Sunday, March 29, 2009

Need You Be Sulfate Free?

Green is the new black. It sometimes seems as if organic is a new status symbol, and with the launch of Loreal's new EverPure hair care line, now even the mass market is in the game. It's no surprise then that the debate over sulfates seems like it's nearing hysteria. Is your shampoo causing your hair to fall out, giving you cancer, or causing birth-defects in your unborn children? Will you even be able to have children if your husband's body wash has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in it?

Sulfates (specifically Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate) are ingredients commonly used as detergents, foaming agents or emulsifiers in shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, even toothpaste. The debate rages over claims that they cause everything from birth defects to cancer. How can you tell fact from fiction?

The fact is, where application to the skin is concerned, sulfates have been proven safe for everyone except those that are allergic to them. Like most contact allergies, sulfate allergies usually manifest as an itchy rash or hives, and will subside a few days after you've stopped using the offending product.

The truth is, most of the studies that I found supporting the argument that sulfates are dangerous involved administering unusually high concentrations of the sulfates and prolonging exposure. In one instance an animal study discovered that sulfates can cause cataracts. This result was produced using high levels of the ingredient, applying it repeatedly, and leaving it on indefinitely. Beauty and personal care products that contain sulfates have much lower concentrations than those tested, and when combined with a short exposure time (you put it on, then rinse it off) the danger is very limited.

There is some evidence that sulfates can deposit onto the hair shaft and do damage, but this is in no way a conclusion. The CIR panel (the common authority in reviewing all ingredients not reviewed by the FDA) has found both sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate safe for use in cosmetics. They both carry a low to moderate risk, according to CIR. Just to point it out, several widely available organic lines (such as Giovanni, Kiss My Face and Avalon Organics) have sulfate-free shampoos that carry just as high of a risk, due to the fact that they use natural ingredients like cocamidopropyl betadine, which has allergy, immunotoxicity, and contamination concerns.

What does this all mean? If you want to err on the safe side, and find a sulfate-free formula that you like just as much as your old product, then sure, switch. If, on the other hand, you're suffering for the loss of your old sudsy, you're probably not going to die young from using it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quick Tip: De-puff Eyes in a Jiffy!

Make any eye cream more effective by keeping it in the fridge! Under-eye puffiness is often the result of fluid retention. The cold helps to increase circulation, moving excess fluid out of the area.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Apply Believable Bronzer

If you can trust the runways, tan is in this season- then again, when is it not? According to Nars makeup artist Ayako, the look is “a gipsy girl who’s naturally weathered”. Though "naturally weathered" may not be the look most of us are going for, it's easy to take a cue from the runways and add a bit of color to your life!

I generally work with powder bronzers, which have a wider selection of colors and are easier to blend. If your skin tone is fair or light, choose a bronzer that has a slight rosy tone- this more closely mimics the glow of naturally tanned skin. For deeper and olive skin tones, stay with a bronzer that looks more brown than orange or peach, like the "natural" shade from Victoria's Secret (FYI, this is the same shade they used to call "Sunny Cheeks" in their old line). If your goal is a natural, believable tan you'll probably want to stay away from "illuminating" bronzers- they contain shimmer or sparkles that are a dead giveaway that your tan is faux.

Prep your skin as usual, applying any foundation or concealer before you bronze. Apply a dusting of loose powder before you apply the bronzer. Powders apply best over other powders, so this step will help ensure that you get smooth, streak free color from your bronzer.

Swirl your color onto a blush brush, then tap the brush lightly against the palm of your hand to knock off any excess color. Apply bronzer to the raised areas of your face; this is where the sun would naturally hit. Start with the apples of the cheeks, then bring the color up and over the bridge of your nose. Use what's left on the brush to lightly dust some color onto the center of your forehead, close to your hairline. Layer the color to get the depth you desire, then do a final blend by dusting a clean powder brush over the edges of your color.

As a finishing touch, add just a bit of bright pink blush to the apples of your cheeks; this mimics that little flush of pink that develops after a day in the sun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Product Review:
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner

Remember what Mom used to tell you about not judging a book by it's cover? Mario Badescu products don't come in frilly packages or fancy bottles. They are a bit unimpressive looking in their generic, slightly medicinal packaging. The ingredients are unapologetically simple and the old-school vibe reminds me more than a bit of my skin-care Alma matter, Merle Norman. I think this likeness is due in part to the stellar customer service and generous sampling that seems to be policy at Mario Badescu. Besides, if Martha Stewart uses it, it's got to be perfect, right?

After receiving a catalog and a ton of samples (see my post from March 4th) I decided to try Badescu's Glycolic Acid Toner. Glycolic Acid, typically derived from fruit sugars, is effective in reducing fine lines and uneven pigmentation (sun/age spots), and is used in concentrations up to 10% in over-the-counter products, and up to 70% in prescription facial peels administered by dermatologists. While I know my sensitive skin would never put up with a glycolic cream, the low level of acid in the toner (2%) paired with the alcohol free, aloe base made me hopeful this wouldn't be to harsh for my skin.

I noticed results the day after I started using this toner. My forehead looked as if it had been Botoxed- in a good way. My skin was completely smooth and glowing (something I usually have to fake with highlighter). I'm in my early 30's and have been using anti-aging skin care since my teens, so I don't have many lines, but I am very concerned with those that I can see. This product's instant gratification was wonderful! I did experience some mild irritation around my nose as my skin adjusted to the toner, similar to what you get when you have a cold and are constantly blowing your nose.

After having used this product for over 3 months, I'm still very pleased with it. When I began using it, I had a sunspot on my cheek that taunted me every time I looked in the mirror; I could even see it through my foundation. Though the spot is still there, I literally have to search for it now- even with bare skin.

At $18 for 8oz, this toner is an inexpensive option as compared to many other glycolic acid preparations. You can also purchase the toner in 16 and 32 ounce sizes, each being progressively cheaper per ounce. Mario Badescu does occasionally offers discounts, which is something you'll pretty much never see at a department store counter.

I'd rate this product a 9.75 out of 10, simply because nothing is perfect. It is by far the best toner I've ever used.

-gently exfoliates skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines
-evens out skin tone and reduces the appearance of dark spots
-leaves skin comfortable, not tight or dry
-prepares skin for better moisture penetration
-contains aloe to soothe skin
-contains no added fragrances, dyes or preservatives.

-slight irritation as skin adjusts to the acid (I used the toner 2x a day and, honestly, wasn't really bothered by the slight irritation. For those who have a more bothersome reaction I would suggest applying it just once daily for the first couple of weeks.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

IMHO: The New Guess Campaign

OK, I'm gonna say it. Am I the only one that thinks that the makeup in Guess's new campaign looks like the "don't" page from a makeup artist's training guide?

Guess is apparently bringing back the head-to-toe denim, big hair, and even the makeup of the 80's- straight out of a Robert Palmer video. Seriously. Add some gloss to the Guess model and you're there.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't believe in many rules when it comes to makeup. It's makeup, not aerospace engineering- it should be whatever you think is fun and pretty. If there is one rule, however, that I almost always stick to it's this: pick one feature and go with it! If you have strong eyes, go with a soft lip. Likewise, don't pile on the eye makeup if you're sporting dramatic lips. Otherwise, it's a bit like a 3 ring circus: you just don't know where to look!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eye Shadow Theory 101: Complimenting Your Eye Color

One of the most common things I'm asked as a makeup artist is, "what color eyeshadow should I wear?"

If you're most interested in emphasizing your eye color, there are certain shades that are best. Colors look brighter when placed next to their opposite, or complementary, color. This means that for blue eyes, orange tones are best. Translate this into makeup shades and you get brown, gold and copper shades. For green eyes, red is the complimentary color. If red eye shadow isn't your idea of wearable, think of eye shadow colors that contain the most red: pinks, purples and wines. Brown eyes are a bit more complex, since brown is a mixture of many colors. The common complimentary color is blue, which can also include grays and silvers.

Want to know more about color theory?

Check out a color wheel or try this little experiment. Get 2 pieces of the same yellow paper, a piece of purple paper and a piece of orange paper. Hold the yellow and orange paper together in one hand and the yellow and purple together in the other. Which yellow looks brighter? Even though they're the same color, the yellow will appear more vivid next to purple, it's complement.

Of course, this is a basic way of choosing colors, and I'm definitely not saying that if you have blue eyes you have to wear brown eye shadow. While color theory can tell us what shades will bring out particular eye colors, gone are the days where you're assigned a "season" that predetermines what 6 colors you must wear for the rest of your life. Makeup should be fun and creative; a way for you to express yourself and your mood. I've never found a makeup "rule" that can't be broken.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quick Tip: In a Pinch Eye Makeup Remover

If you have sensitive eyes, wear contacts, or just find yourself in a pinch, saline solution makes a great eye makeup remover. Use a cotton ball to remove everything, or dampen a Q-tip to correct mistakes. Saline dries quickly and doesn't leave any residue behind, so you can reapply makeup over it almost instantly- and since it's basically the same as your own tears, you never have to worry about irritation.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beauty Buzz Word: Free Radicals

Free Radicals are nasty little buggers that basically break down healthy cells. Environmental factors like pollution, automobile exhaust, and cigarette smoke can cause molecules to split and end up with unpaired electrons. This process, called oxidation, is responsible for everything from rust to the way an apple turns brown after being cut.

When a molecule has an unpaired electron, it becomes much like a drunken sorority girl looking for free beer- she wanders around until she finds the nearest stable cell, which she then attaches to in order to steal his electron. When the "boy" cell loses his electron, he becomes a free radical, and a chain reaction is started, which can eventually end in the destruction of the living cell. When skin cells are damaged or destroyed it results in wrinkles, dark spots and skin cancer.

Free radicals are thought to be neutralized by substances called antioxidants.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Which Beauty Buzz Words Have You Stumped?

Though I try to write in a way that is accessible to both makeup pros and everyday gals alike, it has come to my attention that I occasionally use terminology that is confusing to people that aren't in the biz. Usually, the only one willing to point these things out to me is my fiance, who has no problem admitting ignorance when it comes to cosmetics or skin care (if only he were able to do this more readily when relating to other matters...) In a series of coming posts, I'll try to demystify some of the words or phrases that may have you saying "huh?"

You can help me by leaving a comment with any words or descriptions you've read or heard, either here or elsewhere. They can be makeup related ("what the heck is my waterline?") or skincare related ("free radical says what?") If you're too embarrassed to post, click the email me button in the top right corner and I'll address your question anonymously. As teacher used to say, the only stupid question is the one you don't ask.

A Key to Color Correctors

If you've been foundation shopping lately, you may have noticed something strange next to your typical ivories, beiges and mochas. Little vials of yellow, lilac, rose, and the always shocking green can only mean one thing- color correctors are back on the menu for those looking to transform not-so-perfect skin.

If you're not sure if you need a color corrector, then you probably don't. These products are best for those with prevalent discoloration, such as those with extreme redness caused from rosacea. Though certain shades of correctors are made to simply enhance skin or add a glow, I'll stick to the tricky ones.

Yellow is best for balancing out overly rosy skin, whether natural or reactive- like a flush or slight sunburn. Those that are just a touch rosier than they'd like may enjoy some of the new yellow-toned powder formulations, which are less pigmented than cream correctors and therefore easier to blend, but you can also balance pink skin tones by simply choosing yellow toned (often called "golden" or "warm") foundation. Yellow tones are also used to brighten dark complexions without creating ashiness.

If you're more than just rosy, such as those afflicted with rosacea, broken capillaries, or severe acne, green might be just what you need. While it may seem intimidating, new primer based formulations (like the ones from Smashbox and Make Up For Ever) go on sheer, so they're much more forgiving than their ancestors. Use sparingly (if you apply this color to even toned areas it will appear green) and always follow with foundation and concealer.

Pink, Lilac and Mauve tones reduce sallowness (grayish yellow tones), and brighten olive skin tones. Most lines carry both a pink and a light purple tone- some call it lilac, some mauve. The pink correctors are more subtle, they're best for balancing and brightening olive toned complexions. The mauve/lilac tones are better suited for true sallowness more common to certain ethnicities.

Color correctors can be a godsend to those who have complexion issues that simple foundation and concealer won't cover, but it's important to remember that uniqueness is beautiful too- I would never tell somebody they need to "correct" anything that they don't see as a flaw. For some, however, it is nice to know that the option is there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Foundation Primer: Do You Really Need One?

In the last 10 years or so, a new product has emerged on the makeup scene. As "professional" lines like MAC, Make Up For Ever and Smashbox have gained popularity, foundation primer has become a much recommended addition to the home kit. The question is, what does it do, and do you really need it?

Foundation Primers are most commonly gel-like potions designed to be applied before you put on your face makeup, as the name would imply. They claim rather vaguely to prep your face for a perfect, glowing finish. Depending on the brand, you'll see claims of velvety smoothness, reduction of the appearance of pores, fine lines, even scars. They say makeup glides on better and will stay on better. Despite all the varying claims, at their core, all foundation primers are pretty much the same. Sad, considering they can be priced anywhere from about $8.00 to $60.00

Primers are generally composed of a blend of silicone derivatives. Those most commonly used are Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Dimethicone Crosspolymer. Used as emollients, they create a barrier to help hold moisture in the skin. This barrier is also water resistant, and imparts a matte look to the skin- great for those with oily skin whose makeup melts off midday. Because of the chemical composition of these ingredients, they sit on top of the skin, and can act as a temporary "filler" to smooth out fine lines, large pores, even things like acne scarring.

Some primers employ light reflecting ingredients that act as tiny mirrors, bouncing light away from problem areas. You may have even seen the newest incarnation in the primer market- primers that are tinted with odd colors like green, yellow or violet. These products are certainly not a new idea, they're just more user-friendly versions of the color correctors that pros have been using for years to reduce redness or add tone to overly sallow or pallid complexions. (My next post will fill you in on color correctors, so stay tuned!)

So, primers do much of what they claim. The thing you need to know is that you may already be using a product that does the same thing. Many serums and anti-aging products have the same silicone-based ingredients that primers do; they too fill in problem spots like large pores and fine lines. Using a primer over these products would not only be unnecessary, but it could actually cause your makeup to "roll". If you've ever put your makeup on and had it literally ball up as you apply (or thought your skin was peeling off, but saw no flakiness when you washed your face) you may have experienced silicone overdose.

Likewise, most primers that promote anti-aging benefits have the same basic antioxidants that any good treatment serum or moisturizer would, like retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Some do have higher-end botanicals, moisturizers or anti-aging ingredients, but chances are, if you're willing to shell out an extra $50 for primer, you're probably already using skin care treatments that contain them.

If you're plagued by large pores, oily skin or need a color-correcting product, primers can be useful, provided you're not using a skin care product that contains the same ingredients. If you're thinking of a primer for it's anti-aging properties, check out a treatment serum that contains one of the silicone-based ingredients listed above; chances are they'll have a higher concentration of the anti-aging ingredient and you'll be much more likely to notice results.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mario Badescu Skincare Samples

Let's admit it: we all love free samples. Anything is cuter in miniature, and the idea of trying something before shelling out big cash is a comfort to many of us. I've always believed that a generous sampling program is the sign of a company that truly believes in its products. With a client list that includes stars from Natalie Portman to P. Diddy, Mario Badescu probably doesn't need to boost their business with stellar customer service and one of the best sampling programs around, yet they do.

After filling out a survey on the website, I received an e-mail from the company offering to send me samples of some of their recommended products. After a few days, I received an envelope which contained 5 0r 6 generously-sized product samples, customized for my skin type and concerns.

I was eager to try the samples, but was concerned that one of the products they'd sent seemed to be designed for oily skin (mine is quite dry). When I called the customer service line for additional information on the product, the specialist asked me a few questions about my concerns and gave me the information I was looking for. Then, without me even hinting at such a thing, she told me she was going to send me a few more items she thought would be good for me. All of this without a single sales pitch or a bit of pressure to buy.

I have to say, I found this approach refreshing. This company obviously has the confidence to rely on the quality of its products to sell themselves, rather than employing high-pressure sales tactics often seen at specialty and department stores. With a wide product selection and knowledgeable sales specialists, if you're looking for a new skincare product, give Mario Badescu a try!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Eyelash Curlers: the Peril of Pretty

When is the worst time for a ladybug to unexpectedly land on your hand? When that hand is holding an eyelash curler that is, at that very moment, clamping down on your eyelashes. Fortunately, I didn't pull out all of my lashes.

Do you need to risk such grievous injuries? Probably not. Unless your lashes are extremely long or stick straight out, an eyelash curler will probably only make a minuscule difference in the look of your eyes, and if you're not careful, it can do more harm than good. If you truly feel the urge to curl, here's some pointers!

First, don't spend lots of money on a curler. I have several eyelash curlers, including the cult favorite, award winning one by Shu Uemura. At $20, the company claims it's ergonomically designed, precisely measured, and balanced to apply the optimal amount of pressure for the perfect curl. All of this science is apparently lost on my lashes, because my $4 Revlon curler performs identically. Were it not for the slight difference in the density of the curler's pad, and the fact that Shu Uemura embosses it's name on their product, I doubt even Mr. Uemura himself could tell the difference.

Armed with your tool, lash curling is easy, provided you take your time in a well-lit (preferably ladybug free) room. Always curl your lashes when they are 100% clean; mascara makes the lashes brittle and more prone to breaking from the pressure of the curler. Additionally, curling over a fresh coat of mascara is likely to press lashes together, creating clumps.

Resting the eyelash curler against your lid, place your lashes between the pad and the top bar so that your top lashes hit the top bar when your eye is open. Blink a few times; this helps ensure that all of your lashes make it into the curler. Squeeze slowly and gently, curling in two or three passes, one near the root of the lash, another in the center of the lash then finally near the tips of the lashes, if necessary. Whether you choose to curl with your eye open or closed is a personal preference; I find it easier to keep them open.

Press for about 10 seconds, but not as hard as the curler will allow you to- too much pressure will result in an obvious crimp instead of a soft bend. If you find your lashes don't easily accept a curl, try warming your eyelash curler with a hair dryer for just a few seconds, and ALWAYS feel the metal parts of the eyelash curler before you put it near your eye! When you finish curling, top with your usual mascara, which will act as a fixative to help hold the curl.
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