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

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Drugstore Cowgirl Part 3

I recently realized that I’ve lost my NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella.  I have no idea where it is.  It doesn’t help that I’ve moved across the country within the past month by car.  That lip crayon could be anywhere.  For all I know some lucky corn farmer in Nebraska discovered the greatest shade of red lying in his field just off the highway a couple weeks ago, and is now wearing it proudly as he drives his John Deere.  Bless him.

The real bummer is that normally, I would take a jaunt down to my nearest Sephora this weekend and pick up a brand new lip crayon to replace my lost one.  However, I am currently searching for jobs and waiting for many application responses.  And while our bank account isn’t in dangerous territory by most standards, something about purchasing a … *gulps with guilt* … thirty dollar lipstick these days feels slightly out of responsible boundaries right now.

And now that I think about it, maybe the real, REAL bummer is the fact that I thought I needed a NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella when I also have a NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl, MAC’s matte lipstick in Ruby Woo, and MAC’s lipstick in Russian Red.  Just silly.  Maybe one shade of red can be good enough for now.  After all, where did fifty shades of grey get us?  It got us nowhere.  In relationships, in literature, in filmmaking, as women- nowhere.  And I don’t want to be ignorant of history and repeat humankind’s same mortal mistakes.

Anyways, now that you’re done being angry with me, we can move on to the main subject- drugstore finds!  And I’m talking drugstore finds that I have purchased and then used multiple times, much more than once.  With a renewed mindfulness toward money, I’m seeing that finding value in a great drugstore find is something to be relished.  Finding something that really works well for under ten dollars is just the best.  Sure, you’re lacking the “name”, or the pretty compact, or the lovely fragrance emitting from your mascara (I’m looking at you, DiorShow), but seriously- who cares?

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Speaking of shades of red, Revlon’s Ultra HD Lipstick in Gladiolus is an amazing drugstore choice.  I purchased it when I got the run-down of Emma Stone’s makeup at this year’s SAG awards, which I was obsessed with.  Her makeup artist, Rachel Goodwin, has done a brilliant job at incorporating new Revlon products into Emma’s looks.  What I really like about this formula is that it’s very comfortable.  This is not a matte shade at all, which is what I typically go for, but after wearing so many matte shades you tend to forget that lipstick actually can be creamy and comfortable (and as much as I love Ruby Woo, it makes my lips dry as a desert).  Such is the case with the Ultra HD; it’s very easy to wear.  I find that this shade is not brick or orange-y, and not too blue-based either.  It’s really beautiful on Emma with fair skin, but I also found it to be flattering on my skin tone which is more of an olive at times.  If you’re looking for a cheap red to try, I recommend this to you.

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I sometimes feel bad advocating for drugstore hair products because I know that salons rely heavily on their retail sales and I’m very much about supporting local salons.  However, hairspray is one product that I have never purchased from a salon because I don’t use it very often, and I honestly haven’t seen much of a difference in quality between salon hairspray or drugstore brands.  Moreover, some drugstore hairspray fragrances are so nostalgic to me.  Aussie, anyone?  And I will always associate Tresseme’s hairspray scent with my mom, who uses it every morning.

There was one occasion though when I needed a heavy duty hairspray that would hold an updo and help with teasing (which I hate to do).  I was going to a Halloween party as Holly Golightly, and I needed to recreate her French twist with all the volume at the crown.  L’Oreal’s Boost It High Lift Creation Spray is like the monster glue of hairspray, in my opinion.  You know when a hairspray isn’t so much a mist as it is a web?  That’s this stuff.  It has a backcombing, mattifying effect that was perfect for my updo on Halloween.  You can spray it and then tease a section of hair into Dolly Parton oblivion, or just mist it all over your hair and then watch it not move for the next 24 hours.  And the scent is very addicting but very strong, so, it’s basically smack as hairspray.  Proceed with caution.

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I used CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser Bar for the first time one month ago when I was staying at my mom-in-law’s house after we’d moved out of our apartment.  The scent is very clinical and soapy to me, but the soft texture it left behind on my skin was unmistakable.  I couldn’t wait for showers when using this bar, and I’ve continued to purchase it out here in Illinois.  I’ve always used body washes dispensed from bottles, and I have a tendency to probably use too much as a time and a lot more than is needed.  You have that advantage with a soap bar in that you’re not squeezing too much out, but the disadvantage is that the bar gets wet over time and can dissolve when you’re not using it, causing you to lose soap that way.  Regardless, I’ve been keeping CeraVe in rotation in our shower and will probably continue to do so when things get really windy in the winter.

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As I continue to grow out my hair in my endless quest for whatever it is I think I’m looking for, I’m starting to refocus my efforts on maintaining healthy and full ends.  This task used to be my number one priority when it came hair, but my recent chop has granted me some freedom in not having to think of split or broken ends so much.  Though my hair hasn’t reached my collar bone yet, I’m trying to become conscious again about heat protectants, being careful with aggressive hair ties, and using products that help to at least give the illusion of fuller ends.  I don’t think Garnier Fructis’ Full and Plush Ends Plumper Amplifying Leave-In Serum does a ton in the way of split end prevention, but it does at least temporarily seal ends to give them a healthier look.  This is also a good thing for volume as my hair starts to grow out and loses its natural volume that came from such a short cut.  I sampled Bumble and bumble’s new Full Potential line the other day and rubbed some of the Garner into my ends before hitting my hair with a blow-dryer for about three minutes, and wowie- my hair got huge, and not just from the scalp but all over.

Maybe one of these days I’ll suddenly find my lost Cruella in a box or jean pocket, but for now, I’m sticking with what I already have or learning to love the cheap stuff.  I want to grow out my hair anyhow (so no frequent cuts), and sometimes I think all you need for good skin is water and sleep anyhow.  I know I can afford that.  xo, MR

An Autobiographical Top Shelf

This post is done in the style of Into The Gloss’s Top Shelf feature, which I’ve been obsessed with for about five years now.  So basically, I’m pretending I’m being interviewed by Emily Weiss on all the products I love, in my own home, complete with “professional” photos/selfies.  Fake it ’till you make it, right?

My routine is hard to explain briefly.  I’ll say this, though- I am not low maintenance when I don’t have to be.  There’s no shame in that.  I’m addicted to haircare, skincare, makeup, all that, but I really don’t afford myself much time to enjoy it on a daily basis.  I either want to spend an hour getting ready just the way I like, or I want to be out the door in five minutes.  All or nothing.  It’s part of how I appreciate beauty- I hate doing any of it halfheartedly.  One of my least favorite things is when I try to quickly wiggle on some mascara in the morning on the way to work and then it turns out all sloppy and incomplete by my standards.  It’s not worth it.  I’d rather bite the bullet and go bare.

SKINCARE

So, what I do depends on the day.  If I have time, I start from the bottom layer and work up, though I try to make the skincare thing happen every day.  I typically begin with a serum, and I’ve decided Caudalie’s S.O.S Thirst Quenching Serum is the best.  I tried Shiseido’s Ultimune, but I like Caudalie’s better for the money.  It feels so fresh on my skin, sometimes I forget to put on moisturizer afterwards.  It’s been hard to pin down a great moisturizer for me because I’m always looking for something natural, but effective and with SPF that doesn’t leave a weird residue.  I’ve been using Origins A Perfect World Moisturizer these past couple months.  It smells amazing and has SPF 25.  I’ve also like Desert Essence’s Daily Essential Defense Moisturizer from Sprout’s or Whole Foods, but it wouldn’t absorb well when it was hot out so I continued my hunt.  When I checked out Origins, the lady helping me gave me a quick facial and she talked me into the toner from the same line.  I haven’t used toner in forever because I feel it’s unnecessary and drying, but this stuff felt tingly and actually left my skin moisturized.  There’s a lot of white tea in it.  We’ll see if I keep it up.

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For face wash, I alternate between Origins and Desert Essence, which is entirely made of oils and some castile soap.  It sounds basic, but there’s a ton of random stuff in it like bladderwrack extract and goldenseal root extract that I hadn’t even heard of before using it.  For a night cream, I’ve been using Acure’s for a couple years and it’s really rich with lavender and chamomile.  It’s very calming.  I think they sell it at Target now, but it’s been at Whole Foods forever.  For zits, I’m pretty faithful to Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion.  My husband loves it too.  I try to just leave zits alone for the most part these days; I find that doing anything to try and “heal” them just aggravates them or doesn’t quicken their disappearance.  Sometimes I’ll do a mask if I’m just watching Netflix late at night.  I’ll use Lancome’s Hydra Intense Masque.  It’s super cooling and smells amazing; I love putting on some I Love Lucy and having a late-night snack when I do a mask.  Best ritual ever!  I’ll also use Origins’ Clear Improvement charcoal mask for porous areas; the lady who gave me the facial at Origins gave it to me for free!  I like face wipes too, and my favorite are the Yes To Cucumbers kind.  I can’t tell you how many packs of those my mom has jammed into my Christmas stocking over the years.  I buy them in bulk at Target.

The one thing that’s still sort of a mystery to me is eye cream.  I like ones that are cooling and depuffing, and I like rollerball kinds best because they’re more sanitary than dabbing your finger into a jar of cream and then putting it on your eye.  Simple Skincare makes a good one, as does First Aid Beauty, but I don’t know.  I’m just not there yet.

HAIR

My hair stylist knows I’m a major product addict.  The funniest thing has been when I’ve asked him about products from lines that he uses before they’re even out yet or before he’s heard about them!  I read about hair stuff in magazines and then I want to go out and try it.  New hair products are what I get most excited about, so I’ve tried a lot but I can finally say I have favorites.  I wash my hair every three or four days, and I alternate between two shampoos.  I’ve been using Rahua’s shampoo for over three years now, and it’s pricey but I feel absolutely no guilt using or purchasing it because it’s so natural.  There’s really no soap in it.  It’s another product made up mostly of oils.  I’ll use another shampoo every other wash, typically an Aveda one like their Color Conserve or Dry Remedy.  I’ll try anything for conditioner.  I’ve been obsessed with conditioners since my late teens because I was always trying to find ones that would make my hair grow or repair it, but I don’t really believe conditioner does that anymore.  I’ve used one from Davines for a long time called Momo; I love it.  I’ll also ask for Kerastase samples from my friend who works at a L’Oreal salon because I can’t afford Kerastase, but their deep conditioners have the craziest reputations so I’m always desperate to try them.  I also like Alterna, mostly their treatments from their Caviar line.  They’re good for when I want to grow my hair out.  I use Unite’s 7 Seconds Leave-In Conditioner to detangle with a wide-tooth comb after I wash, but I think I like Bumble and Bumble’s Prep spray better for this.  I’ll go back to it after I run out of the Unite.  The Prep spray has hops and rosemary, the latter of which is good for lice prevention.  I work around kids, and lice is one of those things that you can’t really avoid if you’re in that environment.  It’s part of life, so you just have to do what you can.  Tea tree oil works well for this too, by the way.

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For styling, I’m a sucker for anything to do with texture.  Living Proof’s Instant Texture Mist is great for giving that pliable “chunk” feel that I love for hair, and I also like Bumble And Bumble’s stylers like their Dryspun Finish and Cityswept Finish.  If it mattifies, gives texture, or extends a blowout, I’ll try it.  Anything for the second- or third-day hair look.  I like Oribe’s Apres Beach Wave And Shine Hairspray too, though my hair does “beachy” really well on it’s own.  I love Oribe’s products for their scent.  And the best dry shampoo in the world is Klorane’s, hands down.  The non-aerosol kind has stretched out so much time between washes for me.  It can make your scalp itchy if you put too much on and don’t brush it out, but it’s still the best.  The drugstore kinds suck.  If I want a smooth or blown-out look I’ll use R&Co’s Jackpot Styling Creme.  The scent is intense but it stretches out my hair beautifully, and the effect lasts around three days.

I got into the R&Co stuff because my salon started carrying it.  I go to Salon 9 in Orange, and I’ve been going to Justin Kamm for nearly ten years!  He’s a genius.  He teaches workshops and is part of the cutting team for Davines.  We finally, FINALLY cut my hair past my shoulders just this weekend.  I’ve always had my hair long or mid-length, because I love long hair and I love playing with it.  I miss topknots and ponytails and long waves, but the bob that Justin gave me feels so right.  It’s good to do at least once, and I’m surprised at how comfortable I feel with it.  I feel reeeeeally French.  And the best part is, all those texture products work so well with this cut.  I still put a bit of wave in it with my Hot Tools iron, but roughing it up with some kind of product gives it that grit that I’m always after.

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MAKEUP

Makeup is tricky.  I’ve tried a ton, but over the years I’ve come to find that I’m actually really picky and haven’t tried quite as much as other people (which is encouraging).  Makeup is expensive, and I take forever to run out of anything so buying too much is a really wasteful choice for me.  I don’t use primer much, but I like BeneFit’s The Porefessional when I do makeup for brides.  It feels silky.  I like to use Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm on myself and then immediately put on powder or foundation once it absorbs.  I prefer this to primer.  It sort of gives skin a brightening effect.  For foundation, I love Bare Minerals’ Original SPF Foundation because it still leaves a glow.  I don’t like a matte skin finish; I’m all about dewy skin and mattified hair.  The opposite feels too Vegas or Miss America for me.  If I want a liquid foundation, Lancome’s Teint Miracle is nice but I still haven’t landed on a favorite.  I just don’t think I like liquid foundation.  I even have a BB Cream that I like but I just don’t use it too often.  You can’t escape the feeling of liquid makeup on your face, which I hate.  I immediately want to take it off.  Concealer is nearly always Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat in Luminous Vanilla.  I used to hate it, and I’m not sure why.  It’s the most lightweight formula I can find that still gives coverage.  However, I’m not too concerned anymore with getting rid of dark circles anymore because for some reason, I like them now.  They seem to give a touch of character.  A heavy concealer under the eyes looks too finished for me.  You need that bit of wear in your face.

NARS Bronzer in Laguna is pretty standard, and I’ll try almost any blush.  NARS has the best ones.  I’ve liked their creme formula in Lokoum for a long time but I think it’s discontinued.  Their other powder shades are bonkers; I love Exhibit A and Liberte.  MAC has a gorgeous one from their Mineralize line called Warm Soul.  It super pretty for everyday, but mineral blush on top of mineral powder it can make your skin look funny.  I like it on bare skin.  MAC’s Plum Foolery is also good; I wore it for my wedding day and my mom wears it, too.  I have a couple Chanel blushes too, but I hate to admit that I bought them because they were honestly just too expensive and frankly, MAC and NARS make better ones.  The Chanel ones have perfume in them.  You feel glamorous putting them on, but they’re a murderous, stupid splurge.  Spend that kind of money on groceries or not at all, for God’s sake.

Eye makeup is a journey for me.  I take forever to decide what I’m going to do with my eyes.  Eyeshadow feels like such a commitment, which is probably why I wear it the least out of anything.  It’s takes me a lot of time and concentration, and I always need to put shadow primer on if I’m going to do it because it makes such an undeniable difference.  I think I like purple shadows on myself best.  It’s just enough of an interesting color to feel special, and it does wonders for brown eyes.  MAC’s Sketch and Embark are good.  I bought the Embark because it’s the closest thing I could find that matches this special edition Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow I have.  Christian Siriano from Project Runway did a collection for them a long time ago and it included this eyeshadow that is literally perfect.  It’s matte, smooth, has amazing concentration, and is this deep purple-brown shade called Royalty that, of course, ended with the collection.  I’m going through it really slowly, but I love using it for smokey eyes.  A lot of that stuff with a ton of MAC’s kohl liner in Feline, and boosh- I feel like Catwoman.  If I’m really going for it I’ll use Urban Decay’s eye pencil in Vice, too, and smudge it out.  The best is when a smokey eye looks sweaty and sparkly, like a hazy night at Studio 54 in 1978. This pencil does that.  Oh and my mascara is pretty much exclusively CoverGirl.  I swear, theirs are the best.

Lips are simple.  I do very little, unless it’s something like a red lip.  I like lip colors that look like just a bit of something, because I usually like to focus on my eyes.  A lot of times it’s just a few swipes of Burt’s Bees.  Everything I like tends to be pinky-nude.  I’ve liked Dior’s Addict lipstick in Tulle, L’Oreal’s Colour Riche Balm in Nourishing Nude, and Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in Nude Provocateur.  I guess I gravitate toward balm stains, or gloss balms, or all those hybrid formulas we see these days.  Nothing too lipstick-y.  An exception would be NARS’ lip pencils.  Those are brilliant.

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Oh!  I almost forgot about brows.  I use one thing- CK One’s Brow Pencil and Gel Duo in Crafty Raven.  I like thick, groomed eyebrows, but I hate how many rules and standards there are with them these days.  They have to be perfectly shaped, tapered, filled in, not too thin, all that.  I’m not into it, and same goes for the contouring craze.  It’s just too much, too Kim with all the banana powder and shading and all that.  I’m not into tricks that transform your face into another face, though it’s cool that it can be done.  I like to look like myself, but with a bit of a wink I guess.  That’s the best for me, at least.  xo, MR

When in Rome, do as the French do. Or whatever.

photo (96)So, I’ve been trying this new thing lately.  I’ve been wearing just red lipstick.  No no, just red lipstick.  I’ll put on my moisturizer, comb my eyebrows if I have a moment (and lightly even them out with a pencil if even more time), and then choose one of my reds and get to paintin’.  And then I’ll leave.  No concealer anywhere, no blush, no mascara, nothing beyond the red lip.  Today was one of these days, and I employed NARS Dragon Girl.  It’s brighter than the more scarlet Cruella, but I’ll take either one.

Considering my inability to wake up in a timely manner, I often find myself lacking the time to put on any sort of makeup before I leave the house for work.  I’ve discussed this before.  But it bums me out.  For as much of a crazy hoarder lady as I am when it comes to makeup, I have to say that I probably wear it just three out of seven days during the week.  It’s depressing too, because putting on makeup has the capabilities of relaxing and centering me, and I have to miss out on that creative moment just for myself.  But part of what prevents me from doing my makeup quickly is this belief that when I do it, I have to do a full routine.  And it’s not that a full routine necessarily takes a ton of time once I get going, but it’s just that I take about as long as an Ent to make a decision when it comes to makeup.  Seriously.  I’ll lay all of my makeup out in front of me and then just stare at it for a few minutes before I pick anything up.

What’s great about the red lip, however, is that it needs nothing else.  It really doesn’t.  No “full routine” is necessary.  I recently read an interview of makeup artist phenom Laura Mercier, and she talked about how you can find women all over her home country of France who wear absolutely no makeup everyday except for red lipstick.  Their hair is perhaps casually pulled back, their skin is bare, but their lips are painted vibrant red.  And somehow the touch of unabashedly glamorous red manages to pull your whole look together.  It looks intentional, and yet it still appears like you didn’t try too hard.  Like you just ascend to Audrey Hepburn levels of sophistication on a regular basis, even if you’re just in a sweater and jeans.

I do admit that I love the French beauty aesthetic a lot more than our American perspective on it.  The French idea of beauty tends to revolve a lot more around the natural and the subtle.  There’s a sense of restraint within French women when it comes to things like makeup and hair, and yet they’ll never be accused of not taking the subject seriously (but not in an obsessive manner like we tend to be used to … think more reverence than obsession).  Conversely, American beauty has few subtleties to it by comparison.  The idealized perception of Barbie and women like those we see in the Miss America pageant, the outlandish plastic surgery procedures we’ll undergo just to feel like a “hotter” version of ourselves, all the gloss, shadow, and false lashes we use, and the heavy face makeup that really doesn’t do a thing for your face other than make you look like the child of RuPaul … seriously, what we tend to perceive as light, day-time makeup here will fly as an over-done full face of crepe batter in France.

It isn’t that French women don’t try; it’s just that there’s a difference between, say, trying to look like a Victoria’s Secret model every day from the time you’re twenty until you’re fifty, as opposed to just simply trying to age gracefully when it needs to happen.  I’d like to think that what I’m doing (and not doing) to my skin today is actually an investment that will pay off when I’m sixty.  And finally, the most interesting part of French beauty culture to me is the fact that there’s zero emphasis on working out.  They take their time with food, eat a very balanced diet, and do plenty of walking, but the gym fanatic culture we see here in America doesn’t exist in France.  Whether a woman has a J.Lo butt and Gwen Stefani abs isn’t really a concern; it has more to do with a woman’s taste and how she carries herself.

I know all of this may sound like the very height of snobbery, and for that I apologize.  It’s just that getting acquainted with the French idea of beauty over the past couple years has given me the realization that getting ready, or should I say getting pulled together in a sophisticated way, doesn’t have to be as hard as a routine of eye makeup, face makeup, and curled hair.  In fact, sometimes doing just the opposite has a much chicer effect, and this has been nothing short of freeing for me personally.  Because I feel like concealer, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, and mascara are all necessary when I do my makeup, I give up on all of it all together when I don’t have the time.  But not so with the French!  Just grab the rouge and go, and if it can be so with the French, it can be so for moi.  xo, MR

p.s. Oh, have I been to France?  Nope.  But let me just say this- when I get there, DO NOT expect to find me galavanting around like an excited tourist.  I intend to blend in seamlessly, even if it means wearing a paper bag on my head as some kind of fashion-forward “statement” so I can hide from you.  I need to be taken seriously by the people that I so admire, and I’ll be not be outed by you ID-ing me as a ‘Murican!  If there is a ever a time when I need to look like I can cut you with my gaze, it’s when you find me in Paris.  I’ll be wearing the most uncomfortable plantar-fascitis-inducing heels with the most awesome, heavy, bad-for-travelling-but-good-for-looking-like-Catherine-Denueuve coat I can find.  I don’t have time for your comfy sweater-sets and walking shoes and backpacks!  What is that kind of foolery?!  Don’t look at me with your fanny pack in Paris.  DON’T look at me.

IT’S SO SPARKLY!!!!!

Every year, the issues I look forward to the most for almost every fashion magazine out there are the December issues.  The September and March issues, while amazing, are just a little too overwhelming for me, and though I do really love the summer issues of June and July, I always love the December issues because they’re all about dressing up, dramatic party makeup, and trying something fancy with your hair.  It’s glitter, sequins, lame’, metallics, brocade and jewel tones, and if there’s anything I love more than casual autumn style, it’s festive holiday style, because it’s … sparkly!!!

So, what do I do for makeup when it comes to holiday festivities?  There are several options I tend to choose from- smokey metallic eyes, glittery nails, perfected skin, red lips, and shimmery gloss.

I know it’s been quite the year for nail art, but really psychedelic  nails don’t seem appropriate to me until the party invitations start rolling out for Christmas.  I haven’t done real honest-to-goodness statement nails yet, but I do love to indulge in a special, sparkly varnish around December that evokes nothing other than Christmas lights!  Chanel’s Le Vernis in Black Pearl for their Spring 2011 line is kind of a bluish-greenish-silverish shade that I found mysterious and different.  Butter London’s Wallis is a blackish-gold glittery polish that does a good job at giving my nails disco fever.  I’ve often passed by some really cool shades by Deborah Lippmann at Nordstrom, and I’m contemplating picking one up in Let’s Go Crazy.  We’ll see.  I have to add here that my dear friend Hailey snuck a Christmas treat for me right under my nose while shopping together on Black Friday, in the form of Deborah Lippmann’s Forget You.  I love it even more than Let’s Go Crazy because it has a black base color rather than purple!  Perfect New Year’s polish!  Thanks Hailey!

During the holiday season, I tend to make greater use of items like my MakeUpForever HD MicroFinish Powder because photo-taking is more frequent (though Instagramming your photos is kind of the sad, cheap cure for any skin imperfections now).  I also like using shimmery highlighters on my face and chest more during this time, because it suits the festivities and stands out at night.

For lips, I know it could be easy to go the deep bordeaux route in honor of fall, but nothing seems to scream “HAVE A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS!” more than a classic red lip.  I get that they’re kind of a year-round staple that are here to stay these day, but red lips just feel so right against a formal, decorative ensemble paired with that faux-fur vest and those killer boots.  The key to a red lip is finding the right shade for you.  I have to admit that it really, really bothers me when I see ladies wearing the wrong shade of red.  If you have fair skin with cool, bluish undertones (check your veins), go for more blue-based reds.  I hear that Revlon’s Fire and Ice is a good choice, along with MAC’s Ruby Woo.  Whatever Dita Von Teese wears will work.  My NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in Cruella seems to fit the category for medium shades, and if you have warmer or more olive skin, try for something more orange or brownish-based, like a tomato red such as MAC’s You Say Tomato or Revlon’s Orange Flip.  The shade that seems to get the most buzz for being universally flattering is MAC’s Russian Red, but I also hear plenty of good things about the NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in Dragon Girl.  Take the time speak to a cosmetics consultant about finding your best shade of red, or do some true online or magazine research.  It’s worth it.  And if you’re going without the red lip, at least go for glittery gloss a la’ Givenchy Gelee D’Interdit in Icy Peach.  Yum.

And lastly, my favorite part- the eyes.  I love a smokey eye any time of year, but making them a little more special with metallic shades of gunmetal or gold jazzes them up just enough.  Sometimes I like to add a little color too, like with this Revlon palette in Sultry Smokes.  I was drawn to it because of the deep navy blue shade it featured; it wasn’t just different shades of black.  Or you could go for a plum smokey eye like Mila Kunis, or an all-over silver wash.  And of course, don’t forget to line the inner rims in a black, inky kohl pencil.

With Thanksgiving just days away, I’m excited to begin adding in little bits of sparkle into my makeup routine here and there.  It’ll have to come with my everyday look, because I honestly don’t have that many parties lined up for December.  Cheers to glittery nails on work days!  xo, MR

P.S.  People StyleWatch magazine used my comments for their “Are You Loving …” feature … again.  See what I had to say in the December ’12/January ’13 issue with Taylor Swift on the cover- it’s a whole six words long!  Although I am disappointed they didn’t use my mention of the word ‘avant-garde’ … must’ve been too high-brow for the demographic.  Whatevs.