Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are Your Makeup Brushes Breaking You Out?

You know how relaxing a nice soak is, but you might be surprised what a good bath can do for your brushes. As you use your brushes, your makeup mixes with the oils in your skin and accumulates on the bristles of the brush. This effects the way your brushes pick up and deposit color, eventually resulting in uneven application. This buildup also wears down your brushes, and can deposit back onto your makeup. Ever had an eyeshadow or powder that developed an impenetrable shiny crust on it, rendering it useless? That's from the oil in your skin coming into contact with the product, either from dirty brushes or your fingers. Last but not least, that brush buildup can actually contribute to breakouts.

Now are you ready to wash your brushes? One pro secret is a spray product called "Brush Off". This fluid sprays on to cleanse and disinfect your brushes, keeps natural bristles conditioned and dries almost instantly. It's perfect for getting that disco-ball glitter eyeshadow you wore Saturday night from creeping onto your eyes Monday morning.

Every few weeks your brushes need to take the deep plunge. Though you can buy "brush wash", I consider this a huge waste of money. Presuming you have good quality natural bristle brushes, you can treat them just like your own hair and use shampoo. (Most synthetic brushes are sturdier and you can use just about any soap to clean them.)

Almost any shampoo will work, but ones for volume, smoothing or deep moisturizing have ingredients that can leave a residue on the brush, so basic is better for this purpose. If in doubt, tear-free baby shampoo works great. Gently wash your brushes, rinsing so that the bristles fall naturally. Squeeze excess water from the brushes, and lay them on a towel to dry overnight.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A cleanser cleanses. A moisturizer moisturizes. A toner.....tones?

I have come to the opinion that toner is a completely skippable step, almost a scam. Most toners do little more than moisten the skin, which helps moisturizer penetrate better. However, you can get the same effect if you apply moisturizer when your skin is still damp from cleansing. Otherwise, the ingredients in toner are in such low concentration and on the skin for such a short period of time that, ultimately, they have no real effect. You probably get more benefit from the exfoliation of the cotton ball than from the toner itself.

A HUGE pet peeve of mine is when a beauty consultant claims that you need to use all of the products in their system in order for any of them to be effective. Try this: the next time someone at the makeup counter says that you have to have the toner in order for their moisturizer to be effective, or even worse, that you need toner to remove the residue that their cleanser leaves (if it's a cleanser worth buying, why would it leave you dirty?) say "I really don't want to use a toner, so I guess I'll try another line." See how quickly the salesperson changes their tune.

One exception to this is toners that offer treatment benefits normally found in products too harsh for some skin types. Ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid have great benefits but may cause extreme irritation on skin that is dry or sensitive. The toner I currently use has a 2% concentration of glycolic Acid (while an over-the-counter moisturizer may have up to 10%). The low concentration of acid in the toner allows me to reap the benefits without irritation.

If you're a product junkie like me, or if you just feel like you'd be missing a step, using a toner is probably not going to do any harm. But, if you're looking to shorten your routine or save some money, editing this step is something you're unlikely to miss. I promise, NO ONE will ever look at your face and say, "Did you stop toning?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Extra Lashes Hidden in Plain Sight!

We all know mascara can make the most of even the skimpiest lashes, but try this tip to discover lashes you may not even know you have!

First, raise your chin and look down into the mirror. Apply mascara to your top lashes, wiggling the brush slightly from left to right as you go. This works the mascara wand into your lashes, so you're more likely to coat each lash. Then, place the wand on the top side of your lashes (instead of coming from underneath them as you normally would) and twist the wand up toward your lid, as if you were curling your lashes back with a mini curling iron. Finish with another stroke from underneath (don't forget to wiggle).

Granted, this method takes a bit of practice, but once you discover those added lashes, it's hard to go back to doing it the old way.

Oh, and by the way, don't feel shy about using black mascara. Lashes are such a minuscule part of your overall face that almost everyone can get away with the little bit of extra color. The only time I ever use brown mascara is on someone with blond or red lashes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Don't get Snowburned! Winter Skin Tip #3

Just because you can't feel, or even see, the sun as much during the winter doesn't mean it's not there doing damage. Because snow can act as a reflector, projecting rays back up onto skin, "snowburn" can sneak up faster than you may realize. Always wear sunscreen under makeup, and if you're planning an outdoor activity use a water resistant formula and re-apply often. If you're worried about messing up your makeup, try a powder or a tinted moisturizer with SPF, which will add a hint of color back onto skin when you reapply. Last but not least, don't forget your lips- using a lip balm with SPF will protect skin from chapping and prevent burn and sun damage at the same time.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Faking it: Choosing the Correct Concealer

This post is prompted by a long standing pet peeve of mine. Countless times in the past, and just twice this month, I've seen makeup experts in beauty or fashion magazines give the advice that concealer should be a shade or two lighter than your natural skin tone. I don't believe in many rules as far as makeup goes, but matching your skin tone to your concealer is one I do subscribe to.

A basic rule of color is that very light shades highlight; they fool the eye into thinking that an object, or in this case an area of your face, is more prominent. Therefore, applying a concealer that is lighter than the skin around it is only going to make an area stand out. If you're using a concealer on an area that has dry or broken skin (such as under the eyes or on a blemish) a lighter concealer will make the uneven texture even more noticeable, and deep skin tones will actually look gray or ashy if a lighter color is applied.

Regardless of these facts, I still see this advice printed over and over. Instead, for the most flawless look, choose the shade that most closely matches your skin tone, or pick a palette that has two or more shades that you can blend together if you can't find one that matches your skin exactly.

Even when concealing under the eyes, a lighter shade will usually do more harm than good, making darkness look gray. The best tactic is not to go lighter but rather to choose a shade with a yellow tint, which will counterbalance dark blue circles.

A Quick Note on Application:

While most people apply concealer before they put on foundation, this actually is counterproductive, since most of the concealer will be wiped away as you put your foundation on. Instead, use your ring finger to lightly pat (not rub) the concealer on after you apply your foundation. Finish with a dusting of loose powder to set your look for longer wear.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Product Review:
Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

Since this is my first review, let me tell you: I am a product junkie. I can't think of the last time I bought the same cleanser twice in a row. I've tried a gazillion brands- from high end prestige (La Mer) to drug store oldies (Cetaphil) and rarely go back twice. Why? I guess I've never found a perfect 10.

My most recent purchase in the cleanser category was Philosophy's Purity Made Simple, which caught my eye after winning the venerable Reader's Choice Award from Allure Magazine. (Allure's annual Best of Beauty list is typically one of first 2 starting places I check out before buying a new product, the other being the Cosmetic Executive Women's- or CEW- Awards.) I should mention that this is the original formula, not the clear, high-foaming newbie.

I could have tried the product for $10 by picking up the travel size, but my retail background thriftiness just wouldn't let me waste money like that! After I checked the store's return policy (I am sometimes the victim of allergic reactions) I went the bulk route and bought the giant 24 oz. bottle for $40. While this might seem pricey, I'll point out that per ounce this makes it comparable to the pricier drugstore choices, and at the low end if you compare it to it's true competitors in the prestige brands.

Purity Made Simple is an odd little cleanser. I would classify it as a foaming lotion, however, it's important not to confuse foaming for lathering. You will not get any large sudsy bubbles using this cleanser; think more of a less cushy shaving cream consistency. This is the first time I've seen this formulation, which seems to be a hybrid of the typical lathering cleanser and the more gentle milky lotion formulas.

I have dry skin, the prescription for which is typically a cream or lotion cleanser. Later, I'll get more into this, but a good clue that your cleanser is too harsh is if your skin feels tight or stretched after you cleanse. The problem is finding a happy medium. I'll admit, I use some heavy duty stuff- the maximum cover makeup that I often use as a concealer says it's waterproof, it's often cleanser proof as well. Creams do a great job taking makeup off, but leave behind an oily residue that make me feel like I still need to wash. Lotions usually rinse cleaner, but often leave makeup behind. The reviews I read of Purity made me hopeful, and so far, I've not been let down.

Purity, despite it's disguise as a lotion, is made to be used with water. After a week of using it, I found that the best way to apply it was to wet my face first and then use about a nickle sized drop. I started out using much more, but now have it down to about a third (maybe even a quarter) of what I use when using most other lotion or cream cleansers. I noticed the first time I used it that it did indeed take all of my makeup off- mascara, shadow, even the foundation hiding in the creases of my nose! I also felt soft and conditioned after rinsing- none of the tightness that I generally experience when I use a water assisted cleanser. After using Purity for a couple of weeks, I must say, I'm quite impressed.

Out of 10, I'd have to rate this about an 8.5.

After beginning a prescription retinol regimen this past spring, I have realized that Purity is a tiny bit more drying than I'd originally thought, though if I had to guess I think it's likely due to the fact that Purity doesn't leave much residue behind. After my already-dry skin adjusted to the retinol, I found I was still having issues with dryness around my nose. After switching cleansers for review purposes, I found the dryness disappeared. When I switched back to the Purity, it popped up again. I still love Purity, and will continue using it, but thought those with extremely dry skin would benefit from this info. I also feel like I should point out that this is the least drying foaming formula I've ever tried, so unless you're inclined to switch to a non-lathering lotion, milk or cream cleanser, Purity is still your best option.

-A little goes a long way
-Removes regular eye makeup, full coverage makeup, etc...
-Leaves skin soft, not dry or tight.
-No greasy residue left after rinsing.
-Ease of use: Rinse off (I hate wasting tons of tissues or dirtying a washcloth every night)

-Yeah, so it's not the cheapest thing out there.
-It occasionally left traces of eye makeup behind (though not often) and didn't even budge waterproof mascara.
-The flip top isn't bad, but a pump would be better ::EDIT:: Pumps are available on larger sizes!
-Philosophy isn't widely available in stores (I bought mine at Sephora, and of course, anything is available if you have Internet access.)
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