My MAC Lipstick All Stars

My wedding set up, featuring one of the two two-layered lipstick palettes in my kit.

As a makeup artist, I go through a lot of lipstick. At each wedding alone, I apply once during the initial service, again at touchups time and I give each client a little container of some lipstick I’ve scraped out of my palette for touchups throughout the wedding. At bridal trials, my clients sometimes want to try a few different lipsticks to see what their options are, and when I’m on a commercial or full day corporate shoot, there can be multiple people who need lipstick as well as frequent touchups. Because of all of this, I can easily go through an entire tube of lipstick in three or four weeks.

I don’t do much with pure black, blue, green, white and orange lipsticks due to the type of jobs I usually do, but there is not a shade in the nude, pink, red or berry color families that I haven’t used or created by combining shades. But it’s not just about that base (color). Undertones, textures and finishes are just as important when choosing the right shade for someone. It has to work with their coloring, their natural lip color and their preferences as well. What, you thought lipstick was easy???

I’m not brand loyal in the sense that my pro kit has products from probably 20 different brands, but I do use a lot of MAC. The majority of my lipsticks are MAC (with Lipstick Queen coming in second), and it’s because they’re damn good. There are tons of shade options and finishes, and they’re pigmented as all get out. I’m going to walk you through my 27 most used shades, giving you MAC’s color descriptions and my take on who they work best on/what I use them for. So if you’re in the market for a new lipstick and you’re considering MAC, read on.

Angel. This light, soft pink has a frost finish so it can be a little intense on its own. I use it more as a mixer lipstick. So if I’ve got a matte darker pink that I want to lighten, or a brown nude that I want to soften, I’ll add in some Angel. It can go Barbie pink easily, so just keep that in mind if you’re considering it.

Brave. This pinky-beige with white pearl has a satin finish, which means it’s shinier than a flat matte but not frosty. Satins tend to be comfortable to wear. This shade looks beautiful on light and medium skintones. AB Beauty makeup artist, Jen, recommended Brave to me a while back, and I’m glad she did because I use it at almost every wedding.

I used Brave on my knockout friend, Carina (who gets two mentions in this post) on her wedding day. Photo: Conte Sound Productions http://www.contesound.com

Cherish. This soft, muted pinky beige with a satin finish is a nice nude for fair, light and light medium skintones.

Creme Cup. Creme Cup is one of MAC’s Cremesheen lipsticks, which means it’s semi-glossy and feels more like a thick balm than a lipstick. I use this light blue pink on fair and light skintones. It tends to get chalky and a little jarring on medium and deeper skintones.

Creme D’Nude. This pale muted peach beige is another Cremesheen, and it’s a good nude for fair and light skintones. Like Creme Cup, it can appear chalky on medium and deeper skintones.

Faux. A lot of clients tell me they prefer a mauve-ish lip color, so it’s no surprise I go through a lot of this muted mauve-pink satin shade. It looks pretty on light and medium skintones. My friend Jennie Kay of Jennie Kay Beauty originally recommended it to me, and I trust her opinion so I bought it and haven’t looked back.

It’s a gorgeous shade, faux real. Photo: John Seakwood Photography ยฉ2014 John Seakwood. All Rights Reserved.

Film Noir. I bought my first tube of this at the MAC store on Newbury Street in Boston. I put it on while my friend, Carina, was driving my car (because we knew parallel parking was coming up, and that’s not something I do). I remember saying “Ooooh!” as I was applying it, because it looked very 1940s femme fatale (makes sense with the shade name) and I love that. MAC says it’s an intense brown, but there’s some deep reddish purple there in my eyes. It’s easiest for deeper skintones to wear, but you can pull it off it you have a lighter skintone if you aren’t afraid of an intense lip.

Film Noir feels like the perfect winter color.

Fresh Moroccan. This frost finish, brick red with golden pearl lipstick is gorgeous on medium deep and deeper skintones. I’ve used this many times at Indian weddings, and it looks beautiful against some of the sari colors I’ve seen.

Honeylove. This matte lipstick is one of my most used shades on fair, light and medium skintones. It’s a light beige toned with rose, which means it’s a nude with a little pink to warm it up. That makes it flattering and easier to wear, as a nude with no pink can come off a little too stark.

Honeylove was the obvious choice for this look. Photo: Move Mountains Co.

Kinda Sexy. MAC calls this a matte neutral pinky rose, but it looks more peachy to me. It’s beautiful on medium skintones. This is one of those shades that clients often really love and ask me the name of.

Lady Danger. You might have heard of this pro makeup artist and celebrity favorite vivid bright coral red. It’s a matte showstopper and it can work on a variety of skintones. I don’t use it often at weddings, but I usually have a tube of it in my purse.

Mehr. Oh, this matte dirty blue pink? I go through loads of it. It’s a gorgeous shade that works well on light and medium skintones. It looks especially pretty on people with blue eyes, which may sound strange until you remember (or learn) that blue and pink are complimentary colors, and the lip color you have on can enhance your eye color. Something about the undertones in Mehr make it really bring out those baby blues, so this might be a good one for you if you have light to medium skin and blue eyes.

New York Apple. I’ve always wanted to wear this muted red with pink shimmer, but I find it looks best on medium deep and medium deep skintones. It has a frost finish, but it’s not overpowering. It looks more pink than red on deeper skintones, so if your skin falls into that category and you want more a full red, I’d try a different shade.

“O.” This purplish red with golden pearl is probably MAC’s most interesting lip color. It looks bronze in the tube, but comes out purple-brown on some people and reddish-brown on others. The golden pearl of this frost lipstick is strong, but it still somehow gives more a sheen than a frost finish. It works best on deeper skintones.

Patisserie. This is one of MAC’s Lustre finishes, which means it’s lightweight and has a shine to it without being frosty or glossy. It’s a sheer creamy neutral pink. It’s the most flattering on fair and light skintones, but can sometimes work on medium skin. It’s a very pretty color for wedding looks.

Photo. This beautiful golden brown satin shade is great on deeper skintones. I also sometimes use it as a mixer when customizing a nude shade.

Please Me. This matte shade is a muted, rose tinted pink and it has a pop to it. It’s not that it’s bright or intense, but it definitely stands out. I love the way it looks against a yellow dress or top. It’s pretty on fair, light and light medium skintones.

Applying some Please Me on this beautiful bride. Photo: LoveDays Photography

Rebel. This midtonal cream plum is gorgeous on deeper skintones. I once used it on an actress who you’d definitely know if you watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and she loved it so much she asked me to give her the name so she could buy it.

Ruby Woo. This MAC classic is from their Retro Matte line. It’s mega matte, so make sure your lips are hydrated before you apply it. It’s a vivid blue red, and it screams vintage. This is another of my personal favorite reds and it can work on a variety of skintones.

Russian Red. I want to say this intense bluish-red matte was a favorite of Madonna’s. Like any red, it’s bold, but it can work on skintones from fair to deep. I think this was the first red lipstick I owned, and I used to try to get my friends to buy it because I loved it so much.

Russian Red, to compliment my dress.

Sin. In the mood for a deep, dark blue red? Look no further than Sin. This matte shade is stunning on medium and deeper skintones. I think it got popular in the non-pro makeup artist YouTube world for a while,ย  but trust me, it’s good.

Syrup. This cloudy pink Lustre shade has a purple undertone, and I find myself using it a lot on light and medium brunette clients. Just like Mehr works extra well with blue eyes, Syrup somehow looks especially good on brunettes.

Twig. I once won an actress’s trust by using Twig on her, because that’s the shade she wore in her everyday life (and it just happened to work perfectly for her character). It’s a soft muted brownish pink in a satin finish, and I’ve used it on light, medium and medium deep skintones.

Vegas Volt. This full power coral is from the Amplified line, which means it’s bold, pigmented, full coverage and has a semi-lustrous finish. It’s not so strong that it’s all you see, but it definitely packs a punch. I’ve used it on light, medium and medium deep skintones.

Velvet Teddy. This matte deep toned beige might have been my most used lip color at weddings in 2019. Many of the people I used this on liked it so much that they asked me the name of the shade so they could buy it. It works on light skintones, but it’s really flattering on medium skintones.

Velvet Teddy for the win. Photo: Rebecca at Photography by Nikki Cole

Viva Glam III. This matte muted brownish-plum is one of my favorite MAC lipsticks. It’s as close to a universally flattering shade as you get. And every cent of a Viva Glam purchase goes to the MAC AIDS Fund, so you can buy something pretty and support a charity at the same time.

This bride looked stunning in Viva Glam III. Photo: Armor & Martel

Whirl. Whirl is a matte dirty rose that looks beautiful on medium, medium deep and deeper skintones. It became a cult favorite a few years back (I want to say due to Kylie Jenner wearing it). I’m usually wary of cult favorites, but this one is good.

That’s all, folks. Feeling ready to buy a MAC lipstick? I’m not saying you need to, but if you want to (or if you want to buy one for someone on your holiday shopping list), hopefully this gave you a good start.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Skincare Device Review: NuFace Mini

The answer to my skincare prayers.

Even though I often think it’s only been five years since I graduated from college, I am, in fact, in my late 30s. I have a consistent and solid skincare routine, I’ve been using prescription retinoids for a few years, I stay out of the sun and I’m lucky enough to have great genes when it comes to signs of aging. Lately though, I’ve felt like my face has been starting to show its age. Even though sagging skin before 40 is uncommon for non-smokers and non-sun worshippers, I swear it was starting to happen to me.

And so like I do whenever I encounter a problem, I thought, I need to fix this, now. After I shared my concerns with her, my cousin Saint Maria mentioned that she had used the NuFace Mini–a handheld microcurrent skincare device–and I remembered watching this review Lisa Eldridge did about it. After reading through a million reviews and hearing yet another endorsement from a friend who said it worked well, I coughed up the $199 and placed my order.

You’re probably thinking “So what the hell is it, really?” Great question. First off, you need to know our bodies have a natural current buzzing around 24/7. The NuFace devices (I am reviewing the Mini, but they have others) mimic that current. Because the facial muscles are closer to the skin than anywhere else in the body, the NuFace low level microcurrents are able to penetrate the skin and get down to those muscles. They tighten, tone and contour the skin by giving those muscles a workout and increasing collagen and elastin via ATP production (I’ll let you look that one up). Tightening, toning and contouring is, you know, what a face lift does, so I think it’s safe to say microcurrent waves are anti-aging.

Microcurrent therapy was first used in the 1980s to help with nerve damage from Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy causes sagging, atrophied muscles. My father had it and half of his face was droopy temporarily, but some people with Bell’s Palsy don’t recover from that drooping. Microcurrent therapy was found to improve the nerve paralysis in some people and became FDA approved as a treatment for that. The skincare industry perked up its pretty little ears and said “Sagging skin? We know lots of people who would want to fix that!” Cue the microcurrent facials that started popping in spas nationwide. I learned how to give microcurrent facials in Esthetics school in 2008, and, well, let’s just say they hadn’t perfected it yet (aka I got shocked a few times).

NuFace took the microcurrent technology, got rid of the risk of shocking yourself and made it something people could do on themselves, no spa day needed. It’s easy to use, painless and holy shit, is it effective. I’ve been using it since November 2, and there has been an undeniable improvement in my skin. It’s an easy process. First, you cleanse your face with a non-oil based cleanser. Then you dry your face (pat it dry, please–rubbing can cause pulling and sagging of the skin) and apply a thick layer of either the NuFace serum, a serum you like, or aloe. I use an all-natural aloe, but you do you. Then you switch on your NuFace, choose your intensity level, and go to town. Video tutorials are below, but let’s get to my Before & After pictures so you have your proof.

I’ve taken more selfies in the last month than I normally do in a year, so this has felt like a very egotistical four weeks for me. But I did it for you! I could tell you how great the NuFace Mini is, but a picture is worth a thousand words (and I’m currently only at 827).

Here’s what my Before & Afters looked like on Day 2 (I forgot to take Day 1 pics) and Day 30:

Ignore the Day 2 headband, por favor.

The pictures on the left were taken right before I used the NuFace Mini, and the pictures on the right were taken immediately after. I have no makeup on in any of the pics, and no filters were used. I tried to stand in the same spot and smile the same way (although I obviously forgot to have my hair the same way). Do you see how tight my face looks in the Afters??? And look at how much deeper the lines around mouth were on Day 2 compared to Day 30.

Maybe I don’t look as young as 2009 Allison yet…

Back when my hair was all one color. How cute.

But I think I at least look like 2015 Allison now. I’ll take it!

Minus the red eyes, of course.

Look at the change between the Day 2 Before and Day 30 After. My skin looks firmer, my eyes look lifted, my lines are less noticeable and my jawline is more defined. My skin also looks brighter–I can’t tell you how many people have told me I look like I’m glowing lately–and it even feels softer. I had one semi-deep line on my forehead that you couldn’t usually see in pictures but could in person, and I just noticed yesterday that it’s almost completely gone.

You can’t deny it. My face looks better now.

The next pictures were taken three weeks apart, and I’m wearing a full face of makeup in both. The picture on the left is of me before I started using the NuFace Mini. The picture on the right is 12 days into it. I think I look way more awake and maybe even younger in the picture on the right.

Same sweater, different countries (Ireland and the US).

Day 14, right before and right after using the NuFace Mini. Look at that brow lift!

From droopy and tired looking to toned and alert.

In case you can’t tell, I love the NuFace Mini. I was skeptical–as I am of most things–but the proof is in the pudding (and the pudding is the pictures). If you feel like your skin isn’t as tight as it used to be, I would strongly consider getting this device. You can use it on your neck as well, which I know is an area of concern for a lot of people. But–and this is an important disclaimer–if you know yourself to be someone who cannot stick to a consistent skincare routine, I wouldn’t waste your money. Yes, you get instant results from the NuFace Mini, but if you want those cumulative results, you have to use it consistently. NuFace recommends five days a week for two months then two to three times a week for maintenance after that. I messed up the first week and did six days in a row, and my skin felt a little sensitive after. Don’t go balls to the wall with it at first, thinking that will speed up your results. If you jump right into the highest intensity and do it seven days a week, you’re being mean to your skin, and it will probably tell you that via redness and sensitivity.

A few tips if you do get this miracle device:

Use the right cleanser. I love cleansing balms and oil cleansers because they really get makeup off, but there’s a chance they can leave a little bit of oily residue on the skin. You don’t want to have any bit of oil on the skin when you use the NuFace (I’m guessing it makes it harder for the microcurrent waves to penetrate the skin through oil), so why risk it with the wrong cleanser? Use a lightweight cleanser like Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser for best results. I use my NuFace in the morning, and I don’t find it necessary to do a deep cleanse of the skin both morning and night anyway, so I’m fine with a gentle cleanser pre-NuFace.

Don’t be stingy with the serum. Or aloe. You need a thick layer of whatever you use as your conductor. If you run the NuFace over an area that doesn’t have serum/aloe on it or if it’s not thick enough, it will feel a little prickly. If your thought process is “But if there’s less serum there, it’ll be closer to the facial muscles and I’ll get better results,” you’re wrong. Sorry, but shortcuts and skincare don’t usually work.

Follow the videos exactly. This isn’t the time to go freestyle. There’s a reason for the placement and movement of the device. Using it incorrectly will…well, I don’t know exactly because I follow the rules (with this), but I imagine it wouldn’t be good. They want you to have good results so you become a loyal customer. Your idea of what you think could work better would already be their idea if it did. You follow me? Watch thisย basic, five minute video first, then check out this advanced one if you know you can commit to 15 minutes.

Adjust the intensity as needed. There are three levels of intensity for the NuFace Mini. I used the lowest setting for the first 30 days, then moved onto the second setting. I’ll move onto the highest setting in another week or two, as I know my skin has been tolerating the higher intensity well. I would recommend starting on the lowest setting, at least for the first week, until you feel like your skin is used to it. Then move up and scale back as needed.

I think this has been a thorough review. I’m more enamored with the NuFace Mini than I’ve been with some (or all?) of the guys I’ve dated. It can often take a couple of months to see results from any skincare routine changes, so I was shocked (luckily not literally, this time) to see results so quickly. I don’t work for NuFace nor is this a sponsored post, so my endorsement of this device is genuine. I’ve been telling everyone about the NuFace Mini because it’s probably the most impressive of all of the skincare things I’ve ever tried. And I can’t keep that kind of thing a secret.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Laugh Track: My Favorite Funny YouTube Videos

I’ve been in desperate need of some good laughs lately, and I can’t be the only one. In case you’re feeling the same way, here are 11 of my favorite YouTube videos that never fail to make me laugh.

Let’s start with the funniest skincare video ever. It’s gets good around about 2:50.

Followed by a great my-dad-narrates-my-makeup-tutorial video.

An early YouTube classic. Read the description before you watch it or else it will make zero sense.

The first Hot Ones I ever watched. Gotta love Redman! The Chris D’Elia, Bobby Lee, Theo Von, Kristen Bell and Paul Rudd episodes are great too.

Two comedy legends, as I see it.

Whatchu know about Epic Rap Battles? This one with Key & Peele is awesome.

Funny because it’s true. This one made the rounds in 2017, so you might have seen it.

One of the best working comics takes control of someone’s Tinder? Of course this is good.

And the hilarious Nick Kroll’s Tinder takeover is just as funny.

Two of my favorite comics together. I’ve watched this a zillion times.

I don’t give a shit about sports, but I love an NFL bad lip reading. This is the first one of that series.

Hope you’ve found something in here that made you laugh! I tried to choose videos that would appeal to several different types of humor.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Product Review: MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation

This beauty already had the bridal glow, but I enhanced it with MAC Face and Body. Photo: M. Studios http://www.mstudiosri.com

It’s absurd that I’ve yet to post a review of my all-time favorite foundation–MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation— so I’m here to remedy that. Sure, I did this compare and contrast review of MAC Face and Body and the Make Up For Ever Face & Body Foundation (which has now become their Water Blend Face & Body Foundation), but the darling of my foundation world deserves her own post.

In honor of the recent 20 year anniversary of 10 Things I Hate About You, I’m going to do a 10 Things I Love About You for MAC F&B.

  1. The Coverage Options. When applied and gently blended in, F&B gives the wearer sheer coverage. But due to its film formers (which deserve their own shoutout), the more you use your fingers or a brush to work in F&B, the more coverage you get. If you use your fingers, you can actually feel the foundation thicken as you work it in. If that’s not enough coverage, you can build it up by adding more foundation without having to worry about caking, like you would with many other foundations. I’ve yet to meet another foundation that offers so many coverage options.
  2. The Film Formers. Film formers are not a group of tiny movie producers in the foundation. They are the ingredients in F&B that make it stay in place. They form an invisible, water resistant film (don’t worry–you won’t feel it) that sets in place and keeps the foundation from wearing off. This makes it ideal for longwear occasions like weddings, which is why I go through bottles of it each wedding season. I’ve worn F&B on my legs (we’ll get to the body foundation part later) in the summer, and thanks to the film formers, is has stayed on through hours of day drinking shenanigans. Impressive.
  3. The Undertones. MAC F&B Foundations come in N (Neutral) and C (Cool) undertones. They are then numbered by pigment. So C1 and N1 are the same as far as how dark they are, but N1 looks more pink on some skintones and C1 looks more yellow. If you have more yellow or olive in your skin, the C foundations will work well on you. The N foundations are ideal for those with neutral or pink undertones. And like with all foundations, you can customize them to create your perfect shade. I’ve added in a drop of an N to a C or vice versa when an undertone seemed just slightly off, so there’s no reason you couldn’t too.
  4. The Scent. Or I should say, the lack of a scent. Some foundations are heavily perfumed, and I don’t like that. Fragrance is also a common allergen, so as a makeup artist, I go for unscented or very lightly scented products because I like my clients. I don’t want to put anything heavily scented on my own skin or on a client’s skin, so this is an important factor for me.
  5. The Size Options. F&B foundations can be used on–you guessed it–the body as well as the face. I tend to think the two size options MAC offers for F&B are partly because of this. I have “tanned” my legs many times with C5 and used F&B on models’ bodies at photoshoots, so I’m no stranger to body makeup.ย  I think it makes sense to have a bigger bottle for body makeup, as you’ll use lot more foundation for the body than for the face (unless you’re a social media beauty guru, in which case you’ll use more foundation on your face than on your body). For my personal makeup bag and for my pro kit, I like small products because they make for more room in my makeup bag, and anything that makes my pro kit lighter makes my body happier. (I sprained both wrists lugging that bad boy around one wedding season.) With the 50ml size, MAC keeps my makeup bag and my pro kit lighter and with their 120ml, they make it so I don’t go through half a bottle just trying to tan my ghostly legs for the day. Most foundations have in a one-size-fits-all vibe, but MAC F&B is more inclusive.
  6. The Glow Factor. F&B gives a flattering, healthy glow to the skin without using shimmer or other bullshit. Dry and normal to dry skin can look lackluster, but pop some F&B on, and get a little dewy. For my combination and oily skin types, you may want to use some mattifyer or oil-free primer first, as your abundant natural oils + the glowy magic of F&B can = a little too much shine. I’ve used this foundation on all skin types, and as long as I prep combo and oily skinned clients properly, it looks fantastic on them.
  7. The Consistency. If you pick up a bottle of F&B and shake it like a salt shaker, you’ll hear how liquidy it is. If you’re a foundation-phobe because the idea of heavy makeup scares you, that sound should be music to your ears. A foundation that is that thin and liquidy is going to be real hard to cake up. Not only that, but F&B feels like nothing on the skin. I like my clients to not only love the way their makeup looks but be comfortable with how it feels. I check in with my clients to make sure everything feels okay as I work, and none of them have ever told me that F&B felt even a little heavy, sticky or weird on their skin.
  8. The Packaging. Sure, a glass bottle can look luxe, but I like MAC’s plastic packaging for two reasons. 1) It weighs less than a glass bottle, which might not matter if you only have one foundation, but I’ve got dozens in my pro kit. 2) You can drop a plastic bottle and it won’t shatter. MAC also has a great packaging recycling program, so you don’t have to be wasteful when a bottle of F&B comes to its natural end. A+ on the packaging, MAC.
  9. The Natural Look. One of the most important things to me is that a foundation looks like skin. Part of that is choosing the correct shade, but you can be right on with a shade and if the formulation is shitty, your foundation will be obvious. I’m old school in the way that I don’t like myself or my clients to look like they are wearing foundation, and MAC Face and Body lets that happen. You can still get coverage from it, but it allows the wearer’s skin to show through, which is what I’ve found most people actually want, whether they know it or not.
  10. How It Feels. None of the nine other factors would matter if F&B was uncomfortable to wear. But obviously, it is not. It’s lightweight, absorbs quickly and is hydrating. I’ve had several clients tell me that it feels great, and as someone who wears it on full-face makeup days (which are much less common than you would think for most makeup artists), I agree. Thanks to the Taurus part of my zodiacal classification, I am hyper-sensitive to how things feel. If a sweater I’m wearing is even the tiniest bit itchy or I can feel the tag on a dress, it becomes a bad day for me. So if you think I’m going to wear a foundation that feels heavy or sticky, you’re out of your mind. (Nor would I ever put anything like that on a client.) So besides its other attributes, F&B feels just like a foundation should–which is like nothing.
Looks like my actual skin, but better.

Whether you’re new to foundation, like the idea of several coverage options or want a foundation that will help you get glowy, MAC Face and Body is there for you. There’s a reason (or 10) that it’s been a kit essential for makeup artists since it came out. In a world of heavy foundations with strong scents and weird undertones, F&B is the natural-looking, comfortable to wear champion.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

My Hopefully Slightly Helpful Guide To Ireland

Green as far as the eye can see.

I know, I know–this is a beauty blog with some shots of entrepreneurship posts. Maybe I have no place writing about travel, but here’s the thing about me: I like to be a good helper. And when I have info that I think could help someone, I have to share it.

I recently spent nine days in Ireland, the country of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors (until 23andMe tells me otherwise). I traveled with a friend, hitting up six different cities/towns with no real itinerary. We decided to “wing it,” which goes against the core of my very being, but I surprisingly ended up being totally okay with it. We started in Dublin, then went to Galway, then to Doolin, followed by Killarney, then Dingle, then Kilkenny and finally back to Dublin. I learned a lot while I was there, and since Ireland seems to be a popular travel destination lately, I thought I’d pass on what I learned.

MONEY

Cash Money. I planned on primarily using my credit card while I was there, but I wanted to have some cash on me when I arrived (to avoid hefty ATM fees). I ordered 250 euro from my bank, and I came back after my trip with 10, so I think I got the right amount for me. There were a couple of tours we did (Cliffs of Moher and Killarney National Park) that did not accept credit cards, so I think it’s good to have euros on hand for those kinds of things, as well as for tolls if you are driving.

Euro Euro Bills, Y’All. When you pay by credit card, the merchant will ask you if you want the charge to be in euros or dollars. I’d learned beforehand that the financially wise answer is “euros,” so I stuck with that. There’s no way I can explain the reasoning to you in a way that makes sense, so just read this.

It’s gotsta be in Euros.

Gettin’ Tip-sy. They say there’s not a strong “tipping culture” in Ireland, and that certainly was the case from what I observed. There was no gratuity option for most of the credit card transactions I made. I tipped the tour guides, a taxi driver, some restaurants, the Dublin hair stylist who gave me a great blowout and my friend and I left one or two euros at some pubs where we could see others had done the same (seemed cheap but that’s what others were doing). I was a little confused about who to tip and how much to tip. As an over-tipper in the US, it felt so weird not to tip or to leave a smaller tip than I would normally leave, but I tried looking it up beforehand and seeing what others were doing. If I screwed anyone over, I’m sorry!

ACCOMMODATIONS

Where You Rest At? Out of our eight nights in Ireland, we stayed in B&Bs for all but three of the nights. Our first one, which was also our second night in Ireland, was in Galway. My friend had researched some the night before but we didn’t book anything. We walked in, asked them if they had a room, and luckily they did. WINGIN’ ITTTTTTTTTTT! Our first and last nights were in Dublin and I had booked hotels there before we left (I figured we wouldn’t want to deal with a potential hassle of finding accommodations on travel days), but other than Dublin and Galway, we booked the rest of the places the night before we got there. I think this worked because it was off season, but I’m not sure it would be as easy during peak season. We heard that B&Bs–not Airbnbs–were the way to go, and I have to agree with that. We had breakfast options at the B&Bs and our hosts were all very nice, plus the rooms were very affordable (again, likely off season perks). If I were to go to Ireland again, I would definitely stay in B&Bs.

Bed Time. When booking a B&B or hotel in Ireland, you’ll be asked to choose whether you want a twin or double room. A twin room has two beds, which are sometimes twin beds, sometimes doubles. (In one hotel room in Dingle, there was one twin bed and one double bed, which my friend and I played rock, paper, scissors for. I slept very well and spaciously that night.) A double room has one bed, and it’s usually a king or queen. My friend and I got twin rooms everywhere we went, and most of the time, the rooms had two twin beds. And FYI, twin beds in Ireland are roughly thee inches smaller (less wide) than American twin beds. Even I felt like they were small, and I’m referred to as “tiny” on a regular basis.

I won a game of “big bed, small bed” at this hotel.

Be Adaptable. You know they have different outlets over there, right? I was bringing a laptop and phone with me so I knew I’d need to charge them each day. Someone had suggested this three pack of adapters, and they worked great for me. If you’re going to buy adapters, just be aware of the voltage of the thing(s) you’ll need to plug in so you can choose the right adapters.

Switch It Up. I think all of the outlets I saw in Ireland had a little switch on them to be turned on or off for power. My jet lagged brain didn’t even see the switch my first night there, so I woke up to an almost dead laptop. My friend nicely pointed out the switch, and I made sure to turn the outlets on going forward. Easy peasy.

It All Comes Out In The Wash. I had heard that a lot of hotels and B&Bs in Ireland don’t have wash cloths–and this makeup ain’t coming off without one–so I brought some with me. I knew I would just use them and leave them there, so I bought some cheap ones instead of bringing the ones from my house. Some of the hotels and B&Bs did have white wash cloths but along with those were signs saying they were not to be used for makeup removal, so I think I made the right choice.

CLOTHING

Pack Rat. The type of clothing you pack for Ireland depends on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. If you’re an outdoor adventure traveler, it doesn’t really make sense for you to bring three dresses now, does it? But if you only ever wear dresses and you don’t plan on hiking anytime this millennium, do you. I brought mostly casual clothes, saving my dressiest options for Dublin. But actually, Killarney is where I saw the most fancy folk. I don’t even remember seeing any women in heels until we got to Killarney, which–and this might have been due to the bank holiday long weekend–was full of dressed up people, some in what I could consider club clothes. Other than that, I didn’t feel out of place in my casual clothes.

Minimalist Tendencies. I overpacked, no doubt about it. I was in Ireland for pretty much eight full days (got in around 8:00am the first day), and then a half day there the day we left. For some reason, I had in my head that I needed 12 days worth of outfits. I’ma get real detailed here because I know some of you want that. I brought four pairs of Topshop skinny jeans (denim, light gray, dark gray and black). Three or even two pairs would have been enough. I wore one of them only once. I brought four pairs of leggings (two thin, one thick and one fleece-lined). One thin and the fleece-lined (which did come in handy) would have been enough. I brought three fleeces (knowing I’d wear one or two over my pajamas), but two would have plenty. I packed 12 shirts and didn’t wear three of them. I bought four pairs of shoes–flat boots, wedge boots, hiking boots and sneakers. I could have done without the sneakers, as I mainly wore the flat boots. I brought too many pairs of underwear and socks, but I don’t regret that because they didn’t take up much room. But I definitely could have done without some of the pants, shirts and the sneakers. Ooops.

Fellow overpackers: Try to change your ways.

CLIMATE

Weather Through It. I thought I was going to need to buy a raincoat when I got to Ireland, but that would have been unnecessary. It didn’t even rain all of the days that we were there, which I had expected it would. (But it was also implied several times that we were there in a good weather stretch.) A few people told us that you can experience all four seasons in a day in Ireland, but I never felt summer. It was in the 40s and 50s while we were there, but high 50s and sunny does feel like spring, so I’ll give ’em that. We got hailed on–twice–while on The Cliffs of Moher, and there was a cold, windy day in Dingle. If you want to travel somewhere for consistently warm, sunny weather, Ireland is probably not the best option. But if you hit a nice stretch like we did, it’s really not bad (and that’s coming from someone who flees to the South to escape New England winters).

PUBS & RESTAURANTS

Ready, Freddy? Have your drink order ready when you go to the bar. Cocktail menus were scarce (which I’m fine with, but I know others expect them), and it became clear early on that you’re expected to you know what you want when the bartender comes over to you. We didn’t encounter any small talk from bartenders anywhere we went. Usually we got a “Hiya” or “Hello,” followed by a stare, which I learned meant “Order your drink now or I’m walking away” at most places. This could have just been the places we went to, but it’s worth passing along anyway.

DIY Style. If you order a mixed drink–like a vodka soda–you will be given the vodka in a glass, then your club soda in a bottle, and you become your own bartender. I liked this, as the majority of mixed drinks I’ve gotten in Newport lately have not even been given a half-assed stir, so I’m used to doing that part myself anyway. And since I often drink tequila with club soda and either grapefruit or pineapple juice, I like my mixer proportions a specific way, which only myself and most Charleston bartenders can get right. Maybe it’s my control issues speaking, but this was one of my favorite parts of the Irish pub experience.

H2 Oh No. Contrary to what the last paragraph may imply, I’m not a big drinker. That’s due to a variety of boring reasons, so let’s gloss right over that and skip to the fact that I sometimes just order a water, or have one drink then a water. Apparently this is a weird request in Ireland. I also like to have a glass of water with a drink because I’ve repeatedly read and now wholeheartedly believe that helps with hangovers (which are probably unlikely after one drink anyway). I love a bar that automatically gives you a water with your drink, but you won’t find that on The Emerald Isle. So go ahead, order some aqua, but don’t be surprised if the reaction is a weird look.

Mixing my own drinks in Bullshit Corner.

What’s Your Number? If you’re traveling to Ireland and you have a food allergy, you’re in luck…kind of. Every menu I saw had a list of allergens (did you know celery is one?) with a corresponding number, and that number would be listed next to any menu item that contained it. I have a gluten allergy, which was number 1, so I scanned menus for 1s then made my selection. The problem is that sometimes I only had one or two meals to choose from. It was fine though, as I’m about as big of an eater as I am a drinker. If you have a food allergy (like sulfites, which they also included on the list), you’ll probably feel safe eating at pubs and restaurants in Ireland. But depending on your allergy (mustard is another one!), you might not feel like you have a ton of options. I think a lot of us with food allergies feel that way anyway, so maybe it isn’t an issue. But I like to be thorough in my travel guides.

Speak Up. Being obviously done with with your drink or meal doesn’t mean you’ll be asked if you want another drink or if you want the check. If you want another drink, it’s up to you to get the bartender’s attention and ask for it. Pushing your empty glass to away from you means nothing in Ireland (whereas if you do that in some places in the U.S., you’ll hear a “Can I get another drink?” as you’re taking the list sip of your current one). When you’re done with a meal, you may be asked if you want dessert or anything else, but saying “No thanks. We’re all set,” will not get you your check. If you don’t ask for it, you’ll be sitting there all night. So ignore No Doubt and actually do speak if you’re trying to get another drink or settle up.

DRIVING

The Terror. Driving on the left side of the road is scary as hell, and I didn’t even drive in Ireland. My friend very generously did all of the driving (she had volunteered to several months ago) because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Now having been in it, that was an accurate assessment. I was the copilot and I took my job very seriously, but Irish countryside roads are insanely narrow, so it was anxiety-inducing. My friend did an awesome job driving and she said it really wasn’t that bad, but I’m tensing up just thinking about it.

Roundabout Central. Ireland has so many roundabouts. And there are often several in a row. It’s enough to make a copilot dizzy! The good news is, they are pretty easy ones and we only got off track once in a roundabout when the GPS lied to us. They’re no Kelley Square (a famous Worcester roundabout about that’s so ridiculous that I know someone who pulls over, calls her Worcester native husband and has him come pick her up if she finds herself coming up on it) roundabouts, so you really don’t need to stress about these.

It’s okay. You’ve got this!

Get Low. Or rather, look low if you’re trying to find a traffic light. In Dublin, let’s say we almost went through a couple of red lights because the traffic lights were lower than we are used to so we didn’t see them. I don’t remember that being an issue outside of Dublin, but that may be because we learned our lesson on Day 2. Now that you know what to look for, just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be fine.

I Saw The Sign. Dublin may seem like a city with no street names until you look on the buildings where they hide the street signs. It’s like an extra challenge when you’re already in a foreign country driving on the left side of the road, so just embrace it.

Taxicab Confessions. There are no Ubers or Lyfts in Ireland, so get ready to go old school if you’re not driving, taking public transportation or walking somewhere. We only had to do this once, getting from a bar we ended up in outside of Doolin (it’s a great story) back to our B&B in Doolin. I thought my friend and I should go outside five minutes before the cab arrived so we could watch for it, which prompted someone I met to say my favorite comment of the trip: “You’re too organized for Ireland.” I guess I’m Type A in any country, huh?

FLYING

Early Bird Special. I realize it can vary slightly by airline, but I think the general suggestion is to get to the airport three hours before your flight for international travel. My friend and I did just that, and it worked out well. In Boston, it gave us enough time to check our bags, go through security, have dinner at Wahlburgers then hit up Hudson News. It didn’t feel like we had a long wait at our gate after that. For our return flight from Dublin, we budgeted three and a half hours because we had to return our rental car first. That process was a bit of a mess, so I’m glad we added the extra half hour. It did take some time to do everything we needed to do at the airport and while it didn’t take three hours, I’m glad we had the time because we did have to wait in several long lines. If you’re a risk taker, you could probably cut the time down to two and a half or maybe even two hours, but I personally wouldn’t. I’ve been early for everything, including the day I was born, so of course I’m not going to cut it close for an international flight.

Got some time to kill at the airport? Just be cool and watch the planes go by, like this guy.

Get Customized. At some of the airports in Ireland (including Dublin and Shannon), you can do pre-clearance there so you don’t have to go through customs when you get back to the US. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do something before boarding than after landing when I just want to get home. We had to wait in three separate lines to get through pre-clearance, so having the padding of the three hours kept it from getting stressful. No worrying that we were going to miss our flight and have to run through the airport like maniacs.

PHONE & WIFI

A Cell Phone’s A Celly. I have a Samsung Galaxy (keep your comments to yourself, please) and have Sprint. I had checked with Sprint before I left and they said as long I switched my phone into international roaming mode, I could use it regularly. That wasn’t quite the case, but I was okay with that. If you want to be able to fully use your phone while you are there, maybe just read this. (And if you caught my Big L reference, know that I consider you a friend.)

I didn’t mind that I couldn’t fully use my phone, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Stay Connected. I had zero problems getting and staying connected to WiFi networks in Ireland. I was a little concerned about not having consistent WiFi before I left for my trip, but it turns out I didn’t need to be worried. Lesson learned.

MAKEUP

Whoa. I’m including this section because hey, this is still a beauty blog. My friend and I noticed that many women in Ireland–particularly those in their 20s and 30s–wear a lot of makeup. Like beauty guru levels. Heavy foundation, contour, eye makeup, lips–just full on. I noticed lash extensions on 90% of the younger women I saw. I’m not knocking it, just making an observation.

WHAT I LIKED BEST ABOUT EACH PLACE

Dublin. Let me first say, I’m not a big city person. So I didn’t expect to like Dublin, but since it made sense to be there on travel days, I was fine with it. There were less people than I expected, which I loved. And I got a great blowout at Dry & Fly on Wicklow Street. It was also cool seeing Trinity College and the Temple Bar area (where we stayed both times).

A photo of Trinity College taken on Day 1 of my trip, while I didn’t even know I was awake. Jet lag, baby.

Galway. We spent time primarily in the Latin Quarter, an area of Galway with structures that date back to medieval time. I’m happy in any cobblestone street areas where vehicles aren’t allowed, so I was into it. There was a comedy festival happening in Galway, so my friend and I went to a show the night we were there. Now I can say I’ve been to comedy festivals in three countries, so that’s something.

Doolin. Ah, Doolin. This was my favorite part of the trip. We stayed for two nights at O’Connor’s Guesthouse in huge room with a bathroom at least twice the size of the bathrooms any of our other rooms had. We had a great breakfast there one morning before we went on what they call a “walk” but is really more of a “hike” with local farmer Pat Sweeney. This walk-hike was one of the best parts of our trip.ย  It was a four hour, off the beaten path tour that gave us information and views we couldn’t have gotten on any other tour. Pat suggested to my friend and I that we go to McGann’s Pub, where we ended up making friends with some locals. Doolin is an adorable little town and the first place I would go to if I went back to Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher–a must see in Ireland.

Killarney. We were in Killarney on the Sunday of a long weekend, so it was pretty busy. One of our new friends from Doolin had recommended we take a carriage ride, so we did that. (The carriages are stationed across from the Killarney Plaza Hotel, where we also had good dinner.) We took a ride through the Killarney National Park with our wonderful guide, John, and his horse, Suzy.ย  Like we did everywhere we went, we stayed in the main/downtown part of town so we could walk everywhere. We wanted to see Ross Castle, but it closed before we were able to get there. We did see it from a distance during our carriage ride, so that half counts, right?

Dingle. The seaside town of Dingle reminded me of Newport. Water, boats, a million shops and restaurants–you know the drill. We went to the famed Murphy’s Ice Cream, where even a gluten-free gal like me had options. Instead of a B&B, we went with the Dingle Benners Hotel, which was nicest hotel we stayed at. (FYI, the parking lot is behind the hotel, you have to circle around the hotel through side streets to access it.) We found some very friendly people in Dingle, and I would say it was my second favorite place. Much like Newport, I bet it’s packed during the summer months but I think it would be fun to go there then.

Seaside town life at its best.

Kilkenny. This medieval city looked and felt different than anywhere else we had been. I was determined to see a castle in Ireland, and we finally got to one in Kilkenny. We did a (self-guided) tour of Kilkenny Castle, and I pretended I was a queen while I was walking down one of the staircases. I had my favorite meal of the trip–a perfect burger with no bun, obviously–atย Butcher. We didn’t do a ton of exploring in Kilkenny, but I’m glad we went.

Kilkenny Castle. Can cross that off my bucket list now.

If you’re traveling to Ireland and this post helped you even a little, I’ll be pleased as punch. If anyone has Ireland recommendations, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Oily Skin Help

I could have done a little better with my shine control that day.

Everybody’s skin produces sebum (an oily substance) via the sebaceous glands. But for those folks with truly oily skin, their sebum production is kicked up a notch. Oily skin is primarily caused by hormone fluxations and genetics, so it can be something a person experiences for certain periods in their lives when hormonal changes are happening (like puberty, pregnancy or menopause) or it can be their type for life, as dictated by their DNA. Some people age out of oily skin, as our bodies produce less sebum as we get older, but I’ve had clients in their 50s who still have it.

The good thing about oily skin is that excess sebum often slows down the appearance of fine lines, as the sebum acts as a mega moisturizer. The bad thing is that it can cause breakouts when the excess sebum mixes with bacteria and/or clogs the pores.

Don’t you worry, though. As a licensed esthetician, makeup artist and combination skin human, I know the tricks of the trade for both dry and oily skin. I already told you about dry skin, so now it’s oily skin’s time to shine (pun intended).

We have to start off with cleanser. For dry, normal, and combination skin types, cleansing once a day (at night) is really all you need to do, as long as you use a good oil cleanser or a cleansing balm like Farmacy Green Clean. But if you wake up and your face looks like it could sing the theme song to Grease, go ahead and give it another cleanse. The key here is to use something light and gentle, as you only need to remove the excess surface oils, not a face full of makeup, sunscreen and the debris of the day like you encounter at night. I’m not a big proponent of Cetaphilย for night time cleansing, but I think it’s fine for a morning cleanse on truly oily skin.

This thoroughly cleanses the skin without stripping it.

Another good option is the Fresh Soy Cleanser, which is gentle and calming. No need to scrub your face in the a.m. (and in fact, massaging the skin can rev up sebum product). Please don’t go the way of many of your oily-skinned brethren and use a harsh, oil-free clarifying type of cleanser–you know, the type that makes your skin feel squeaky-clean. Those cleansers strip your skin of all of the surface oils, which signals to your sebaceous glands that the oil is gone, so they need to produce more. Counter-productive, you see? If you cleanse correctly, you should see an improvement in your skin.

Cleansing isn’t all there is to it though. Don’t assume that you should skip moisturizer because your skin is oily. You just need to choose the right moisturizer for your dermis. I’m a big fan of Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture because it gives the skin just enough moisture without making it look or feel greasy. It’s a no-frills, reasonably priced product that I’ve personally been using for years.

Since excess oil on the skin can clog pores, exfoliation (unless you use a prescription retinoid) is essential. Exfoliating helps remove the dead skin cells that can get trapped by sebum inside of the pores, as those trapped dead skin cells mixed with sebum is what causes blackheads. If you have oily skin, you can exfoliate two times a week with a quality exfoliant like Kate Somerville ExfoliKate. Or, if an every day exfoliation routine suits you better, I recommend Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. Whichever exfoliant you choose, consistency is key. So set it as a reminder, leave a Post-it note on your mirror or rename your dog “Exfoliant” if that will make it happen.

No skincare routine is complete with a mask. Charcoal masks, clay masks and mud masks are great for oily skin, as they pull out and/or absorb those surface oils. Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask is a cult favorite peel off mask, and one that I hear really works (I’m not oily enough to benefit from it myself). If you don’t love a peel off, a clay mask like Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask or a mud mask likeย Shea Moisture African Black Soap Clarifying Mud Mask might be a better option. Whichever mask you end up with, please patch test it first to make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the ingredients. Masks can have some pretty strong active ingredients, so if you’re allergic to one, it’s probably best to find that out before it’s been on your face for 15 minutes.

If you’re a makeup wearer with oily skin, you’ve probably noticed that your makeup can fade quicker than your normal and dry skin counterparts. That’s because oil melts away makeup (hence my love for oil cleansers). A setting spray for oily skin–like Urban Decay DeSlick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray–will work wonders. This particular setting spray should be used before and after your apply your face makeup. You simply spray it on–no blending or brushes needed–so it’s foolproof, as long as you know where your face is.

Set it and forget it.
Photo: Samira Rabinowitz Photography
Makeup: Jennifer Smith for Allison Barbera Beauty

Whether or not you wear makeup, you’ll see some areas of shine throughout the day if you have overactive sebaceous glands. Oil blotting sheets are a quick fix that anyone can use. They typically come in a slim package that fits in a back pocket, the little bit of space you have left in your top desk drawer and even in the tiniest of clutches. Oil blotting sheets are thin, lightweight little guys that simply absorb oil when pressed onto the skin. I give a pack of Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets to each one of my brides. Their makeup is built to last, but if they or anyone else in the bridal party have truly oily skin, they may see some shine 12 hours after I’ve done their makeup. But with the oil blotting sheets, no one needs to know about that shine.

I hope these suggestions help you keep your oil at bay. Your sebaceous glands don’t need to win this battle. With consistency and the right products, you can dull your shine (in a good way).

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Fall Faves 2019

It’s that time! New(ish) season, (mostly) new favorites.

Shall we?

Very Cherry Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. You know I love Green Clean, so I had to try the limited edition cherry version. I went to Sephora one day to buy Green Clean, smelled Very Cherry and loved it, but for some reason left with just the Green Clean. I couldn’t stop thinking about how good Very Cherry smelled, so I went back to Sephora the next day and bought the last Very Cherry they had in stock. I absolutely love it and I’m hoping Farmacy makes this a permanent part of their line.

Smells good enough to eat (but don’t).

Nurse Jackie. I know, I’m like 10 years late to the party. My mom and I started watching Nurse Jackie on Netflix in September, and I’m so glad we did (good, call Beensa). It’s made me laugh, cry and be even more scared of the potential medical issues that can happen to a person. I was sad when I finished the series earlier this month. So I started on…

Fleabag. I’m a little less late to this party. This British television series is about a woman in her early 30s who is dealing with grief, family issues and love. It’s funny, touching and binge watch-inducing. With only two seasons on Amazon Prime, you can watch the whole series in a day if you’re determined. The possibility of Season 3 is up in the air at this time, so fingers crossed.

Shore Soap Co. Coconut Bikini Body Wash. I was a Mermaid Kisses Body Wash gal for years, but when Coconut Bikini came out, I knew I’d be making the switch. What can I say? I like things that remind me of the beach and sunshine when it’s 50 degrees and rainy. This body wash smells of coconut, vanilla and musk–a combination that keeps it from smelling sickly sweet. Good job, Shore Soap Co.!

Summer in a bottle.

Prosecco. Prosecco was an old fave that came back into my life. I’ve been a tequila drinker for a few years now, but it’s been hard to get a good tequila drink in Newport lately, so I was forced to switch to something a bartender can’t fuck up. Sorry for the cursing, but it’s necessary. Prosecco gives me a lighter buzz than tequila, which I like. And there’s something about watching the bubbles in the glass, right? Prosecco makes me think of The Great Gatsby, and since I’m convinced I lived a past life in the 1920s, I consider it nostalgic.

Bottoms up!

Glossier Mint Balm Dotcom. I love the Balm Dotcoms, but did not think I was going to like Mint. I held off trying this flavor for so long, but I finally caved in because I had tried all of the other flavors, so it only seemed fair. Surprisingly, I like it! A lot. It smells like a candy cane, not like mint gum, which I was expecting. It makes my lips feel just as hydrated as the other Balm Dotcoms that I know and love. Glossier has done it (for me) again.

For soft, candy cane-scented lips, use this.

Sunflower Seed Butter. I used to love peanut butter, until it started to make my stomach hurt. I moved on to almond butter, and we had a good run until I noticed it made my tongue itchy. I recently tried Once Again Sunflower Seed Butter, and so far, my body has not rejected it. The individual packs are great for me, as a lot of my eating is done in the car on the way to or back from jobs. Sunflower seed butter makes my tastebuds happy and the 200 calorie portions are enough to fill me up for a while. Props to the person who realized sunflower seeds would taste good.

The perfect snack.

That’s all, folks! I hope you’ve found some of your own favorites this fall, but if not, feel free to bite my style. I’ll never know.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Dry Skin Help

Back when I used to live in RI all winter, I had dry skin. So I know what I’m talking about!

Dry skin. You’ve heard of it, right? Hell, maybe you even have or have had it. But why does it happen? And how can you fix it? Let’s start at the root of the problem.

Normal skin has enough sebum (oil) to form the lipids that create protection against external influences. Dry skin lacks that sebum, making it feel rough, as well as making it prone to cracking and peeling. Dry skin can be caused by genetics, illness, medications, hormonal changes, aging, dietary deficiencies, weather, skincare products and heating units.

Now that you know about dry skin, let’s talk about products that can help restore some moisturize to your poor little dermis.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. If you have dry skin, the last thing you want to do is use a cleanser that strips your skin of moisture. Green Clean does no such thing, which is why it’s perfect for dry skin. If it’s in the budget, I highly recommend switching to this cleanser. If you already use it, bravo!

Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream. Back when I lived in RI during the winter, my combination skin would get some serious dryness once temps dropped below 40. This was the first moisturizer I used that made any difference. I’ve recommended it to a lot of my dry skin friends and clients, and they’ve all loved it. It contains mango butter, which I know to be an effective moisturizer from my teenage obsession with The Body Shop Mango Body Butter. That stuff made my skin so soft it was almost criminal, so I believe in the power of mango for dry skin.

Embroylisse Lait Creme Concentre. This French moisturizer is a long-time makeup artist fave. It works wonders on dry skin without leaving a greasy film. It feels lightweight but still packs a punch with its hydrating shea butter and skin firming soy protein. I’m recommending two dry skin moisturizers because, you know, preferences.

Josie Maran Argan Oil. Dry skin lacks oil, so add some back in! You can use this Argan Oil over your moisturizer (oil molecules are hefty, so it’s better to apply moisturizer first so it can penetrate the skin) or as an overnight treatment. You can also use it to spot treat dry patches. It works miracles, I’m telling you.

Fresh Rose Face Mask. Using a hydrating mask once or twice a week will help you on your quest for softer skin (and boy, does this make your skin feel soft). The Fresh Rose Face Mask provides hydration without leaving a film or causing the skin to feel tight. If you have an allergy to floral ingredients or fragrances though, I would try looking for masks that contain avocado, Vitamin E, shea butter or honey instead.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. If you have dry skin and you want it to feel soft, you HAVE TO exfoliate. Dead skin cells don’t shed themselves as easily on dry skin because there is less oil there to loosen them up. Exfoliants will melt them (if they are enzyme exfoliants) or slough them (if they are physical exfoliants) right off. ExfoliKate is a enzyme exfoliant, so you apply it, massage it in for 30 seconds, then let it sit for two minutes while it melts the cellular glue, if you will, that binds dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. I would recommend using this twice a week on dry skin.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. If physical exfoliants (aka scrubs) are more your thing, you might like the Daily Mic (as we used to call it in Esthetics school). It’s a powder that turns into a paste when you add water. It’s gentle enough for every day use, so if you are someone who might forget to do something twice a week but can stick to a daily skincare routine, the Daily Mic might be a good option for you.

The Ordinary Hylaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Technically, dry skin lacks oil and dehydrated skin lacks water, so dry skin needs oil. But you can have both dry and dehydrated skin, and many people do. For that reason, I have to recommend the world’s best hydrator, hyaluronic acid. You can use a moisturizer or serum that includes hyaluronic acid, but it usually not an active ingredient. My suggestion is to get the purer form of HA–one that is undiluted by lots of other ingredients–to reap the biggest benefits. The Ordinary’s version has been my go to for a couple of years, and I recommend it for all skin types.

So, there you go. Is your skin feeling more moisturized already? Good! If you’re going to try any of these products, please, for the love of Biggie, patch test each one first and introduce only one new product a week if you’re thinking about testing out a few. Overdoing it with several new skincare products all at once is like starting a diet on January 1st–it ain’t gonna work.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Product Review: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm

The best in the game right now.

Gurlllll, I have been through some cleansers. God forgive me for some of the crap I used to wash my face in my teens and early 20s. I have a vague memory of a Clean & Clear bottle in high school (even though I didn’t have acne), as well as some Proactiv when I did have acne at 23 years old. I stepped my game up and used Dermalogica Ultra Calming Cleanser when I was in Esthetics school because that’s the line we were trained on and we got discounts on professional sized products. In my broke early business owner years, I used Cetaphil because it was cheap (and I had some Dermalogica Precleanse I used first to remove my makeup, because Cetaphil doesn’t do that). I eventually moved onto the Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil, then later switched over to a NUDE probiotic oil cleanser, which I loved loved loved. They stopped making that, so I went back to Josie, but didn’t love it as much my second time around.

Then, this past spring, my cousin, Saint Maria, sent me Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. It was instant infatuation. Oh Green Clean, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

The Scent. I need my skincare products to smell good. You could give me the best cleanser or moisturizer in the world, but if I don’t like the scent, it ain’t happening. I don’t know what it’s in Green Clean that makes it smell like heaven, but it is divine. I realize scent is subjective, but I know I’m not the only one who loves the scent. Everyone I’ve talked to about Green Clean has mentioned how good it smells. So I must be right! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Texture. Green Clean is a balm, so what I would consider to be a semi-solid liquid. To me, semi-solid means it’s not hard enough hurt anyone if I threw it at them while they were badmouthing Biggie, but you also can’t drink it. The texture is a mixture of sorbet and a cloud. Is this helping? It comes in a tub, and you use the spatula they provide to scoop some out. You apply some cloud sorbet to dry skin and massage it in. It melts into a kind of an oil, which you then remove with water or a warm, damp washcloth (I recommend a washcloth). The whole time, it feels soft and dare I say loving on the skin. The scent and the texture together make it a luxurious experience.

The Packaging. Green Clean comes in a white tub with a silver lid that closes easily but stays on. Inside, there is mini-lid that holds that small plastic spatula you use to scoop the product out. This is genius, and I don’t think enough people appreciate it. Most products that come in tubs are spatula-less. But if you continuously dip intoย  products with your fingers, you’re introducing hand bacteria, then closing the lid so the bacteria can have a rowdy party resulting in bacteria babies. Warm, dark and moist is the perfect environment for bacteria breeding–you remember Bio 101, right? Bacteria put onto the face can cause breakouts and irritation, so the spatula Green Clean provides is basically giving you the chance to have clearer skin. A+ on the spatch, and on the label. It’s high end without being stuffy. I like the font they chose and the flower is right where I like it–on a label and not near me, because flowers bring bees and I’m allergic.

The Makeup Removing Qualities. Layer on your primers, your longwear foundations, your waterproof mascaras. Green Clean melts ’em all off. I feel confident that there isn’t a speck of makeup left after I cleanse, and that’s not the case with many of cleansers I’ve tried. I know some people like to use a makeup remover then a cleanser, but why oh why waste precious time? I’m usually not a big fan of products that claim to do several things at once, but Green Clean really does remove makeup and clean the skin. Impressive.

All The Feels. My skin feels great after using Green Clean. A lot of cleansers leave a sticky film on my skin, but not this one. My skin feels smooth and soft after using it, as it damn well should. If a cleanser strips your skin and leaves it feeling dry and tight after, kick it to the curb (as we used to say in the 90s). Some cleansers can remove your makeup and others make it feel soft, but it’s rare to use one that effectively does both.

I can’t find anything wrong with Green Clean, and that’s why it’s got a forever home in my bathroom cabinet. It checks everything off of my cleanser Must Have list, and that’s a tall order. I would recommend Green Clean for all skin types. It’s $34 for 3.2 oz, which I realize can seem pricey compared to an $8.99 drugstore cleanser, but if you want good skin, you have to cleanse right. I’ll let you decide what your priorities are there.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Things I’ve Learned About Myself As An Entrepreneur

It really WAS all a dream.

I didn’t always know I was going to own my own business (in fact, I specifically didn’t want to for several years), but once I started, I knew it would change me as a person. In my very early years as an entrepreneur, I was certain that once my business was established, my self confidence–something I struggled with during my teens and most of my 20s–would go up. And go up it did! Skyrocket, you might say. Owning a business is a big part of who I am, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past 11+ years. I of course feel like sharing that, so let’s get this thing going.

I have a love/hate relationship with routines. I agree with the idea that routines help with productivity, which is why I have many of them. But also, I have an overwhelming need for freedom and sometimes routines–even though I created them myself–make me feel like I’m not able to do what I want. Or they feel boring. I realize this makes no sense, but a lot of things about me don’t make sense on paper. I’ll continue to do my routines because part of me (probably my Taurus side) needs them to feel anchored. But another part of me (that’s gotta be my Gemini side) is always whispering Change it up! or Do we need to do this? It’s hard being born on the cusp of two zodiac signs, I’ll tell ya! I think the compromise is to periodically assess my routines and see if they are really helping with my productivity–like my morning coffee-and-blogging routine–or are something I enjoy, like my call-Mom-or-Dad-when-walking-around-doing-errands routine. If I decide that a routine doesn’t work, I adjust it or eliminate it. That keeps both sides of me happy, and that’s all a Temini can really ask for.

I prefer eating in the car. I’m always starving after I leave a job. 95% of the time, I have a Quest Bar in my purse for that reason. Now, it makes sense that I would eat that on my drive home if I’m going to be in the car for a while, but what about if I’ll be home in ten minutes? Turns out that doesn’t matter. There is something I like about eating food like that in the car. I suspect it’s a multitasking thing, as I always feel like I have so much to do and nowhere close to enough time to do it, so multitasking with simple things saves me time. But it’s little quirk that I definitely didn’t have in the pre-AB Beauty years.

I’m not a night owl or an early bird. Allow me to explain. I often work until 11:00pm and I rarely get out of bed before 7:30am. If a friend wants to meet up with me, they know they only have about a 2% chance of getting me out the door after 7:00pm. If that same friend wants to meet for breakfast though, they know it ain’t happening before 10:00am. Makes no sense, right? But hear me out. First of all, I don’t want to work until 11:00pm every night, but that’s necessary for me during most of the year. I need some time to unwind after my work day has ended, so I usually end up going to bed around 12:00am. I’m my happiest self on between seven and eight hours of sleep, which brings me to a wake up time of between 7:00am – 8:00am. On days when I don’t have appointments in the morning, I have a stretching-then-crunches-then-coffee-then-blogging routine, which takes anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how hard my inbox is mean muggin’ me while I attempt to ignore it. Between showering, answering the inevitable time sensitive emails and texts and doing a full makeup on myself (if that’s on the docket), another 60 – 90 minutes is gone. So getting out the door for 10:00am is tough. On the flip side, if a friend wants to meet for dinner at 8:00pm, that’s usually around 12 hours into my work day, so the idea of getting ready then changing into Social Mode is daunting (but catch me for Happy Hour at 4:00pm before I start to fade, and now we’re talkin’). I’m sure some people think I’m lame because I won’t go out later at night or lazy because I don’t do early mornings, but I’m not willing to force myself to do something when I’m exhausted from a long day or from having to wake up much earlier than usual. I wish I could re-set my body clock to go to bed early and wake up early, because that feels more productive to me. But this is the schedule I’ve been on for a while, so deal with it ๐Ÿ˜‰

I really enjoy talking with people. I consider myself to be an ambivert. That means I’m equal parts extrovert and introvert, so I’m energized by both being around people and by having my alone time. Sometimes I go into a job tired, either because I didn’t sleep well or because I had to be up early to get there. The exhaustion never hits me while I’m doing makeup though, and I think it’s because I usually chat with people as I’m doing their makeup, and that keeps me going. I’ve had countless great conversations with clients over the years. I’ve learned a lot of new things, laughed a ton and bonded with clients over topics from being Italian to old school hip hop to having a parent with cancer. I’m not good at small talk, but apparently the one on one 45 – 60 minute conversations at wedding jobs and the 10 – 30 minute conversations at corporate and commercial gigs are my jam. This sounds weird to say, but when I check my own makeup after doing several makeup applications in a row, I often notice that I have a little glow. It’s not a makeup thing, but my skin somehow looks better and, cheesy as it sounds, I have a sparkle in my eyes. Maybe it’s from doing makeup, something I’m passionate about, but I have a feeling it’s more from connecting with people. I guess I knew that I loved talking with people on some level before I owned a business, but this career has really emphasized that for me.

One of my favorite brides and I speculating on how many more cases of beer the groomsmen would bring on the trolley. And then we talked about Biggie for a while. Photo: Trevor Holden Photography

I burn out about five times a year, then I rise again. You have to quickly recover when you run a business, so I do.ย  I’m not able to take full days off and haven’t since I started AB Beauty, but I can do the occasional two hour days when I’m away or have friends or family visiting. On a regular day, it helps if I take lot of little breaks (15 minutes here to watch part of a video comedy podcast, 15 minutes there to move the side table in my living room for the 90th time, 20 minutes to text-coach a friend through a dating crisis, etc.). I also try to get together with a friend at least once a week. Being with the awesome people in my life helps keep me going. Another thing I do is try to take a couple trips a year to recharge. If I plan it out, bust my ass getting as much possible done in the two weeks before I leave and prepare for a week’s worth of punishment work when I return, I can get away with working only one or two hours a day while I’m away. For the last two years, I’ve gone to the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in late July for a few days. That’s about the mid-point of peak wedding season, so it’s the ideal time for a breather. This year, I’m going to Ireland at the end of October, towards the end of peak season, so perfect timing. In previous years, I’ve gone to Nashville, Puerto Rico and Ft. Lauderdale to get away. And since 2017, I’ve been breathing out a three-ish month long sigh of relief during my winters in Charleston. I of course still work while I’m there–this business isn’t going to run itself, darling–but I slash my work weeks from 80 or 90 hours to around 40, because I don’t take clients, work on any shoots or do trainings while I’m in Charleston. The reality is, I am going to continue to burn out until I can get in place the people I need to reduce my workload. But my breaks–whether they are 15 minutes, Happy Hour-length, three day trips with two hour work days or three months with 50% less work hours–are essential to my well-being.

I am very sensitive to sounds. I wasn’t always this way. I have memories of studying in college with my dorm room door open, Ludacris blasting and the constant sound of AIM notifications. (Ding! You have a message from a bad boy.) I worked a series of office jobs in my 20s, and as an Office Manager, Admin Assistant, Secretary or Receptionist, there were often a lot of people in and out of my work space, asking for information, gossiping with coworkers or requesting that I take care of something they could easily do themselves. But once I started working for myself–my best and worst boss yet–something changed. I take my job very seriously and believe that my clients and Independent Contractors deserve clear and thorough information fromย  me, but I have a hard time focusing with noise in the background. For that kind of work, I need a quiet environment. Music, loud construction noises nearby or non-stop dog barking kills my concentration. I’m fine with noise when I’m in public, but when I’m trying to work or sleep, I hear everything, and it is maddening. Air conditioners and sound machines help, but when I can’t block irritating sounds out, I kind of lose it. Another fun fact I learned about myself (or really, developed) since I’ve owned a business.

I can’t do shit if I’m tired. I’ll never understand how some people can operate on very little sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, my day is shot. My brain is useless on limited shut-eye and it’s a true struggle to get anything done when I’m in that mode. I may deprive myself of days off, but I never purposely deprive myself of sleep. That’s why I let myself sleep as late as my body wants on days that I don’t have morning jobs or appointments (and why I don’t make morning appointments, if I can help it). I remember sometimes staying out until 1:00am then waking up at 6:30am to go to work in my early 20s, and having no issues. So maybe it’s age, but I could never do that now. I’ve learned this about myself since I started my business, and luckily I know what I need to do to prevent constant exhaustion.

I don’t care what people think of me. I’m not saying that to be a badass. It’s just a realization I had several years ago about how I live my life the way I want to and nothing disapproving anyone says or implies about that bothers me. It’s a freeing feeling! I was extremely self conscious in my teens and early 20s, so to come to the point where no one else’s opinions of me or my lifestyle can even come close to bothering me is true progress. If someone thought I was mean and rude and inconsiderate, I wouldn’t like that because I know those things aren’t true–not because someone thought or said that and it bothered me. You know that quote “What others think of you is none of your business”? Yeah, that.

I’m not competitive. Well, at least not with others. I know who my competitors are in business, but I don’t obsess about how they appear to be doing. I’m only obsessed with my own numbers and how I am doing compared to the previous year. This crosses over into my personal life too. Even when I’m out running, if I’m running with someone (which I generally avoid, but have been tricked into) or another runner goes by me, I don’t have any strong urges to run fast or longer than them. But when I had a Nike SportWatch, I was always competing against my last run. I would feel shitty if I ran slower than the previous run or didn’t log in as many miles. It was actually a blessing when my SportWatch stopped working. Owning a business has brought the subject of competitiveness to the forefront and I’m glad it did. It’s made me realize that I’m really only competitive with myself, which I think is a good thing.

Being an entrepreneur has been life-changing for me. It’s made me turn into the most confident, self-sufficient version of myself, and Young Allison needed that to happen. (Creeping-Up-On-Middle-Age-Allison does miss Young Allison’s skin elasticity though.) I think knowing about yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes–helps you build a lifestyle that you’re happy with. And if you’re happy with your lifestyle, you’ve got a leg up on a lot people.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚