it is terrible, and low quality, and overpriced, and was damaged both times they shipped it to me, and was a completely different color both times, and doesn’t come with hardware or clear instructions, and they seem to only package delicate things in loose strips of paper there, and this generally isn’t worth the money or trouble. So don’t buy it; go buy or make or commission something similar but better. Anyway. Did I deter you? Good. But a vanity LIKE this one would be great. lipstick

This stupid vanity thing is awesome despite my complaints, because it solves a need in a way that mostly looks nice in my office. I can put a few essentials in it that are easy to get to for rapidly approaching video chats or rushy departures. And I no longer have to touch up my lipstick using what I call Mirror.app and normal geeks call the “front-facing cell phone camera” (and duckfacing teens just call “the camera,” because why would they think of using it to take anything but selfies? Also ugh, I like just learned that word, I’m old) that make me fucking insane?) Anyway. Mirrors are helpful. AND clients can theoretically take a peek if I’m going to try to capture a couple pics of them for their dating profiles. perfume

Let’s take a peek at what I actually have in this shelving unit of my accursed yet indispensable vanity, shall we? (Of COURSE I stocked it immediately, duh.) It wasn’t hard for me to fill it up with product I won’t miss upstairs, because I have too much crap already and I get a lot of free samples. The top shelf is a 3/4 full bottle of Chanel #5, a mostly used-up bottle of Lush’s vanilla-ish perfume, a copule perfume sample tubes, and a cute Marc Jacobs solid perfume ring a pal gave me. Second shelf is a trial-size tub of Oyin’s Burnt Sugar balm, some Mama Coco’s lip balm (so sad this is discontinued), some Burt’s Bees Honey lip balm, a freebie of Clinique’s Different Lipstick in Shy, a freebie Stila lip glaze, a freebie Clinique High Impact Mascara (unopened so it won’t spoil while it sits there waiting for me to need it), my MAC Fluidline gel liner that I never use as liner but discovered makes a decent in-a-rush cream shadow, and a cute little contour clip from H&M (cuter and cheaper than most drugstore ones). Third shelf is a Laura Mercier foundation sample in too dark a shade, some Dr. Hauschka loose powder, appropriate puffs/sponges, and one of my many pairs of glasses. I also sometimes stash a hairbrush in there. See? All set for our next Skype-up! Hopefully I won’t be caught with my pants down again, so to speak.

Despite any kerfluffles, video chatting DOES have some major beauty advantages—in addition to pantslessness, I can finally use up all the off-color foundation samples I get from Sephora, because it’s sort of like The Theater where you can wear whatever as long as it covers your acne because video quality isn’t that great yet, and I can have fun playing pranks by changing my shirt and hairstyle and accessories really fast if our video connection drops out and we have to reconnect. That’s the best part. (I’ve never done this yet but I’m excited to beta-test this feature. Stay tuned!)

Sparklebrows

Have you guys noticed this ridiculous blingy brow trend/epidemic? I first spotted it a couple years ago in a Dior brow mascara that thankfully seems to have been discontinued. These copycat swatches are Anastasia x2 and Perfekt x2, respectively. The Sephora gal who caught me snapping these pics was totally into the glam brow look, and she tried to get me on board, haha. No dice! (To be fair, I realize that my arm hair is sort of weirdly glimmery in this shot, but let’s agree to pretend it’s not. We all know how weird their lighting can be, especially when taking covert cell phone pics to avoid Browfrontations.)

Here’s a closer look at the swatches. I’m OK with slightly shimmery eyelash mascara (but not full-on glitter mascara; that seems both tacky and painful), like the YSL gray stuff I tried before. But not brows. It’s just not OK, people! Noticeably made-up brows remind me of that terrible harsh grandma look where they’re totally plucked out and then drawn (or worse, tattooed) on, ya know? So even if it’s glimmer instead of thick black brow-polygons, I still don’t ever want to call attention to my eyebrows being made up. To me it’s kind of like those horrible and thankfully short-lived blingy clear bra straps that were meant to be displayed. Ew. It looks trashy and sticky and juvenile and fleeting and silly and incorrect.

God, I can’t get over how dumb these look to me. (The two Perfekt, or I guess Per-fekt [sic] swatches look the same and less sparkly, but you have to trust me that they’re a) different and b) totes sparkly.) These sorta reminds me of Sephora’s gag cat-brow spoof of 2010. If I try it just to amuse myself one of these days, I’ll post a picture (probably just on Twitter) but I won’t be shelling out my hard-earned VIB points to pick up an actual blingy brow gel product. I’ll fake it with hair spray and sparkly eye shadow, like a gentlewoman.

What sticks in my craw is that neither of these product lines has a non-shimmery alternative in the tinted brow mascara category. Nope, they assume that IF you are interested in pigmented brow groomitude via spooly brush, then you MUST also be interested in glamming up those brows. Which is a shame, because I literally cannot find any good solid neutral-looking brow mascara anymore. I used to have an amazing one by Chanel called “Le Forme Soucils” in Taupe and it was so subtle and lovely, I was so sad when I ran out right after they had discontinued it. Every brow mascara I’ve tried since then has either had the Shimmer of Death, or has been a weirdly reddish shade that doesn’t match my coloring. That Taupe was so perfect because it really was taupe, like  a sort of ashy dark blonde that was just a hint of color to help define my brows. Le sigh, Chanel. Le sigh.

The lighter half of Anastasia’s ash blonde brow powder duo (above right) mixed with hairspray is the closest thing I can pull off, which is a pain in the ass/brow, so I never bother even though I look way more polished when I do. So Anastasia, if you can make perfectly matte and taupe shades of brow powder that are appropriately conservative and subtle, why the hell can’t you make that same concept in another less powdery product? Please? I’ll stop publicly mocking your sparklebrows line if you do, promise. xoxo

Cosmetics case MIA :(

I’ve been using the same Coach black leather makeup bag since like 2003, and I LOVED that thing. I got it for a decent price at the factory outlet, and it’s held up well and was the perfect size and dimensions to cram into even my smaller purses. I didn’t love how skinny items like pencils could slip out of the gap above the zipper closure, but it clearly wasn’t *that* destructive an issues since I’ve stuck by that same bag for so long. And now I have to bid it adieu!

I lost both it and an earring somewhere on Amazon’s campus Monday, and security found my earring but has no word on the makeup bag. It contained all my MOST IMPORTANT staples — mascara, concealer, *discontinued* lip balm, *also discontinued* mineral powder concealer, lip stain x2, my favorite comb, an adorable mini of Chanel No. 5 whose bottle I wanted to keep forever… sigh. But let’s focus on the positive — this means I have an excuse to upgrade and overhaul, right? Right!

For a couple years now I’ve been wanting a Stephanie Johnson cosmetics case. I spotted her stuff at a now-closed Bainbridge Island shi-shi spa/boutique, and I was in love because of the zipper pulls. No, seriously, take a close look: they’re two-tone and nicely woven, and the bag is elegantly piped, and — the details are just so clearly high quality. For several years now I’d been thinking I would splurge and get myself one of these, but I could never quite justify the purchase since I always receive so many crappy but free cases from various cosmetics promos.

No longer! Now I think I’m ready to take the plunge. (I will, however, wait until after Christmas just in case, since it’s totally on my list.) The Gidget case seems like a usefulness boost, too — the extra pockets might mean it’s harder to grab something in a hurry, but I think overall I’ll appreciate the ability to organize and perhaps hold a larger amount more efficiently. (God, is that Amazon talking? MUST… OPTIMIZE… LIFE…) Anyway. Gidget’s the bomb, it would seem. Here’s an inside view of the case so you can see what I mean.

However! I totally thought SJ had the “upscale makeup bag” market locked down, when Amazon’s recommendations helpfully directed me to the Apple & Bee line. Adorable and seemingly efficient, and in even better materials than the Stephanie Johnson line. Decisions, decisions. I’ll probably eventually wind up owning at least one of each, but for now I will wait and see what Santa thinks. Perhaps he can poll Mrs. Claus as to which item better holds her array of on-the-go cosmetics selections.

Either way, I’m using this as an opportunity to overhaul some stuff. I think I’m switching back to mineral powder concealers for a while, after using a combo of the above-mentioned PF plus Smashbox HD for a couple years now. They just break me out more, and I’m less and less patient with that, plus I’m wanting to shift back to more natural ingredients. And I’m trying Diorshow Waterproof for my next mascara — I had a *horrid* experience with Blackout, but this seems better and I’ll review either way soon. And I guess I finally have an excuse to dig up the beet powder and rose petal powder I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs years ago, and look into making my own naturally pigmented lip stains… I will DEFINITELY update about that, regardless of whether it’s a success or failure (& I’m kinda anticipating the latter). Either way, I’m hoping I can continue to look at this as a silver lining for a new beginning, even though I’m still bummed to have lost all my fave staples. Watch my old case turn up after I shell out $100 for a new arsenal!

Update on lies and oils, respectively

OK, I know it’s been WAY too long since I last updated. Home ownership is busy-making! As is trying to work full time while running a side business and writing a book and generally making an effort to cook more and decorate and yada yada. ANYWAY. Hi, I’m back! So what has been going on with me, you wonder?

  • I tried out a new lip “stain” – must remain in quotes because it is SO NOT A REAL STAIN SEPHORA. So annoyed it’s making me all capsy (cf Fug Girls). To be fair, they actually have many products in their Lip Stain category that I don’t consider true stains, but I suppose I’m a bit of a purist (since my husband is such a pickypants about kissing me with any discernible product on my lips). Anyway – “Cream Lip Stain” – a LIE!!! It’s a long-lasting liquid lipstick like you get from the drugstore, guys. And it’s icky and hard to get off and I’m returning that shit.
  • I ordered more oils! After my post-wedding resolution to quit spending so goddamn much on skincare and beauty, I did a good job of not buying stuff for a while. But then I ran out of stuff and my face got sad and long story short, I invested in some new purchases. I got an oil sampler pack from Garden of Wisdom, and I also shelled out for a big bottle of their nice organic argan oil that my skin and hair both seem to love. Check out my little three-pack — I love being able to sample different types!

The trouble is, they don’t use the best packaging — I hate a nice unrefined cold-pressed organic oil going into a lipophilic plastic bottle, and I hate that the ink on the shitty labels gets all over my hands. So I’ve started being crazy-weird about how I unwrap them, only undoing the bit around the cap so I don’t touch the ink — and I need to hit Zenith to buy some new glass bottles so I can decant my argan.

Aaaanyway, as you can probably see, I got a combo of Baobab, Kukui and Tamanu oils. I’ve already tried Tamanu and it’s fine, but nothing amazing — didn’t break me out and seemed to moisturize well enough, but I prefer the smell (or lack thereof) and consistency of argan which I now have too much of. Working on trying Baobab now — it’s clear and yellow and semi-thick, and so far seems fine but not resplendent. Will update once I hit Kukui!

Holiday beauty bounty

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m a spoiled girl. My husband‘s entire family is tuned into my taste, and I took home a fascinating haul of fun products this year. In addition to receiving to bra clips and bejeweled makeup brushes, I got a gadget from my MIL that I’d never even HEARD of before — the InStyler! You sort of have to watch the videos to get how it works or even what it is.

But it’s awesome! Since I got a new haircut right before my trip, with much shorter layers that can occasionally be hard to tame, I’m looking forward to putting this sucker to good use. (However, apparently it can short out easily if you wrap the cord around it or just bonk it around too much, so you must treat it gently.)

My other neat beauty treat from an aunt and uncle was Sephora’s latest Lash Stash. This sucker had loads of formulations I’ve wanted to try out, including Hourglass Film Noir and Blinc Kiss Me. Another cool difference from prior Lash Stashes is that this kit contains both a coupon for a free full-size tube of your fave version, and a surprisingly great tarte eyelash curler.

Oooh, and not to forget, I also got a heat-protective glove so I stop burning myself while styling my hair. All in all, I feel quite lucky that I have some fun gifts to try out which will actually be good blog fodder too, heh heh. Look out for more in-depth reviews on all of these items soon!

YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara review

When my prior tube of mascara ran out, my sudden overwhelming urge to switch to gray instead of black lashes nudged me towards this much-hyped mascara. When my Sephora VIB coupon came around, I figured it was time to take the plunge.

Pros:
-The Sublime Grey color is nicely neutral without being too blue or brown of a grey, and is infused with just a bit of shimmer.
-It smells exactly like the Rose Petal doll of my childhood, which is lovely and nicer than the Hauschka or Aveda rose scented mascaras.
-Despite the bushy brush I’m able  to easily get to the roots of my lashes and thoroughly cover up the blond base.
-It’s fairly easy to remove, and if you smudge it’s easy to correct, but it doesn’t come off at the *first* hint of water. It takes a few seconds of warm water and a bit of friction to break through the outer layer and start removing it, so you’re safe in a normal drizzle.

Cons:
-It does smudge a bit, obviously more easily than waterproof options. I wouldn’t trust it in the summer heat — definitely not coming to Brazil with me in February.
-The grey color is actually a bit lighter than my taste — I’d prefer more of a true charcoal-y shade. This stuff works OK if I’m not doing a smokier or darker eye look, but it’s not bold enough for some of my holiday party looks.
-$30 per tube — not like I’ve never ever spent that before, but a bit ridiculous given how often mascara should be tossed.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised, but I do feel the need to still keep a black and/or waterproof formulation on hand. I doubt I’ll repurchase, but I’m glad I gave this a whirl.

How can we look “polished” on the go?

A friend’s recent Facebook comment cracked me up — she said on the first day of her attempt to dress a bit sleeker looking, she forgot to wear deodorant; this was proof to her that it was impossible for her to be “polished” no matter what she tried. I used to be much the same — i.e. a frizzy mass of imperfect skin, hair, makeup, and fashion. But I’ve found a lot of little “polished” tricks over the years.

The strongest example is with deodorant! During my Frazzled Summer Heat Wedding Gear-up Insanity I forgot deodorant approximately once per week, and keeping a stick in my car always made it melt, so I got a packet of DermaDoctor MedETate wipes. Even after that hectic season, I now always carry one with me and keep a couple in my desk at work.

And, now that I walk to work most days, and my hair sometimes loses its oomph or straight look while I work, I now have a crappy half-inch straightener (a relic from when I had bangs) in the bottom drawer of my desk. I’m also never found without my purse hook, which keeps my bag from drooping on the floor getting dirty or just looking sloppy.

In addition, I now carry a small cosmetics bag with every essential imaginable, so I can touch up anything that needs touching up on the go. (I don’t always use it, but the fact is that I COULD if I wanted to.) But I have this grandiose idea of the perfect interchangeable on-the-go kit, with little spots for mascara, tweezers, brow wax, you name it!

I’m a sucker for all kinds of products designed for gals on the go, like Trish McEvoy’s refillable pages, Too Faced’s Glamour 2 Go, and the above-pictured Dior Deluxe Travel Palette. I carry a little makeup-and-more bag that I keep stocked with pre-moistened glasses cleaning wipes, Similasan individually-packaged eye dropsHello Kitty Band-Aids, miniature Anastasia tweezers, a tiny Burt’s Bees comb, a combo nail file and emory board, my awesome O Hui compact, at least a couple retractable makeup brushes (including my über-fave Baby Buki),  a tiny sample mascara tube, hair ties, a sample perfume tube, tampons… all in my petite Coach makeup case which fits in my purse. Oh, and in the winter I’ll hit up a Whole Foods for a free sample of Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream, and carry that teensy tube around all season.

I’m curious to know if any other ladies out there have tricks to look more polished/together themselves — I doubt this post will get enough hits to really say, but I’d love to hear from you if you have any input! What’s your tip for staying smooth-looking even when life on the go leaves you frazzled?

DIY goals for 2011

The time is now! For several years, I’ve been wanting to make my own naturally-pigmented lip stains. I had always assumed beet powder was the only option I had, but a cup of Tazo Passion tea recently reminded me that, in addition to beets, there’s also hibiscus, red cabbage, saffron, and turmeric. (How did I come up with this list, you ask? By thinking of all the things that stain my hands in the kitchen!)

I switched to using lip stains instead of glosses, balms, or lipsticks way back in 2006 when I met my husband, because he couldn’t stand kissing a made-up mouth. I started a long EDS thread about it in which many others chimed in, and I blogged some updates here. The conclusion was and still is that Vincent Longo stains are best, largely because of the wand applicator. So I’ll be using empty wand applicator tubes designed for lip gloss when I make my own stains.

Since my main complaint about the VL ones is that they’re too dark for my coloring and can be slightly drying, I’ll be making mine in softer shades and including moisturizing ingredients (I’m thinking glycerine and honey). They may not work out, but I already have 75% of the components I need anyway, so it can’t hurt to try!

In addition to stains, I’m planning on making new oil blends for facial and body moisturizers, plus a facial cleansing oil; and a belly butter for my pregnant pal; and taking another stab at DIY deodorant since Aromacreme isn’t back yet.