Daytime Makeup- Simple, But Significant

It’s been two weeks since my last post, and I guess I’ll claim the excuse of having my birthday as a valid reason for not writing.  But seriously!  There’s been plenty going on.  And to complicate things just a bit more, my husband and I now use an HDMI cable connected to my laptop when we want to watch TV.  So, if we’re watching something, I can’t write.  That may sound like a silly problem to you, but I am actually most comfortable with writing if I have a program on in the background.  Yes, I blog and watch TV at the same time.  My modus operandi usually involves one of my I Love Lucy DVDs playing in the background while I pound furiously at my keyboard.  Or my Doug DVDs.  Did I just admit I own Doug DVDs?

Anyways, I’m kind of just giving a variation on a theme here today- another simple, everyday makeup look.  I don’t have a ton of unique inspiration at the moment so I figured I’d just share the easy stuff I’ve done lately.  And frankly, this is my favorite stuff to do on myself or anyone.  Easy peasy.

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Again, we see that even though this look is “no makeup” inspired, there is actually plenty of makeup that goes into it (relatively speaking).  I’ll start from the beginning:  I cleansed my face and then gave my face a couple spritzes of Lush’s Eau Roma toner water.  I then applied a beautiful essence from May Coop.  Other skincare products layered on top of this just seem to make your face glow brighter than a comet.  Because it was already near evening by this point I chose not to use any other serum or moisturizer with sunscreen.  Instead, I applied Clarins Beauty Flash Balm.  This stuff is a little hard to define because it’s not exactly skincare, but it’s not really makeup either.  It’s this fun little enigma of a product that makes getting ready feel a bit more glamorous, though!  I use it as a primer; I applied a thin layer all over my face and then proceed with makeup right away.  It creates a dewy canvas for makeup, and it brightens and blurs the appearance of pores and imperfections.  It also feels cooling, and it smells fresh and floral.

After that, I went for the natural-looking BareMinerals Complexion Rescue in Buttercream and undereye concealer from NARS (and can I just say that I love my shade names- Buttercream for BareMinerals, Custard for NARS).  On my undereye area, I used my new Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder for the first time.  I had asked a friend a couple months ago what she used for her undereye area because whenever I see her, there’s always this faint, flattering shimmer around her eyes that seems to mask dark circles and give the area just the right touch.  She directed me to this powder, and it really is lovely.  I also love that it sets your undereye concealer; I’ve needed something for so long to stop my undereye concealer from creasing.  It also seems to prevent mascara from smudging down there, too.  I wore Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara (yes, I know *eyeroll*) and while this stuff is amazing at building your lashes, it smears on to my lower lid pretty often.  That didn’t happen with the Laura Mercier!  It didn’t happen the next day either, when I tried it again.  My eyeliner is courtesy of the classics: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Liner in Black, and Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner.  I use a very thin angle brush when applying the Bobbi Brown, and I use it to essentially draw my wing, too.  The Stila blackens it, sharpens it, and fills it in.  Here’s a look with my hair back (with both of the following pics sans filter).

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One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve gotten so pale out here that most of my makeup is now just a teeny bit too dark.  If you see my face compared to my neck area, you can kind of tell.  Oi.  It is just too dang dark out here, and it’s May!

I chose to use some of the lighter shades in the Kat Von D Shade And Light palette, to help with the color of the Complexion Rescue.  This product is beautiful in that the shades can be very helpful and the textures are super creamy and yummy.  However, you really don’t need a contouring palette, in my opinion.  I’ve had a lot of fun with this one and it’s been worth it to watch a couple YouTube videos to see what others do so I can get the most out of it, but I think you can get away with just bronzer and a shimmery highlighter to get the same basic effect.  One thing I don’t like about using the lighter shades in a contour palette is the fact that they mattify things.  You know I like a glowing finish, and using the lighter shades in the Kat Von D took all the shine of the Clarins and Complexion Rescue away (and to be specific, I used the yellowish banana powder one on the middle-top).  You then need to reapply highlighter on top of that if you still want shimmer, so it can create a redundant process.  I prefer the darker shades meant for contouring.

For blush, I dusted NARS blush in Liberte all over my cheeks.  I used my trusty-and-now-discontinued CK One brow duo for my eyebrows.  I still am not sure what I’m going to use as a replacement for this, but I’ll probably just sell out and go the Anastasia route.  And lastly, for my lips, I just used my longtime favorite- MAC Cremesheen Glass in Strictly Plutonic.  It’s a peachy-pink neutral, and the formula is so much less sticky than the classic Lipglass.  I love it so much, but of course it’s from a limited edition collection so never again!

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This is kind of the makeup I do on a more regular basis.  I’ll switch out the type of foundation, or change the shade of blush, or perhaps play around with eyeshadow (that’s getting serious), but this is a pretty straightforward look for me.  I do give myself props for continuing to improve my cateye, but in the future I’ll continue working on making things pop a bit more.  I mean, I like simple things, so simple makeup really is my jam.  In the words of Don Draper, I like to keep it simple, but significant.  xo, MR

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The Truth About Cat Eyeliner

Some things are not quite what they seem.

For instance, spring in Chicago.  You may imagine a fairly sunny season full of warmth, flowers, and the occasional rain shower because that’s what spring is always pictured to be, but it definitely snowed all day last Friday and dipped into the 20s.  Or it can happen with plot twists in a movie- you see things one way, and then you’re thrown for a loop and it turns it HE’S ACTUALLY A DEAD PERSON, TOO.

No spoilers.

But anyhow, I believe the same can be said for cat eyeliner.  Ah yes, cat eyeliner.  The sharp lines, the pitch black color, the precise and even wings.  The look of retro glamour and cool chicks everywhere (though I tend to prefer a small wing which I refer to as “kitten liner”, as seen in the picture below).  And cat eyeliner is an intimidating feat to pull off because it requires such precision and steady hands, right?  You see the look on a friend and you think Gee, how did she manage to not mess that up?

But you know, I’m convinced that the process of creating a great cat eye isn’t as bold or precise or perfect as the look itself.  I find that creating a cat eye requires a lot more resourcefulness and flexibility rather than the exactness of a surgeon.  And I believe the look is easier to achieve than we might think.  Below, a couple tips on giving it your very best shot, no med school required:

1.  I use a different method nearly every single time, and I use a different kind of liner nearly every single time.  There is no one right way to do cat eyeliner, and I mean this quite literally.  You can do the trick with the credit card, holding it up to the corner of your eye and drawing your “wing” along the edge of it.  You can do the trick with the angled brush where you essentially play connect-the-lines and make a sort of mini triangle on top of your lids that you then color in.  You can create your cat-eye with eyeshadow first and then go over it with liner.  You can do the weird trick with Scotch tape.  You can use liquid, shadow, pencil, or gel.  You can do whatever you want, and you can do it differently each time.  And for those that are able to create the perfect freehand cat eye, well, your hands are steady and I give you props for it.  But that’s not most of us.  And I can’t exactly give you my own tried and true method for cat eyeliner because the process is different for me almost every time I do it.

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I typically use about two products to create cat eyeliner that I’m happy with- one to create the precise lines, and one to color it all in, get the shade of black I want, and perhaps add thickness to the lines.  If I’m lucky, I can pull it off with just one of the two.  I almost always start with L’Oreal’s Infallible Super Slim Liner or Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner because they’re skinny enough to make small moves and create tight, precise lines in my inner eye area.  What I use after that could be Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Liner in Black (the most long-lasting of any I’ve tried and what I most frequently use) paired with an angled brush, Maybelline Eye Studio Master Graphic Liner (good color, capable of creating thick lines, but very messy), or occasionally an eye pencil like one from MAC.  I typically don’t use eye pencil for cat eyeliner because it’s hard to get a precise, neat look with pencil.  I may use one to color things in and add depth, though.

The eyeliner itself, however, isn’t my greatest and most useful tool when creating a cat eye.  And this brings me to my next point …

2.  Rather than trying to create perfect liner, just do your best and then erase or conceal what you don’t like.   My favorite trick involves a bit of working backwards- do your very best freehand cat eyeliner, and then take an Almay Makeup Eraser Stick and simply “erase” what you don’t want until it looks right.  This allows for editing and correcting your own mistakes without starting all over, and eliminates the painstaking effort of trying not to mess up.  Next, with a small concealer brush, touch up the area around the eyeliner with concealer to clean it up and keep the skin looking even.  The skin around my eyes can be very discolored, so concealer in a few select places really neatens things up when I have eye makeup on.  You can even do the “erasing” part of this trick with concealer itself, using it to cover up the parts of the wing you don’t want.

Speaking of discoloration around the eye area, I also like to add eyeshadow all across the lid in some kind of nude or neutral shade to even out that area, too.  When the undereye area looks even and clean but the lid looks greasy or reddish, it drives me bonkers.  I like to use MAC’s eyeshadow in Orb for this purpose.

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3.  But this all being said, you should quit when you’re ahead.  You know those memes where people start applying winged liner, only to look like Amy Winehouse five seconds later?  You know that’s happened to you.  It’s very easy to overshoot it with cat eyeliner because the perfectionist in you thinks just a little bit more will do the trick.  However, there have been times where my eyeliner has looked like a solid A- effort, and then my next couple moves have ruined it (especially when I try to make the wings longer or completely and visibly even), sending me into Winehouse territory and forcing me to start over.  So, my advice is if it’s looking pretty good, stop.  It’s good enough!  This is why the majority of times I end up with “kitten” liner, because I know that if I try to take it one step further I may screw up what’s already looking just fine.  But seriously, don’t sweat the little imperfections.  Cat eyeliner is almost never perfectly even.  Load up on the mascara and barely anyone will know the difference.  And if they do, well, they’re probably a makeup artist and they probably get paid to notice things like that.

4.  Lastly, do NOT forget about eyebrows.  Strong eyeliner paired with weak eyebrows creates an odd and noticeable imbalance.  It’s like a beautiful work of art without any kind of frame.  If you’re wearing cat eyeliner, at least use a gel or wax like Glossier’s Boy Brow to brush up your eyebrows and steady them in place.  You don’t necessarily need to stencil in big thick ones or do anything crazy, but just be sure they’re present.  A groomed eyebrow will complement cat eyeliner quite nicely.

So next time you give cat (or kitten!) eyeliner a try, tag me in your best selfie and show me how it turned out!  And if the whole effort goes to crap and you have to start all over again, relax- it’s only makeup.  xo, MR

My Three Very Favorite Makeup Brands

I’m not known for being loyal to one brand in beauty.  This goes for the haircare variety, skincare, makeup, perfume, whatever.  I will try anything, from any brand, whether it costs five dollars or five hundred (and no, I’ve yet to try any five-hundred-dollar products yet because cash money).  But if you look in my train case, you’ll see the Revlon mixed with the Dior and I like it that way.  I’ve used drugstore products on brides and they have worked.  I’ve also invested in a couple pricy eyeshadow quads that nearly every one of my brides has worn as well.  I’m game for nearly anything in makeup, and my brand allegiance goes about as deep as that of the sweet ladies that Chris Brown likes to sing about.  And I don’t plan on changing.

This is also one of the reasons why I never intend to become an associate for any direct sales cosmetic or skincare line- I could make all the money in the world and I know I still won’t be loyal.  I don’t want to be tied down to or obligated to rep any one name.  That is, unless I create a line of my own one day …

But every so often, I am asked to name my very favorite makeup brands.  That’s honestly a hard thing for me to nail down, but I’ve got a few.  You’ve probably got items from each of these brands in your own makeup bag because they’re so popular, but they’re popular for a reason, and you don’t make a bajillion dollars from bad product.  Each of these companies is over twenty years old, and all of them possess a single, brilliant founder that inspires me with both their creativity and entrepreneurial savvy.

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Bobbi Brown– This makeup brand is responsible for allowing me to have peace with my own aesthetic as an artist.

When I’ve done brides (or myself, anyone really), I’ve always felt a little less-than for not wanting to go all out with the theatrical, transformative kinds of makeup that is so popular these days. It’s true that I simply do not possess some of the skills for really dramatic makeup, but honestly, I don’t really like that kind of makeup and I don’t know if I’d use those skills much even if I had them! At times, this has left me feeling a little incapable and “uncool” in the world of contouring, baking, YouTubing, color correcting, strobing, spackling, and champagne-popping.

However, in 1991, Bobbi Brown apparently felt the same way. “To be honest,” she says, “I wasn’t really a great makeup artist—I wasn’t one of these makeup artists who could transform a face. I just always had shortcuts to make things work because I loved it so much.” That year she debuted a line of ten natural lipstick shades as the very first part of her mission to create “a great collection of edited, natural-looking makeup”. The rest is history that you can see at Nordstrom, Sephora, or Bloomingdale’s the next time you happen to wander in. The brand that Bobbi Brown single-handedly founded is very much what I’m about in life and in beauty- perfected basics. Nothing crazy, nothing fancy, no circus tricks- just really beautiful, classic makeup. Her eyeshadows share nowhere near the same range as say, MAC, but they are just what you need (and yes, her “Taupe” shade really is the perfect taupe!). Her lip shades are flawless, her concealers (in cream or stick form) are legendary, and her Long-Wear Gel Liner is not to be matched. And let’s face it- when Kate Middleton decides to do her entire face in Bobbi Brown for her own wedding day, you know it’s legit. Bobbi is a huge inspiration to me as a female entrepreneur, and she has made me feel like there’s room for me in the beauty world.

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NARS – And now for a favorite brand that is near polar opposite of the aforementioned.

The packaging for NARS is sleek and modern, but their color offerings are even more so.  NARS has the absolute best range of blushes I’ve ever seen, and no other brand I’ve tried seems to match the innovativeness and quality of their shades.  Their basics such as the Creamy Radiance Concealer, Bronzing Powder in Laguna, and All Day Luminous Foundation are amazing, but they’ll go for the shocking color makeup, too: a shadow duo featuring lime green paired with cobalt (“Rated R”), a matte purple-black lip pencil (“Train Bleu”), and a vermillion red blush that looks like it belongs on a clown (and that very blush, called “Exhibit A”, was the inspiration for this blog’s title).  However, it’s not as if NARS is cranking out any and every eyeshadow shade you can imagine; you can tell there’s still a thoughtful editing process behind the collection.  In the end, you sort of feel like Rihanna when wearing NARS- really, really pretty, very fashion-forward, and kinda naughty.

Founder Francois Nars continues to be one of my major inspirations in makeup.  You can definitely sense the fashion influence in his brand; Nars’ personal eye for photography and his background in fashion make his line feel sexy and provocative.  His collaborations with more controversial artists like Steven Klein and Andy Warhol give the line an unmistakable edge, and yet as an artist Francois Nars has always seemed very grounded.  I have one of his more famous quotes pinned to my inspiration board at home: “Do not be too serious.  It’s only makeup!”

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bareMinerals– Every time I think I’m going to graduate from this brand, I get sucked back in.  I can’t help it.

A couple months ago, I was speaking to an associate at Sephora about bareMinerals.  She stated that she felt the brand was sort of for beginners, for those that are just starting to get into makeup, but that it wasn’t something you stick with forever.  I was contemplating a new foundation, and I considered moving on to something else besides the SPF 15 Original Foundation of theirs that I’d used for SO long. This loose-powder mineral foundation saw a miraculous kind of overnight success when bareMinerals founder Leslie Blodgett was given a spot on QVC to pitch it back in 1997.  I was sort of sad at the thought of quitting this beloved brand’s foundation because it’s also one of the most high quality natural lines you will find (seriously, the foundation has just five mineral ingredients), but I figured it was time to be an adult and move on!

However, I randomly popped into a bareMinerals flagship store the other day and had one of the employees go crazy on me, just for fun.  It turned out that the foundation shade I’d been using was now too dark (thank you, Illinois), and she matched me with my correct shade tested it on my face.  And there it was, the reason that I’d loved bareMinerals for so long- my skin looked perfect.  The associate had cleansed my face using their new skincare line (a gorgeous oil cleanser that I’d totally consider for myself, by the way), applied primer, then applied the makeup, and my adoration for the brand was suddenly renewed.  After some decent skin prep, this line’s original foundation just makes your skin look so unbelievably fantastic that I cannot stop singing its praises even at 28.  Their blushes possess the same qualities, their primer receives remarkable ratings, their concealers are all over Instagram, and their variations on foundation are unique and great for all skin types (and I personally love their Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel for warmer weather).  Whether the brand is actually for “beginners” or not, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And there you have it.  Like I said earlier, I honestly have no loyalties, but if I had to choose three, these would be the three.  At first I thought it was funny that my favorite brands are a bunch that seemed to have absolutely nothing in common with one another, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they all share a significant, common thread- they all place a strong emphasis on good skincare.  Bobbi Brown, NARS, and bareMinerals all feature their own beautiful skincare lines, and each brand very much emphasizes the importance of a canvas that is well taken care of.  Bobbi’s luxurious creams and oils have been around for a long time, bareMinerals has always been about makeup that is good for the skin even though they only just debuted a full-range skincare line of their own, and Francois NARS himself said, “If the skin looks beautiful, everything else will look great.  Skin is the most important part of makeup.”

There are some really great makeup brands out there that turn out incredible color product, but the skin isn’t made to be the priority.  Kat Von D, Urban Decay, TooFaced, and Stila all are incredible makeup brands, but they’re not about the skin and they don’t feature skincare.  My personal makeup philosophy has always been about putting the skin first, and so I’m rather pleased to see that my most favorite brands come from a similar line of thinking.  I would probably include Glossier on this list as well, but they only have skincare at this point (except for BoyBrow) and have yet to debut their color makeup.  Well, I mean, they are debuting color makeup this Monday, so this list may grow a lot sooner than later.

Let me know if you concur, what your favorites are, and what you’re trying these days!  Have fun!  xo, MR