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

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.

· Culture Notes: The Hills
· Beauty Notes: How To Look Good Smiling
· Beauty Notes: Let The Right Ones In
· NARS: The Agony and the Ecstasy
· Sketchbook: The Kindly One

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Culture Notes: The Hills
by The Kindly One

In my sketchbook, I listed The Hills as one of my favorite shows. There is a part of me that enjoys it for the pretty clothes and the general pretty girl vibe of the show. I don't have those elements in any other part of my life, and this show is really my only outlet for that. The other reason I watch the show is because I'm fascinated with the disconnect between what's ostensibly for show and what is really being revealed.

One of the most fascinating elements of The Hills is the cinematography. That show would not have reached the astronomical success it enjoys were its production level that of shows like The Bachelor. Cheap production values can be alienating and often devalue a story. Watch a high school version of West Side Story and you get the idea. The rich cinematography of The Hills works in an opposite way to draw viewers into the show. The photography is beautiful and compelling (I would watch it for that alone), and its lushness feeds into the idea of the whole upper middle class spectacle the show draws upon. I would argue that the cinematography, as well as the Los Angeles it films, are characters just as vital to the show as its stars, and when I watch the show, I always have a desire to ask the producers, "How did you know? How did you know the production value was key to transmitting the message of the show, or did you just stumble upon a lucrative coincidence?"

The Hills has also proven to be an educational show for me. Growing up in predominantly upper middle class environments without being a part of the culture myself, there were certain behaviors I observed that I never understood and, in ignorance and intimidation, always found irksome. Some of these include communicating in call-and-response (the listener repeating what you just said - "I got new Jimmy Choos." "Jimmy Choos."), wearing a constant, seemingly fake smile, and a resistance toward philosophical conversations. I always thought these behaviors were indication of a lack of intelligence or erudition and tended to dismiss people with these behavioral traits as fake and unfeeling. These observations might be true about some people. However, after a sad, pitiful excuse for a birthday last year which was marked primarily by wine and a Hills marathon, something clicked. After watching four episodes of The Hills in a row, I was able to get past the forms of behavior and see more into the actual people themselves. This is something bound to happen with anyone with whom you spend significant amounts of time, and there was something about watching back-to-back episodes without interruption that allowed me to see behavioral patterns as what they were, cultural indicators that facilitate the flow of communication. Whereas call-and-response was something I'd previously considered annoying, seeing it communicated over and over again helped me get past what I'd always considered to be the superficial nature of it to realize it's simply a way that this culture communicates. It's an affirmation, a signal that you're listening and share similar interests. Same with the other behaviors. There are many cultures that don't value externalizing feelings and deeper currents, and I'd say the upper middle class is one of them, hence the perma smiles and diversion from deeper conversation.

I also developed a realization regarding the depth of the characters. One of my long-term assumptions has been that anyone who doesn't speak about his or her depths doesn't have them. Not necessarily so. There is an episode in the fourth season in which Audrina speaks about not being sure who she is anymore. She may have a smile on her face the whole time, but she's crying, and given her decisions leading up to this moment, I believe it. What struck me so much in that moment was the admission that she had an inner life and a personal depth unrelated to the shallow projections of the world around her. Had she not said this, it would not have occurred to me to think that of her. All her smiles mean nothing. They're just a way of facing the world.

Having had these insights, I've started watching The Hills in a different light. For one, I can now watch it (I had to give it up for all the stress of the drama). I am also watching less in judgement and more to see what I can learn and question. It's a lot more relaxing to go in with that attitude, I can tell you, and I doubt that has so much to do with that one show as it does with the attitude of judgement. There's very little relaxing about standing in strict disregard of another. So I enjoy watching it for the pretty sky, the color saturation, and the fluff of it. And I also watch it for those deeper notes, the ones under the surface describing the people within, who may or may not be the people on the outside.

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2/24/2009 [2]

Beauty Notes: How To Look Good Smiling
by The Kindly One

I cannot wear dark lip colors. I have tried and tried, and they invariably do not suit me. Anything more pigmented than a sheer lipstick is truly unflattering to my face, even jarring. The reason for this is that I have full lips, but not wide ones. They're the definition of pouty, with all the meat in the middle. As dark colors recede, the corners of my mouth look even smaller, resulting in a fish face. On top of this, when I gain weight, I tend to gain it in the lower part of my face. Having fish lips on a fuller lower face does not result in balance, and as any good makeup artist will tell you, good makeup equals balance.

To acheive balance, I go with the ubiquitous darker eye/lighter mouth. The colors I use tend to be sheer peach or sheer lilac-pink. Used with a pink lipstick as a base, peach colors brighten up my face, adding color without throwing the balance off, while lilac colors impart a slightly deeper hue of my natural lip color. I have to be careful with both colors, though. With my yellow undertones, most peaches turn orange on me, and lilacs often turn too deep and cool toned. I've found that MAC Tendertone Lip Balm works well for what I like. For the more lilac tone, I use the Tendertone in Softnote. Layered over lipstick, it makes the lipstick color pinker. Honey Bare looks peachy-orange in the pot (it's the orangest one in the picture) but layers beautifully with pink.

I used to use Clinique Colour Surge Bare Brilliance in Waterviolet for the base layer of my lips. It's a pinked-down violet that's almost the exact shade of my lips, just slightly deeper. It's now only available in the Butter Shine formula, which is denser and heavier on the lips. I'm not crazy about the change in formulation. It works well as a base but looks awful on its own. The varying pigments aren't blended well, so it looks like an inexpert application of multiple layers of lipstick, plus the gel texture dries out my lips. Thankfully, I found a couple of BB Waterviolets at a Cosmetics Company Outlet, but I'll need a replacement when these run out. Any dupe suggestions are welcome.
Credit: Face Candy

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2/16/2009 [1]

Beauty Notes: Let The Right Ones In
by The Kindly One

My particular beauty addiction is eyeshadow. I keep buying it, and I don't need anymore. I have what is essentially the perfect shade for me, Jane Eye Zing Browny Points (I don't go in for non-capitalization). It's a matte, warm chocolate brown and performs the function of defining my eye shape while playing up the golden notes, leaving my eyes looking amber. I look my best in it and receive compliments while wearing it. And yet, I keep going out and buying more, less than I used to, but still more than I need.

Along with Browny Points, I also own NARS Galapagos, a matte mid-tone brown with gold glitter; MAC Trax, a dusky rose-violet shade with orange glitter; and NARS Night Clubbing, a deep matte black with gold glitter. This isn't all, these are just the ones I use for lining. I haven't deliberately worked to accumulate glitter shadows, though I have found the glitter mimics the gold tones in my eyes, making them even more amber than does Browny Points. Plus, having eyes light enough to reflect color and shine, the glitter makes my eyes look bright and sparkly.

While I absolutely follow a minimalist philosophy - I hate having excess or unused products around - I could still never stand having just one eyeliner. That would be too boring, and part of the point of beauty is to have fun. If I had to wear Browny Points all the time, no matter how perfect it is, I'd get sick of it. I would inevitably go out and buy something else like it just as a break from the nauseating routine.
At this point, I no longer want to keep around products that don't work for me. I don't have the mentality that maybe someday I'll use them. I won't, and I don't want anything in my stash that isn't me. That said, what's me is having colors that flatter and enough variety that I don't look in my makeup case every day and collapse in a heap from the boredom of it all.
Credit: drugstore.com

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2/14/2009 [2]

NARS: The Agony and the Ecstasy
by The Kindly One

When I was younger, it always seemed that no matter how much I spoke or spent time with a person, there was never any real invitation to grow closer until one question was asked, and it was phrased in the same way every time: "So, what kind of music do you like?" There would always be a sly cut of the eyes, some fidgeting, and then real conversation would resume. There is an equivalent type of question that must eventually be addressed to invite inclusion on most beauty forums, in this case outlining the newbie's stance on MAC. But this website is different. Here, I don't feel the task before me is to prove my cosmetics mettle. No, here the question is different, it is one of individuality and preference. Once answered, I will officially feel like part of the team. It is: "Where do you stand on NARS?"

I have greatly envied Dain and Dorothy for some time for their appreciation and use of NARS. I've always found the NARS posts the most exciting. Each one of them is a gem and, like a NARS product itself, reveals the complexity and mystery of the products. If it weren't for these reviews, I probably would not have approached NARS myself, remaining intimidated by the mystique, the weird colors in the pans, and the price point. Fortunately, I found my feet and have sampled a variety of NARS shadows, liners, lipsticks, glosses, and lip stain glosses, and I have come to a conclusion. I can't wear NARS.

It's not for lack of trying or an inability to wear the colors. In the case of shadows, I find it's impossible for me to wear them as a wash. I have impossibly oily eyelids, and the shadows are finely milled. Even with industrial strength MAC Paint, they last maybe four hours on me. They don't really work well as liners on me, either, with the exception of Galapagos (above), which I have to layer over a proper eyeliner for it to last.

I like NARS's lipstick collection well. I just don't find most of it useful to me. I have medium tone lips and prefer sheerer shades, and most of NARS's sheer shades (Venice, Viva Las Vegas) don't show up on me. While I like the deeper shades, I can't wear them without looking dead or like I have an unbalanced face. As for the lip glosses and lip stain glosses, I really prefer a gel texture to my gloss, something I haven't seen in a NARS formulation (though I haven't tried a lot of these). I've found the glosses to be a lot thinner than I'm used to. As I constantly have some kind of drink in my hand, they last about two hours on me, if I'm lucky. The lip stain glosses are also beautiful, but a bit more pigment than I'm looking for. I don't want to change the color of my lips, just add something to enhance it and bring it out.

I have to say, NARS liners are long-lasting. Having a drier texture, they work well for oily eyelids. The flipside is that they tug more than I like when applying. Besides this, I rarely use proper eyeliner anymore except to keep powder shadow on.

Thanks to the posts on this site, I may not be able to wear NARS, but I have developed a real appreciation for it. In terms of complexity of color, there isn't a cosmetics company out there that can beat it. There is real innovation in the line. Look at the chartreuse shade of Rated R - crazy in the pan, truly a neutral on the eye. Plus, I would argue this is a better line to experiment with than drugstore brands. It's pricey, but due to color complexity, the colors are more likely to agree with and flatter the wearer than a $3 shadow. That said, for all the appreciation I have for the line, the products simply don't work for what I want and need them to do, and that is ultimately the bottom line when it comes to purchasing cosmetics.

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2/11/2009 [4]

Sketchbook: The Kindly One
by The Kindly One

I'm on the right, my friend Harry is on the left. I arrived at hers with sweets she'd requested and one or the other of us came up with the idea to take pictures of the sweets being "presented," like a key to the city. It was a game, like "A, My Name Is Alice."
age & location: 27, American South
affiliations: Japanese, Cherokee, German, Dutch; no religious affliation, but attended a Southern Baptist high school; Sagittarius/Aries Rising
education: The King's Academy, 2000; The University of Helsinki, 2003; The University of Tennessee, 2004
skin type: extremely sensitive and pre-rosacea, slightly oily, can get slightly dry around the nose and mouth in the winter
coloring: pale, with a mix of both warm and cool tones. I can wear both black and brown well, but navy doesn't do much for me. I have hazel eyes (brown, green, and gold) and medium brown hair with both golden and red highlights.

books: Invisible Man, Beloved, Black Boy, The Crying of Lot 49, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Brief Lives & The Kindly Ones, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
music: Radiohead, classic Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake (but I can't stand his persona), early N.E.R.D., glam rock, M.I.A., Asian Dub Foundation
films: Children of Men, Cabaret, Safe, The Matrix, Sean of the Dead, Little Miss Sunshine
tv: Extras, The Hills (more on that later), America's Next Top Model, Daria, Reno 911!, The Tracey Ullman Show, Saturday Night Live (seasons 15-25), Mad TV (with cast members Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael Key, and Bobby Lee), The Office, Reaper, Gossip Girl, The Kids in the Hall, Lovespring International
brands: Bumble & Bumble, Target, Old Navy, MAC, Sephora. Realistically, this is where I buy the majority of my personal goods. For aspirational brands, I'd pick John Galliano (but not his work for Dior), Daryl K, Balenciaga and YSL for basics (not for theatrics), Ann Demeulemeester, Jun Takahashi, and Junya Watanabe.
color: I don't have a favorite color. I look best in brights and jewel tones.

What are three things you'd like to do before you die? Find work that I really enjoy doing; get comfortable with myself; more traveling (India, Indonesia, Vienna, Belgium, French Polynesia, American West).
How did you get into beauty and fashion? Great question, because no one would have pegged me for the one to get into these things. I always had a defensive, anti-girly posture in school. Maybe that's what drew me in. I liked the imagery of fashion magazines (but can't stand women's magazines like Glamour), and at that time, the imagery was heavily influenced by heroin chic and alternative culture, which was nothing but defensive posturing. So, I would say I was drawn in by the photography and probably the marketing of "fashion," which I think has a little to do with the industry and more to do with fantasy and desire. Fashion File is to fashion as Entertainment Tonight is to Hollywood. And man, have I sucked a lot of my life away watching those two shows.
Which ten products would you bring to a desert island? Tazorac, MetroGel, Olay Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer SPF 30 Sensitive Skin, L'oreal Age Perfect Eye Cream (for puffy eyes), Boots Experts Anti-Redness Serum, MAC Brownborder Technakohl for tightlining, B&B Super Rich Conditioner, B&B Grooming Creme for leave-in conditioning, John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tousled Tresses Fine-Mist Wax for wave enhancement and definition, and a good sunscreen for the body. I don't have any real preferences in brand and usually pick Coppertone or Banana Boat for their UVA/UVB protection and non-irritating ingredients.
What were you in another life? Given the challenges in this one, probably an asshole.
How do you take your coffee? I rarely drink coffee. I will crave a cafe au lait maybe three times a year.
What is your biggest pet peeve? I hate noise.
What do you admire the most? People who can be honest and at peace with themselves and more or less with others.

You are a Prober! (Dominant Introverted Concrete Feeler)

You are a PROBER (DICF)— curious, passionate, driven, and probing. You're the kind of person who can't leave well enough alone. You have a very strong personality and a sense of adventure. And you'd rather go out and experience things for yourself than take someone else's word for it. Some people probably think you're a maniac.

People have a hard time believing you're an intelligent person. Perhaps there's a reason for this? Time will tell.


2/01/2009 [3]

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