"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.

· Beauty Notes: Skincare (Dorothy)
· Beauty Notes: Skincare (Anne)
· Beauty Notes: Skincare (The Kindly One)
· Beauty Notes: Fyrinnae Cosmetics Inks Liquid Eyeliner
· Culture Notes: Getting to Know You

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Beauty Notes: Skincare (Dorothy)
by Dorothy

(Apologies for backdating this post; I've been recovering from a nasty flu.)

I remember leafing through a Paula Begoun book when I was about ten, and reading the following sentence: "In general, the fewer products you use on your skin the better for your skin." I'm not convinced this holds true for everyone, but for me it seems more or less accurate: while complicated skincare routines don't do my skin any harm, they don't seem to do any good either. My skin is pale and freckles rapidly in the sun, but it's not sensitive; for example, it barely responds to chemical exfoliants that would burn Dain's skin. It seems that no matter what I put on my skin, I always have the same issues with it: tightness after cleansing, clogged pores, minor breakouts, shininess. As a result, while I might dabble in eye creams or toners (I've become a big fan of DHC's Acerola lotion), I generally stick to the basics: cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer.

I grew up using Cetaphil, but I find it leaves behind eye makeup and a slimy film on the face, whereas DHC Deep Cleansing Oil removes almost all makeup and leaves no residue at all. Sorry to harp, but it truly is a great product. I've been wearing sunscreen almost daily since high school, and I've yet to find a sunscreen that I really like, but Olay's sensitive skin formula is odorless, relatively non-greasy, and cheap. Lastly, as I get older I find I need to moisturize my face after showering: DHC's Q10 cream is my current favourite -- light yet rich, and a little goes a long way.

Aside from the DHC products, I tend to stick to cheap drugstore products for skincare: Glysomed hand cream is readily available and absorbs quickly. I scatter lip balms around my apartment and in my bags, which means I tend to buy cheap ones, as impulse purchases. I like fairly thick, waxy stick balms, as the thinner kind don't seem to help with my perennially chapped lips: The Body Shop's Cocoa Butter lip balm might be my favourite.

Lastly, although it's an indulgence, I love fancy body butters: my skin gets very tight and uncomfortable after showering, particularly in winter, and scented moisturizers are a wonderful, fleeting way to experience scents that would wear out their welcome as perfumes. My current tub is from the L'Occitane spinoff brand Le Couvent des Minimes: a sweet, fruity take on orange blossom, perfect for a fifteen-minute acquaintance.

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10/21/2009 [1]

Beauty Notes: Skincare (Anne)
by Anne

For the longest time, I was under the impression that I had the stereotypical "dry" skin, yet, sometimes my skin takes on the characteristics of stereotypically oily skin, as I often get oil slicks and clogged pores on my cheekbones and nose, even as my skin tightens after a wash and chaps to rawness in winter. "Dehydrated" better describes the state of my skin, where it is constantly thirsting for water but not necessarily oil, and therefore the most important part of caring for my skin is to make sure that it gets the hydration it needs.

Cleansing is the first and most crucial step of any skincare regime. For a time I used DHC's Deep Cleansing Oil, which is second-to-none when it comes to removing makeup, and it's always marvelous to see an oily film on your face wash off. It also seemed to improve the texture of my skin; however, it seemed to make clogged pores worse, so I always use soap afterwards to rinse away any remaining residue, or skip the oil entirely on days when I'm not wearing makeup. Happy Bath Lavender soap is good, but during winter, I use the classic Dove soap, which moisturizes slightly. A wipe with a muslin cloth exfoliates and cleanses, and feels purifying for a nice finish to the cleansing routine.

Toners are a necessity in my routine, to provide my thirsting skin with the extra moisture it needs. I'm currently using The Face Shop's Arsainte Eco-Therapy Extreme Moisture toner, which is pleasant, though not indispensable: in my experience, all toners are pretty much similar, and are only really differentiated by other factors such as scent, packaging (i.e., how pretty it looks on your dresser table) and price.

Otherwise, I favor common drugstore brands, partly because their wide distribution means I'll never have to worry about running out. The moisturizer of my childhood was the ubiquitous Johnson&Johnson's Baby, but now most moisturizers are too emulsive and oily for my skin, so I have to be pickier about which products I use. Vichy Aqualia Thermale Concentré Hydratant is the rare product that hits the perfect pitch: its texture is not so much creamy (usually a bad sign for me) as gel-like, and soaks into parched skin instantly.

I can tolerate thick moisturizers better when it turns cold, and body lotion becomes a necessity. I used The Body Shop's Moroccan Rose Body Butter briefly, but after a while the smell of it became too strong, to the point of giving me headaches. Thereafter, I began to really appreciate non-scented or minimally scented formulae for lotions. I recently got a tube of Nivea Soft, which penetrates deeply to moisturize dry hands, legs, and feet. It's still a bit too rich to use on the face, but I have a feeling it will serve me well come winter. Atrix Strong Protection Cream (not pictured) also works well.

For the bleakest, darkest depths of winter, however, my hands, feet, and lips will need something a bit richer. Nivea Soft may not suffice for chapped hands in January, so I will probably revert to Nivea cream in the classic blue tin, or to Neutrogena's famous hand cream (both companies also make excellent lip balms). The formulae are thick and take forever to absorb, but in winter, I can't afford to be picky: the only thing that matters is that the products leave my hands soft and moist and happy, which they do.

Yet, while dryness can be moisturized away to some degree, there's little one can do about oil slicks. While this does not fall under the label of "skincare," strictly speaking, I use Innisfree Mint No Sebum powder (basically a scented cornstarch and talc base) to control shine.

All products aside, however, the best I can do for my skin is to drink plenty of water to hydrate it from the inside), eat lots of fruits and vegetables (well, there are any number of reasons I should eat fruit and vegetables, including benefits to the skin), to avoid salt and alcohol (which puffs my eyes up), and get plenty of exercise to get blood flowing to the surface capillaries that nourish the skin. I should probably also wear sunscreen to protect against external damage, but I dislike it's texture, not to mention that most formulae aggravate my oil slicks and even contribute to breakouts. The skin's needs are surprisingly simple. It's odd how difficult they are to meet at times.

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10/21/2009 [1]

Beauty Notes: Skincare (The Kindly One)
by The Kindly One

I have a couple of common skin complaints - slightly oily skin, dark undereyes - but the main thrust of my skincare routine is preventing and soothing skin irritation. I have extremely sensitive skin that will not tolerate a good number of fairly common skincare and cosmetics ingredients. Here's a list of my current skin sensitivities:

  • silica
  • kaolin
  • benzoyl peroxide
  • sulfa products
  • carmine (in certain eyeshadows)
  • witch hazel
  • fragrance

Additionally, my skin doesn't tolerate abrasives, heat, and extreme cold and, when I'm really stressed, gets irritated by exercise. Any of the above irritants can cause my skin to break out into a bright red, painful rash. Despite this, I generally enjoy good skin due to spending a lot of time and money to figure out what works and what doesn't. The following products work to help me maintain good skin and prevent painful irritation.

The sensitivities I've listed are all classic symptoms of rosacea. Though I haven't been diagnosed with it, I've been told my skin is in a state of pre-rosacea (similar to being pre-diabetic - onset of disease can occur in the absence of preventative health measures). As such, I use Finacea to prevent the full onset of rosacea. Finacea works as an anti-inflammatory agent to keep skin calm and is only available by prescription.


Bizarrely enough, I can tolerate prescription-strength retinoids with ease. I've used Tazorac for years, and it is Tazorac - not Finacea - that I credit for my good skin. Tazorac gives my skin an even tone and texture, increases vibrancy, and inhibits some oil production. The effect it has is subtle. No bells, no whistles, simply good skin. If I go off it for a few days, I always see an immediate effect the next time I use it - my skin will be brighter, clearer, and have a more even texture.


I get puffy eyes if I don't get enough sleep or drink too much liquid right before bed. MAC Fast Response Eye Cream works fairly well to depuff the eyes, better than anything else I've tried. What I particularly like about the product is that it dries quickly - ten seconds and I can apply my makeup over it. It also deposits a really nice, smooth texture, making eye makeup application a snap.


Having extremely fair skin, sunscreen isn't an option for me. This is really no problem. I'm so conscientious, I've worn sunscreen every day since I was fifteen. (Vain, too, but it's the conscientiousness that enabled such persistence.) Olay Complete Defense Daily UV Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin, SPF 30 is hands down the best facial sunscreen I've tried. It's the single formula specifically formulated for skin that hasn't pilled on me, with or without makeup, and it's extemely gentle. It has such a smooth texture on the skin I've never had trouble applying makeup over it, although I generally use a primer anyway. A word of caution: Be sure to go for the sensitive skin formulation, as I've found that the regular version pills.


Although I mostly keep redness and irritation at bay, I find that using products containing squalene/squalane really work to help keep my skin calm. Derived from vegetable oils, including olive oil, squalene and squalane are very light, emollient oils that moisturize and sooth my skin. With squalane as one of the main ingredients, Boots Expert Anti-Redness Serum is one of the best products I've found to use. The squalane essentially works as a lightweight barrier for my skin, keeping the moisture in and harsh irritants out. As with Tazarac, should I go without this for a few days, I will see an immediate improvement in my skin's tone and clarity the next time I use it. This works well not only as a day-to-day product, but also on those occasions when my skin is aggravated. As soon as I use this product, my skin immediately feels calmer and less painful, and with the squalane barrier in place, heals much faster.

Never one to leave an inch of skin unprotected, my lip balm of choice is Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 50. The texture of this lip balm is fairly standard - moderately emollient and sheer with a little bit of weight. I'm a fan of this particular lip balm because it blocks both UVA and UVB rays, a feat not often accomplished in a drugstore lip balm. I also appreciate how sheer it is, having found other comparable lip balms quite heavy and occlusive.

Though it's the fundamentals that can make or break a good skincare routine, I am much more relaxed about them than I am other, more specific products. I've found that there are a variety of very good, basic skincare products that don't break the bank and generally work just as well as any of the others in the bunch.


More important than any particular cleanser is the method of cleaning. If you slap cleanser on just to immediately take it off, it's not going to do the job, regardless of whether you use Shu Uemura or Cetaphil. If, however, you take your time and spend a good thirty seconds minimum rubbing or scrubbing away, you will reap the benefits of judicious cleansing, regardless of cleanser (excepting the very worst). With that in mind, I usually have a couple of very basic, decent cleansers on hand, alternating out Juice Organics Brightening Cleanser and Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser . Both cleansers do the job, cleaning without stripping and leaving no makeup on my face, though sometimes I use a separate eye makeup remover for all the mascara I wear. Neither product has irritated my skin, and despite the claim of one to be "organic," I don't find the Juice Organics cleanser to be any gentler or less effective than the Neutrogena.


I am just as casual about moisturizers as I am cleansers. With all the very specific products I use, my treatment and prevention needs are fulfilled. All I really need moisturizers to do is moisturize without irritating. For that reason, I have the very gentle, very basic La Roche-Posay Toleriane Soothing Protective Care and Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, Sensitive Skin on rotation. In terms of hydration, the two are nearly identical products. Both deliver light, gentle hydration and, more than anything, serve as yet another barrier to protect my skin. The difference is in quality of formulation. The Neutrogena moisturizer very obviously contains more fillers than La Roche-Posay, feeling less substantive on the skin. Regardless, it's still a good, basic formulation for the summer, leaving Toleriane to provide slightly richer hydration and protection in the winter.

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10/21/2009 [1]

Beauty Notes: Fyrinnae Cosmetics Inks Liquid Eyeliner
by The Kindly One

My long-time typical beauty routine has involved lining my waterline. Given the shape of my eyes and the lack of pigment in my lashes, I find this is the best way to bring out my eyes without overwhelming them (or the rest of my face, for that matter). While I had used a gel liner for several years without problem, my allergies have progressed to the point that my eyes could no longer tolerate it. Having tried waterproof pencils and gel and cream liners all to no avail, I knew the typical liners simply weren't working for me anymore, and so I turned to the vegan cosmetics lineFyrinnae Cosmetics.


Fyrinnae's Inks Liquid Eyeliners (prices range from $9.00 to $10.75) are not the typical waterlining product. As promised on the website, the liners never dry due to the product's unique formulation. A composite of both liquid and pigment, once applied to the waterline, the liquid evaporates and leaves the pigment behind. This almost amounts to wearing a liquid version of kohl, in that what's left on the lids is a dense, deeply pigmented powder that stays in place. I tried the liner in Ninja, which is meant to be the blackest black. The product more than delivered on its promised and gave me an intense, wet black line for 6-8 hours, after which the product still retained its vibrancy and intense pigment quality. Fyrinnae offers a wide variety of colors in addition to Ninja, many of which appear unique to the brand.

Having such sensitive, watery eyes, as well as being a contact lens wearer, I was initally worried that the liner wouldn't stay in place. I was pleased to find I had no problems with the liner shifting throughout the day, and at no point did I look in the mirror to find liner had blinked onto my contacts. I did note that application is key to ensuring the liner doesn't budge. Though no particular method is necessary for applying liner to the upper inner lid, I experienced the best application results by slightly pulling down my lower eyelid, applying the product, and letting it set two to three seconds before releasing the eye (and all obviously before putting in my contacts). I would also advise scraping most of the product off on the container. Working with only a small amount of product at a time will ensure a more precise, less messy application. As the website indicates, the product does separate slightly in the container, so shake about 10-20 seconds before application.

My biggest concern with finding a new liner for my waterline was finding a product that wouldn't further aggravate my sensitivities. I was pleased to find that Inks Liquid Eyeliner doesn't bother my eyes. In fact, the first couple of times I used the product, I was freaked out by the fact that I couldn't feel it on. Most cream and gel liners are so heavy and dry on the waterline that I was used to feeling weight and dryness with my eyeliner, and I actually had to get adjusted to the weightlessness of the product. (Though it was a quick adjustment - I really enjoyed wearing a product that doesn't dry my eyes out anymore than they already are.)

As much as I appreciate the high performance level of this product, I was even more pleased with the Fyrinnae's excellent customer service. Shipping prices are the bane of my existence - I cannot justify that extra $6+. Given that, Fyrinnae must be commended for its reasonable shipping prices. Orders under $20.00 ship for $1.75-$3.00, and for worldwide destinations, including Canada, shipping under $25.00 is $2.75-$3.50 (all USD). This is a bargain. Orders over $20.00 in the US are free (worldwide shipping is free with orders over either $20.00 or $25.00 - the website is unclear which it is). While Fyrinnae cannot guarantee a delivery date, I received my purchase within two weeks and even enjoyed a free loose eye shadow sample.

Overall, I was highly pleased with both Inks Liquid Eyeliner and Fyrinnae Cosmetics. It's rare to find either a product or a company that lives up to its promises, and it was a pleasure to find a line that's worth some hype. If you're looking for a liner for the waterline, I highly recommend this product.

Inks Liquid Eyeliner Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane(and)Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Mica,Isododecane,Cyclomethicone(and)Dimethicone Copolyol,Titanium Dioxide,DMDM Hydantoin,Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate. May Contain: Manganese Violet,Iron Oxides, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate.

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10/13/2009 [2]

Culture Notes: Getting to Know You
by The Kindly One

I wanted to give you guys one final playlist that gives you a better idea of who I am. It's easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of blog, and I always find it more interesting to get an idea of the people behind the writing. So here goes.

The following is a playlist of songs that have had some meaning in my life, no matter how marginal. If you're interested, I've included a short description of why each song is included underneath the playlist. If you're not, skip down to the video below. Sometimes, it takes more than words....

1) I really enjoy Arabic music, and this song is one of my favorites.
2) This is my idea of perfect music - dramatic, emotional, artsy. I am eagerly awaiting more such music from Adam.
3) I was a huge Buffy fan, albeit lately. I don't think I really got into the show until the last three seasons, just to spend the next couple of years catching up on what I'd missed. I love this song, and I love Spike in the end. Something about peroxide blonde and evil that gets me going.
4) I discovered an ABBA tape in my father's office when I was seventeen. I was lovestruck at the time and must have listened to it nearly every day for a year. In fact, I listened to that tape so much that I wore it out and have even had three replacement CDs in the aftermath. There is such joy to be had in really earnestly cheesy pop, and this song is my favorite from Abba's greatest hits.
5) One of my two absolute favorite songs. It reminds me that redemption is possible.
6) When I lived in Scandinavia, this song was a big hit. Good memories, plus I think it's beautiful.
7) My other favorite song. It's just a beautiful song about drug addiction.
15) Also in Scandinavia, I found this tape (mind you, all tape references occured in or after 1999) that had a recording of "Billie Jean." Like the ABBA tape, I listened to this endlessly. I love how the chorus builds and swells, and I'm pretty sure there's no way to dance to this song and not look cool.

And now for a song that needs more than words to do it justice:

I tell you, I really don't take a lot of joy in irony, passive-aggressive humor, polite conversation, etc., reason being I don't find there's a lot of joy in those things. They're just convenient ways to maintain the status quo. The real joys are in little gems like this that snap you out of your day and trade in a high budget for a hit of giddiness, awe, and fascination. As much as I enjoy my art rock and pretentious little music videos, it isn't thought or wisdom or a good conversation that makes my day. I really only feel alive when I'm laughing, and there's no greater gift I've experienced that to be able to share simple, unadulterated joy with others, even if only through a tv screen.

Perhaps unrelated, I have to work out a way to affix moveable plastic arms to my back, because this is what I want to go as for Halloween.

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10/05/2009 [2]

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