Flawless Framing

My parents, being good, loving parents, keep embarrassing pictures of my brother and me on prominent display in their house.  Whenever I visit them, I am faced with my 17-year-old face framed in soft-focus ruffles from my white pirate shirt.  It is not the pained smile or my big hair that hits me the hardest, it’s my ungroomed, wild brows.

I didn’t pluck my brows all through high school or college.  I found it unbearably painful, and I couldn’t seem to care enough to pluck regularly.  So I just let them go wild instead.

In my 20’s, I began to pluck my unibrow away, and in my 30’s I started to ramp it up even more, but I never did much more than shape the brow lightly and pluck the strays.  This has actually paid off, as I don’t have the sparse, overworked brows so many women my age have.  However, I realized that the end of my left brow was much thinner than the right, and that I have some white hairs now.  I decided to use a brow shaping gel.  I started with Benefit’s Gimme Brow!, but I was never satisfied with the color.  It was a little dark and a little grey.

Then on an epic Sephora trip, I found Chosungah 22’s Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker.  Aside from the fact that I’m already hooked on Korean products, this one turned out to be the perfect shade, with the perfect applicator.  Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker comes in four shades to Gimme Brow!’s two, and one of those shades (Light Blonde) is perfect for lighter eyebrows.

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Most brow products have a spoolie brush, like mascara, to brush on the product.  This has a spoolie combined with a triangular sponge tip.  I brush the product through my eyebrows, then use the tip to fill out my sparse ends.  It sticks to the tiniest hairs and stays all day.  Once it dries, it doesn’t come off, and it’s never stiff or clumpy.  If it does clump a little on initial application, the spoolie can brush it right out. The product is still there when I take off my makeup at night, which is pretty amazing.

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Chosungah 22 Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker sells for $22 at Sephora.

 

 

Matte, Not Dry

Sephora is my black hole.  Whenever I go, I circle the store multiple times, trying to take it all in.  I rarely go with an agenda; I just go for whatever catches my eye…which can be a bit of a budget killer.  And then if I add Rebecca (The Lipstick Gal) into the mix–we might as well set up camp and stay the night.

I went on a lipstick bender not too long ago, looking for dark and bright options for winter–nothing lackluster.  I wanted to look at formulations I wouldn’t ordinarily buy, either, like glosses and mattes.  Glosses are too sticky, mattes are too drying.  But I’m always open to have my biases busted.

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Enter my big Sephora find: Buxom’s Big & Sexy Bold Gel lipstick.  This lipstick goes on light and smooth, and even though it’s matte, the gel formula doesn’t dry out my lips.  Plus, it lasts forever.  Pixlr_20160201222728245It’s the end of the day–a filter is a necessity.

I bought Toxic Cherry, a bright, true bombshell red.  I’ve worn it probably more than any of the 8 lipsticks I bought in my lipstick frenzy.  The case is matte black, heavy, and the tip of the lipstick is flat, but cut on a slant.  It’s the perfect size and shape.  It smells a bit like vanilla or caramel–definitely a sweet smell, but not overwhelming.  And it’s such a little detail, but I absolutely love the fact that the case is magnetized–the top snaps back into place, so the Buxom logo is always perfectly lined up.

Buxom Big & Sexy Bold Gel lipstick is available in 30 shades.  It costs $22 at Sephora.

Strange Magic

Luxe + Cheap.

Not a natural pairing. In fact, it’s pretty rare to find that combo–especially in makeup. I’ve avoided drugstore makeup for years because I feel that the price is higher than the quality–in other words, I’d rather pay more for excellent products than pay a moderate price for cheap quality products.

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My friend and soulmate since we were 18, Rebecca from The Lipstick Gal, shares my love for great makeup.  When she texted me that I needed to check out Colourpop Cosmetics while they were having a sale, I didn’t hesitate.  I just took her word that this cheap (super cheap, comparatively, especially during their sale) cosmetic line would meet standards.  She knows her stuff.  (Check out her Colourpop vlog, if you don’t believe me.  Also, she’s so gorgeous, inside and out.  Love her.)

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Colourpop exceeded my expectations.  Especially the Super Shock Shadows. Five dollars a pop (at full price), they are bright, pigmented, and long-lasting.  They can be applied with fingers or a brush.  There’s a bigger color payoff if you use your fingers; I’ve been using a brush for everyday wear.  The texture is between a cream and a powder, if that makes sense.  (Pro tip: close the lid TIGHTLY, so it doesn’t lose it’s “magic” texture.)  They blend so easily and beautifully–the shades meld into each other as if a professional was in charge of the brush.  Plus the shades are fun.

I’ve already collected 11 different shades of the Super Shock Shadow.  Currently I’m obsessed with Lace (below left) and Porter (below right).  Lace is described as a “deep rich blue violet with a pearlized finish” and Porter is described as “warm burgundy with multi-dimensional gold glitter in a metallic finish.”  I contrasted the finger application (left) and the brush application (right) for each shade.  Porter is pretty accurate in the picture, but Lace is a little washed out–it’s richer in real life.

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Rebecca always keeps me up on the trends, thank goodness. Anyone else find a product that mixes luxe payoff with a bargain price?

With a Sting

I did a post a few months ago about Korean skincare, where I did a vlog demonstrating my Korean skincare routine.  I look at that vlog now, and I cringe.  The difference between my skin now and my skin then is notable.  I had only had a Korean skincare routine for a couple of weeks at that point; now I’ve been using it regularly for a few months.  I think that video was the last time I got a blemish between my eyes, which used to be so regular I joked about having a third eye.  The cystic acne under my chin is almost gone.  When I use a pore strip on my nose, nothing comes up.  My skin is soft and moisturized during the cold and drying winter months.

One of the things I’m a big fan of with Korean skincare is all the natural ingredients in the products–ones you might not imagine.  I have masks that use every fruit and vegetable, caviar, gold, snail slime, you name it.  (Snail slime I’ll have to go into another day, but trust me–the slime is awesome once you get past the mental block.)  To treat my acne, I’ve been using a product with a very interesting natural ingredient–bee venom.

Apparently, bee venom is a more powerful anti-inflammatory than hydrocortisone.  It tears down cell membranes, causing the body to increase circulation in the area and also increase collagen production, meaning quicker healing time and an end to red, inflamed pimples.

I’ve been using Shara Shara Bee Tox Spot Cream. I got it from Memebox–they do themed boxes of Korean beauty products–not for the faint of heart, because you can’t choose what’s inside. (More on Memebox another day–I’m waiting for a box to do a vlog on.) However, this product is worth the cost of the whole box. It smells herbal–it contains tea tree oil–but not medicinal. I don’t have any side effects from using it, even though I have sensitive skin. I put this directly on my spots two times a day–morning and evening.

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You can buy Shara Shara Bee Tox here. If you’re into K-Pop, the face of Shara Shara is actually a young, fresh-faced man, not a woman as with so many cosmetic brands. I find it kind of hilarious to have L (that’s his stage name) from the group Infinite smiling back from the Shara Shara packaging. Hilarious.

Never separate a KPop idol from his guyliner.
Never separate a KPop idol from his guyliner.

Accept No Substitutes

If you’ve been following along VERY CLOSELY (or even casually, because I’ve obsessively talked about this), you’ll know I’m all into Korean beauty products these days.  As I mentioned in my vlog post, I started with sheet masks and worked my way up to a full-fledged beauty routine.  Some of the Korean sheet masks I’ve tried have been absolutely amazing, others good, and only one bad.

As I was standing in line to purchase some cheap accessories from Forever XXI (when Arabic numerals just won’t do), I gave in to the temptation to buy a sheet mask that was in the bins in line.  It was cheap–99 cents–so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  I went with the cucumber mask for sensitive skin, thinking it was a safe bet.

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The other night, my air conditioner went out, and I was feeling hot and sticky and annoyed. I decided it would be a great night for a cucumber sheet mask–it sounded cool and refreshing, and just the thing to go with my cool bath.

To be frank, it was horrible. The mask was too big for my face (which admittedly was an unusual problem, as I occasionally have problems with the Korean ones being too small for my Scandinavian bone structure). It was nearly dry–I’m used to sheet masks having loads of essence to tap into my skin. And worst of all, it made my face sting! If this is what passes as sensitive skincare, I want none of it! I couldn’t believe that it actually aggravated my skin.

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Instead of the cheap and painful sheet mask, I wish I had been able to use an Etude House Skin Note Calming & Relaxing mask. This I can recommend wholeheartedly as being cool and refreshing, and the perfect thing to relax from a busy day. There are no cucumbers, but it does have aloe vera and glacial water. It will be a while before I try to substitute the good stuff for cheap imitations.

Fit For a Germaphobe

More goodness from Korea!  Today’s little piece of cosmetic awesomeness comes from a brand called Chica Y Chico, which is a very un-Korean sounding name, but the English description on its website is so very Google Translate:

The Powerful Cosmetic Germ Killer Spray

Take just 10 sec. everyday for your clean make up pouch.

Don’t let the make-ups uncleaned anymore!

They threaten your health as well as beauty.

Seriously, people.  Don’t let the make-ups uncleaned.

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Of course, we clean our makeup brushes semi-regularly, but we can’t actually clean our makeup.  Alcohol can change the color or texture of some makeup, and water doesn’t work either.  But OMG Spray It (yes, that’s the actual product name) cleans both tools and makeup.  It dries in ten seconds, smells a little bit like fresh limes, and doesn’t damage the color or texture of your makeup at all.  If you’re ever concerned about the cleanliness of your makeup, this is the perfect product.  Even bacteria-laden mascara wands can be cleaned with this spray.  

Bacteria is responsible for a variety of problems from breakouts to pink eye.  You definitely don’t want to be applying it directly to your face every morning with your eyeshadow.  OMG! Spray It! can eliminate those worries.  It’s available in a two-pack exclusively through Wishtrend.

Out, Damn Spot!

As my last video so painfully illustrated, I’m not immune to the occasional blemish. I remember being a teenager and thinking that I would get no more pimples after I exited puberty. That was a major lie. Of course they didn’t go away. The teenager thing is only told to us as part of a giant conspiracy in which young girls are taught to hope unreasonably for unachievable perfection, hooking us into the makeup industry forever. CONSPIRACY THEORY. Boom.

Anyway…

I have found something that’s effective on my occasional blemishes, and helps heal them quickly. Of course, it’s a Korean product. It’s the Lioele A.C. Control Trouble Patch. These patches contain tea tree oil and salicylic acid to treat the blemish gently, reduce inflammation and redness, and help it heal.

AC patch

Meant to be worn overnight, the patches are soft and thin. They look like they might be plasticky, but that’s not the case–it’s more like wound care covering that you’d find in the hospital. The patches are almost like synthetic skin. This was a big relief for me, because I am a sensitive sleeper, and feeling like I have something on my face would leave me tossing and turning. The big danger is forgetting that you have them on. For optimum results, you’re supposed to leave them on for 8-12 hours, but I’ve had good results with six hours. Every time I use them, I see results the next day–even to the point that the patch looks like there was never anything under it when I take it off.

The patches at 60 for $7 at Pretty and Cute.

High Definition

Magnifying mirrors are terrifying.  My mother owns one so strong that I feel compelled either to run away quickly, or spend hours tweezing every stray hair and worrying every blocked pore.  It’s frightening and humiliating to see all your imperfections writ so large.

After a frightening experience like that, I sometimes wonder what other people see that I might miss in my 1x non-magnifying mirror.  I would really like to have a flawless finish when I’m done with my makeup.

I started using an “HD” powder by It Cosmetics called “Bye Bye Pores Silk HD Anti-Aging Micro-Powder.”  I got it from Ulta.  It claims that it gives an airbrushed look to skin. (Especially aging skin, but I didn’t know that when I bought it.  I’m not obsessed with anti-aging, I swear.)

HD Powder

The color is similar to powdered milk–very white–and it doesn’t come in shades. It’s translucent, so it should go with every skin tone. I’m so pale it’s hard for me to speak to darker women’s experiences. This powder is truly a micro-powder. I hold my breath when I apply it, because I’ve taken it up the nose before just by inhaling. And I wasn’t even applying it under my nose. The advantage of the small particles is that they do settle into the pores and make them practically disappear. I’ve also learned that if I forget to put my gel blush on before I powder, it’s a lost cause. Trying to apply a substance with any water content over this powder turns it to sludge, so it’s only for finishing up.

Overall, I really love this product. The finish is so smooth and doesn’t look unnaturally perfect. It just makes my skin look quite lovely, and if I touch my face after putting it on, it feels so smooth and silky.

Blondes Have More…What, Exactly?

Let’s talk about John Frieda. Bless that man, really, because I am quite loyal to the brand. I use Precision Foam Color in 10N Sheer Blonde Extra Light Natural Blonde to color my hair at home, and I follow up with Sheer Blonde Go Blonder shampoo and conditioner. But the last time I bought my shampoo and conditioner, I flipped the lid and noticed a message just for me:

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It’s true that I don’t need a dance floor, mostly because I’m a pretty atrocious dancer and I only have late-night dance parties by myself where no one can point and laugh. And I certainly make friends everywhere I go. After a lot of awkwardness and silence, where I think a bunch of things but never say them, because I’m an introvert.

Of course, the marketing strategy here is not terribly complex. They’re reinforcing the stereotype of the fun, carefree, blonde. They’re encouraging people to post on Instagram using the hashtag #MyBlondeLife. A quick perusal of the hashtag shows a variety of blondes and beach, pool, liquor and (oh, hey!) even a shot of someone’s underwear-clad crotch. Yay!

My next blonde-affirming messages, picked up today:

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I am so over the blonde stereotype. Why are the messages like that? Why can’t it be about how intelligent, driven or thoughtful blondes are? I have two major reasons for being blonde, and neither of them have anything to do with being fun and carefree. One is that it suits my skin tone. The other has to do with cultural identity, since I’m Scandinavian, and my family is populated with blondes.

In my eyes, the stereotype is offensive. I have heard enough dumb blonde jokes to last a lifetime (often told by people who are–sorry to say it–much dumber than me). The worst of the blonde stereotype and the worst of the woman stereotype seem to line up: sex maniac, frigid bitch, vapid airhead, party girl.

Interestingly enough, there is no corresponding marketing for the John Frieda brunette and redhead products. I checked, because I wondered if this was a dumb idea done once, or three times.

So let’s make the #MyBlondeLife hashtag a little more real, shall we?
#MyBlonde has a PhD
#MyBlonde has agency
#MyBlonde goes out every once in a while and drinks responsibly
#MyBlonde can make a logical argument and stand her ground
#MyBlonde works hard at her job
#MyBlonde is a 4.0 student
#MyBlonde is a caring wife and mother
#MyBlonde volunteers her time in her community
#MyBlonde is Khaleesi, mother of dragons, and she will kick your ass

Am I overreacting here, or is this stupid bordering on offensive? Let me know in the comments, or just leave me a #MyBlonde hashtag!