Quickie Responses to Recent Wall Posts

No, I didn’t drop off the face of the planet. I may have perhaps loosened my grip on it for a bit, but I have not been sucked out to space by a giant black hole, unless by “black hole” we mean my research project, in which case that is exactly what *did* happen, how did you know? Still trying to claw my way back to regular blogging.

In the meanwhiles, two quick responses to recent wall posts.

A Biologist asked if we could discuss Kate Middleton’s wedding makeup, and the answer is OF COURSE WE CAN! I didn’t post about it earlier because (as is so typical for me) I had Big Plans to do a post with a “what she looked like” picture compared with a “what I think she should have looked like” picture via Photoshop. Have I done that? No I have not.

Here is my take on the whole business. There is no question that Kate generally knows her way around a makeup bag. Her eyeliner wasn’t crooked, her lips weren’t misshapen — all of that is fine. My problem with it all was not her technique, but her choices, and what those choices tell us about how she wants the world to see her.

Now, you should know that before the official engagement photo was taken, a makeup artist had done her makeup, and she hated it and took it off and insisted on doing her own. So there is already a history here of wanting to be controlling about this. Which I get.


One of the things that makeup does for us is allow us to emphasize the features and characteristics associated with qualities we want to portray ourselves as having. Ruby-red lips = sexy. Smoky eyes = mysterious. Etc. So when you are choosing makeup for a public appearance, you should think about what you want to broadcast about yourself. This is especially true when the public appearance is your wedding and it is being broadcast around the world and BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

So what were Kate’s choices? Ones that made her look old, hard, pinched, and … I have to say — controlling. What makes me say that?
— eyes tightly lined with black, all the way around
— brows that are too heavy and strong close to her nose, which makes her look like she’s perpetually wanting to squinch them up in annoyance
— a too-heavy hand with blush (and again, I don’t think this is a technique issue, I think it’s a choice issue)
— a sad lack of fresh, youthful colors and the dewiness of youth. That makeup could have been the makeup of a 50-year-old, not a 29-year-old. Everything is too taut, too tense, too full of harsh lines and contrast.

What do I wish she’d done instead? That’s what I want to show you via a Photoshopped picture.

Then there’s the other issue — I can’t believe the Queen let her get away with doing her own makeup. If you are marrying the future King of England, you have a public image to consider, and it is your obligation to uphold the good image the royal family is trying to present of itself by being a team player. Does this mean losing some corners of personal freedom? Yep. For God’s sake, they can hire the best makeup artists in Britain — I can’t believe that any of them would have made her look clownish. A good makeup artist can work with you to help you get the look you want in a better version than the one you could have produced yourself. You can’t convince me that Kate was better off — in actual execution, in concept, or in significance — doing her own makeup than by having it done for her.

And now for something completely different.

Ab_grp asks the very pertinent and timely question: “[N]ow that summer is just around the corner I was wondering if you have any tips for maintaining a polished look without appearing too made up. For example, today I feel that I am wearing too much eye makeup with my tank top and capris. Still, I don’t want to look as, um, natural as I do when I first roll out of bed. Is there a post on this that you could direct me to, or do you have any thoughts on finding that balance? Thanks!”

Ab_grp, are you suggesting that we don’t all roll out of bed, toss our hair back, and saunter to the bathroom looking like the women in Dior ads? Perish the thought. ;)

I think there are two ways to go about this:

1. Use less product.
2. Look like you use less product.

In the end the goal is the same, but most of us will probably end up reaching it via option #2.

You will want to have, in your bag of tricks, a “no-makeup makeup” look. This is not actually “no makeup” — it’s the set of products you use to make people think you are wearing no makeup. In summertime, this is a good base look for everyday, and if you are feeling like being a little bold it is easy to take one feature out of this look and jazz it up just a bit for something that is a little more interesting but that still doesn’t look like a full face of makeup.

What will you need for a “no-makeup makeup” look?

1. Primer of your choice. If you are going to try to convince people you are not wearing much makeup, you will want the canvas to be in as good a condition as possible.
2. A sheer-to-medium foundation or tinted moisturizer in something that is as close to your actual skin tone as possible.
3. A colorless, translucent, or lightly tinted powder for getting rid of shine. If your skin is very good, and/or if you like mineral powder foundation, and if your primer is good enough, you may be able to forgo a cream or liquid foundation or TM in favor of just primer and powder.
4. A concealer that can be used on dark circles, blemishes, and eyelids.
5. An eyeshadow in the neutral brown family, something light that covers any remaining discoloration but that is close enough to your skintone that it doesn’t look like eyeshadow. My go-to shade has been ULTA Cocoa, but I think they stopped making it years ago. A light taupe for cool tones and a light neutral-to-warm brown for warm tones works well.
6. A brown eye pencil (brown always looks less made-up than black). Try reducing (or eliminating entirely) any eyeliner on the lower lid.
7. Black or brown mascara, applied lightly.
8. Clear brow gel. If you feel like adding color to your brows makes you look too “done up,” skip that part, but do groom them with clear mascara.
9. A peach-toned blush. Creams are nice for summer if your skin isn’t too oily, and they often look less like makeup than powder blushes. Peach almost always looks less made-up than pink.
10. Clear or tinted lip gloss or balm.

From this basic summer set-up, you can always choose to bump up one feature or another. Maybe you want a slightly more bold eye, so you dust a little blue or violet shadow along the upper lash line. Or you want a bolder lip, so you use a lipstick (applied gently and concentrated more on the center of the lips than the edges), with a balm or gloss on top to soften it. Or you play up the cheek with a little bit of bolder color (or by dabbing some of your lipstick on the apple of your cheek and blending, which is one of my favorite things to do for summer because it’s subtle).

What you really want is something that is clean, well-groomed, and shine-free. If you have really good skin, you can probably do this by actually using less product. Most of us, unfortunately, have to fake using less product by just making different choices.

Other tips and tricks, or other comments about the Royal Makeup? Please share them in the comments!

Kate Middleton photo via People; The Earth via

Amend the Trend: Wearing Orange

This is the first (but hopefully not the last) of a periodic series of posts on taking certain hot trends in vogue at the moment and turning them into reasonable looks for real people. (OK, mostly reasonable. I make no promises.)

The looks we see on fashion runways or in advertisements are usually not at all practical for the average person — but fashion and cosmetics blogs and news sites are quick to use them to predict what will be hot (or not) in upcoming seasons. I always roll my eyes when people talk about trends for a given season and then the list of what they come up with includes every possible kind of look. For example, here’s the list of Sephora’s spring trends:

• Bold Cheeks
• Romantic Neutrals
• Orange Lips
• Elegant Pastels
• Vivid Brights
• Luminous Golds

Oh… neutrals, pastels, and brights, all trending. Well, you sort of can’t go wrong, I guess.

That being said, there are sometimes one or two signature looks of the moment that are fun to play around with. Orange is a hot color this year, and while the neon and fiery orange shades are not practical for most of us who are not actually on the runway at that moment, there are ways of incorporating this color into your look. I have an orange lippie winging its way to me right now, but for the moment I present this alternate way of using orange:

The Orange Eye

“What?” you are saying. “Stop right there. That is a terrible idea! Orange would look awful on the eye!”

Surprisingly, it doesn’t.


As with all things orange, it’s really a matter of finding a shade that flatters you — and I insist that there is a shade of orange for everyone. We all know I’m pink, so if there’s a shade of orange for me, then the rest of you lot ought to be fine. ;) The main orange color here is Inglot eyeshadow shade #10 (they don’t have names, sorry). I will be reviewing these shadows soon, but wanted to post this look since it was so surprisingly successful. It was quite striking, if I do say so myself: definitely orange, but somehow believable. I did not look like a reject from Cirque du Soleil.

Other products used here:
• TFSI (or eyeshadow primer of your choice)
• LORAC Little Black Palette: lightest (light gold) shade used in inner eye; darkest (chocolate brown) shade used in crease.
• Urban Decay 24/7 liners in Baked (bronze) and Bourbon (warm dark brown)
• Clinique High Impact Mascara
• Tarte emphasEYES brow pencil in Medium Brown

What could I pair this look with?

I’m not a fan of mixing pinks and oranges, usually, so I would go for a peachy blush and a lip color that was sheer and light, also in the peach/gold/nude area. This is a strong eye, so I would choose more subtle tones for the rest of the face. If you have *exactly* the right sheer red lippie, you could conceivably go with that, but the eyes and the lips should not be vying for attention. It makes both of them look clownish. What you choose for cheeks and lips should contribute to the look, not sabotage it.

What do you think? Successful? Not successful? Would you wear it?

Photo (which is making me long for cool, wet orange slices — and yes, that is a gorgeous blue, isn’t it? — and yes, I do hope to have a future Amend the Trend post on wearing that color. How did you know?):

Monday Mix: Quick Fix Vixen Tricks; Sales

All right. There are five and a half weeks until the end of classes. (Not that I’m counting.) We can make it, right? Right?

Yes. Yes we can. And lipstick will help us.

If you are like me, and mornings put you in the position of trying to do a ten-minute face in three minutes and hoping it makes you look like you got seven hours of sleep instead of four, then here are some quickie tips that might help you:

1. Lipstick can double as blush. Srsly. This works with pigmented glosses too, but nothing too shiny or glittery. So if you grab a lippie on your way out the door, you can dot it on your cheeks in the car (at a stoplight, of course!) and blend with your fingers. Done.

2. A stick concealer is your best friend for on-the-road makeup fixes, including covering up inner-eye shadows and blemishes.

3. Grooming your brows is probably the single best two-minute investment you can make in the morning.

4. A soft nude eye shadow will help cover purple or otherwise discolored eyelids, making you look more awake but not “made-up.” If you have an extra second, smear some eyelid primer on there first to help it adhere better. I like TFSI for a primer and ULTA eyeshadow in Cocoa for a barely-there look.

We shall overcome!


Just when you thought it was safe: if you are a VIB and you missed the Sephora F&F sale (or there was something you are kicking yourself for not picking up), you get another chance! Starting Thursday 11/11, Sephora is running a VIB sale with 20% off. You must be a VIB to get the discount. Online, the code is VIB20; they are supposed to be sending out postcards for in-store use. I haven’t gotten mine yet. Ends 11/15.

HauteLook has Rock&Republic beauty on Monday 11/8 and Becca on Tuesday 11/9. I will be interested to see what turns up in these sales. All sales begin at 11 am Eastern/8 am Pacific.

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!

How-To: Rock Out as Professor Plum

Ow! Stop throwing things! OK, it was a bad pun, but I couldn’t resist. Put down that candlestick at once. At once, I say!

::dusts self off::

The other day A Biologist asked about how one could wear the plum shades that are so trendy for this fall without looking like one had just come from a vampire party. While I am in favor of vampire parties so long as they don’t involve the drinking of blood (and, in particular, mine), I agree that for work a more subtle way to incorporate trends is very helpful.

An easier way to incorporate most trends is to play with them on the eyes. There are exceptions, of course: if red lipstick is haute this year, then nothing but a red lippie/gloss will do (though even then you can modify the intensity of the red to your comfort level). But unless the it color is red or pink or coral, you’re probably looking at eye makeup as the easiest way to incorporate it.

Liners, Shadows, Mascaras

There are three main ways to use plums on the eyes (and for the purposes of this discussion I’ve opened it up to all shades of violet, though I’m trying to focus mainly on the warmer ones): eyeliners, eyeshadows, and tinted mascaras. You can use these together or separately, as you like, though I probably wouldn’t do all three in the same look.

Below are two swatches of (almost) every plum/berry/purple eyeliner I own. For some reason I did not include the recently-reviewed MAC Superslick in Smoky Heir (though I did incorporate it into one of the looks below). One swatch is in sunlight, the other in indirect natural light.


1. MAC Fluidline in Macroviolet (link) — gel
2. Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips Cream Liner (review here) — gel
3. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil in Ransom (review here) — pencil
4. MAC Pearlglide Eye Liner in Designer Purple (limited edition, Spring 10; review here) — pencil
5. Rimmel Exaggerate Full Colour Eye Definer in 281 Aubergine (discontinued color? New product page here) — pencil
6. Kat von D Autograph Eye Liner in Turbo Lover (link) — liquid
7. Stila Convertible Eye Color in Berry (to be reviewed; link here) — pencil
8. MAC Pearlglide Eye Liner in Almost Noir (limited edition, Spring 10; review here) — pencil
9. NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (link) — pencil
10. Barbie Loves Stila Smudge Pot in Purple Pumps (link) — gel
11. Milani Infinite Liquid Liner in Endless (review here) — liquid

(By the way — the most difficult to get off my arm later? The Milani Infinite liquid liner. That thing did not want to budge.)

If you’re going to play with liner as a color, there are three basic ways to do it:

1. with same-color-family shadows
2. with neutral shadows
3. with a contrasting color family of shadows

I have four examples.

With same-color-family shadows

Because purples can be either warm or cool, I did two different looks here. One is a warm purple going into a warm taupe (warm purple going into magentas and pinks is not so good for eye looks). Taupes are mostly neutral, so this is a neutral-ish eye, but still with a plum tinge.

Look #1: Warm plums and taupe

Sorry, the closed-eye photo of this one didn’t turn out for some reason.

Liners used: Kat von D Autograph liquid liner in Turbo Lover (top); MAC Pearlglide in Almost Noir (bottom)
Shadows: MAC Satin Taupe on lid and traveling up towards browbone; deep wine with shimmer shade (second-to-right) from LORAC Private Affair Palette blended into crease and on outer third of lid (review and swatch here)
Other stuff: TFSI, Lancome Definicils mascara, Tarte emphasEYES brow pencil. I use these in all the remaining looks.

Look #2: Cool purples and violet

I do wear purple eyeshadow to work, so this is a look I actually wear. Here I’m using a cooler purple liner and blending it in with cooler purple shadows. If your liners lean warm and you want to stay within the same color family, stick with warm shadow colors; if they lean cool, pair ’em with other cool colors.

As you can see, from the side it doesn’t look all that intense.

Liners used: MAC Pearlglide in Designer Purple (top), NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (bottom)
Shadows used: Urban Decay Deluxe Shadows in Ransom and Frigid (blended together over lid and up towards brow bone); ULTA Vineyard in crease. Sorry for the sloppy blending. Nothing makes you see all the things didn’t realize you did wrong like sticking your face in a tungsten light tent and taking a picture. Yeesh.

With neutral shadows

You can take a regular simple neutral eye and pair a colored liner with it for a bit of pop. This is probably the easiest way to do it. Keep the shadow to a simple wash.

Look #3: Violet with neutral browns

Liners used: MAC Superslick in Smoky Heir with NYC Automatic Eye Pencil in Plum Perfect (top); NYC liner on bottom as well. The Superslick liners don’t blend on their own very well, but you can drag a pencil through them while they’re still tacky to pull out the line and blend it. This is a more vivid look in real life than it appears in the picture, but still very work-appropriate.
Shadows used: UD eyeshadow in Stray Dog and Deluxe Eyeshadow in Underground, applied as a simple wash all over the eye area.

With contrasting-color shadows

I love the combination of warm plum with warm coppery-rose colors like those in the LORAC Croc Palette, which provided the shadows for this last look. Why these colors work is that they’re contrasting but similar; they are all warm and tend towards red rather than blue. (In your box of crayons, it would be like red-purple and red-orange together.)

Look #4: Warm plum with sunset coppers

The only thing I might change about this look is that I’d consider tightlining with a MAC fluidline gel liner in either Macroviolet (er, violet) or Blacktrack (er, black) before putting the Stila berry liner on. The top lash line could do with a bit more definition.

Liners used: Stila Convertible Eye Color in Berry (top); MAC Pearglide in Almost Noir (top and bottom)
Shadows used: Moonstone, Serenity, and Garnet from the LORAC Croc Palette (review and swatches here)


After I had finished the looks above, I remembered that I had an unopened Almay Intense I-Color mascara lying around, so I decided to try it out. Since I already had black mascara on, applying the plum-colored mascara on top doesn’t make a huge difference. This week I’m going to try to use it on its own and see how well it works. But here is the product, and here also are the last two looks shot again with a coat of Almay tinted mascara (shade: Raisin Quartz) on top.

Subtle, but you can see it if you’re looking for it.


If you want to go big, there are plenty of dark berry and plum lip shades hitting counters now. The new MUFE Rouge Artist Intense series has some serious plums (#14 and #49 come to mind), and MAC always has some interesting less-common shades (Cunning and Kittenish are very bold plum/red shades). For most of us these would probably not be appropriate work looks.

One thing you can do, though, is pick up a plum gloss and wear it either alone or on top of another lippie to darken and deepen it. I have an order in for Guerlain Kiss Kiss Gloss Serum in shade 462 Violine for just this purpose. (And come on, it’s a music term, how can I resist?) I’ll be reviewing it and swatching it as soon as it comes in. I swatched several of these glosses at the counter and this was a lovely berry color. (The 420 Vermillion would be a fantastic shade for anyone looking for a red lip in gloss form; as you know I also like the Three Custom Color gloss in Candy Apple, and the fact that I already owned the 3CC one was the single thing that prevented me from snapping up the Vermillion as well. Hello, restraint — nice to meet you. Come around a little more often, will you?)

Delicious, scrumptious-looking plum photo by

Monday Mix: Spa Me, Please! and, Sales

Sunset (not HDR) by Dennis Wong.I’m a spa fanatic, and I’m waking up this morning with the powerful desire to drive off to some stay spa in the middle of nowhere and hide there for about three days. Wrap me in mud and seaweed; scrub me with salt and oils, massage me with warm river rocks, and make me feel like a melted marshmallow. Oh, and, uh, do it for free, please.

Anyone have any at-home spa recipes or procedures they’d like to share? (For example, did you know Pandora has a Spa Radio station?)


Well, let’s start with the bad news. If you’ve been using Bing as a cashback-for-purchase incentive, they’ve just announced they’re going to be discontinuing that program as of July 30. Business will continue as usual until then, so you have not quite two more months to take advantage of their deals. And they have some good ones at the moment, too: 22% (!) cashback at DermStore, 10% at Sephora, etc. (If you are a VIB at Sephora and you use Bing cashback to click through tot the site and place your order, you can still get the 10% VIB discount through Sephora’s site, and then get 10% off the remainder via Bing cashback, for a total savings of 19%.) Don’t worry, Ebates (the other major cashback site) is still fully operational.

Speaking of that 10% Sephora VIB discount with code V436CB, it ends today, so better hustle.

A reminder that Editors’ Closet is launching its Beauty Story division today; sales are supposed to begin tomorrow. As of this posting, I don’t have info on what those sales will be, but I will later and will update if I get the chance.

Also, fragrance hounds, the regular Editor’s Closet site is having a Fragrance Boutique tomorrow beginning at 11 am Eastern/8 am Pacific. Brands unknown.

HauteLook has ‘Tini Beauty today and Juice Beauty skincare tomorrow; all sales begin at 11 am Eastern/8 am Pacific.

POPBeauty has 30% off through June 20 with code POPSummer.


Beauty on the Cheap: Drugstore Red Lipsticks and Glosses

Last week, LadyStarlight posed the following perplexing puzzler:

So I was in my local WalMart looking at makeup (because I was alone, ie, no boys of any age with me) and saw Cover Girl lipsticks on sale and thought “I would like a red lipstick but… 1) How do I choose a shade that flatters me and 2) Are there any drugstore available glosses or lip stains that aren’t as…noticeable, I guess, as a lipstick?”

And so, I hitched the dogs to the sled, packed up provisions for the long journey, put my affairs in order, and set off on the quest to find some good drugstore red lippies.

(OK, I am being just a tiny bit melodramatic. I got in the car and drove to ULTA. Satisfied?)

I talked a bit about Question #1 in this post, and it fundamentally comes down to the warm vs. cool issue again, just like it does with foundation. If you are cool/pink-toned, look for a neutral-to-blue-tinted red. If you are warm/yellow-toned, look for a neutral-to-orange-tinted red. The true neutral reds, which are hard to find, can usually be worn by either cool or warm skin tones. It can be difficult to tell just by looking at a lippie by itself whether it is blue-tinted or orange-tinted (red just sort of looks red, after all, until you figure out what you are looking for), so I suggest you look at at least two lippies at a time for comparison. The white paper trick is also still a good one. Also remember that your lips are at least a little bit (and in some cases a lot) darker and more pink than your skin tone, so unless you’re planning on covering your lips with foundation before putting on lipstick, you can expect it to look a little different on your lips than on your hand.

It will also depend on the lightness of your skin; dark- and olive-skinned women can wear some gorgeous shades of red that are overpowering on my pale skin. (You lucky ducks!) As I mentioned in my last foundation post, I’m an NW20 — light-skinned, slightly cool. I look best in reds that are neutral to slightly cool. This is not a very wide range (others may have better luck), but within that narrow pie wedge, I can wear things from sheer to full pigmentation and in a range of tints from light to dark. So it’s less limiting than it sounds. I am still a big fan of buying some inexpensive lip palettes and mixing colors just so you can see what looks good on you; then you can take that color to the store and try to find yourself a match in a brand you like.

OK, let’s get to the goodies. I have four products to recommend; I’ll cover them from the most sheer to the most pigmented, starting with the glosses. By the way, the reason I’ve been in such a snit over my missing Lancome Rouge Magnificence gloss is that it’s a lovely, soft, sheer, subtle, neutral shade of red gloss that looks good on top of anything. If you decide to go high-end, I recommend it. I’m sure the lipgloss-eating monster under the front seat of my car would also give it a strong endorsement, since he’s had it for at least two months now. Stupid monster. I’m sure he looks very pretty.

#1. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in shade #80: Cherries in the Glow ($6.99 at

OK, so pardon the horrible, horrible skin tone here. I appear to have been zombified when I wasn’t looking. The lighting was bad, I swatched it right over the tendons and veins on the back of my hand, and I was taking the photo with my iPhone;  in correcting the image to accurately render the color of the gloss, I have now made myself a candidate for the next Twilight movie. My apologies. Please don’t let it put you off; this is a good product!

This is, I think, an excellent “starter red.” Because it’s a gloss, it’s nice and sheer. It can be worn over bare lips or, if you’re feeling a little more bold, over another lipstick or lipstain to intensify and redden the color.

I think they’re undergoing a packaging change, but the product should look something like this (minus the “tester” sticker):

#2. Neutrogena Moistureshine Lipsheers in shade #50: Ruby Bliss ($8.99 at

This is packaged like a lipstick, but has a sheer texture, like a lip balm stick. The color is more intense than a lip balm, though; it may be applied very sheerly or built up for more intensity, so it is a good “intermediate red.” It looks moist, like a balm, but does not have an obvious glossy shine.

I looked on a lot of sites and didn’t see any swatches that actually represented the color of the product, so don’t be alarmed if you go to the website and say, “uh, that can’t be it; it looks too pink/brown/green.” (OK, not green.)

#3. Revlon ColorStay Mineral Lipglaze in shade #545: Stay Ablaze ($8.99 at

I love this. I very nearly bought all four of the products in this post, but this was the most tempting. This is a beautiful, rich red that is on the warm side, but because it is darker and not fire-engine bright, it will flatter many different skin tones. It has the shine of a gloss and the pigmentation of a lipstick.

(P.S. — Dear Revlon: Your website sucks. I will not send any of my readers there. Plz fix. Love, Voxy.)


#4. Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshine in shade #265: 14-Carat Ruby ($9.29 at

OK, now don’t be scared of this one, but if you are new to red lippies, you will probably want to work up to this one via glosses and less pigmented products, like those listed above. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous red. The Cover Girl Outlast Double Lipshines are double-ended products with a long-wearing lipstain on one end and a clear gloss topcoat on the other. I only swatched the lipstain side here. I was really impressed by both the shade and the amount of pigmentation. The only problem with these kinds of long-wear products is that sometimes the lipstain portion is drying (which is why you get the gloss; that’s meant to keep the lips moist). I didn’t test it on lips, so I don’t know. I do have some other products of this type and in general I like them a lot.

You can also “thin” the application of the stain if it’s too intense for you by putting on the gloss first. Then dab the stain on the center of your bottom lip; rub lips together. Dab additional dots where you need it; rub lips together. If you need more precision to get the cupid’s bow right, use a small lip brush.


So, there you go. Four good drugstore options for red lippies, from gloss to lipstains. Please let me know in the comments if you pick up any of these products and if they work for you, or if you have other drugstore reds you’d recommend!

Photo: / CC BY 2.0

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!

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.