Makeup For A Night Out- My Friend Meg

It’s been way too long since I’ve done someone’s makeup for a special occasion; my last real client was before our move out here!  The only thing that’s come close is when I had the pleasure of doing a trial run for a beautiful girl attending her senior prom here in Illinois, but her plans fell through at the last minute.  So, since July of last year, it’s really just been me tending to my own face (which begets way too many selfies, let me tell ya).

So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Meg, whom I’d gotten to know through church, asked me to help her with both makeup and hair!  I admit I was a little nervous because it had been so long, but I was too excited to work with someone again to let the nerves bother me.  Meg was attending a benefit event for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the cocktail attire dress code provided the perfect excuse to play around.

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I prepped Meg’s skin with Glossier’s Super Bounce serum, which perhaps turned out to be her favorite product we used that day.  Luckily, even though I’d brought my own kit with me, Meg had an amazing arsenal of her own with plenty of great stuff to choose from.  We primed her skin with Laura Mercier Radiance Foundation Primer, and then I used a Beauty Blender to evenly apply Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation Stick in Beige all over.  After a dusting of BareMineral Original Foundation in Light to set it, I used Meg’s two Cle de Peau concealers to the undereye area as well as around the nose and lips.  If I can name one area on the face that always gets overlooked when it comes to concealer, it’s the nose area.  The skin around your nostrils and at the bottom of your nose almost always suffers from discoloration; a good concealer on these spots has a real lifting and brightening effect.  To set the undereye concealer, I used Laura Mercier’s Secret Brightening Powder.

For Meg’s eyes, I stuck with some of my most trusted friends- MAC eyeshadows in Shroom and Cork, and my Dior 5-Couleurs Eyeshadow palette in Earth Reflection.  I used the two brown shades in the Dior palette, along with the pearly-white one for the brow bone and inner corners of the eyes.  The hardest part of makeup for me, to this very day, is properly blending multiple eyeshadows.  I really try to get a look at the eyes from all angles and in both natural and artificial light; I tried to take my time getting this just right because unblended eyeshadow is truly painful to behold (and here’s a tip- shimmery shadows are much more forgiving than matte ones when it comes to blending).  I lined Meg’s eyes with my BFF- Christian Siriano for Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow in Royal- and I don’t know what I’ll do when it finally runs out because I’ve yet to find anything quite like it.  For lashes, we used multiple layers of Meg’s Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara.

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I did a bit of contouring with Kat Von D’s Shade and Light Palette, and used Chanel’s blush in In Love for cheeks.  I added a bit of highlighting using MAC’s Mineralize SkinFinish on the top of the cheekbones, and a touch of a pearly NARS cream shadow to the cupid’s bow.

Finally, for lips, Meg prepped them with MAC’s Prep + Prime.  We then used Laura Mercier’s lipliner in Natural Lips topped with NARS Velvet Satin Lip Pencil in Bahama- this is the perfect dusty brick-rose with just enough color to be a “statement lip” without needing to be fire-engine red or something.  We had her pack a clear gloss with her along with the pencils, just for extra moisture.  To set everything and give the whole look a diffused effect, I dusted Meg’s face all over with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Mood Light.

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As for hair, I’d known for a while that I basically wanted to take inspiration from Ahn Co Tran and go for waves with lived-in texture.  This is my favorite look, and frankly, it’s one that I know I can replicate fairly well on others.  Meg has a midlength bob so I knew this texture would be perfect for her cut.

I used my tried-and-true technique of wrapping one-inch sections of hair around a 1.25-inch curling iron, without using the clamp and always leaving the ends out.  If you try this, try to wrap sections loosely so you don’t get a wave or curl that is too tight.  As I progressed through her hair (and I did it in three layers, working from the bottom up), I’d separate any waves that were too big or tight and finish with a generous mist of Bumble and Bumble’s Dryspun Texture Finish- better than Oribe!  I also sprayed Living Proof’s Instant Texture Mist into my hands and worked it into Meg’s hair, too; the Texture Mist provides bouncy hold and sort of acts like a spray-gel, but better.

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I kept laughing because Meg kept saying how I understand “the bend”- no one wants their hair truly curled these days, we all just want it to have that awesome “bend” that looks chic and lived in!  It’s the best!

One adorable Majè jumpsuit later and Meg was ready!

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I had such an awesome time playing around with this sweet mama- she looked amazing and I was so happy with how much she enjoyed the whole process!  I can tell you that it’s so much more fun with the client is interested and curious about what you’re doing, from the skin prep to the final touches.  And I was truly happy to finally lend someone a beautifying hand on the North Shore- it’s about time!  xo, MR

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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

With Love From Chicagoland- My Bride Erin

So, it’s not like a lot hasn’t been happening in my life, but I admit that I am very late in posting my weddings from this past year.  Very late.  However, it is a sweet and beautiful thing to be able to sit down here in Illinois, after all this transition, and look back at an amazing day in California that was only four months ago.

I had the pleasure and the honor of making up my dear friend Erin on her wedding day.  This day was a marathon because the party was an all-day affair, literally.  We hit the ground in the early morning and things didn’t stop until late in the evening, and there might have even been a happy hour stop during an hour or so of downtime.  There were a lot of tears, a lot of tacos, plenty of wine, and an abundance of good, good people.

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I remember when a friend of mine suggested I meet Erin because he was convinced that we were sort of the same person.  No two people are ever quite alike, but some of my most authentic, messy conversations have been with this woman.  I have felt safe to be my unfiltered self around Erin, and I have received nothing but grace, edification, and laughter (loud, soul-empowering laughter) in return.  There’s no conversation too frightening and no drink too strong for this girl, and I am thankful to be called her friend.

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When Erin and I talked about what she wanted for her makeup, she immediately mentioned Princess Kate.  Inspiration like the Duchess of Cambridge fits well within my philosophy of “natural-but-enhanced”, with glowing skin and a bit of extra drama for the eyes.  I even managed to pick up the exact lipstick used by Kate on her wedding day- Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Sandwash Pink.  Nothing crazy; a perfect bridal neutral-pink.  I also did some research and managed to use one of the eye colors from Kate’s wedding day- Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow in Taupe.  I love this color.  It’s not brown, it’s not grey.  It’s perfectly in between the two and extremely flattering.  You can wear it everyday as a liner or build it to create a slightly smokey eye as I did for Erin.  I blended this shade with my trusty MAC Shroom, maybe a shade or two from Dior’s Earth Reflection palette, and Christian Siriano for VS Makeup in Royal (yes, I’ve had this shadow for YEARS and I’m not sure what I’ll do when it runs out because I’ve yet to find a perfect match). I used Bobbie Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Liner in Black to line Erin’s upper lids.

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For Erin’s skin, we used her BareMinerals Original SPF15 Foundation after applying Hourglass’ Veil Mineral Primer.  I used Urban Decay’s Naked Flushed palette in Native for some light bronzer-based contouring and blush, along with MAC’s Mineralize SkinFinish in Soft and Gentle for highlighting.  Once I’ve applied everything (including lips), I tend to finish off the face with an all-over dusting of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Mood Light and a couple sprays of setting spray.

We also put a lot of focus on Erin’s brows (never a problem with me, as you know) using a powder eyeshadow of her choice and a gel to set.  We used accent half-strip lashes instead of full strips because we agreed (after some discussion) that while full strips work nicely for photos, they just didn’t quite fit the look we were going for.  Moreover, Erin already has long, beautiful eyelashes that really don’t need much help.

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I don’t know why but for some reason I’m obsessed with this shot displaying the finished product (minus the dress).  It might be the fact that I would wear Erin’s shirt and sweatpants out to dinner, but it might also be that I am just really, really happy with how she turned out and I love shots of the bride looking down.

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Seriously, would you check out those eyes?!  She looked stunning.

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And in case you’re dying of curiosity, here’s a shot of the dress, which was like nothing that I had ever seen before …

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What a great day this was.  I wish all weddings could be like this one, with this much laughter and this much open display of emotion and the sense that you have been invited into a marriage as a witness and an encourager.  Love you so much, Erin, and oceans of love to you and Carp.  I’ll be seeing you soon.  xo, MR

All photography (except still shot of makeup) credited to the fabulous John and Michelle Klewer, who turned out to be a special find amongst the beautiful chaos of the day.  If you like what you see, be sure to check out more of John’s work here.

Who gets my vote for best eye makeup EVER?

So, I kind of forgot to mention one particular muse of mine when I posted about celebrity beauty last time.  I’m not exactly sure how that happened, because she actually is the first one that comes to mind when I think of incredible eye makeup.  Honestly.  One of her looks even served as the inspiration for my own wedding makeup!  I don’t know how I managed to forget her.  Perhaps I had hair on the brain more than makeup that day I posted, but frankly, she deserves a post all her own.

Oh, Keira Knightley.  What can I say about Keira?  I admit that I relate to her brown hair, brown eyes, medium-toned skin and boyish figure, but her red carpet makeup for the past couple years has been out of this world and I’d kill to relate to that.  Her main go-to when it comes to makeup for big appearances is a smokey eye, which happens to be my favorite as well.  What makes her smokey eye looks so special is the beautiful blending of different shades of deep brown and gunmetal shadows, along with pearly shimmer on her inner and outer corner eyelids.  Top it off with some black eyeliner on the inner rims, and then just sit there for two hours applying fifty million coats of mascara.

Add a little flush to the cheeks and a light shade of whatever to the lips, and you’ve got something pretty close to perfection.  I just love how her warm, chestnut hair color complements the dramatic eyes, too.  I know she typically uses Kate Lee for her makeup, and lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Bobbi Brown references when searching for the products used on her.  It’s never a surprise to hear about Chanel products being used on her too, considering Keira’s been the long-time face of Chanel Mademoiselle.  Below is the exact makeup look I used as a reference for my wedding day.  It’s from one of Knightley’s premieres for her 2010 film Never Let Me Go.

The focus is obviously on the lashes here, and the shadow isn’t quite as dark.  There’s more of a mauve, metallic feel to it as opposed to sooty.  My own wedding makeup ended up consisting of a smokey eye using a deep eggplant shade and a rich espresso, along with Keira’s trademark shimmer in the corners of the eyes and on the places where light hits her face.  And of course, I can’t ever resist a full, well-groomed set of eyebrows.

I cannot wait to see how Knightley turns out on the red carpet for her upcoming premieres and press junkets for Anna Karenina.  And if she snags some nods during awards season, my (smokey) eyes will be glued to the telly!  xo, MR