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!

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?

Chicken skin begone!

Look Ma, no bumps!In recent years, I’ve started to notice keratosis pilaris on my upper arms, and a teensy bit on my tush and the backs of my thighs. The latter two don’t matter AS much, since my hubby thinks my skin is smooth is butter (and it IS compared to his). But I really wanted to eradicate the arm stuff before my wedding!

For years I’ve used the blemish-clearing formulation of  St. Ives Apricot Scrub as a body scrub, in conjunction with a foaming shower gel and waffle scrub gloves and some DIY skin oil immediately after. That quadruple-combo usually helped, but only if I was REALLY regular with scrubbing and moisturizing, which I generally am not.

So I bought Diana Yvonne Lactic Acid 10% gel and Fruit Acid gel 15% combo, plus KP Duty by DermaDoctor and Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads.

Combining the above-mentioned products really did the trick. I eased in, using part skin oil and part one of the gels, and I would kind of try to homogenize them in my hands first and then apply. I would sometimes use straight KP, sometimes mix KP and a gel, sometimes wipe arms down w/ pad when I couldn’t shower. It all really helped!

My arms were lovely and bump-free for the big day, and not nearly as discolored/blotchy as the KP used to make them look. The Diana Yvonne products were fab — not chock full of propylene glycol like so many other AHA/BHA formulas. I now just do a little bit of any one of the above when I think of it or notice the stuff coming back!

If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t bother with the KP Duty. Pretty pricey and kind of stinky. I’ll use it now that I have it, but the Diana Yvonne was better bang for my buck.

Freebie Fest, Part 2

Wow — Sephora’s recent VIB Swag Bag was quite the freebie for me. Many of the items included are things I’ll actually use*,  which is rare for me with freebies. There was even a replacement for an existing product of mine! It was nice not to have to spend the $50 minimum for free shipping online, too — my local store often runs out of bonuses way early, but not this time.

PLUS, all my wedding skincare remedies qualified me for a free Skincare Challenge full-size product, and they finally had something I wanted — and I’ve been wanting to switch to a different moisturizer anyway as of late. Never seen a philosophy Skincare Challenge reward on their site before, so this was a pleasant surprise.

And lastly, I still have a crazy high number of points to redeem, so I’m due for another freebie soon! But none of the 500-point bonuses have appealed to me lately. Maybe I’ll just wind up stocking up on a zillion different $100-point perks instead…

*Like Phytodefrisant, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, Urban Decay Stardust shadow in a purpley color, and a replacement for my trial-size Smashbox Photo-Op Under Eye Brightener that I like to carry in my purse for loooong days (like this one). Quite the bonus bag!

The post-marital fuglies

Well, the big day has finally come and gone! The day was lovely, but now it’s time to get ugly. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t view marriage as an excuse to completely let myself go or anything. But this wedding has involved an INSANE amount of primping and stress and spending on our parts, and my new husband and I will both be pleased to relax a bit now that the show is over. (Though we DID both get spa treatments on our honeymoon!)

Non-beauty inevitabilities that I officially welcome back into my life:

Yellow teeth
— those Crest 3D WhiteStrips HURT! And my teeth look just fine all normal-colored, thank you very much.
Dry cuticles and unkempt nails — Sometimes you gotta be lazy!
Acne AND bacne — thanks for holding out for so long, epidermis! You can even throw some KP my way if you must.
Tan lines — gone are the days of swaddling myself in a goddamn cashmere wool wrap in 96 degree weather just to keep my back and shoulders line-free! OK, I still wear it sometimes as it’s great sunscreen and looks lovely — but I no longer feel OBLIGATED to wear it rain or shine.
Mosquito bites — I’m amazed you guys didn’t cover me in pink welts before the big day. Thanks, buddies! Have at it. I will tackle you with prescription-strength steroid cream and continue to catch you easily mid-flight.

Things I now bid adieu to for the foreseeable future:

Bustiers/corsets with boning — GOD PLEASE THE HORROR. I still have a scar from where it poked at me all night, from BEFORE the wedding! Boning is bullshit.
Spanx — I can finally both digest and breathe, to say nothing of going to the bathroom in a reasonable time frame.
Heels — OW.  At 5’11” I’m done with that discomfort for a WHILE. (Though I’ll probably dye and keep my 2.5″ Jimmy Choo and/or Angela Nuran wedding heels, and re-wear them eventually!) But as of right now, I can’t feel the outer edge of my damn big toes because of my wedding-day footwear worn for a mere 2 hours. *&^@$@#! heels!
Manis/pedis — I gotta start saving my money again, and plus, I kind of miss my OWN neglected polish shades! And no more dremel for a while. Nails on a chalkboard. And no more soaking my fingers in acetone for ages to get the tough gel polish off.
Makeup artists — I love being pampered and all, and Carina and Swink both did an amazing job — I just kind of miss looking like ME. I normally never do foundation or blush, my eye makeup never looks as perfect as theirs, and I’m just *used to* my own shades and formulations. Plus it took like a year to get my false lashes off, and a few real ones came with each cluster. QQ Owie!

Foundation woes

Ages ago, I had tracked down the Smashbox Complexion Perfection Kit at Nordstrom, which contained an HD-happy foundation in “fair”. Silly, silly me — I never really tried the stuff out, like, full-on foundation style, until this past weekend. And shockingly, like EVERY OTHER FOUNDATION OUT THERE*, it looks hideous and orange and dark on me.


So after applying pancake “Fair” colored orange over my primer on Saturday, I decided to swing by Sephora for an upgrade. Guess what? Too effing busy to help me. Awesome. (Normally I can help myself in a store like that, but this is the ONE area of makeup where I really need someone else’s expertise!) So the gal told me to schedule an official consultation so they would have time set aside for me. But since they were too busy to even do THAT, and since there are other store locations that would be more convenient anyway, I figured I’d hit the Downtown shop for said assistance.

Side note: did you know they’ve now made it completely impossible to actually call any retail Sephora location? Yeah, you can leave a voicemail for the store manager and pray s/he’ll get back to you, but that’s it. Nice CS, guys!

Anywho — I *think* I’ll wind up going with Make Up For Ever’s Invisible Coverage HD foundation. There appear to be a zillion shades, reviews plus product description suggest it looks good in pics, and it seems widely available. But DAMN if it isn’t expensive! I hope it’s worth the dough. And I hope the negative reviews are wrong, yikes!

I’m off to Sephora on my lunch break today to hopefully get some hands-on help, or at the very least schedule a consultation time. Since my trial run with Carina is this Saturday, I really wanted to have the shade picked out so I could bring it along, since I’d rather use stuff I’ve tried out. Guess I’ll a) return to the office with a rainbow of beige streaks along my jawline, heh, and b) wear foundation every day this week to work so I can try the stuff out. This will be interesting, to say the least!

* All foundation shades look orange and dark on me, except the ones that err in a vastly different overkill direction. My very first ever foundation that my mom got me was a MAC heavy coverage one in a color called Alabaster, which was FREAKY pale and made me look scary dead which is hard to do. And my first concealer, from this crappy shop no longer in existence at Southcenter Mall, was pink-toned like my skin but way too dark for me, so it just made me look hung over when I wore it under my eyes. At twelve years old. Why is it SO HARD to find a good shade for pale pink-toned skin? Ack!

Straight talk

I went to a new hairdresser recently, because my pre-wedding life has gotten to a point where everything must be reliably transacted over email or not at all. Sarah taught me lots of good tricks, and gave me a smashing flat-iron for my trim-but-not-cut, since she insisted I needed the length for my wedding style.

But I think the MOST interesting thing I learned was how to flat-iron my hair better. She insisted that, instead of doing it in layers, I buy up a bunch of little claw clips, separate into many sections, and then straighten each one. MAN, does this tip work! I just got cheapo Scunci clippy thingies with silicone to help them hold, and it’s a much better process now. I will try and update this post with a pic next time I’m all Björked out. And at my next cut with her, she’s going to teach me better tricks for wearing my hair wavy.

Glad she let me keep all my extra length, and that the prenatal vitamins I’ve been sporadically popping seem to be working — my hair is getting quite long! Just in time for my trial run with Carina next weekend. Fingers crossed!

OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Nail Lacquer

God, even the title is a mouthful! I just got a manicure with this special new-ish nail system, because I wanted to test-drive a wedding manicure that would be longer-lasting than typical polish, since I’m quite adept at ruining manicures in record time. When browsing the website at Frenchy’s, I saw this ‘soak-off gel nail’ thing that was touted as a great option for special occasions, busy professionals who didn’t want to schedule regular manicures, or people going on extended vacations. And I thought that sounded like just the right kind of manicure!

The system worked like most gel nails, I guess, except that after the base coat, two gel polish coats were applied and UV-hardened. Problem is, the color (I went with “Aphrodite’s Pink Night”) is quite sheer and went on paler than I’d pictured, so it’s much subtler than I’d hoped and doesn’t conceal if I have gunk in my nails. (Gross, I know, but part of the beauty of a manicure is making your hands look great even when they’re not, right?) OPI’s description seems to indicate this is by design.

I’m also told I can’t put polish on top of the gel lacquer like I could with acrylics or regular gel nails (as I understand them). But then this Elle link seems to indicate you CAN put polish on! And when I asked about fills/maintenance, they said it was pretty much the full $60 no matter what, but maybe they could do a same-color fill for $45. Hrm.

All in all, I think this service convinced me to give regular gel nails a try for the wedding. I’ve only had acrylics once before and hated them, but so far I’m loving my gel hybrid thingies. My nails are still short enough to be able to type and do everything else I do (I hate the look and feel of long nails). We’ll see how they hold up after a week or so, but if I still like them come July then I’m getting gels for the big day!

Bridal beauty

So last weekend, I volunteered myself as a wedding cake baker as well as a wedding makeup artist. This was for a very close friend’s lower-key wedding, but boy, it was still a surprisingly laborious labor of love! It really made me realize how being a makeup artist is totally different than being a savant regarding one’s own cosmetics applications. In the end, she was a beautiful blushing bride, but I think it had more to do with her naturally gorgeous features than with my touches!

I couldn’t get over how many of my pal’s features just behaved, well, differently than mine. When I was applying her eye shadow, the actual shape of her eyeballs kept throwing me off. Sounds weird, but it really did! And she required a much lighter touch than my usual makeup, which I knew she would, but it was still hard for me to gauge. (I was mostly using a Smashbox eye shadow trio in brown hues that I had gotten as a birthday freebie.)

I also couldn’t figure out how to make NARS Albatross work on her. I struggle with making it highlight my own skin properly, as I find it can cling weirdly and make me look overly gold. But magically, even though this stuff was super-pale gold, it somehow made her look darker and, like, inappropriately tanned and dark-circled! I can’t wrap my head around it, but we both decided it didn’t look right and just took it off. (Thank goodness I had thought to bring some Sephora makeup remover pads for easy on-the-fly decisions like this!)

Lastly, when I used my favorite shade of nude tokidoki lip stain on her, it just looked completely different, and the shape of her lips was so distinct from mine. The defined line that I tend to draw around my cupid’s bow looked awful on her, and I couldn’t figure out how to tell her to purse/pucker/flatten/pout her lips for an ideal application on top or bottom. We eventually got it working, but not for lack of effort!

All in all, I have vastly more respect for the challenges that makeup artists face now — it definitely is a trickier art than just working with the face you see in the mirror every day. Minute differences in people’s bone structure, fleshy bits, etc. really change the canvas, so to speak! It makes me eager to schedule my wedding trial run so I can put my mind at ease about how my makeup artist will handle my own face’s inevitable quirks… time to schedule that bachelorette shindig, I guess!

Gift With Purchase Extravaganza

As I recently whined on my Twitter Feed, Nordstrom Beauty announced a Smashbox gift with $50 purchase ONE DAY after I had made a $49 Smashbox purchase. (In case you’re wondering, I got the Complexion Perfection Kit to try out as wedding makeup — it’s out of stock in my shade at every other vendor.)

But I cried to their Customer Service people online, and they happily shipped me the gift, separately, for free, no questions asked! (Okay, a few questions like “what was your order number” and “what is your shipping address” — so no annoying questions asked.)

And THEN I saw on Smashbox’s site that they have crazy good Let’s Do Lunch deals twice a week, in which you get a free gift for buying ANYTHING during a certain time period, no minimum purchase required, and free shipping. WTF?! Why aren’t all vendors that awesome? So I stocked up on brush cleaner (which I’ve been needing anyway) and… got a free duo lip gloss, IN ADDITION to a sample of the tinted moisturizer that I ALSO wanted to try out as wedding makeup.

AND THEEEEENN I got one of them automated Sephora emails telling me a product was back in stock — and it was the new TheBalm Lip Stain I’ve been wanting to try out (also as wedding makeup. Sensing a theme here?), which had been out in the color I wanted. And I discovered that ZOMG I now qualify for my first-ever 500 point bonus gift there (currently a Tarte giftapalooza with gloss, 2 mascaras, eyeliner, primer, etc. etc.). Kinda terrifying that I’ve spent enough cumulatively to qualify, but whatevs. And they ALSO have a bunch of samples that I’m totally into right now. SO I think I’m gonna order my wedding lip stuff and stock up on the big freebie there too.

I think, so far this month, I may actually receive more in free product than actual monetary purchases. Guess the entire cosmetics industry figured out it was almost my birthday or something! ^_^