Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Kiss and Makeup: When to Splurge and When it Doesn't Matter

Written by Michally Diamond

Sapphie1.jpg

We all want to look our best, no? Having a solid beauty routine is our right as women, is it not? Why, yes it is. It is perfectly acceptable for us to paint and prod, straighten and color, hide and enhance, or otherwise arrange our looks however we wish. I, for one, celebrate and embrace this! Taking care of myself in this super girly way has become a strange sort of Zen time that I spend with myself each day. Doing so helps me fully feel my femininity—as both a power and a privilege.

With all of the advertising coming our way it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the millions of products we have to choose from, and we weren’t necessarily raised with old wives' homemade beauty tricks. Over the years, my obsession with hair and makeup, balanced with a skimpy pocketbook, has led me to being creative, and working with hair and makeup artists has let me in on some great tricks of the trade. In this improvisation I have realized that the most expensive thing isn’t always the best, but that also sometimes nothing compares to the products you have to save up for. Here are my greatest hits and tips of where it’s worth it to part with that cash, and when you can scrimp.
Photos by Sapphie
 
We all want to look our best, no? Having a solid beauty routine is our right as women, is it not? Why, yes it is. It is perfectly acceptable for us to paint and prod, straighten and color, hide and enhance, or otherwise arrange our looks however we wish. I, for one, celebrate and embrace this! Taking care of myself in this super girly way has become a strange sort of Zen time that I spend with myself each day. Doing so helps me fully feel my femininity—as both a power and a privilege.


With all of the advertising coming our way it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the millions of products we have to choose from, and we weren’t necessarily raised with old wives' homemade beauty tricks. Over the years, my obsession with hair and makeup, balanced with a skimpy pocketbook, has led me to being creative, and working with hair and makeup artists has let me in on some great tricks of the trade. In this improvisation I have realized that the most expensive thing isn’t always the best, but that also sometimes nothing compares to the products you have to save up for. Here are my greatest hits and tips of where it’s worth it to part with that cash, and when you can scrimp.

Natural Money Savers

Coconut Oil
Ever notice that unless you use lotion twice a day it doesn’t really work that well? Most affordable lotions use alcohol to dry your skin, so you need to lotion more often. They also have parabens, which leave a film on your skin. Coconut oil, the cooking kind you buy in a jar is 100 percent natural and leaves even the driest skin soft and supple. It’s also great for massages and can be used for, ahem, other types of lubrication. (I don’t have a doctor’s OK on this—and please note that oils have been known to tear condoms—but I tried it on the suggestion of hippie girlfriends, and the results were splendid.) Coconut oil can be bought from natural stores for under $15 for a large tub. I like Harvest Bay Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, but Spectrum is pretty good, as well.

Reviva Vitamin E Sticks
These are best found at the checkout counter of natural foods stores, or in their cosmetics section. I have been using them since I was a teenager, and they instantly rescue chapped lips. Because it is so dry in our house, and I don’t drink enough water, I sometimes get those flat scaly patches on my lips. When this happens, I slather on a Reviva Vitamin E Stick, use the corner of a wet hand towel to exfoliate my lips, and then reapply the stick. It completely reverses this uncomfortable and unattractive condition, without splitting the skin. Not only does the Reviva Vitamin E Stick perform this miraculous feat, but it also nourishes the delicate skin around the eyes, aids in the healing of burns and scars, and works as a cuticle cream in a pinch. There aren’t a million chemicals and mystery binders in it, and it honestly works better than any lip balm, including Burt’s Bees, ever could. It is a cheap and easy catchall for your skin’s ills—and I always carry one with me!

Desert Essence Tea Tree Blemish Touch Sticks
I suffer from acne flare-ups, especially before my period. Over the years I’ve tried everything (including a long run with Proactiv), but as I get older and my skin becomes dryer and more delicate, over-the-counter products often start a cycle that leads to more breakouts. These blemish sticks have worked better than anything else I’ve ever tried to beat this condition. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial that can be too drying on its own but this formula is mixed perfectly with extracts of chamomile, lavender, palmarosa, wintergreen, and calendula. It is soothing, healing, and packed in an easy-to-use-and-stash-in-a-purse applicator. If you use it on affected areas before applying makeup in the morning and before going to bed at night, you will be right as rain in no time.

Vitamin D3 Supplements
Most people in America are vitamin D deficient because of various reasons, and adding 800 IUs a day to your daily regime will help everything inside you work better. It will help you sleep better and keep you happier, which in turn will help your outside look better. It’s a cheap supplement and SO worth it.

Sea Salt Beach Hair Tonic
Love the look your hair gets after a day at the beach? Duh! Everyone does. Bumble and Bumble and other brands can try to sell you $40 bottles of spray that promise perfect beach hair, but don’t buy them. Here’s a shockingly easy trick: Get yourself a regular old spray bottle with a misting setting (easy to find at a dollar store). Put a couple of tablespoons of coarse ground sea salt, some warm water, and a few drops of a shine serum (if you have some lying around) into the bottle. Shake it up till the salt has liquefied and spray into wet or dry hair. Let your hair dry naturally, and you will have mermaid princess hair for pennies! (This is also a great trick for y'all curly-haired girls when you wake up looking like you got a bad perm!)

Olive Oil
My father is from India, where women are known for having long, thick, strong hair. My aunties have always encouraged me to use regular old olive oil in my hair, but not until recently have I tried it—and I am THRILLED with the results. The dry winter weather can wreak havoc on hair. Add hair dryers, dying, and highlighting, all things that lead to drab, frizzy ends, and your hair may not end up looking so great. Next time dry hair gets you down, and you have some extra time, try this olive oil routine. 

Take some olive oil and massage it into the ends of your hair. Part your hair down the middle like you would for pigtails. Wrap each section in opposite directions around your head like a scarf, pinning them close to the scalp. Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic bag, and cover the cap or bag with a towel wrap or a big snug hat. The heat from your scalp will activate the oils to bind to your hair. Leave the oil in for about twenty minutes (or for as long as you have time for). Then wash your hair as usual, gently squeezing out extra water before applying conditioner. Leave the conditioner in as you wash, shave, or do whatever else you need to do. Just before you leave the shower, rinse the conditioner out with cool water. This will seal the conditioner into the hair follicles. If your hair is still wonky after drying, follow up with a small amount of coconut oil, massaged over the hands and smoothed through hair.

Convenience Store Savers
 
Mascara
Expensive mascaras like DiorShow or Lancome Definicils can be tempting, but with the rate that mascara dries out and turns funky they simply are not worth it. Most professionals I know rely heavily on convenience store mascaras. Maybelline Colossal Volume and L'Oréal Extra-Volume Collagen both leave you with massive lashes for a minimal price.

Prestige Cosmetics Liquid Eyeliner
This is bar-none the best liquid liner I have ever used. The design of the tip is similar to a small Sharpie pen and keeps its point perfectly. It also dispenses just the right amount of liner to minimize mistakes. These liquid liners give a density of color and precision of shape that cannot be beat. If you are just venturing into this world, here are my tips to getting it right:

First take a small soft brush and smooth on a nice shade of eye shadow from your lash to the fold in your eyelid. (If you knock the handle of your brush against your hand before you use it, you will shake off extra shadow that might oversaturate your eye with color.) Follow the application with a black eyeliner at your lash line (lining more thickly than you might normally do). Now take an angled brush and dip it into the eye shadow; shake off the shadow and feather the eyeliner into the shadow, creating a darker line for you to use the liquid liner in. This will hide any imperfections in your liquid line. Holding the liquid liner like a pencil, anchor the heal of your hand against your face, just below and to the side of your nose. This will steady your hand and keep that line smooth. Start at the outside corner of your eye and lay the side of the tip in the spot where you want the point of the line to be (a good guide is to follow the angle of the inside of your lower eyelid). Sweep the liner inward along the lash line on the side of the applicator’s tip to the point of the tip as you go in, getting to the tip above the inside edge of your iris. Curl your eyelashes and apply mascara. Seems like a lot of work, but it gets easier with practice and is always beautifully dramatic when done right.

Maybelline Mineral Power Naturally Luminous Blush
I think this product line is supposed to mimic the more expensive Bare Minerals loose powders. I think they have nice colors (I use Gentle Pink), and it layers well without looking garish. The packaging is kind of strange, a little pot of loose powder with a screen that doesn’t work very well, but I find that if you shake it while it’s closed, and then knock the lid with the end of your blush brush before you open it, the perfect amount of powder is left clinging to the inside of the lid.

Listerine Whitening Pre-Brush Rinse
A friend of mine once went and got that Brite Smile superexpensive tooth whitening treatment and no one noticed. A couple of months later she started using this Listerine Whitening Pre-Brush Rinse and within a week people were complimenting her smile. I gave it a try, and it’s been keeping my pearly whites pearly on the cheap for a while now, standing the test of coffee, red wine, Coca-Colas, and various other hells I put my teeth through. Couple this with your favorite whitening toothpaste (I like Sensodyne) and you are in the money.

Sephora Brand Lipsticks
Sephora makes great in-house products, and their lipsticks are my favorite. They always have all the colors that the expensive brands come up with at a fraction of the price. They last long, keep your lips soft, and smell like Concord grape jelly. You can’t beat them!

Mane 'n Tail Shampoo and Conditioner by Straight Arrow
At $8 for a 32 oz. bottle, this horse shampoo and conditioner is a steal. I began using it after two of my girlfriends, outta nowhere, started having long and shiny hair. They both credited Mane 'n Tail. No hairstylist will ever back me up on this, but I have noticed that my hair grows faster when I use it. It does have alcohol and all the other crap that dries your hair, but for me the length and price make it worth it.

PSSSSST Dry Shampoo
Oily bangs getting you down? Woke up late and looking greasy? Accidentally put too much product in your hair? This dry shampoo is the best. It’s in an aerosol can, so it’s not perfect for sure, but I’ve yet to find a fitting non-aerosol replacement, or any expensive brand that compares. Shake it up and spray it in the oily area till you can see the whiteness of the powder. Leave it in for a minute or two; then use a hot hair dryer, and voilà! Perfectly soft non-oil slick hair.

Korean Body Scrubbing Sheets
Do you use a loofah or a body puff thing that hangs sadly and blob-like off of your showerhead? Spending a fortune on designer body scrubs? Ditch ‘em! All you could ever want for your exfoliating needs is waiting for you at your nearest Asian market. These $3 sheets are about the size of a small winter scarf. They are easy to use, long-lasting, and leave your skin as smooth as silk. They are also gentle enough for the face but strong enough for elbows and knees. There are multiple brands, but they are all basically the same. My favorite is the brand whose packaging has a happy showering woman on it, because I know I’m gonna be smiling after I use it!
 
Splurge Cuz it’s Worth It
 
Foundation
Foundation is the base that all your other makeup sits on, and if it’s not a quality match it’s obvious and gross. Your foundation should be completely invisible to someone who didn’t wake up next to you. It should just be your skin, but better. Convenience store brands are often too pink or ashy or yellowy. Ew. Who doesn’t have the friend that gets the color line at her jaw that makes you cringe? That could be you! Please don’t let it be! Save your pennies and get thee to Sephora pronto. The people that work there, though they often look like psycho drag queens on a bender, do this for a living day in and day out and know the lighting in there, as well as their product lines, well. They also give hefty samples of foundation when asked, so be nice.
 
Go in with a clean face and find your favorite foundation. It’s a chunk of change but completely worth it. To lengthen the use of my foundation and protect my skin, I squirt a dab of light SPF moisturizer on my fingertips, squirt a bit of foundation next to it, and then mix the combo with my fingers before I apply it to my face. It’s also worth it to invest in a concealer from the same product line, as they will mix best. I prefer Stila Illuminating Liquid Foundation. It has just the teeniest bit of sheen in it that reflects out of large pores and gives skin the appearance of being smoother than it is. It also comes in a wide range of actual skin colors.

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler
Eyelash curlers are the shit. But not all are created equal. The cheap ones put weird creases in your eyelashes or rip them out and fall apart quickly. Shu Uemura has been the best since it was made and has never been equaled. After using it your lashes will be gently and effectively tricked-out and ready to dazzle. It’s spendy, but it’s also a onetime purchase. (I’ve had mine for six years.) Shu Uemura also makes a handy travel-sized curler that is cheaper and works just the same if price is an issue.

Mason Pearson Brushes
Even though I have known for years that the Mason Pearson brush is the pinnacle of all brushes, the cost kept me away. It is the single item you will see in every single quality stylist’s kit. While dropping $159 on a hairbrush seemed a little insane to me, I finally did it. And, honestly, it was worth it. The boar bristles mixed with plastic bristles massages your scalp and distributes your hairs oils 70,000 times better than any other brush around. Plus it’s somehow also gentler on your hair and has far less breakage than other brushes. It is ideal for anyone trying to squeeze more length out of fragile hair.

Caudalie Eau De Beaute
This tiny bottle of spray is a strange little miracle worker. Have you ever put on your makeup and then realized it looks too “done,” but you don’t have time to redo it? Mist this on your face and everything just kinda melts into your skin to look perfectly naturally perfect. It’s actually kind of incredible. It’s the final popping off of a job well done because it also helps everything stay in place too.

Smashbox Angle Brow Brush
I actually use this on my eyes. It is the perfect angled brush to get really defined powder lines, especially under the eye when you don’t want that line getting too thick. While cheaper brushes are too floppy and quickly lose their shapes, the Smashbox Angle Brow Brush is just a little stiff so you have a lot of control with it. Also, if you want to pump up your lash line without wearing eyeliner, take this brush and dip it in a dark shade and just follow that lash line as close as you can, right down into those lashes. It’s a subtle way to enhance your eyes and create an easy undone look that is you, just better. 
These lipsticks are the definition of luxury. Perfect creamy texture with deep pigmentation that lasts and lasts, these little beauties come in the most incredible gold square tubes. The gold is so shiny that I use the top as a mirror for easy application and have spied other fancy ladies doing the same. My husband’s glamorous bandmate, Lizzi, gave me my first tube as a wedding gift, and every time I use it I feel a little bit of that magic, so maybe I’m biased. I can’t quite put my finger on the mix (a soft floral scent that just pops off the already banging product), but they also smell like heaven.

Chanel Soft Touch Eye Shadows
Chanel’s packaging (jet black elegance marked with the iconic interlocking double Cs) takes the cake, as does the pressed powder inside. Their interior mirrors are also better than the one on your bathroom wall, and I find I always look just a bit better in them! My favorite shade is Mahogany, a deep brown that doesn’t have that red undertone that most cheaper shadows have. They last forever so the $30 price tag is easier to swallow.

Chanel’s Perfect Brows Kit
If you have mangy eyebrows like I do, Chanel has a triple shade brow shadow that can take you from a gentle upgrade to a complete brow overhaul. The powder is hard and a bit waxy but goes on light and easy, staying firmly in place (no one wants brows that look painted on). Packaged with a brow brush for arranging, an angled brush for application and a tiny yet oh so effective tweezer for strays, the icing on this cake is an incredible magnifying mirror to spot your impending unibrow. The $65 tag is hard to swallow for sure, but if you need a brow boost there is no better product on the market. I got mine from an old roommate who was a beauty editor, and I had it for years using it every day with barely a dent, but in an airport kerfuffle I just lost it (so sad!), so it’s the product I’m currently saving up for.

Whether you are a seasoned beauty queen or new to the primping game, I hope these hints point you in the right direction. At the end of the day, having confidence and something worthwhile to say are what make you truly beautiful, but that doesn’t mean you gotta look busted. Embrace your inner diva! Happy pampering!

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