"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy."
                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

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· Culture Notes: Raw
· Beauty Notes: Take A Bow
· Fashion Notes: New shoes, new shooOOooOoos...
· Desert Island: Skin
· Culture Notes: Excessive Bad Taste

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Culture Notes: Raw
by Dain

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9/27/2010 [0]

Beauty Notes: Take A Bow
by Dain

I really adore the makeup in the "Take A Bow" video. It's pared down but not quite naked, taking advantage of Rihanna's sharply cut features and the radiance of her skin. It's makeup designed to make the most out an her natural strengths, and is therefore impossible to replicate exactly. With my soft, petite features and considerably lighter skin tone, adapting this look to my face was a serious challenge, requiring no less than three trials to get it right.

Luckily for me, Dorothy and The Kindly One came to the rescue. My stash is relatively skimpy on neutrals, which wash me out terribly. It's almost bizarre for me to wear so many colors similar to each other, much less similar to my skin. Without their generosity, there wouldn't have been so many fine options for me to play around with.

Shown from roughly left to right: NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Deauville (later abandoned), Josie Maran Cream Blush in Sunrise, Benefit High Beam, NARS Sophia Single, Stila Latte Single, Korres Monoi Oil Bronzing Powder 01 Sunglow Light, Julie Hewitt Nude Noir, and Beauté Luminous Volume Lipgloss in Paramour

The base was most critical effect, because that creamy, matte radiance to Rihanna's skin is what pulls this look together. I made the initial mistake piling on the glow-enhancers over my already glowing skin, and ended up greasy under the camera's flash. I switched to the semi-matte finish of Make Up For Ever HD, over primer to ensure a smooth finish, abandoning the highlighter altogether. I still required a bit of the sun's warmth, but it was necessary to exercise restraint: even a very little bronzer looks heavily contrived. I concentrated the peachy Sunrise on the high, prominent area of my cheek bone, where it would mesh in synergy with bronzer: a more contoured effect than usual apple-of-the-cheeks application, for a little of that ruddiness that flushes below the surface of a natural tan. A generous dusting of Chanel Poudre Universelle, to mute all color and shine, while imparting a diffused glow under flash photography, finished off the base. At last, all preparations made, the Korres Bronzer. I kept the application light, primarily beneath the cheekbones, but diffusing onto the cheeks and temples for extra softness.

If this seems overly involved to you, it is. You need to layer products cleverly in order to replicate a complexion that isn't yours by right. There aren't any shortcuts—a considerable amount of makeup and technique goes into making artifice look natural—and it's never quite like the real thing. I do look as if I've spent a day at the beach, but I don't look like Rihanna.

Rihanna's eyes received a simple treatment: a peachy-bronze-gold cream shadow and false lashes, and perhaps a gentle taupe in the socket. I dismissed the smokiness along the lower lashline right away; you need larger features to pull that off. (I did skip concealer however.) Since I lack a crease, I had to create dimensions that weren't there and at the same time maintain a flat monotone all over the lid. The trick was, again, in layering: Benefit High Beam on the inner corner, blended out over the lid, NARS Sophia to line, thickening as it approached the outer corners, all of it blended together softly. Then, I packed on Stila Latte over the highlight and liner, to blunt their presence and recreate a single-shadow effect. A coat of mascara, softly defined brows, and that was all.

I'd normally consider these eyes the perfect backdrop for a bright red lip, as neutrals make me rather corpselike. I can't throw on a sheer nude gloss and go, so again, layering helped create more substance to pigments that would normally disappear into my skin. I blended a little foundation to mute the red in my lips, and applied Julie Hewitt Nude Noir, a mauve-toned nude with golden peach shimmer, with a lip brush. For that shellacked high shine, Beauté Paramour provided the final gloss.

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9/23/2010 [2]

Fashion Notes: New shoes, new shooOOooOoos...
by Dain

It was about time for something extravagant, anyway. I needed the perfect shoe to complement the stretchy black Vanessa Bruno black pants I found marked down for $75 at an outlet. The details are quite dissonant if you consider them individually—ultra-vampy RED pointed patent leather, the demure kitten heel (which usually looks dowdy to my eye so I doubt it's a trend that will pick up, but it's a moderating touch on ultra-vampy RED pointed patent leather), and that queer, elongated bow that is more quirky than cute—but the shoe as a whole is seamless in its design. An impulse buy, but when the right feeling strikes, best not to ignore it; they will be put to good use. Only those I picked up for the bargain languish, still pristine.

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9/20/2010 [2]

Desert Island: Skin
by Dain

My skin is pretty much the conventional definition of dry and sensitive: finely textured, thin and easily irritated, and sebum starved.

Overall, it's a pretty good deal. My skin needs to be coddled and swathed in layers of moisturizer. It doesn't, however, require any specific correction. Breakouts are rare, congestion is manageable, and thanks to a quirk of genetics, thus far it's held onto a rapid rate of regeneration. In fact, powerhouse actives are overkill, whatever benefits they provide not worth the incidental damage, and I'm much better served by gentle, high-quality basics. As my obsession with skincare has passed (now focused on Japanese makeup), it seems like the perfect opportunity to streamline. While I cannot be a minimalist here—I still love the indulgence of luxury skincare—I've managed to cut away much of excess in my formerly high-maintenance, intricate routine.

My current routine, all tried-and-true favorites.

As a rule, I avoid aggressive detergents, regardless of my skin's condition. Other than the satisfaction of some obscure, unconscious Puritanical conditioning, a lather won't do your skin any favors. This is not merely the bias of sensitive skin; if you're acne-prone, a harsh cleanser can actually stimulate oil production and, thanks to its alkaline pH, promote bacterial growth. A mild lotion cleanser, properly massaged into the skin, is actually more thorough than a lazy pass with bubbles.

Take your time with cleansing. Especially if you've got a lot of makeup on, the best approach is to break it up into a few steps. I'll take off my eye makeup with Bioderma Créaline H20 ($30), which dissolves even eyelash glue, and yet is so mild that the cotton wool is rougher on your skin. It's also nice to swipe over my skin after work, just to get the grime off. Then, I'll massage a generous amount of Trilogy Cleansing Cream ($37) onto dry skin, to dissolve all the makeup, then wet my hands and slowly emulsify it, before finally rinsing it off. It is not as time-consuming as my description suggests. With a cream cleanser, friction is key. You wouldn't wash your dishes with a detergent alone; you need a sponge. That second massage, with a little bit of water, is what provides that thorough, deep cleanse, and yet it doesn't damage your skin. I've long since abandoned all my foaming cleansers.

The bulk of my skincare is dedicated to moisturizing: not only is my skin dry, it's so thin there's virtually no barrier function. In summer, this poses no problem. My skin seems to suck up the humidity in the air. But in winter, the dehydration becomes so severe I have to layer three moisturizers just to keep up with the moisture loss. This partly accounts for the variety of products represented here, to cover a range of eventualities.

The first layer is a softener, a pure hydration step that saturates the skin with humectants, boosting the penetration of even the most basic cream. All softeners are much the same, so I've settled on the no-frills Hadalabo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Moisture Lotion ($14), as it is the most economical, not to mention fragrance-free.

If it's humid, I can follow with a drop or two of oil, but lipids alone are not enough to cut through my winter dehydration: I need a proper moisturizer. During the day, I use Avene Hydrance Optimale Riche SPF 20 ($20), as close as a sunscreen gets to a moisturizer: minimal fragrance and tackiness, which readily dissipates. With a PPD of 10 (Euro version), it serves as a good day cream. But the real firepower comes from Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum ($150). There are many reasons—all excellent—why I shouldn't favor it so much—prohibitively priced herbs, greenwashing bulljive, the worst service ever, the overpowering jasmine fragrance—but it's absolute magic on my skin—a product I hate to love. Before I came across Tata Harper, I'd have sworn myself blue that, regardless of price, all moisturizers perform much the same. Jaded though I am, I cannot argue with visible results: this stuff gives me baby skin. I don't think there's commendation higher than that. I also use her Restorative Eye Creme ($90), the richest formula she offers. While I'm not convinced of the necessity of eye creams, since I've got it, I might as well use it.

Believe it or not, this is not enough for my skin. It's thirsty, there has to be a final barrier to lock in the moisture, and slowly, slowly nourish my skin over many hours. In Kahina Serum ($90), an enriched argan blend, I've found my perfect oil. This is highly emollient, shea-butter-in-liquid-form-rich, not recommended for anyone who isn't truly dry. On days my skin is fractious and irritated, I stick to something more basic, the soothing shea butter blend of Phoenix Botanicals Sweet Birch Butter ($18), which doesn't overload my skin with actives.

Finally, Dr. Hauschka Lip Care Stick ($15) is still my favorite among lip balms. It softens as well as a thicker balm, but still elegantly textured beneath lipstick.

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9/16/2010 [2]

Culture Notes: Excessive Bad Taste
by Dain

Ok, so this is Lady-Gaga derivative (but what isn't, nowadays?). What's peculiar about 2NE1 is that for a genre known for overall shittiness is that three of them are actually good singers. But instead of stripping them down, which makes their talent obvious, it's pure distraction mode. The makeup, the fashion, the voices, the attitude (that girl is legally too young to drive), the plastic surgery: pointlessly, hyperactively overproduced. I can't tell whether it's bad or good. I kinda like these girls. They've got some personality. And it's deliberately downmarket, in the same way that Cover Girl or McDonalds is. Maybe it's because they look like they're having fun. And it's a bit of a wasteland out there.

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9/13/2010 [0]

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