"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy."
                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.

Also, check out the blogsale.

· Fashion Notes: Incomprehension
· Beauty Notes: The Teen Scene
· Bestsellers: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
· Bestsellers: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
· Beauty Notes: Spring Trends

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Fashion Notes: Incomprehension
by The Kindly One

Can someone please explain all the recent J. Crew love for me? Oprah's recently interviewed creative director Jenna Lyons, Lucky raves over their clothes, and Fashionista regularly fawns over their offerings. I simply don't understand the gushing. Recent visits to J. Crew have only reinforced what I've always thought about the brand, which is that their clothes are uniformly boxy, cut large, and greatly overpriced given the quality of material and construction. So where does the love come from?

I have several theories:

-J. Crew is a major advertiser and source of revenue.

-Fashion editors are familiar with/fond of Jenna Lyons and trying to support their colleague.

-To improve their image, J. Crew have employed Gucci's-Tom-Ford-era media blitz approach to marketing, employing Lyons as a figurehead "personality" to head the brand and lend J. Crew the impression of fashion authority. Subsequently, fashion editors nationwide (and Oprah) have developed a major style crush on Lyons and are unconsciously working that out through gushing, imitation, and general overt crushing.

Of the three, I feel confident it's the last one that's proving true here. While J. Crew advertises widely, it does not advertise on the same level as giants like L'Oreal or the LVMH group. Any publication would hate to lose J. Crew's dollar, but many magazines could not afford to lose LVMH's. And while I'm sure nepotism still has a stronghold on the fashion industry, the above video offers a great example of the kind of blind gushing over Lyons and the brand that I see in an increasing number of media outlets. Just look at the way the video (and Lyons herself) presents her: smiley, friendly, unassuming and approachable, yet with a distinct point-of-view on fashion, with strong opinions, authority, and credibility. So you could have a drink with her and spend the whole time admiring her shoes. Laugh if you will, but by marketing figurehead Lyons as a sort of Everywoman's fashionista (she mixed J. Crew with Miu Miu!), her presence lends the idea of fashion to J. Crew.

And in fairness, the idea of fashion is there, if only as an idea. The store doesn't lack for on-trend military influences, ruffles, and easy layering pieces. The problem I have is the reality of fashion has yet to join up with its ideals. As many on-trend items as the store boasts, and as much as the marketing department bolsters the chain's fashion cred by placing Lyons as a fashion icon in leading, credible publications, the clothes still suck. The ruffles are droopy, the embellishments fade into the clothes rather than acting as visual relief, and the jackets lack enough structure to lay correctly on the body. What's on offer is the equivalent of handing an average teenager a box of pencils and a pad of paper and asking her to draw her dream wardrobe: all the ideas are there without any of the skill, knowledge, or craftsmanship to make those dreams a reality.

So, it's killing me: is all the gushing really over one woman's personality and hi-lo dress sense? Or do people really think they're investing in fashion at J. Crew? What do you think?

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4/26/2010 [7]

Beauty Notes: The Teen Scene
by The Kindly One

As it's prom season again,* I thought it fitting to share a prom makeup video. Clearly, this is not traditional prom makeup. In fact, this is more what some teens wear to the mall every day. However, I never wear this much makeup, and I find the major eyes much more suited to an event than to everyday life. Plus, there is a part of me that always wanted to live a day as "that" girl, the one who could straigten her hair, wear emo makeup, and get away with it by still looking pretty. The reality is that would never work for me. I don't have the right eye shape for that eye look, nor the right face shape for that makeup overall, and genetic determinants have ordained that never the straight, silky hair and I shall meet. This is okay. I don't really have the desire to become "that" girl who, in real life, often has few options for her makeup, hair, and overall appearance. But I'd like to pretend, and it seems to me there's no time to pretend such a thing as the time for fancy dress and out of the ordinary makeup and hair.

*That is so strange to me, that there should be a whole prom season. I can understand a prom night, but a prom season?

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4/20/2010 [0]

Bestsellers: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
by The Kindly One


For some reason, it is primer, along with mascara, that proves to be among the most contentious subjects of makeup discussion. People get dogmatic over their primers: which is the best, which is most popular, and whether primer is necessary at all. The fact is, the necessity and use of primer is entirely individual. Not everyone needs a primer or benefits from its use. Additionally, there is no right primer for every person or every need. People with oily skin will by and large require a different formulation than those with skin like the Sahara; likewise, the use of more hydrating products on top of the primer will necessitate a less hydrating formula. It is all very individual and there is no right answer, which is maybe why there is all the drama surrounding primers in the first place: without a "right" answer, people just have to fight and claw their way into being king of the hill.

Of the many, many primers out there, Smashbox's Photo Finish series is a strong contender for "most popular" in terms of recognizability, units sold, and samples tried. It is a widely referenced product offered in a range of formulations, including the Original shown, as well as color-correcting formulations and Light, a lighter weight formulation marketed for oily skin. The most easily recognizable formula must be the original, being the oldest on the market and potentially the most universally friendly. Photo Finish Original is a fairly thick, silicone-based, fragrance-free formula that applies clear. As promised, I find that it lasts all day, though after 12 hours, slight oiliness appears on my forehead. Photo Finish dries within a minute and allows for an even application of foundation or concealer, without streaking or pilling. I haven't had problems with skin sensitivity, though those who cannot tolerate silicones will not be able to use this formula.

Having oily skin, I have found that I need primer if I want to wear foundation. There is no other way that my makeup will be there ten minutes later, much less in a few hours. After trying many primers, I can say this is one out of two primers that have ever really worked for me (the other being Laura Geller's Spackle). While most other primers pill instantly, pill upon makeup application, streak, cause streaks in my makeup, and cause my makeup to slide all over my face, this primer really does the job, ensuring that my makeup is even, stays on all day, and remains intact. Simply put, I do not wear foundation or even light powder without Photo Finish Original.


That said, I cannot speak so highly of some of its offshoots. I was greatly disappointed by Photo Finish Light, enough so that I returned it within a week. Despite it's claims to be formulated specially for oily skin, I found Photo Finish Light wore off quickly, streaked on application, applied in the same whitish tint you see in the bottle, and pilled upon makeup application. I tried the Light formula for about five days, hoping to see better results with time, but it just never happened.

I had better results with Photo Finish Color Correcting Primer in Green. I became curious about this formulation after reading about The Non-Blonde's success with the product. While not as outstanding as the original formula, I am still pleased with this primer's ability to knock down slight redness in the skin without turning me green. This version doesn't have quite the lasting power of the Original formula, with oiliness starting to show through after about six hours. I would also say it doesn't quite stand up to really creamy products, which apply a little greasy over this primer. Overall, this version doesn't quite offer the staying power I need, but I still like to have it around for days when I need something extra to decrease the redness.

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4/13/2010 [1]

Bestsellers: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
by Dorothy


Even looking at this photo brings me back to the mid-1990s, my junior high years. (The packaging has changed, but not that much.) My mother owned a copy of Paula Begoun's Blue Eyeshadow Should Still Be Illegal, and I flipped through it regularly. Paula Begoun loved Cetaphil. It was neither oily nor sudsy: it was a thin, gloppy translucent liquid with almost no scent, no irritating ingredients to speak of (and this is how Paula Begoun evaluated products -- by the ingredients), no gimmicks, no inflated price. She had, as far as I know, no financial stake in the company; she just loved the product.

So my mother used Cetaphil, and I used Cetaphil. Even my brother, who was maybe seven years old at the time, washed his face with Cetaphil because it didn't sting when it got in his eyes. I think my mother still uses it, but I have moved on. Cetaphil was gentle, yes, but it left an unpleasantly slimy film on my skin. It didn't remove makeup well. It probably didn't make my teenage acne any worse, but it didn't help, either. Despite claims that it rinsed clean with water, it really required a washcloth to remove. It didn't really moisturize, nor did it really clarify. All in all, it was mediocre.

It may well be that Cetaphil stood out in the skincare market of the early nineties. I'm too young to know for sure. I do know that I used it for years and it never particularly impressed me, and by now there are many other gentle, unscented cleansers on the market. I can't imagine going back to it at this point.

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4/11/2010 [3]

Beauty Notes: Spring Trends
by The Kindly One

I'm not usually too interested in seasonal makeup trends. Most of them are inappropriate to my skintone and features, not to mention mere iterations of the same old thing. However, this season has turned out a few makeup looks that have interested me enough to incite my imagination and cause me to revisit them again and again.


While I like the visual impact of red lipstick, I'm not the huge proponent of it that Dain and Dorothy are. With the pink in my constantly aggravated skin, red is just not a great option for me. However, I loved the carroty red lipstick Prada sent down her spring catwalk, with its undertone being orange rather than the typical coral. The color was both bright enough to brighten the models' skin and unique enough to stand out against all the other bright lip shades we've seen the past couple of years. It is not, though, the all-inclusive shade beauty writers would have you believe, nor is it appropriate for all venues. Instead, I've chosen to showcase this muted, bold, warm red worn by Amber Valletta in Allure's March edition as a more wearable, flattering option. Should it interest you, the original Prada red was created by Pat McGrath, with the more wearable version created by Dick Page.


I almost never pay attention to cosmetics ads, but I love everything about the Rouge Coco campaign. I love the expertly inexpert lipline, with the emphasis on the line and shape in and of themselves, with complete disregard for the natural lipline. I love how the matte texture and lip shape look like they've been smacked down on top of Vanessa Paradis's own lips with no nod to naturalism or reality. I love how the entire face is matte, the face as an image is completely flat, and yet the eyes and lips still manage to stand out. But most of all, I love that eyeshadow. That is the perfect taupe, so perfect that it inspired a minor taupe shopping spree, ending in the purchases of NYX's True Taupe and MAC's Patina before realizing that Dorothy's months-old gift of MAC Era was actually the perfect taupe for me.

I very, very rarely find spring makeup interesting. It's all so very flushed, bronzey, and beautiful, flipside being it's all so very flushed, bronzey, and beautiful. The lack of variation bores me, so when I started this video, I didn't expect much. I wasn't really interested in this look until Sam pulled out Too Faced's Pink Leopard, at which point my ears perked right up and I was enthralled. This is the perfect flush for fair skin, accurately mimicking the pink tone of a fair-skinned tan. I've never seen makeup give such a naturalistic, healthy glow before. I can't tell whether this is due to Sam's skill or the product itself, but if Pink Leopard turns out this well on everyone, I'm sold.

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4/01/2010 [8]

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