If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.
Also, check out the blogsale.
Into The Gloss
Grain de Musc
Drivel About Frivol The Selfish Seamstress
Bois de Jasmin Glossed In Translation
Jak and Jil
Worship at the House of Blues
I Smell Therefore I Am
The Natural Haven
Moving Image Source
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Colin's Beauty Pages
Barney's jewelry department
loodie loodie loodie
The Straight Dope
Sea of Shoes
London Makeup Girl
Sakecat's Scent Project
Tom & Lorenzo: Mad Style
Beauty and the Bullshit
La Garçonne Flame Warriors Everyday Beauty
Fashion Gone Rogue
Now Smell This
A Fevered Dictation
After writing Second Coming, I came to realize that I've yet to find the perfect undereye concealer. Here is a brief review of what I've currently got:
When I first purchased Clé de Peau ($75), before the packaging (and sneakily, the formula) was altered, this was the best concealer money could buy. I got it for the same reason everyone else did, because of the raves. Developed under the exacting eye of Stephane Marais (the original creative director), the formula hit a number of important points: a healthy dose of titanium dioxide for a brightening effect, decent opacity for all but the most serious discoloration, and above all, a smooth-but-dry texture that blended like a dream, didn't migrate, and yet required no powdering afterwards. It was expensive, but it was great and you didn't need much; the first stick kept going for a full three years. I bought another. It was different, somehow. You couldn't build coverage without it going cakey, yet it had so much slip it would settle into fine lines within minutes after application. Several people sniffed a rat. Behind our backs Shiseido had cheapened the formula then had had the effrontery to raise the price.
Initially, Benefit Boi-ing! ($18) promised to be an improvement. The formula, though very standard, was less cakey than Clé de Peau, and though a bit sheer, it had a hint of milky peach that canceled discoloration better. The price was gentle. Within a few hours, however, it would disappear. I would have to keep looking.
Next, I picked up Laura Mercier Secret Concealer ($22), during a phase when I came to appreciate Mercier's meticulous attention to detail and naturalistic finishes. Quite creamy, almost buttery, the texture is much more pleasant for under the eyes, without the cakiness of Clé de Peau or Benefit Boi-ing!. It's a unique product, not really a concealer, in the sense of covering discoloration under a blanket of pigment. Instead, it behaves more like a corrector, like a concentrated version of YSL Touche Eclat. My shade, #1, has a strong milky peach undertone; the other shades pick up undertones appropriate to an impressive array of skin tones. You apply it exactly on the discoloration itself (with a brush, recommends Laura Mercier), then pat-pat-pat until the edges disappear into the skin. The pot was tiny, but you needed so little, it felt quite cost-effective to me. Perfect! Except... after a month or two of use, I had developed some serious milia, even on the lid. Sadly, I isolated the culprit: it was definitely Secret Concealer and it was definitely the mineral oil.
In a bout of extravagance with Anne, I purchased Guerlain's 2, Place Vendôme palette and the Precious Light Rejuvenating Illuminator ($48). It's a highlighting pen, milky peach-pink, akin to YSL Touche Eclat, but a bit more pigmented, more expensive. Already a purchase tinged with regret (I knew 01 was a perfect match, but I allowed the SA to sway me into getting 00, which she claimed was "even more brightening"), I just don't think this product is worth the expense. It's a tiny amount of product, 0.005 oz, and unlike Clé de Peau, it's used up quickly, and unlike Laura Mercier Secret Concealer, it's quite sheer for correcting. Plus, I'm not a fan of brush-type concealers. They're quick to use, but don't offer a lot of control when it comes to portioning the product.
An Asia-exclusive, Estée Lauder CyberWhite EX Extra Brightening Concealer SPF35/PA++ (~$35) is almost perfect. It blends well without caking or creasing, brightens well from titanium dioxide, quite close to the original Clé de Peau, all without mineral oil. For the price, the amount of product is quite stingy, but at least it's not as bad as Guerlain. The problem? It's not sold in the US, of course.
I found Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer ($45) in SX05 once I returned home. It's a nice product; creamy, extremely pigmented, generous if you use it solely as an undereye concealer. But it is far too yellow for me, as you may be able to see in the photograph; that milky peach is clearly a better option for eliminating discoloration. Plus, it has mineral oil.
What undereye concealers have you tried? I'd love any suggestions. My issues with mineral oil exclude me from most suggestions, including Bobbi Brown and Graftobian. The ideal concealer should be creamy, with a hint of peach (not yellow); high coverage isn't necessary, as long as it's not too sheer.
A child's moral education begins the day he learns his parents are fallible. However trivial, even commonplace, the event may be, whether it happens at five or twenty, its impact nevertheless carries the same enormity: the world is not as it should be. It is at this precise moment that consciousness, one that carries a self-reflective ego, is born, for the rest of life often at war with the conscience that we've carried within us since birth (a nine year old may understand how stealing is wrong, but would not appreciate the debate over fair versus free trade). In the case of the Karamazov brothers, this disillusionment is rather more extreme.
"We in our green youth have to settle the eternal questions first of all," declares Ivan to Alyosha, as they sit down to discuss the insufficiency of faith. Serving as the mouthpiece for Dostoevsky's own youthful dalliance with atheism, Ivan bases his bitter polemic aptly enough on the suffering of innocent children. To drive his point home, he recites his poem, in which the Grand Inquisitor condemns Christ for burdening mankind with free will, the most celebrated passage in The Brothers Karamazov. As D.H. Lawrence so baldly described it, "the inadequacy of Jesus lies in the fact that Christianity is too difficult for men, the vast mass of men".
By his own admission, human life is more than a question of logic:
Even as his mind rejects it, he loves the world, with all his soul. We must remember, too, that Ivan is twenty-three years old, without much intimacy to color his experience. Dostoevsky does not offer a point-by-point refutation of Ivan's "irrefutable" atheism, for the simple fact that the human experience is greater than reason alone. The lessons universal to mankind—that the world is unjust but beautiful too, that people are imperfect but we love them anyway, that we must not make too much of ourselves, but instead strive to be better human beings, that contentment arises from humility and compassion—can only be taught by experience. Ivan demands that the world meet his expectations; it never occurs to him that his intellect places him in a position to understand others better than they can understand him, and that his heart is great enough to do so.
Hyaluronic acid, also known as sodium hyaluronate, and occasionally as hyaluronate or hyalorun, is the rare ingredient that benefits universally, with little or no side effects. The molecule soaks up water like a sponge. Applied topically, it cannot penetrate deeper into the dermis, where hyaluronic acid plays a more significant role (like collagen, its concentration diminishes with age). Still, even at the surface, we all benefit from a boost of moisture. While you can't quite consider dehydration separately from sebum imbalance—one often triggers the other—at the same time, dehydration can afflict any skin type. It goes hand in hand with dry skin, which loses moisture readily, but is peculiarly baffling on oilier skin, where dehydration aggravates shine, congestion, and sensitivity.
At the microscopic level, your skin is composed of billions of overlapping scales, flat and dehydrated and keratinized, many layers thick, rather like millefeuille. The epidermis functions nicely as a barrier, and yet it is not a seamless, uniform surface that's absolutely impenetrable. To fill in the minute cracks, through which pathogens can invade, the skin forms an emulsion of sweat and sebum known as the acid mantle. Though the acid mantle doesn't sound glamourous, one of its primary functions, to prevent moisture loss, is what every moisturizer is designed to mimic. Some dehydration is a natural consequence of evaporation, but in these days of modern hygiene, we interfere with the skin's natural processes. Even hot water strips the acid mantle, much less a highly alkali surfactant, which leaves your skin feeling "squeaky clean", i.e. bereft of all moisture, all sebum, all dirt, all makeup, everything good and bad. When dehydration becomes chronic, nothing works properly. Moisturizers will sit on the surface, a greasy slime that refuses to absorb. Dead skin cells will build up into flakes and dullness, or, in the presence of oil, form blocked pores. Dehydrated skin also tends to be sensitive, lacking the resilience to recover from damage (and remember, aging is fundamentally the accumulation of damage), and yet, stupidly unresponsive to treatments, because without water, active ingredients don't perform well. Since we cannot give up washing altogether, we must reintroduce, artificially, moisture back into our skin.
How to apply softener properly: pat, pat, pat for maximum absorption.
This is not a toner, don't swipe with a cotton pad.
There are other humectants (molecules that attract water)—glycerin, butylene glycol, prolyene glycol, xlyitol, malitol, sodium PCA—but none are as hygroscopic as hyaluronic acid. EDIT: According to Colin's Beauty Pages: "I have yet to see a compelling demonstration that hyaluronic acid has any real benefits over glycerin for the end user." This sounds fine to me; I only know what I know as a consumer, so it seems likely that in spite of my buying into the hype over hyaluronic acid, they are comparable in efficacy. I will say I don't care for the sticky texture of glycerin.) Applied topically, hyaluronic acid draws moisture deeper into the epidermis. Sometimes it's featured in a moisturizer, where it enhances absorption, sometimes even lending a plumping effect. But its benefits are maximized in a softener, which is essentially a hyaluronic-acid solution, first developed by Shiseido and marketed as Eudermine. Its consistency may resemble a toner, but more accurately, a softener is a pre-moisturizer, to boost hydration. It saturates the skin with hyaluronic acid, over which you may layer, in Asian skincare parlance, an emulsion. The richness of the emulsion depends entirely on your skin type; very oily skin, especially in a humid climate, may require no moisturizer at all, whereas on my dry skin, I even layer an oil on top of the emulsion. If dehydration is severe, then a softener alone may be inadequate, and you may want to add a serum, like SK II Facial Treatment Repair C ($160) or Malin + Goetz Replenishing Face Serum ($68), for extra hyaluronic acid, or augment with the hydration with a little gentle exfoliation, since it's more difficult for skincare to penetrate thicker skin. Keep in mind that it will take some time, a few weeks at least, before you'll see dehydration lifting away, because the top layers may be too damaged to salvage.
The main drawback to hyaluronic acid is its texture; it can be quite sticky. And while it is a common ingredient, and not a very expensive one, Asian brands rely so heavily on hyaluronic acid that the Western market seems void of viable, economical options. A softener like Guerlain Super Aqua Lotion ($48) is decidedly a luxury purchase; in Asia, softeners and hyaluronic-acid serums are easy to find at the $10-20 range. Also, though hyaluronic acid will not harm any one's skin (I believe?), its effects are not particularly dramatic. If you're only slightly dehydrated, you'll notice an improvement; if dehydration is more severe, often you need to augment other ingredients, to calm the attendant symptoms.
I'll always take a gamble with my lashes; they're too feeble that it hardly matters. I've had extensions, perms, and conditioning treatments, so it was only a matter of time before I attempted a prostaglandin growth serum.
Some considerable controversy surrounds lash growth serums. The longterm side effects of prostaglandins—at present, there is some complaint about irritation and change in iris color—are unknown. A formula without this problematic ingredient, such as L'Oréal's, does not stimulate growth but merely conditions the lash. Results are slow in coming; it takes a few months of faithful nightly application, as the growth cycle of each eyelash needs to reach completion before you start seeing the long lashes promised by the product. And almost all of them are expensive, usually around $100. At $49.99, and frequently discounted, Rapidlash offers a more attractive entrypoint.
There's definitely a millimeter or two extra growth, more dramatic in real life than on camera.
However, I found could not keep it up. At least, not with the kind of consistency required for maximum results. Whenever I use it, I wake up with irritated and bloodshot eyes. I may try again, but for now, it's not worth the trouble.
City of God
Pride & Prejudice (1995)
* Speaking of Mad Men and lipstick, I very gratefully attribute fashion's current fascination with Proper Lipstick to this show. Hooray, nude glosses are finally dated!
You might be surprised what you can live without. Some things you buy because they're shiny and new, because they're limited edition and you'd better get it before it's gone, or because it's trendiest shade out there now. But there's always a core of reliable favorites, that if lost you'd strive to find again. So here's the challenge:
#2 Fortunately, you're not starting entirely from scratch. You've got the advantage of experience: you already know what works and what doesn't, more or less. It's ok if you're still looking. Who isn't?
#3 Don't list anything you wouldn't sincerely buy, without good reason. You can use it as an opportunity to switch to something new, if you're bored or have always wanted it, or reaffirm an old favorite. And the products you choose have to be available to you (internet is ok): nothing discontinued, limited edition, imaginary, or custom-purchased from abroad. Be realistic.
#4 This isn't necessarily your dream stash, just an exercise in cutting dead weight.
There isn't much I would change about my current routine. It's not as streamlined as I would like, but on dry skin it is necessary to layer moisturizers properly, a variation off Asian skincare. First, a softener, to saturate my skin with hyaluronic acid; it blasts away dehydration, a real performance-enhancer for whatever comes next, without that barrier of parched dead skin in the way. Outside of Asia, Shiseido is the primary source for softeners; the most luxurious is Eudermine.
Now that my skin is primed, it's time for a rich emulsion: I'm enamoured with Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum ($150), which boasts 29 actives to "feed lackluster skin and make it bloom". It's well worth the extravagance. Then, a blend of nourishing plant oils, an emollient barrier to lock in the hydration. You can't apply oils neat on dry skin—they just sit uselessly on top of dehydration—but they are brilliant for enriching emulsions. For the first winter in a long while, I haven't used a heavy cream, layering an oil allows me to adjust the Rejuvenating Serum to my dry skin. At the moment, I'm using the Replenishing Nutrient Complex ($45), but I'd probably cast about for less expensive alternatives. On a hot summer's day, I'd skip straight to sunscreen instead of this elaborate ritual, something hydrating but elegantly textured, like Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream SPF 35 PA+++ ($30).
For cleanser, I also love the Regenerating Cleanser ($75) from Tata Harper. It purifies the pores of debris, leaving your skin looking so fresh, and yet so mild and creamy it never strips. The cleanser works in gorgeous synergy with the restorative properties of the serum. For heavy eye makeup, nothing's equal to Bioderma: gentle but thorough.
I look ill without some color; a cream blush is the easiest way to add a glow, no brushes necessary, plus I'm not half so loyal to any powder blush (I'd pick up Chanel Fuschia Tweed out of curiosity): Becca Wild Orchid ($30) is such a reliable favorite I've lost count of how many I've owned. I've come close, but a satisfactory undereye concealer hasn't yet hoved into view. So I might try Sensai Triple Touch Compact ($55), with everything I need in one compact (I don't wear foundation). From experience with Lunasol (but not Sensai), I find Kanebo bases to be excellent, so why not? Like concealer, the ideal brow filler eludes me. MAC Eye Brows ($15) might have a brown ashy enough for me. I don't need a fancy mascara; Cover Girl Lash Blast ($8) will do nicely.
My lips desaturate everything, so I favor quite pigmented lipsticks, mostly within the narrow range between cool pink to red to rose-plum, quite flushed, blood-based colors that emphasize my pink undertones and soften the yellow. I can manage hints of coral, if properly tempered with red or pink, but beiges, browns, purples, and peaches are non-negotiable horrors.
Estée Lauder Chelsea Rose ($21) is the sweetest good-girl pink, the closest I can get to a creamy nude; it pretty much matches my blush, Wild Orchid. Normally, gold packaging hits the absolute rock bottom in bad taste, but I quite like the old-fashioned appeal of Estée Lauder Signature Lipsticks. For a touch more sophistication, NARS Gothika ($24) is a burnished berry-rose, quite a serious color, but the gloss sheers it down just enough so that my natural lip tone shows through. A redcurrant like Chanel Sexy Rouge Allure ($30), a softly shimmered pink-red, is my perfect everyday red. I almost picked Shiseido Salon Perfect Rouge instead, still a redcurrant, but without the shimmer. I'd be hard-pressed to decide between the two.
Of late, dramatic lips means retro shades—60s corals, 50s reds, 70s concealer-beiges, 20s burgundies, 90s browns, 80s magentas—only updated in modern textures. Though classic shades, the hothouse coral of Lancôme Posh Pink ($22) is a silken nouveau matte, while the fantastically rich, lustrous cherry of Chanel Dragon Rouge Allure Lacque ($32) is a supersaturated gloss. Dragon needs a matte base, but unfortunately, Shu Uemura RD 178M is not available in the United States. For that matter, I wish Estée Lauder Orchid Dream Pure Color Gloss Stick weren't limited edition—such a fresh way to wear the 80s magenta.
I like Laura Mercier eyeshadows ($22): the pigments are extra fine. They may seem dull and unpromising in the pan, but come to life on your skin, for the kind of naturalistic enhancement that's the Mercier ethos. Unlike the harsh frost of most highlights, Stellar, a silvered cream, only adds a gentle touch of light. Almost black, Deep Night provides intensity at the lashline, with enough navy to brighten my dark brown eyes.
My eyes don't demand complicated techniques; I collect fun shadows because they're pretty, but it's the boring everyday neutrals like Stellar and Deep Night I'd miss. There's one exception; my skin desaturates pigment on contact, so a cool pastel lilac like Chanel Lavande ($30) wears like a softly tinted grey on my lids. Otherwise, I resort to eyeliner for drama on the eyes. As I can't reference the Pearlglides (bloody MAC!), I think Laura Mercier Eye Kohls ($19) boast a creamy formula and a good selection of colors. Blues always look great against my coloring, so a sea blue like Black Turquoise is a no brainer. A close doppelgänger for the original MAC Teddy, Brown Copper is the richest of browns, a stylized smear of dirt (the definition of a smoky eye). I might add Purple Sapphire for fun.
Tools are straightforward: Hakuhodo Kokutan WM (basic sable shadow) and SL (liner), Shu Uemura Eye Lash Curler, and slanted tweezers.
Perfume belongs for me in the realm of appreciation; it's not particularly important that my bottle of Cuir de Russie parfum collect dust, whereas I sometimes wonder why I keep buying variations on the same shade of lipstick. When it comes to use, I'm a serial monogamist—I use one exclusively for months, then pick up a new habit—I like how perfume marks stretches of time, imprinting my life with an indelible olfactory memory. There are a handful I'd continue to repurchase till the end of time, however, simply because I will always love them: Mitsouko, Après L'Ondée, Chamade, Opium, and Carnal Flower. The last, a tuberose soliflore, doesn't necessarily have to be Frédéric Malle, but I cannot name Tubereuse Criminelle for the purposes of this exercise.
I should feel bad about having lost my entire stash of makeup, especially considering how much money has literally gone up in smoke (or down the drain, take your pick of natural disasters) but I suspect I will instead feel secretly relieved.
I have always wanted to have a stash that can be wholly contained in one compact makeup bag, easily portable and tightly edited.There is a silver lining to every cloud, and such a catastrophe would be an excuse to finally cast off all those white elephants—that I couldn't bring myself to throw away but wouldn't miss if they were to be gone—as well as to acquire those few products I couldn't bring myself to buy, because I couldn't justify buying something that I already have in my stash, however superior in quality and utility.
Thick, scentless and yellow, with a waxy consistency,
The Mnemonic Sense
The Beauty Primer
On The Label
The Hit List
Color Me In
The Makeup Artist
& orientals arc