Foxalicious Fundamentals: How to Clean Your Brushes

How to Clean Your Brushes

Chaos just asked on the Wall about cleaning brushes, and I thought that would be a good thing to address in a post. Since I’ve told you all to go buy brushes, I should probably tell you how to clean them, huh?

I clean my brushes about once a week; sometimes more frequently, sometimes less. Some brushes I clean every day or two. I’m trying to accumulate more backup brushes of these types so that I don’t have to wash them so often. From start to finish it takes me about 15 minutes depending on how many brushes I’m cleaning (usually around 12-15).

Using a plain old drinking glass (a short one, like a rocks glass, 12 oz. or so), I first put in 3-5 drops of tea tree oil (which is a natural antibacterial agent), then about three pumps of cleanser. You can use almost any gentle cleanser; I use facial cleansers that for one reason or another I didn’t like on my face. If it takes makeup off your face, it will take makeup off your brush. Hand soaps are not as good and can dry out your brush bristles. Liquid dish detergent is OK in a pinch; shampoos (especially baby shampoos) are fine; facial cleansers are fine. Right now I’m using a pHisoderm cleanser that I accidentally bought in the wrong form (cream instead of gel).

I then put about an inch of warm water in the glass and swirl it around using one of the brushes I intend to clean until the cleanser and tea tree oil are mixed in. I plop in as many other brushes as I can reasonably fit in there, and I let them sit for a minute or two. While you are waiting, this is a good time to collect and sharpen any cosmetic pencils you might need for the week. It takes just the right amount of time. If your brushes are really dirty or you have been using them in a lot of cream products, you might want to try a brief “wash” with olive oil first to help loosen some of the oily bits. Wipe well with a paper towel and then clean as usual.

After they have soaked for just a minute or two, I turn the faucet on a tiny bit (warm water). I put another drop of cleanser into my left palm, pull out a brush, and swirl it around in the cleanser until all the color comes out of it. If in doubt, rinse off your hand and try it with another drop; eventually you will not get any more color out of the brush. Rinse under warm water. Be careful not to get water where the metal ferrule of the brush meets the brush handle — eventually this can loosen and the brush head can come off.

I usually take a paper towel and press the brush loosely to get out some of the water. Then I gently reshape it (most of the time you do not have to be super-precise) and lay it down to dry, either horizontal or (better) tilting downwards so that the water runs down the hair and out of the brush, not up the hair into the ferrule. Again, this can weaken the glue and then brush hairs will start to come out more easily. I usually take a roll of grippy shelf liner and put it on the counter; I can balance brushes on it with the brush heads pointing downward and they don’t slip off. Or you could just do a rubber band around a clump of brushes and push the hook of a coat hanger through it and hang them upside down.

For big puffy brushes or ones that you really want to be sure come out the same shape as they went in, you can use a length of toilet tissue wrapped gently but firmly around the brush head, or, if your brush is really big, the tube from the inside of a roll of toilet tissue or a roll of paper towels (you can cut these and get several drying sheaths out of one paper towel roll). They take a little longer to dry this way, but you maintain the shape. The bath tissue and the cardboard do also absorb some water, which helps.

Other tips and tricks? Do you have a favorite way of cleaning brushes or a favorite product to use? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Review: Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation (liquid)

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

This foundation gets a lot of buzz on the interwebz. Like MAC, Make Up For Ever (MUFE) has a cult following for certain things: foundations, eyeshadows, and primers, to name a few. They also have a wide variety of false lashes, both “natural”-looking and not, and are just coming out with a line of HD cream/liquid blushes based on the same kind of technology in the HD Foundation. In addition to the HD line, other popular MUFE foundations include Mat Velvet, for oily skin, and Face & Body, which is overall a more sheer product and probably not for those of us over the legal drinking age.

This is one of those foundations that promises to do everything from make your skin look radiant and flawless to washing the dishes and driving your kids to soccer practice. (I’m hoping that if I put the bottle near my tax forms, it will decide to do those as well. So far, no luck.) And gosh darn it, the product is pretty near perfect, but there is one problem with it that makes it a dealbreaker for me unless I can figure out how to “make it work.”

First, the good news: MUFE HD Invisible Cover Foundation comes in 25 shades, both pink- and yellow-toned, so if you can’t find a match for your skin tone, I’ll eat my hat. I use Shade 115, which is shade Ivory, for light skin with pink undertones (for reference, I am NW20 in MAC). This is a beautiful, beautiful foundation going on. It applies smoothly with a brush (I smudge out any brush marks with my fingers) and does last for the whole day. Both powder and cream blushes go over it well, as do cheek stains. My skin tends towards the dry, but with appropriate moisturization underneath, I don’t see any flaking or peeling. I purchased this in the winter, so I don’t know whether its performance in summer will be equally good or whether the weather will prevent it from weathering as well, if you know what I mean. It removes cleanly with Clarisonic, cleanser, and toner.

The dealbreaker for me is that no matter what I try (and I have tried many things), I cannot seem to prevent it from sinking into my pores, which makes me look a little bit like I have applied a Swiss dot appliqué to my skin. This is cute if you are a set of bedroom curtains, but otherwise, not so much. I have tried it with MUFE’s own HD primer, Smashbox Photo Finish, Dior Airflash, Dr. Brandt Pores No More, and my current favorite, Too Faced’s Primed and Poreless. No matter what, I get the little white dots of doom after about an hour — which is really a shame because otherwise this foundation is gorgeous. Coverage is medium to full, but the product does not feel heavy or taut on skin. If you have any ideas on how to prevent this, please share them in the comments because I really want this product to be an all-around win.

Now, just because I have a problem with it falling into pores doesn’t mean you will, of course, but I would definitely recommend getting a sample from Sephora first before plopping down your hard-earned cash (because this foundation is not cheap) for a whole bottle.


Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation: $40

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. I don’t know how long this would last with daily use.

Purchase again? Yeah, if I can fix the pore problem.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation (Cream)

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

It’s kind of unfair, I suppose, to lead off with the foundation I’m liking the most at the moment, but there it is. I have been on a little bit of a MAC kick lately, I admit; I never used to buy MAC products (I’m not a big fan of ultra-hype and teenage fangirls), but since I started picking them up at my local-ish CCO, where you can play with the products in a quiet environment without being surrounded by rock music, black-clad hipsters, and a sales-pressure atmosphere, I’ve come to like them enough to actually deal with the in-store annoyances, so now I’m trying out a bunch of their products. Don’t worry, this is not going to become a MAC-fangirl blog; there are plenty of things I still don’t like about them, such as the fact that they seem to be putting out a new “collection” about every two weeks, many of which are merely repackaging of existing permanent items, and … well, no need to go on a tirade.

Regardless of your opinions on their music, hipsters, and sales atmosphere, MAC has established a major footprint in an incredibly important but previously underappreciated corner of the market: skin tone typing for the purpose of buying foundation. They have a system of identifying both the lightness/darkness and pink/yellow tendencies of your skin that has become a universal language in discussing foundations (both their own and those of other companies) and other products. Example: “If I’m an NC35 in MAC, what shade would I be in Revlon PhotoReady?” or “I’m an NW15; should I be wearing warm or cool brown eyeshadows?”

So if nothing else, it’s definitely worth it to stop by your local MAC store or counter (in many department stores) and get color-matched, so that you know your MAC number. There are two parts to the system: letters and numbers. The numbers are fairly intuitive, with the lower ones for paler skin and the higher ones for darker skin, and they range from 15 to 55. The letters indicate whether you are warmer- or cooler-toned, and this is a little more confusing for many people. In the rest of the world, if you have yellow undertones to your skin, you are considered to be “warm.” If you have pink undertones, you are considered to be “cool.” The MAC system is the reverse; it’s based on an artist’s color wheel, in which red-pink is a warmer color than yellow-olive. So, skin with pink undertones is “warm” and skin with yellow/olive undertones is “cool.” Skin tones are indicated by letters thusly:

NW: pinker skin

NC: yellower skin

There are also just plain N’s and C’s, but most people will end up being an NW or an NC. As all skin tones have some yellow in them, there is no plain “W” foundation shade, since no one is all pink and no yellow. If it helps, you can think of an NW as Not Warm, and an NC as Not Cool, if you want to keep your definitions of “warm” and “cool” consistent.

I am light-skinned with a complexion that tilts just slightly towards pink. I am an NW20.

Once you know your shade, you can also match it to MAC concealers and powders, since they follow the same typing system, and you can use it to figure out a comparable shade in other foundation lines. (I guarantee you that if you go to Sephora and say, “I’m an NW20 in MAC; can you recommend an appropriate shade in NARS?” they will be able to tell you, even though Sephora does not sell MAC products.)

So. On to the actual product! The Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation is a cream foundation that is one of MAC’s newer products. It comes with a little applicator pad, but like most applicators that come packaged with cosmetics products, this can be deposited directly into the trash. I apply with a foundation brush, over primer (I’m still using Too Faced’s Primed and Poreless facial primer), and blend the areas around my nose, inner eye, etc., with my fingers. It provides a medium to medium-full level of coverage, which is great for me. I can add extra coverage of blemishes or random skin flaws with concealer, and it’s significantly reduced the amount of undereye concealer I need to use. To set the foundation, I use a light buffing of MUFE HD powder.

This foundation does last all day on me, although by the end of the evening I can see some dry patches. This is the most moisturizing of the MAC foundations I tried, and I do moisturize well before application, so I’m not sure what could be done to lessen the effect. But because I only become dry at the very end of the evening, I’m not disappointed with the results. Some people do report that MAC foundations break them out, but I haven’t had any trouble with this. It removes cleanly with my Clarisonic, cleanser, and toner. There is usually a tiny bit of color on the cotton ball when I’m done with the toner, so it doesn’t quite all come off with the Clarisonic, but the toner does take off the remainder. I have also slept in it (do not tell the makeup police) and I haven’t had any trouble. I don’t recommend sleeping in makeup, but everyone falls off the wagon now and then.

Swatch, showing color at its most concentrated at left, then blending out to meet skin tone. (Remember that your/my arm is not the same skin tone as your/my face, too, so colors may appear a bit different.)


Foxalicious Fundamentals — Foundation 101


MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation (cream): $32.00 (By the way, MAC foundation swatches on the website are not very reliable color-wise. If you know your number, just go with that and don’t worry about what the swatch looks like. They’re pretty bad.)

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair, but we’ll see how long it lasts. I may have to come back and revise that.

Purchase again? Surely.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation 101

Ah, foundation. Agony, ecstasy, blessing, curse, best of times, worst of times, FTW, FAIL.

(FTW is “for the win,” for those of you who aren’t up on your Lolcats terminology.)

I think that for some women, “foundation” is what they think of when they think of makeup. “I don’t wear makeup” often means “I don’t wear foundation.” And a lot of women who “don’t wear makeup” are resistant to foundations because they perceive that it will be fake-looking, or heavy, or chalky, or oily, or drying, or the wrong shade, or will wear off, melt off, slide off, or rub off, or, conversely, that they will have to scrub it off, peel it off, or chip it off with a hammer and chisel.

Guess what? All of those things could happen! But they won’t, since you’re going to do a lot of trying before buying and familiarizing yourself with different brands, formulations, and tools.

Do I really need to wear a foundation?

Almost everyone benefits from some sort of allover product to even out facial skin tone. It can be as sheer as a tinted moisturizer or powder (which will also be part of this series), or as full-coverage as a stick foundation or cream. Even within one kind of formulation, there will be a variety of degrees of coverage and moisturization: although in general creams are thicker than liquids, in practice you may well find some creams that blend out very sheerly on the face and some liquids that grab the skin and hang on for dear life. This is why testing is required!

Many foundations today also come with SPF ingredients, some with SPF ratings as high as 50. While a standalone sunscreen is always a good idea, a little bit of extra protection in a foundation can’t hurt (unless, of course, you’re allergic or sensitive to some of the sunscreen ingredients).

I just don’t want to feel like I’m putting on my mother’s makeup!

Foundations have come a long, long way since your mother wore them. Most of them are now so finely formulated that you can’t feel them on your face, so you won’t have the feeling you’re wearing a mask or that your skin is getting stretched or dried. (If you do, you have the wrong foundation.) The best cover up minor imperfections (redness, minor acne scars, unevenness of tone) while also giving you a slightly dewy, glowing, satiny canvas on which to apply other products. The very very matte look is out, so if you are dry-skinned, stay away from the mattifying foundations. Oily-skinned folks can find foundations that absorb oil without turning your face into a clay mask, and all skin types can find products to give them a “MSBB” (My Skin But Better) natural radiance.

Foundations scare me. When you put on foundation, you cross the line between looking “natural” and looking “made-up.”

Not necessarily. And you don’t have to use foundation on your whole face. If you have redness on your nose and cheeks, but the rest of your skin is glowy and fabulous all by itself, then just apply it where you need it and blend it out.

Isn’t it goopy and a pain to apply? Don’t you have to be “good at makeup” to do it right? What if I do it wrong?

It’s not really about technique per se, although of course there are helpful tips and tricks. You have to figure out what tools you need for the foundation you have, and learn how to use them, that’s all. Powder foundations will obviously require a brush of some sort. Liquid foundations can be applied with your fingers (goopiest method), with a sponge (less goopy, but the sponge eats a lot of the foundation), or with a brush (least goopy, but often requires you to go over it afterwards with fingers or sponge and blend out the edges). Same for creams. Stick foundations are usually applied directly to the face and then blended out with a brush or sponge, but those are also usually for more oily skin types, which take better to that kind of application method than dry skins do.

I’ll talk about specific tools when I get to particular types of foundations.

I don’t want to be one of those people with a visible makeup line at her neck.

OK, so don’t be. Ensuring that this doesn’t happen has two parts: 1. (most important) Make sure you have the right color foundation! and 2.) always blend over the jawline and into the neck to be sure you don’t have a line. See? Easy peasy.

Is it going to cost me an arm and a leg?

Foundations come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and costs. There are a few good drugstore foundations. There are many good mid-range foundations. There are also many high-end foundations, some of which are great and some of which are not worth the car payment it takes to buy them.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to be reviewing several different foundations for you. I’ve already done the L’Oreal Bare Naturale powder mineral foundation, but I have some liquids, creams, and tinted moisturizers to review. My dry skin has not done well with stick foundations in the past, so I don’t own any, but if any of you Vixens have experience with stick foundations you’d like to share, I’m all ears.

So, stay tuned! Further fundamental foundation foxaliciousness to come!

Open-Thread Thursday, A Biologist Goes to Sephora, Q of the W, SALES

Hooray for LOLcats by mherzber.Three cheers and hip hip hooray! Recently, A Biologist made her first trip to Sephora! (I am SO EXCITED!) I asked her to share her experience and she was kind enough to do so. So for all of you who are a little intimidated by the bright lights and eau-de-chic that they spritz into the air over there, take heart! If A Biologist can do it, so can you!

Here is her story:

My First Trip to Sephora (by A Biologist)

It’s been a week since my first trip to Sephora. I kept putting it off because I was afraid of getting the hard sell and coming out with $150 of stuff that I wouldn’t wear and didn’t know how to use. I didn’t want to get scolded for not wearing makeup or for improper skin care. I was also nervous because it is the one store in the mall where all the women going in and out look chic and polished and put together. I feel decidedly frumpy when I pass the store. My daily makeup routine pre-Sephora was usually just chapstick. After discussion here, and some—okay, a lot—of online browsing, I chose two products from the Laura Mercier line to try, a tinted moisturizer and an undereye concealer. I planned to go after work on a weekday so the store wouldn’t be as crowded.

The big day arrived. What to wear? Should I wear makeup? Will I get the stink eye from the salesclerks for being hopelessly un-beautified? Finally I chose a crisp white button down shirt, but skipped makeup for ease of product testing. I felt better if I thought of it as a research experience. I have done much scarier things for Science than walk into a store full of glamazons. My white shirt was a stealth lab coat.

As I entered I was immediately overwhelmed. Dazzling lights were reflected from mirrors on seemingly every surface, but the lighting was somehow also a little dim. The store was three times bigger than I thought it would be, and there were rows and rows of products organized by brand. I tried to quickly find the Laura Mercier section, but I walked through the store twice and couldn’t find it. Green and purple Urban Decay eye shadows screamed for my attention. Sparkly makeup boxes and posters of models with elaborate makeup distracted my eye from the shelf labels. There were also rows of “All Natural” products with Body Shop-esque packaging. Several shoppers were being made up by saleswomen, with a girlfriend or two watching intently. Maybe I should have brought a friend. I was the frumpy one with no friends who couldn’t find Laura Mercier even though every shelf was clearly labeled at eye level. Quelling rising panic, I asked one of the women with tool belts full of makeup brushes if they have Laura Mercier. She smiled pleasantly and walked me over to the shelf, which was right next to the entrance. She said she was “with someone” but if I could wait a few minutes she would send someone over to help me. I sagged with relief.

I looked over the products to identify the moisturizer and concealer I’d chosen.   I usually wear the very palest shade of a product, and I had just had enough time to notice that the concealer came in both a light yellowish and a light pinkish shade.  A young woman with dyed dark hair, dramatic eyeliner, and a French manicure with black tips arrived to help me.  Quirky.  I felt more comfortable.  She radiated calm, unhurried helpfulness, and I began to feel calm myself.  I told her I was looking for an undereye concealer.  She took a close look at my face, tipping her head to the side, and picked the more yellow concealer.  She applied a dab of the tester to the back of her hand then used a q-tip to apply it under my eyes and her fingertips to blend.  “Are my nails making you nervous?” she asked.  I must have been blinking a lot.  We surveyed the results in one of the mirrors.  The lighting was surprisingly unhelpful, so I couldn’t tell much, but I do know my skin is cool, not warm.  I suggested we try the pinker base as well.

The saleswoman applied it to my other eye and carefully considered.  “Which is which again?”

“Pink on the right, yellow on the left.”

“You’re right, you do need the cooler one,” she said as she bent down to choose the correct box for me.  She then asked if there was anything else I’d like to see, and I replied that I’d like to try the tinted moisturizer.  After determining I didn’t want the oil-free version, she quickly chose shade “pasty”—I mean “porcelain.”   She brought over a brush with a long, flat head to apply it.  While she brushed it on I pointed out the poster of the model demonstrating Laura Mercier’s version of smoky eyes and commented that the model looks great, but I don’t wear makeup very often and I’m not that advanced yet.  “Then this is a great line for you,” she said, “Laura Mercier is all about natural.”  I was pleased.   The makeup felt very cool and light going on, so I decided to purchase it as well.  She again carefully checked the box to be sure the shade is the correct one before handing it to me.  I took a look in the mirror.  The pinker undereye concealer was almost invisible, and the moisturizer left my face smooth and feeling very soft. The saleswoman was very unhurried, despite the other customers, and I felt comfortable that I’d had time to assess the products before purchasing.  At the checkout, my sleek little gray boxes went into a cute little black and white bag.  I am a secret sucker for pretty packaging.  I was asked if I would like to join the Beauty Insiders.  I would get a present on my birthday and special offers. Who can say no to that?  Leaving the store I happily swung my little Sephora bag a bit.  The boots on sale in the shoe store window, for once, didn’t attract me. I wanted to go home and play with my new makeup.

I’ve been waiting to publish until all the results were in—that is, until I’ve used my new products for several days.   The Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer makes my skin look and feel soft and smooth.  It is very light coverage, but my skin tone appears more even and it is invisible in the brightest sunlight or fluorescent lights.  It is very dry here now, so I have been applying my regular moisturizer beneath it.  The sun protection seems adequate for winter, but I apply it thinly enough it may not be enough for summer.  I’m very pleased with it for a daily routine.  The Undercover Pot concealer is amazing.   No yellowish reverse-raccoon eyes.  My coworkers agreed they couldn’t tell I was wearing undereye concealer.  I still need a little practice to determine exactly how much to apply so I don’t have to blot some off or make a second pass, but it takes almost no time using a concealer brush as recommended by Voxy.  This is my biggest epiphany so far—I am amazed at how perfectly the stiff, rounded brush works.  I just need to pat the edges a little bit with my fingertip and swipe on the translucent powder and it is ready to go.  The Pot has a second color to cover blemishes, and I had a bad moment when I got home and couldn’t remember which side was which.  Luckily, someone on the Sephora web page had the same question.  I haven’t had to use the blemish side yet, as the moisturizer appears to agree with my skin.

I’m looking forward to my return trip.  It was such a pleasant experience.  I decided that I would wait one month and see if keep up my new routine, which also includes mascara and eyeliner.  If I do, I’m thinking very strongly about eyeshadow primer and a neutral eyeshadow.  Or black nail tips.  I can’t decide.

A Biologist, you are AWESOME. Bold, brave, and appropriately assertive. I agree with you about the bad lighting in Sephora (if you are more on your own next time, remember the trick of going over to the perfume wall, which is usually mirrored, and looking at your face in those lights, which are brighter and cooler) — and the difficulty of finding the right Laura Mercier shade for us pale-skinned girls. (I’m between “Porcelain” and “Nude” myself.)

Will she go back? Stay tuned!

So, related, here is the Q of the W: are you nervous about or intimidated by shopping at stores like Sephora? Share your retail anxieties here!

As for me, I am totally at home in Sephora (there’s a reason I call it “the mothership”), but I intensely dislike shopping at department store counters where there are pushy sales associates who always think they know more than I do. (Again, I’m thinking about my horrible Estee Lauder experience.) I don’t like being pressured to buy something. However, today, if the roads are passible, I’m planning to head up to a mall with a MAC store (and MAC counters in the department store) to take a look at those MAC Spring Colour Forecast products I’ve been lemming. I would prefer not to, but I need to swatch them to see if they’re really worth buying, so I have to bite the bullet and go to a store or counter. Le sigh.

Speaking of MAC, the two new Viva Glam lipsticks are out as of yesterday — one, designed by Cyndi Lauper, is a light coral-red lustre, and the other, designed by Lady Gaga, is a very light pink that I can’t imagine will look good on anyone, but that has not stopped it from being wildly popular among people who love Lady Gaga. Which is pretty much par for the course. All proceeds (not a portion of the profits, but ALL the money from the sale) goes to the MAC AIDS Fund, which sponsors AIDS research.


Er, uh, not much new.

Previously announced sales still going on:

SkinStore: 20% off sitewide (some exclusions) through 2/15; use code LUV20 • BeautyTicket: 20% off through 2/28 with code INSTYLE20 • TheCosmeticMarket: 20% off through 2/28 with code ALLURE

Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Foxalicious Fundamentals: Concealer 103 (undereye circles)

Today’s Topic: Concealer 103 — Using Concealer to Cover Undereye Circles

This is the other reason that concealers were sent down from heaven. I’m going to try not to ramble much here and cut to the main essentials.

You will need:

— Concealer brush.

— Cream or stick concealer. In this post I am using the Laura Mercier Secret Concealer (cream) and the Cover Girl CG Smoothers concealer (stick). I did not go through the exercise of covering undereye circles with the rest of my concealers because these will give you the idea and they are also the best ones for me to use.

— Your fingers.


The following photos go step-by step through the process. I have not fully figured out how to take good photos of myself to show products, so the photos don’t all quite have the same exposure or angle. Also, I realized that the lights were at a horrible angle for this, but oh well. I am still learning. I will also admit that I did do one little bit of retouching — my eyes happened to be fiercely red today, so I took some of that out so that you weren’t distracted by it. (No, I wasn’t smoking anything; this is an ongoing issue for me.)

1. Start with clean and moisturized skin. See? Circles. Yucky.

2. Apply primer and foundation, if you use those things.

3. Using your concealer brush, dot some cream concealer in the inner corner of the eye and extend it down into the circle area. Here I’m applying concealer to the right eye (and this was taken in a mirror, so that actually is my right eye) and leaving the left alone so you can see the difference. (I seem to be cross-eyed here for some weird reason.)

4. Blend out the concealer with your brush and then blend the edges lightly with your fingers so that you get an even transition.

5. Do the other side (here I did the left eye with CG Smoothers).

So now both undereye areas have been treated. Since the Pan-Cake makeup look has not been in vogue for some time, it’s usually not a good idea to try to keep applying concealer until you have totally covered the darkness. This is what makes people look like they have reverse raccoon eyes. In this set of photos, I still have a tiny bit of darkness under there; most days my circles are not this bad, and most days I’m not sticking my face in a tungsten light tent either. This is invisible in the light in my bathroom, in natural light, and in the light in my office.

The other part of making dark circles less noticeable involves putting them in the context of stronger features.

6. Here I’ve added brow color and eyeliner — I’ve only done the top; you’ll see the full eyeliner in a minute. Just doing this helps define the features more and make me look a little more put-together, even without eyeshadow.

7. In this step I added a neutral eyeshadow (this is ULTA shadow in Cocoa), lined the bottom lash line, and added mascara. I think it was around this picture that I realized I should also probably finish putting on my foundation — I had originally only put it on under the eyes).

8. Just for kicks, I decided to smoke out the eye a little bit. I used a LORAC charcoal gray/black pencil to bring the dark color of the eyeliner up towards the crease, added a dark purply-brown shadow in the crease, and used a light neutral shadow as a highlighter right under the brow. I don’t have those shadow names because they’re from my Smashbox palette and they’re unnamed. I set the whole face with Make Up For Ever HD powder, which gives a nice soft focus (a review of this product is going up tomorrow).

Key points in shopping for undereye concealers:

1. Go for a cream (in a pot, not a tube) or a stick concealer. Liquid concealers are too thin, and powder ones can easily cake and look kind of gross. You can (and should) use a setting or finishing powder to remove any residual shine from a cream concealer after you have blended everything in thoroughly.

2. Choose a color that is about one shade lighter than your skin tone. Do not get a super-ultra-light concealer if you are olive-skinned, no matter how dark your circles are!

3. Apply only where your circles are. In the above photos I was done blending out the concealer by the time I reached the center of the eye; I applied no concealer to the outer eye area. Since fine lines and wrinkles start showing up at the outer corners of the eyes first, it’s better to avoid putting concealer there unless your circles actually extend that far. If your whole undereye area is darkened, you might want to check out a corrector in either a yellow, salmon, or pink shade (depending on the color of the circles and the color of your skin; you’ll have to try a few to see what works best on you) that would go on before foundation. You could then use a less pigmented concealer on top if you find that you still need some coverage.

4. Blend well. Start with the brush and blend out the edges with your fingertips. The warmth of your skin helps melt the concealer enough to get a really smooth transition. Conventional wisdom is to use your ring finger, as it is a weak finger for most people and thus you’re less likely to pull the skin harder than you need to. I say use whatever finger you want, because I think you’re probably smart enough to figure out how to control the pressure you exert.

5. As with blemishes, less is better than more — something that looks natural but still shows a little darkness is better than something that is so opaque it looks like you put it on with a trowel and you can’t see the skin tone underneath it.

6. Covering up undereye circles can sometimes give you a little bit of a masklike appearance, especially if the coverage is thick. Drawing attention to other strong features, even by just using a little bit of eyeliner or brow color, helps prevent this.

Foxalicious Fundamentals: Concealer 102 (Blemishes)

Today’s Topic: Concealer 102 — Using Concealer to Cover Blemishes

In the first post on concealers, I gave you a tour of my concealer collection. Remember, those are only the ones that made it past the rigorous screening process. (Now you know what Paula Abdul is doing these days since she’s not on American Idol.) (Kidding.)

As I mentioned when I did my rave about the Clarisonic — who, by the way, had the nerve NOT to choose me as one of their winners of their “Why I am a Clarisonic Super Fan” contest — since I started using the product about which I am secretly the Biggest Super Fan In The Whole World But Never Mind That, I’m Not Bitter, I have been fortunate enough not to have very many breakouts, Not That That Matters To The Fine People At Clarisonic.

However, when I screw up my medication schedule (say, by repeatedly forgetting to take it for three days in a row) or when I am under stress (such as that induced by not winning a contest, for example), I do get the occasional breakout. In the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, at least now I can show you how these products work in concealing actual blemishes. Who else do you know who would show you their blemishes? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

Don’t worry, the photos aren’t gross. These blemishes are past their prime and on the way to healing, but they are still plenty red enough to need coverup. I have two beneath the corner of my lip, so I was able to show you two products in action in each photo. All photos were taken in the same natural light, or as close to the same as I could get, what with the sun going in and coming out, etc. No retouching.

Before You Start

Be sure that your skin is clean and well-moisturized. If your blemish is in the drying-out stage, there may be little dry bits of skin to contend with. Remove as much as possible of this via exfoliation (either chemical or manual, but be gentle), and then moisturize well. Allow some time between when you wash, exfoliate, and moisturize and when you start applying makeup so your skin can calm down from any temporary redness that washing and exfoliating may cause.

Spot concealing of blemishes should be done AFTER you apply foundation, if you use one, regardless of whether the foundation is liquid, cream, powder, stick, or mineral.

How to Apply Concealer to Blemishes

D’you remember in the last post I said you needed a concealer brush? Well, here is the secret that no one tells you: when you are covering up blemishes, apply your concealer with the butt end of the brush (or with any other similar object). For covering dark circles, you want to work the concealer into the skin. For blemishes, you want to cover the blemish completely (or as close as you can while still looking natural), and then you want to leave it alone. Don’t keep working product into it. Get in, get out, move on. The butt end of the brush works great for this.

For the below photos, I used the butt end of the MAC 194 concealer brush, which is the bottom brush in the picture below. This is the brush with the skinniest end. If you can find something else that’s about that diameter, you’re in good shape. It doesn’t have to be a concealer brush; if you have another kind of cosmetics brush around that also has a skinny, round tip, that’s fine. Or if you have a round-handled spoon. Or a click-pen with a smooth, round clicker.

You want to put a tiny bit of concealer on the butt end of the brush, and I really do mean tiny. It’s better to put on less, and then add layers, than to start with too much and have it look goopy. Using a dabbing/stippling motion, start where the blemish or other discoloration is reddest/darkest/strongest/whatever. Your concealer will probably look a great deal lighter than the redness of the blemish. That’s OK; it blends out. Keep stippling with the butt end of the brush outwards towards the unblemished skin; when you’ve reached it, you can finish blending into the natural skin with your fingers. The warmth of your fingers helps melt the concealer and makes it easier to get a really smooth transition into the unblemished area. Practice will show you how far out from the edge of the blemish you need to apply concealer in order to get a smooth blend; it will depend on your skin tone, how opaque the concealer is, and how far removed it is from your natural skin tone or coloring (i.e., if it’s pink and you have a more yellow complexion, etc.).


Below are photos showing ten different products used on these blemishes and what they looked like. I did them in natural light in front of my balcony doors because if you can make it look near-invisible in natural light, you will be fine for just about any indoor lighting that the average person is going to run into. You can see that some of them work better than others, but none of them are disastrous and all of them are an improvement over either no-makeup or just-foundation.

The first photo is what the affected area looks like after cleansing and moisturizing but with no makeup.

Then I applied my everyday foundation (Almay SmartShade in shade #1, Light). You can see that the foundation already gives some coverage. If you use a full-coverage foundation (which this is not), you can often get away with using a bit of extra foundation as a concealer.

Picture #1. Top: Erase Paste in shade Light; Bottom: Amazing Concealer in shade Fair (Ultra Light). I could have blended both of these a bit more; this was just carelessness on my part. So they actually perform slightly better than the photo indicates.

Picture #2. Top: Neostrata Exuviance CoverBlend in Voxy’s Custom Blend of shades Light and Beige; Bottom: Dermablend CoverCreme in shade Chroma 0: Pale Ivory.

Picture #3. Top: DuWop CircleBlock in shade Light; Bottom: Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer in shade #3.

Picture #4. Top: Cover Girl CG Smoothers Concealer stick in shade 705 (Fair); Bottom: YSL Touche Eclat in shade #1 (Luminous Radiance.)

Picture #5. Top: Laura Mercier Secret Concealer in shade 1; Bottom: BareMinerals Multi-Tasking Corrector SPF 20 in Bisque.


While these all can be made to perform on my skin, the best results came from the Exuviance CoverBlend and the Dermablend CoverCreme, with DuWop coming in a surprising third (I don’t normally use this for blemishes, since it doesn’t make sense to me to put a red paste on top of a red spot, but it turns out to be a good product for this, so I learned something). The others all work OK, and had I blended them a little more I could have made them work even better, but there’s a limit to anyone’s time. Also, I know from experience that some of the ones that looked nice when just-applied in the swatch (YSL Touche Eclat, for instance) don’t wear well over blemishes, so although it looks fine now, in four hours that red spot will be peeking through again. The Laura Mercier concealer will require setting powder, which is why it wasn’t one of my top choices for blemishes.

Super Extra Bonus Trick

You guys were supposed to remind me to mention this trick! I don’t know which of you is in charge of me this week, but whoever it is, you’re sleeping on the job, there. ;)

Sometimes, pimples that have burst (whether spontaneously or with help) are hard to cover because they tend to leak oil for a little while (a few hours up to a few days). It can be really hard to get concealer to adhere to oily skin; powder concealers clump when oil touches them, and stick, cream, and liquid concealers can just slide right off.

If you have an oil-absorbing mask that you like, you can apply a thin layer to the blemished area and surrounding skin before putting on your makeup. It should be a mask that dries clear or has little enough color (NOT GREEN) that your foundation and makeup will go on OK over it. I use Dermalogica’s Sebum Clearing Masque. This is what you might call an off-label use of the product, as it’s supposed to be one of those wait-10-minutes-and-wash-off kinds of products, but I was pretty unimpressed with it as a wash-off product, so I decided to try it this way and it works well. But you don’t need an expensive product. Any old oil-absorbing mask you like which, when applied in a very thin layer, will dry almost colorless, will do. If you’re desperate, dip a cotton ball in some Milk of Magnesia (the plain variety, please) and apply in a thin layer. This will dry with a whitish tinge, and repeated use can be too drying for some people, but it will definitely give you a nice smooth surface for makeup application and will help absorb oil. This way, the concealer both adheres to the mask and is separated by the mask from emerging oil. It’s not always perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing, or clumping, or sliding.

Comments? Questions? Other tips and tricks for covering blemishes?

Provenance: Purchased.

Foxalicious Fundamentals: Brushes 101

Why on Kitchen role? by Mini OzzY.There’s this funny thing that happens when you start a new habit or activity — you get a little ways into the activity and then all of a sudden you get the impression that you’re also supposed to go out and buy a ton of activity-related accessories and paraphernalia and doodads… at which point carrying on starts to seem frustrating and fussy, especially if you’re not really confident about how to use the doodads in question.

If you’re just starting to explore makeup, or deciding to be a little more adventurous or explore more products, one of these daunting doodad categories is brushes. So let’s get this one out of the way right now:

Q. Do I really need all those fancy brushes?

A. No. No, you do not.

If you’re just starting out with makeup, there are only three brushes I think you need to own:

1. Blush/powder brush

2. Concealer brush

3. Eyeshadow brush

If I could throw a fourth in there, I’d say a brow/lash brush, because I think brows should be groomed even if you’re not applying any product to them. But really, I’m good with the first three. Here’s why:

Any tinted moisturizer or cream, stick, or liquid foundation can be applied and blended with the fingers. (Could you use a brush, or a sponge? Sure. Is it absolutely necessary? Nope.) Same goes for cream blushes.

Foundation/Blush Brushes

If you have a powder foundation or a powder blush, then you’ll need a brush. It is perfectly OK to use the same brush for these when you’re starting out. Powder mineral foundations work best with kabuki brushes, so if you plan to use a mineral foundation, get one of these; with a light touch you can use this for blush as well. If you’re not going to get a mineral foundation, a puffy powder brush is fine, and is easier to adapt to both foundation and blush. If you buy drugstore makeup (which I am not dissing, as there are many good brands), chances are that the brush that comes in the makeup compact is not worth the cost of the plastic used to make it. Unless you are Bobbi Brown, you cannot apply blush in a subtle and sophisticated manner with a two-inch brush with a head that would be better suited to applying war paint.

Concealer Brushes

There are good concealers out there in all shapes and forms: liquids, powders, sticks, creams. While you will use your fingers a lot of the time to blend a liquid, stick, or cream concealer into your skin, a brush is really useful for precise placement. This is particularly true if you’re using concealer over blemishes or in the eye area, because often your fingers are too big and round to put the product where you want it and nowhere else. A concealer brush will have a flat head (not poofy like a powder brush) and the bristles will be trimmed into a round or elliptical shape. Think of the end of a popsicle stick; that’s the shape you want for an all-purpose concealer brush.

Eyeshadow Brushes

Those spongy applicators that come with eyeshadow palettes are the little evil cousins of the compact blush brushes. They are not doing you any favors. If you are only going to get one eyeshadow brush, I highly recommend a slanted crease eyeshadow brush, because it’s easier to make this brush also double as a lid or highlight shadow brush than it is to get one of those brushes to double as a crease eyeshadow brush.

Most people who are starting out with makeup routines will probably be using pressed eyeshadow rather than loose mineral eyeshadow (it’s just easier). If you do find yourself wanting to try a loose mineral eyeshadow, you are likely to find that a brush made for those products works a little better.

How to Use

A common misconception that people have about brushes (not unreasonably) is that they are meant to place product on top of the skin. For most cream and liquid products, and for some powders like eyeshadows and mineral makeup, they are instead meant to press or work the product into the skin. This will be true of liquid and cream concealers — except when you are trying to cover up a blemish, in which case you want to get the product on the skin with the minimum amount of poking around at it — and if you decide to try a brush or sponge for liquid or cream foundation it will be true of that as well. Try a stippling or dotting motion rather than a gliding motion to apply and blend these products. Mineral powders are best when pressed gently into the skin using a buffing motion.

Care and Feeding

OK, no feeding required. But brushes do have to be washed regularly. Once a week is great for starting out, but you can probably get away with 2-3 times a month. You can buy special brush cleaners, but you don’t need to; your facial cleanser will work just fine. I usually put a squirt of facial cleanser into a drinking glass, add about 3/4″ of warm water (not more!), swish it around, and throw in two or three drops of tea tree oil, which is a natural antibacterial agent and which helps dissolve gunk on the brushes. I put all the brushes in to soak for about 5 minutes; keeping the water level in the glass low helps minimize the amount of water that gets into the metal ferrule. Over time, too much water in the ferrule can dissolve the glue that holds the bristles in the brush, so you want to minimize this.

After the brushes have soaked for just a few minutes, swirl each around in your palm with a little bit of cleanser. Swish until no more color comes out. Rinse well, pat dry with a towel, and lay them down to dry with the brush head over the edge of the sink or counter. If possible, position them so that the brush head tilts down; again, this helps get water out of the ferrule. An easy way to do this is to put a piece of non-slip drawer liner over an empty three-ring binder and lay the brushes on the sloped surface with the brush heads hanging over the edge. Let them dry overnight.


There is no need to spend a ton of money on brushes, particularly when you’re starting out. I recommend the following:

Ecotools makes really excellent brushes for next-to-nothing. They’re available at many stores, including Target and ULTA, and on They offer both individual brushes and inexpensive brush sets; selection will vary depending on where you’re shopping. A good starter package is the Ecotools 5-piece brush set (which is really four brushes plus the bag, but whatever): $10.99. This contains a fluffy brush that can be used for powder foundation or blush, a concealer brush, a mineral eyeshadow brush (which could also be used to apply regular eyeshadow), and a small kabuki brush. I’m not really wild about the small kabuki brush (it’s too loose), but all the other brushes are excellent. The powder brush and a “deluxe” version of the concealer brush (I’m not sure what the difference is except that the handle is longer) are also sold separately for $8.99 and $3.99 respectively.

For a better kabuki, try the Ecotools Retractable Kabuki ($8.99). Not only is it firmer to start out with, but if you want it to be a little firmer still, you can retract the brush a tiny bit back into the holder and it will compact the fibers a little bit more. Also, it’s travel-friendly.

On the slanted crease eyeshadow front, I use a Sephora Professionel brush that appears to no longer be available; this brush from Avon’s Mark line looks like a comparable product, and will only set you back $7.00. A lot of the crease brushes made today are smaller and thinner than I would recommend for a beginner; a brush that’s closer to 1/2″ than 1/4″ wide is easier to get started with.

Beyond the Basics

There are tons of other brushes available, and they’re each designed to do specific things. As you become more comfortable using these basics, you might want to try out some of these other brushes. I’d say the next set of brushes to explore would include the following: brow brush, eyeliner brush (or small tapered eyeshadow brush; either can be used for applying gel eyeliners), lip brush, contour blush brush, non-tapered eyeshadow brush for color application and blending.


Provenance: I do not own the Avon eyeshadow brush; all other brushes were purchased.

Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0