New Year, New You: Part 2

Here I am, back with Part 2. In case you missed Part 1, please note my disclaimer that I by no means think I’m perfect. But since I consider most New Year’s resolutions as mini-self improvement plans and I personally love reading about what other people do to improve their lives, I want to share some things I do.


Understanding my finances and having a plan really makes me feel in control of my life. There was a time when I didn’t do a budget and was unclear on where I stood with money and it was very frustrating. I made an effort to change that and keep on top of things and that made a huge difference. I know it’s uncomfortable for some people to discuss money so if you are one of those people, maybe skip this section. But I also know there are some people who could use guidance–I was and still am one of them–so I’m passing on what I have learned.

For My Golden Years. As a self-employed person, I am responsible for saving for my own retirement. I have some real estate investments that will help with that and am now in the process of starting an actual retirement fund. If you’re not self employed, you might not have to worry about this. But I think it’s a good thing to do–and something I should have started a while back–for those of us who are our own bosses.

What Now, AmEx?!?! I’ve been working on paying off credit card and student loan debt for the past two years. I have only one out of three credit cards and one out of three school loans left to pay off. The amounts I owe aren’t huge and I should be able to be debt-free by the end of 2016, which will be an awesome feeling. In terms of what to pay off first, I initially went after the credit card that had the highest interest rate (which also happened to be the credit card with the highest balance). After that, I attacked a student loan because the remaining amount was so small I knew I could knock it out in one payment. That psychologically helped me feel better about my debt before I went on to conquer the next highest interest rate credit card. When all my debt is gone, my monthly expenses will have decreased significantly and my credit score will go up. 

Get Rewarded. I have a credit card that gives me airline mile rewards, which I love. I put all of my monthly business expenses on that card (making sure to keep track of that amount and consider it in my monthly budget) and I pay the card off in full each month. I have more than enough miles for a free flight anywhere in the continental US right now, and I’m building good credit. This year, I plan on taking some time to better understand the perks my credit cards offer and take advantage of the ones that make sense for me.


There are a few other things I do that make my life better. They don’t fall into any of the other categories so they’re going here.

Lost Without You. Google Calendar is my saving grace. It gives me peace of mind knowing I won’t miss appointments, tax bill due dates, dinner plans, etc. With everything that goes on with my business and my personal life, there is no way I could remember everything. Not only do I put every appointment in my calendar, but reminders to do regular business tasks (i.e. confirm appointments one week out, update my Mileage Log, send invoices, etc.). They pop up on my screen and get emailed to me so there is no ignoring them. I learned about Google Calendar from my boss at my last job outside of the beauty industry and I can’t thank him enough for that.  

Baby, I Can Be Your Motivation. When I have an idea of something I want to do to improve my life, I dig into it full force. For example, once I decided I’m at the point in my career where I can finally live somewhere warmer during the winter, I immersed myself in that plan. I researched weather, housing and the job market in areas I wanted to move to. I made connections in those places, followed Facebook pages of area attractions and read novels set in the city/towns I was eyeing. Doing all of this got me psyched up to arrange my life so that a snowbird move is possible. That and the final rap battle scene from 8 Mile get me mega-motivated.

Material Girl.  I keep a list of long term things I want for my house, my personal makeup bag and my future library. I know they are just “things” and won’t make my life better, but I like making my apartment look the way I want it to, I like splurging on the occasional expensive beauty product for my own use and I am a bookworm who reads book several times so I would love a library someday. I don’t get myself these types of gifts very often, but it’s nice to chip away at the list a few times a year.

A Serene Space. As a child, I had many dream jobs.  “Professional Organizer” was one of them.  Although I love the look of an organized space and I think labels and storage areas are important, what I’m really big on is getting rid of clutter. If I don’t use or wear something and it doesn’t have true sentimental value or make my house look nicer,  I donate it, pass it onto a friend or toss/recycle it. I absolutely believe that if you walk into your home and are greeted by clutter, you are going to feel frazzled and overwhelmed. I’m also into the Feng Shui principle that says getting rid of clutter will bring more positivity and peace into your home. The theory is that objects hold onto negative energy (emotions, situations and conversations you had around those objects do it) so getting rid of what you can part with will take some of that negativity out of your palace. If that sounds too crazy for you, I think you can at least agree that walking into a room that is clutter-free is more likely to make you feel calm than a room full of crap, which sometimes makes life feel more chaotic than it is.

Maybe some of my self/life improvement plans will resonate with you, or maybe you’ve got way better ideas. I’d love to hear what other people do so feel free to comment.

Have a beautiful day :)

New Year, New You: Part 1

Hello, 2016! I hope everyone’s year is off to a fabulous start. It’s New Year’s Resolutions month. So much hope! Tabula rasa! A new you! I assume you are reading this on the treadmill at the gym after making a list of places you want to travel to in 2016.

Some people make what I call external resolutions–to start volunteering, spend more time with family, meet new people, etc. I’ve made two external resolutions in recent years: 1) Donate to a different charity every month (2012 but kept it going) and 2) Send a snail mail birthday card to all of my friends (2015). This isn’t a humble brag–I wasn’t donating huge amounts and I missed a friend or two this past year–but examples of what I see as external resolutions. Things that hopefully help or make someone else feel good, but I think the feeling you get from doing those kinds of things also makes you feel good. A win-win.

Internal New Year’s Resolutions, or what I consider mini-self improvement plans, are more common. Exercise regularly, eat cleaner, get out of debt, etc. Things that make you healthier, improve your quality of life or reduce stress. Fantastic! I’m a big proponent of self improvement not just because you are the only person you are guaranteed to spend your entire life with but because I think you can give more to your family, friends and career if you have your shit together and you physically feel good. So I want to talk about some things I have been doing to try to improve my life.

Let me preface this saying I am very, very, very, very far from perfect. I’m impatient. I’m an inconsistent flosser. I give input to friends without being asked. I have re-dated many past flames (fool me once…). I only make my bed about 50% of the time. I send stupidly long texts. I don’t like the person I am behind the wheel. And that’s just a tiny part of the list. But I do regularly put effort into improving myself and different areas of my life. I consider it to be helping out Future Allison.

None of these are groundbreaking ideas, but maybe reading about mine will bring up something you used to do or want to start doing.


Let’s start here, since this is a beauty blog and you might want to stop reading after this section.

Freezing My Face in Time. This is not new for me, but it’s important enough to mention again. Using retinol is probably what helps the most with my anti-aging gameplan (what’s up, Future Allison?). Rather than go over it here, check out this post.  Then come back.

Protect Yourself. I blowdry my hair straight every 4-6 days and I often using a curling iron on Day 3. (That gives me different curls than I naturally have, so yes, it does make sense.) I trained myself to use a heat protectant spray pre-blowout a while back, but because the Day 3 curling is newer, I was forgetting to use it pre-curl. My ends started looking damaged, so my hair stylist, Jennie Kay Plumb, reminded me to use the spray before curling too. What a difference that made! If you are heat styling at all, a heat protectant spray is a must. I like Moroccan Oil Heat Protection and Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence.

Slow Lotion For Ya. I am consistent with putting moisturizer on my face, but sometimes I neglect my body. But especially in the colder months, it is important to use body lotion. It takes what, three minutes? More like “fast lotion,” but I wanted to fit in a Juvenile reference. I like Palmer’s Cocoa Butter and anything that smells like coconuts or the beach, but there are a million out there to choose from depending on your needs and preferences.

Sleep Right. I am, by nature, a side sleeper. Fetal position 4 lyfe. But because of the whole gravity thing, sleeping on one side–because most side sleepers do have a favorite side–can eventually cause sagging on that side of your face. It can also contribute to undereye puffyness on the chosen side. So I have been putting in a real effort to sleep on my back, which has not been easy. But when I wake up on my back in the morning, I feel pretty proud of myself knowing Future Allison will look a little bit better.

It’s No Snake Oil. I have been using oil cleansers for a few years and I can’t imagine going back to any other formulation. In my humble opinion, nothing removes makeup like oil. And oil cleansers leave my skin feeling way softer than milky, gel or cream cleansers. So when Jess at Jennie Kay a Beauty Parlour recommended that I use a hair oil twice a day, I was sold. I have been using Sachajuan Intensive Hair Oil for a few weeks and my hair started looking better almost immediately. Hair oil has become an important part of my daily beauty routine.


Taking care of my health is huge to me. I spent many years of my life feeling sick and fatigued and it wasn’t until I went to a naturopath nine years ago that I started to address that. He figured out everything that was wrong with me–from minor things to issues that were close to becoming very serious–and together we addressed and fixed everything. Here’s what I do to stay healthy:

Body Awareness. I am super aware of my body and how I feel. I know right away if something is off, and if I can’t “trace it back” to something I did recently, I know it’s time to get it checked out. For example, if my knee hurts after I’ve done a few consecutive days of longer-than-usual runs, I figure it’s due to that. So I take a few days off from running and see if it feels better. But if I wasn’t doing anything different or the problem persists, I make a chiropractor appointment. I think in many cases, body awareness is part of early detection of major illnesses, issues or disorders, so paying attention to and addressing changes can help in the long run. If something feels or looks different to me, I get it checked out.

Eating Right. I know, super obvious. But how many people actually do it? I am a big believer that some foods can cause sickness and other foods can help heal. I have a hard time understanding how you could put a bunch of junk in your body and think that will have no negative impact on your health down the road. The foods that will make you feel your best and keep you healthiest may be different from the foods that do that for someone else, so I think it’s worth going to see a doctor or nutritionist for guidance if you are serious about this.

Lying to Myself & The Little Things. I try to fit in a good 30-60 minute workout every day because I know that won’t happen. Hear me out. If I aim for 7 days a week and then I get one 14 hour shoot, that day is gone. Down to 6. Then maybe another day, I plan on going for a run but it rains all day and my stupid computer won’t play any of my workout DVDs and I lose motivation. Now we are at 5. See how that works?

I also try to walk to as many errands as I can. This is possible for me because of where I live and how my city is laid out–one of the big reasons I choose to live here. I have a P.O. Box–1.7 mile round trip walk to the post office–and I am constantly back and forth to my studio two blocks from my house, so I usually get in 2 miles of walking if weather permits. There are a lot of stairs at both my house and my studio and I am up and down them more than I need to be because I frequently forget something after I have already reached the bottom of the stairs (I definitely don’t swear and stomp back up the stairs when that happens). This daily stuff is not an effective weight-loss workout but it’s a solid heart-healthy amount of exercise, and at least I get some movement in on my non-workout days.

But What Can I Do Now? Like I said, I make an appointment to get checked out if something is off. I also grill my doctors, dentist and chiropractor about what I should be doing proactively to prevent certain problems. They have that info, but sometimes you have to ask for it. This is me really looking out for Future Allison.

Me & Mr. Sandman. There is nothing that helps my skin, mood and energy more than a good night’s sleep. I aim for 7 hours a night. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I like to have goals. I’ve been trying to avoid looking at my phone and computer for an hour before I go to bed, because I do believe the screen lights make it harder for me to fall asleep. I’m going to put extra effort into that this year because sleep does make a big impact on several areas of my life.

Peep This. I am nearsighted, and not just a little bit. I didn’t have contacts in college, which means I had glasses that I decided to only wear in class and while driving. My vision is bad enough that when I was out with friends at a bar–so most nights senior year–if one of them told me a guy across the room was cute, I would say “Describe him to me.” Seriously. Because all I could see was a blurry face and hopefully not hair with frosted tips (this was 2003/2004, after all). As bad as my distance vision is, my up close game is on point. Every eye doctor I have ever gone to has told me to not wear my contacts for reading if I can help it. So I wait as long as possible to put them in in the morning and I take them out as early as possible in the evening. I do a lot of computer work the first few hours and last few hours of the day so not having my contacts in during those times works well. And guess what? It really works. My vision has improved at each of my last two eye exams.

In the interest of your eyesight, I am going to end this post now. I’ll be back with Part 2 soon.

Have a beautiful day :)


Christmas Gift Haul

Makeup wrapping paper

Every Christmas and birthday,  I receive at least one Biggie Smalls themed gift, one vodka gift and one beauty product gift. The trifecta of Allison-perfect gifts. I have of course already tried out all of the beauty product gifts I received this Christmas, so let’s talk about them.


Samples are part of the game with most beauty product purchases now. Due to their size/amount of product given I can’t always get a thorough review, so these are more like first impressions. Here are the ones I got with my gifts this Christmas:

Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask.  I love Charlotte and her products but I knew this one wasn’t going to be a great fit for me. Clay masks work best on oily skin because they absorb oil. I have combination skin and have been dry dry dry lately, so I didn’t have much oil to be absorbed. The mask felt fine when it was on and was easy to wash off. My skin felt super clean after (clay also lifts impurities out of the skin) and I could see that the pores on my nose, which I noticed looked a little clogged the other day, were significantly unclogged. But my skin did feel dry and tight after, as I expected. This is probably a bomb mask for oily skin but that’s just not me right now.

Glossier Moisturizing Skin Primer. I have used this one before but I don’t think I have written about it. It feels great going on and it does make my foundation apply more smoothly. But as far as extending the wear of makeup, I haven’t noticed any difference. It doesn’t claim to make makeup last longer, but I think that should be a primer’s responsibility. To me, this is an excellent non-SPF moisturizer (great to wear if you are being photographed).!/products/priming-moisturizer

Roses de Chloe. I don’t know much about perfume, but my nose says this one is floral and not overpowering. I think it’s a pretty daytime scent. I looked it up and it has notes of fresh cut roses, bergamot, rose essence, magnolia accord, white musk and amber if that helps with my lackluster review.

Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.NG Lipstick in Bitch Perfect. I have a Charlotte Matte Revolution Lipstick that I love, so I was excited to try this sample from her K.I.S.S.I.N.G line. It looked a little orange in the packaging, but went on pinky nude and gorgeous. I immediately texted a friend who has been on the hunt for the perfect nude and told her to check this one out. I’m normally not much of a nude lip wearer because my lips are thin and my skin is light but this had enough pink to actually work on me. It feels moisturizing and did not dry my lips out.


Glossier Balm Dotcom Universal Skin Salve. I have been using this on my chapped lips, elbows and a small curling iron burn on my hand and it is good ish. It is unscented and not greasy, which I love. This one is going to take up residence on my nightstand. Lips, burns, elbows and cuticles could benefit from daily use. I will probably buy one when it runs out.!/products/balm-dotcom

Korres Twist Lipstick Raspberry Trio. The shades of the three lip crayons in this collection are Delight (a pale pink with a slightly frosty finish), Grace (a brown-rose pink) and Charm (a vibrant peachy pink). They are easy to apply, decently pigmented (not too sheer, not too opaque) and give a shiny finish. I really like these lip crayons for quick, polished lip looks.  Korres seems to have a new Raspberry Twist line but the colors are different. You can find the colors I have in a set with three other colors or sold individually on eBay:

Mr. Bean Coffee Bean Scrub. This body scrub that I was gifted contains ground coffee beans, coconut oil, vitamin E and sea salt. It smells incredible and man, does it make your skin smooth. It will temporarily stain your skin coffee color if you don’t scrub it off but you should be fine if you use exfoliating gloves. Caffeine is supposed to help with cellulite (not sure how scientifically sound that is) and any exfoliation helps with dry skin. It’s sold out on their website right now but you might be able to find it elsewhere:

Charlotte Tilbury Film Star Bronze & Glow in Light to Medium. I have been coveting this powder bronzer/highlighter duo since it came out. The bronzer is neither too warm nor too cool, so it can work as both a bronzer and a contour. It blends beautifully into the skin. The highlighter gives a champagne colored candlelight glow–nothing too obvious or glittery. The packaging is gorgeous and the product is, as Charlotte would say, “divine.”

My Christmas was wonderful, not because of the gifts (although they were all awesome) but because of the people I was able to spend it with. I hope everyone else has had a happy, peaceful and love-filled holiday season.

Have a beautiful day :)

To Strobe or Not To Strobe


Strobing has been getting a lot of hype lately. It’s not a new technique though–it is simply highlighting with an illuminating or shimmery highlighter. Nothing groundbreaking there, my friends. The idea is to apply the product on areas that you want to bring attention to. You may have come across articles or tutorials that tell you to strobe (I’m making it a verb) some or all of the following areas: cheekbones, browbones, bridge of nose, center of chin, center of forehead, above the Cupid’s Bow and the inner corners of eyes.

I don’t have anything against strobing when done well. It can be flattering and pretty and it’s not terribly complicated to do. But there are some things I think you should know before attempting this look. I consider it my job as a makeup artist to help you understand and execute different makeup looks. So let’s get to it.

  • Light Versus Dark and Contrast Factors. Dark colors make areas recede, light colors bring them out. In general, a shimmer will bring more attention to an area than a matte. If you make an area recede, the area next to that will pop more because of the contrast. Which is why using a matte contour product–which should be darker than your skin–under your cheekbones makes your cheekbones pop. So keep in mind that if you strobe an area, you are playing up that feature. And the area next to that will, by contrast, recede or at least not pop as much. You with me? This is why I don’t do any type of highlighting on my cheekbones. My eyes are deep set so when I highlight my cheekbones–an area that somewhat borders my eye sockets–it pulls that area forward and gives the illusion that my eyes are pushed back even more. I’m all set with looking like a demon, so I forgo any type of highlight there.
  • Flashback. This is something to consider if you want to strobe and are going to be photographed. Anything with shimmer in it (that’s all illuminating products, glitter and metallics) can cause this. If paparazzi is around–whether it’s Us Weekly or your camera-obsessed best friend–anything too shimmery can backfire in flash photography. Ever seen a picture of someone who looks like they have a white streak under their eyebrows? Yes you have. That’s because little shimmer particles in whatever was applied to their browbones caught the light from the flash and said “This is our moment, bitches!” Flashback may work well on Mad Men, but it’s not an effect you want from your makeup.
  • Pores, Blemishes, Lines/Wrinkles, Dry Patches & Oily Areas. Illuminating/shimmery products have a tendency to do two things–settle into areas of the skin and make skin look shiny. Those tiny shimmery particles fit perfectly into large pores, fine lines and wrinkles. Illuminating products make oily skin more shiny and they make texture, like blemishes and dry patches, more noticeable. So if you have an area that has any of these things, I would avoid strobing there. Some of these imperfections are temporary–blemishes fade, oily skin can change with the seasons or as you become an older and wiser woman, fine lines may disappear with a trip to the derm–so hope is not lost.
  • Your Base. Strobing gives a glowy effect, so it makes sense for the skin to show through. A matte, full coverage foundation doesn’t work as well with this look as a sheer foundation does. I recommend a liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer over a powder foundation, as most good illuminating highlighters are liquids, creams or sticks which don’t blend as easily over powder. And prepping your skin with a moisturizer or a hydrating primer first will help with the glow factor.
  • Face Re-Shaping. When you contour or highlight, you are essentially re-shaping your face. The idea is to bring out the parts of your bone structure that you like and minimize that parts that you are not as fond of. The problem is, there are a lot of articles and tutorials done by people with different bone structure than you. So let me break it down by who I think might want to avoid strobing different areas. These are my suggestions, but if you like doing something the opposite way, go for it. I’m all for rocking what you like with confidence. These tips are for the people who want to try strobing but need some guidance.
    • Cheekbones. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of cheekbone highlight on anyone with deep set eyes. And if you already have gorgeous, prominent cheekbones, I would avoid strobing there too. It can almost be too much on faces with strong cheekbones. But if you don’t fall into either of those categories, this looks beautiful when done correctly.
    • Browbones. Everyone should proceed with caution here. Highlighting the browbones brings them forward and pushes the rest of the eye back. That can give a more masculine or Cro-Magnon look, depending on your perspective.
    • Bridge of Nose. Minimal strobing on the bridge of the nose is usually fine unless you have a bump on your nose, it’s crooked or you have large pores there. In the case of a bump or crooked nose, you are probably better off with contour. If you do strobe your nose, do it with the product that’s left on your finger or brush after you have applied it to other areas. The bridge of the nose is a small area and makeup on the nose has a tendency to cake up, so a thin layer will do ya. Stop before you get to the tip of the nose unless you are going for a modern-day Rudolph effect.
    • Center of Chin. Skip this if your chin protrudes as it will draw attention to that. And if you have an oily chin, which most combination skin peeps have, it’s going to accentuate that.
    • Center of Forehead. If you have fine lines or large pores on your forehead, strobing there is going to make that more obvious. Highlighting your forehead can make it look larger so if that doesn’t sound good to you, don’t do it.
    • Cupid’s Bow. If you think your top lip is too full (oh, how I wish I had that problem) skip the Cupid’s Bow strobing as it will add the illusion of fullness. If you have fine lines above your top lip, you’ll want to avoid this as well. Otherwise, this is a pretty safe one for you.
    • Inner Corners of Eyes. If your eyes are wide set, strobing the inner corners can make them look more wide set. And if you have crepey eyelids, which happens when we lose skin elasticity as we age like fine wine, skip this strobing. Other than that, this is an easy and flattering option for most people.
  • Color Choices. Even if you know where to highlight in a way that flatters your bone structure, if you choose the wrong color, it’s going to look off. Light skin looks pretty with pearl shades, champagne tones are flattering on medium skin, and golds and bronzes are dazzling (such an under-utilized word!) on dark skin. Going too light on dark skin can look harsh and ashy and going too dark on light skin can look orange-y.
  • Your Overall Look. If you are strobing, especially if you do more than one area of the face, keep some other areas matte. You want to anchor it so you look more ethereal than disco ball. If you’ve strobed your cheekbones, Cupid’s Bow and bridge of your nose, try a matte eyeshadow with black gel liner on your lids. A matte cream blush and cheekbone strobing is perfection. The cream texture keeps with the glowy feel without adding more illumination. A matte red, purple-toned or bright pink lip with strobing on the face and a neutral, flesh-toned eyeshadow is gorgeous.
  • Don’t Go Overboard. Especially if you are going to be photographed, strobe with a light hand. What looks subtle in person can look overdone in photos. Apply product in thin layers and blend well. I prefer to apply liquid, cream and stick highlighters with one finger and blend with another. Your body heat will help break down the product–especially cream and stick formulations–so they absorb into the skin instead of sit on top of it. I also like to lightly blend any strobing on the face with my Real Techniques buffing brush after I’m done.

I did some strobing on the bride in this photo using Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonder Glow. Charlotte uses it under foundation on the whole face, but I like to use it as a highlighter.

I hope this post, which turned out to be a hell of a lot longer than I anticipated, has helped you out.

Have a beautiful day :)

Photo Credit: Summer Street Photography






A for Effort

Woke up like this

“I spent a lot of time painting my house, but I don’t want it to look painted.” “I had my car washed and detailed, but I want people to think it always looks like that.” “This thesis was a year in the works, but I prefer for people to think I did it all yesterday.” That’s crazy talk, right?  Then what’s with the “effortless” and “no makeup-makeup” craze?

I get that most people don’t want to have a ton of makeup on. I have been told a million times that the makeup I do on clients looks natural, and I take that as a compliment. I am not a heavy handed makeup artist and that is not because I have hands and wrists that look like they are incapable of exerting makeup brush pressure. I am not heavy handed because a) I think most people are uncomfortable in heavy makeup and b) I think it is much more flattering to enhance the natural features than overwhelm them.

I don’t think foundation or powder should be visible to the naked eye or on camera. I don’t think harshly filled in eyebrows look great in real life and extreme contouring can be straight out distracting in person. I completely understand why 95% of the clients in my chair tell me they want to look “natural.” They typically dislike these kind of overdone applications as much as I do.

What I don’t get is “effortless.” What is so wrong with someone knowing you have makeup on? I agree that your blush shouldn’t walk into a room before you, but why pretend that that $30 cream blush you have on is just flushed cheeks? Or that your skin naturally has no discoloration? “Oh, undereye circles? I’m not familiar with those. I don’t have eye sockets at all, you see.”

I’m not suggesting you walk into a room holding your makeup bag with a sign that says “We spent 30 minutes together this morning.” But if you are wearing makeup, why tell people that you’re not? Or that it only took you 2 minutes to apply? It seems dishonest to me.

No Makeup Mondays on social media? That’s fine, but do it in regular lighting and don’t use a filter if you are truly trying to be real. I think this effortless/no makeup/I woke up like this stuff is baloney. It makes people feel bad. Like “Shit, I woke up with puffy eyes and two zits on my chin. That person looks glowy and sexy. Why don’t I?” Having done makeup on hundreds of actresses, models and clients minutes after they rolled out of bed, I can tell you that even the genetically blessed don’t look their best first thing in the morning. Faces need time to wake up too.

A lot of people you see on social media (and maybe people you see in person) would like you to think that they are not wearing makeup or that they threw it on in 30 seconds. But there is often a lot of daily skincare work going on behind the scenes and unless you are doing the same routine, don’t compare yourself. You may buy a sheer coverage/invisible/no makeup miracle product and when you apply it you see…nothing. As in no improvement, no change. Then you look at the model in the ad for the product or a picture of someone supposedly wearing it on Instagram and they look like some kind of ethereal creature. “What is wrong with me?,” you might think. Well, you are totally messing up. You didn’t bring in a photographer, lighting team and a makeup artist. And have you even been doing facials for 6 months before you looked in the mirror? What about filters and/or re-touching? I mean, get it together.

I’m not saying you have to make it known when you are wearing makeup. I’m not saying you have to wear makeup at all! Do what works for you. But let’s not call a look “effortless” when skincare, makeup, lighting, filters, etc. have been involved. That’s misrepresentation and you know it.

End rant.

Have a beautiful day :)


Fava Faves

Every once in a while, I do a blog post about my current favorite things. Beauty products, people, experiences–I don’t discriminate. Want to know what I’ve been into? Then read on.

  1. I’ll start with a beauty product to ease you into this–Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution in Love Liberty. This plum-ish lipstick has been my go-to lip color for the past month. (Thank you to my cousin, Saint Maria, for another fantastic gift.) This matte formula is not even a tiny bit drying, which is such a hard quality to find in a matte lipstick. It contains 3D glowing pigments that make lips look fuller, which is a huge plus for those of us thin-lipped gals. You can buy it online or in any of these stores that carry the line: Maybe I can someday use this color on…
  2. …Amy Schumer. I had heard of her a few years back but just started watching her show and standup specials in May. I relate to a lot of her material and her delivery is the best. I love that she is a feminist and is happy with who she is. You can tell this chick is not going to take any crap or change who she is for a man or for the media. I’m hoping to get to one of her shows very soon and maybe, just maybe, she will be in need of a makeup artist to go on tour with her. I will work for laughs. I wouldn’t mind traveling around with Amy, even though lately I have been into…
  3. …Making my house a home. I haven’t paid too much attention to any home I have lived in since I started my business. I have viewed each apartment as a second workspace and somewhere to sleep and shower. But recently, I’ve felt the urge to make where I rest at feel more homey. My awesome neighbor, Lexie, helped me hang (meaning she did all the work) some prints in my apartment and I’ve been slowly turning my bathroom into a space with a cohesive decorating theme. Turns out it’s nice to come home and walk into an apartment that looks like an adult lives there. I’m not going crazy with the crib–it is a rental after all–but I am definitely more into making my digs somewhere I want to spend time. I may have been influenced by…
  4. The Fixer Upper on HGTV. I’m not a big country-style person, but I love what Joanna and Chip do to these homes! I have a thing for Texas, so that draws me in too. I also love the dynamic they have as a couple. And Joanna is my girl crush. She’s so cool, I love her clothing style, and her hair and makeup are on point. I could easily watch a marathon of The Fixer Upper, preferably while eating…
  5. Pomegranates. I don’t like much about the fall and winter, but I do get psyched when pomegranates make their seasonal appearance at my grocery store. They are delicious, low calorie and packed with antioxidants. They may take some work to eat, but I’m not afraid to work hard. That’s how I’ve been…
  6. Paying down my debt. It was never an insane amount, but it’s easy to put yourself in the hole the first few years in business. I have been busting my ass for a while now and damn, does it feel good to pay off credit cards and school loans. I’m not 100% there yet, but when I finish Operation Debt Payoff, I think I’ll have a party. And I’ll definitely…
  7. Curl my hair first. Some might say it’s silly to do this, since I have naturally curly hair. But those curls are much tighter than the ones I like. So my new dealio is to round brush straighten my hair every 4 days, then on Day 2 of that hair, I throw in some curls. Because of my natural texture, my hair holds a curl well. So those curls I put in never completely straighten. They just turn into waves, which makes me happy like…
  8. Pharrell. I think he may be the kindest, most gentle soul on the planet. I can’t get enough of him on The Voice. He has great feedback, is so humble and is genuinely nice to the contestants. And I love the expressions he makes when a singer blows him away! It’s like he can’t believe what he is hearing. Then something propels him up so he has no option but to stand and watch a performance in awe. I felt that same feeling the first time I used…
  9. MUAC 5 Acid Body Peel. If you have keratosis pilaris, follicultis, hyperpigmentation or just rough skin on your body, buy.this.stuff. It’s one of the few body skincare products I have ever used that delivered results after the first treatment. You can cop it here You apply it then let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing it off to find significantly softer skin. Sometimes while I’m waiting, I have a cup of coffee with…
  10. Coffeemate. Okay, stop with the judging. I know Coffeemate isn’t great for you (but my naturopath doctor also said there is nothing harmful in it) and it is like, so basic, to talk about coffee. But I don’t care. I like this stuff–especially the Italian Sweet Creme flavor–and I’m not going to feel bad about it. So make your own list, you holier-than-thou coconut milk freak.

Nothing like an insult aimed at an imaginary hater to end a blog post. On the real though, I hope you liked reading this. Because I liked writing it, and writing is always on my list of favorites.

Have a beautiful day :)

Don’t Fall Behind

Apple picking. Football. Sweaters. Boots. Pumpkin-friggin’-everything. Does that excite you? Not me. I can’t eat apples, I don’t understand football, sweaters are itchy, closed-toed shoes feel constricting and I don’t get the hype about pumpkins. To me, fall means the days get colder, there is less daylight and winter is up next. My glass is half full in the spring, half empty in the fall.

Even though I am an autumn pessimist, I know that the change in seasons dictates a change in my skincare routine. I, like many women in the 20-40 age range, have combination skin. I shine (bright like a diamond) in the warmer months and flake (every time plans are made, like a shitty friend) in the cooler months. I notice the change from healthy–and we’ll call it “glowy” skin–as soon as the temperature starts dropping. If you don’t relate to this, you either a) Have very oily skin b) Never look in the mirror or touch your face or c) Live in an area that has perpetual summer. If it’s the last one, I applaud your intelligent choice of residence. I hope to follow in your footsteps soon.

So let’s say you’re like me. You’re out enjoying a morning at the apple orchard before the big game one Sunday. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror while you are driving the scenic route home to get in some leaf peeping. You notice some peeling on your chin and see that your makeup has caked up. You take a sip of your pumpkin spice latte and think about this. You recall that your skin has been looking dull lately. When you put on your new jewel-toned sweater this morning (so soft!) and tried an oxblood colored lipstick to play off it, you discovered your lips were dry and peeling. Well, at least I get to go on a haunted hayride this week! you say to yourself, jumping up and clicking the heels of your camel colored boots together.

The humidity goes away in the fall (“What does that mean?,” asks every Floridian) when the air is cooler and more dry. This causes the water in your skin to evaporate up to 25% quicker than in the warmer, kinder months.  If the heat is on in your home or workplace, it dries out the mucous membranes (gross gross gross) which can cause chapped lips. A lot of people take hotter showers in the fall and winter to warm up a little, but the hot water temps strip your skin of the oils that keep it naturally moisturized.

So, what do you do? Read on, my little caramel apple loving friend.

  1. Erase, Replace, Embrace New Face…Moisturizer. If your skin is feeling dry and you have been using an oil-free moisturizer, it’s time to switch over to something more hydrating. I recommend Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre, CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion and Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream.
  2. Be Your Own Esthetician. I like to really massage my moisturizer in during the fall and winter because that helps rev up circulation. If you have ever had a facial, you know that facial massage is a big part of it. I do a light version every day when I apply my moisturizer, and also a longer facial massage with a face oil like Nude Pro Genius Omega Treatment Oil every week or two.
  3. Exfoliate Your Face Off. Well, not literally. But if you are experiencing dry, flaky or dull skin, exfoliation–which removes the dead skin cells that are sometimes visible and can cause makeup to cake up–makes a huge difference. Do it 2-3 times a week (but not if you are on prescription retinol or anything else that would contraindicate it). My favorites are Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant and Kate Somerville ExfoliKate.
  4. Lip Balm It Up. If you find yourself reaching for matte lipsticks often, like any good fall trends makeup follower does, you’ll find that they exacerbate chapped lip issues. I swear by Aquaphor Lip Repair. Some lip exfoliation, even just with a damp washcloth, can help too.
  5. Mask Your Feelings. Or maybe don’t. But definitely mask your face. There are a million hydrating and moisturizing face masks on the market and you can make some at home too.  If you like your masks already made, try La Roche Posay Hydraphase Intense Masque or Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque. Some moisturizing ingredients to consider if you are making a mask at home are banana, coconut, honey and full fat yogurt. Or just make yourself a snack out of those things while your pre-made mask is on. I don’t care what you do with your time ;)
  6. Get Out of the Shower, Girl. Long, hot showers strip oil from your skin, as I mentioned. If you want be environmentally friendly, conscious of your water bill and considerate of your skin, stop that shit already.

With a little effort, the battle against cold weather face can be won. I can’t help you if your hands and feet are in perma-cold mode until May like mine are, but I can hopefully help you not resemble a dried out, dull-skinned, chapped-lipped zombie. That’s a look that only really works on October 31.

Have a beautiful day :)


1970s Beauty


When I asked my mother how my father proposed, she said “I don’t know, honey. It was the 70s. We just kind of talked about it.” And that, I think, sums up the 70s…

No, I don’t mean that. There was a lot going on in the 1970s! The 1960s had brought controversy over racial relations, women’s lib, environmental concerns and involvement in the Vietnam War. These issues were intensified in the 70s, with tumultuous political issues and widespread distrust of the government.  The freedom that people started to fight for in the 60s tipped all the way to hedonism for some.

Seems a bit silly to talk about beauty after that last paragraph, huh? But this a beauty blog, not a history course. And hair, makeup and fashion looks are a part of history.  If you disagree, imagine any of the well known period piece films showing actors with modern hair, makeup and wardrobe. It just wouldn’t work.

So let’s get to it, (wo)man.

The soft and natural look, a la Farrah Fawcett, reigned throughout the decade. Sunkissed skin and tawny lips complimented the earth-toned eye makeup that was a go-to look for many women.

Frosted makeup was popular for lips, eyes and cheeks. And in the 70s, it wasn’t uncommon to see it used on all three areas at the same time. Shine bright like a disco ball…

Contoured eye shadow fell out of fashion in the 70s. There might have been some browbone highlight, but a defined crease–which had been popular in the 60s–was not on trend. White eyeliner was on trend in the 70s. It was worn on the top lashline, sometimes on its own, sometimes above a dark eyeliner. Obvious liner at the lower lashline was not as popular. If a woman wasn’t wearing a natural eyeshadow, there was a good chance she had on a pastel purple, green or blue.

Cake mascara was a thing of the past. All mascara came in tubes and colors like raspberry, turquoise and lavender were popular. It wasn’t applied as heavily as it had been in the 60s and with the exception of the Disco and Punk looks, it was concentrated on the top lashes. Typical mascara application was more fluttery and long than thick and layered. False lashes were not as popular as they had been in the 60s.

Eyebrows were on the thin side. In the early 70s, there was a revival of the 1920s look, thanks to films like Cabaret and The Great Gatsby. Your average 70s woman tweezed maybe a littttttle too much, and would opt for lighter over darker brows.

Pastel, peach and pink lipsticks, often with a shimmer or frost finish, were worn throughout the decade. Lips tended to be more glossy than matte. Red lips came into fashion during a 1940s look trend. Lipliners were not as popular as they had been in years past.

Blush was soft and natural until mid 70s. Then it became more prominent, striped on the cheekbones and not well blended. It came in powder, gel and cream formulations in compact, tube and stick packaging.

With disco music and dance clubs came a whole new type of makeup. It was shimmery, glittery and anything but natural. Smokey eyes and a dark red lip were de riguer at places like Studio 54, as were jewel toned eye shadows and shimmery cheek colors. Hair was big and soft and often center-parted.

Punk music and its subculture came on the scene in the late 70s. For makeup, heavy black eyeliner for men and women was a must. It was often drawn in a cat eye shape with an exaggerated flick. Red or black lipstick, often shaped into a point on the top lip was oh-so-punk. Bold striped blush was applied–screw the blending. If foundation was used, it was usually on the pale side.

The 1970s brought about lots of nail options. The French Manicure was created in mid 70s and plastic press on nails came onto the market. Rounded tips were the norm but square tips came into fashion later in the 70s. Some women applied white pencil under the tips of their fingernails–something my mother still does.

Feathered hair was popular, with its big curls flicked or winged out. Long, straight and center parted hair was popular in the early and mid 70s. The Shag, the Afro and the Pageboy were popular, as were cornrows, perms and wedge cuts.

Tans–both real and fake–were hugely popular. Tanning beds, baby oil and foil reflectors made deep, dark tans easily accessible. (My collagen is recoiling in horror as I think about foil reflectors.)

Revlon, Max Factor, Coty, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, Maybelline, Bourjois, Rimmel, Yardley, CoverGirl, Maybelline and Biba were the biggest cosmetic companies. Avon was the first mainstream makeup company to expand its color line to cover all skintones. Unfortunately, some cosmetic companies today still have not caught up.

It’s my personal opinion the 1970s gave us the last original truly glamorous makeup with the disco look. Sure, some of that was tacky as hell, but there were some undeniably glamorous looks–hair, makeup and clothing–that came out of that era. And as far as I am concerned, that kind of glamour has died. So thank you, 1970s, for that gift. It gives a little makeup artist like me some inspiration.

Have a beautiful day :)


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Eyeshadow

Eyeshadow palette


In theory, choosing an eyeshadow should be simple. Pick the color you want and apply it. But like deciding where to go for dinner when you are with a group of people or coming up with a response to that cute guy’s initial text, it’s not easy. Too bad you don’t have a professional makeup artist who loves to give unsolicited beauty advice at your disposal…

I want to make your life less confusing–the opposite of what that cute guy texting you seems to be doing–so let me walk you through eyeshadow terms you have probably heard or might hear in the future.



matte eyeshadow

Matte: Flat with no shine or sparkle. Matte shadows do not reflect light. They typically give the highest color payoff, but a cheap matte shadow can be patchy.

MAC Phloof

Frost: Frost shadows have light reflecting particles that give off a shiny effect. Great for highlighting the center or inner corners of the eyes, but can draw attention to wrinkles and creases.

satin eyeshadow, eyeshadow finishes

Satin: Matte with a little bit of sparkle shot through it. The tiny light reflecting particles in satin shadows give off a sheen, but the effect is very subtle. It’s like the kitten heel of eyeshadows. If you like some shine to your eyeshadow but don’t want to accentuate crepey skin, a satin shadow might work for you.

Motives eyeshadow

Pearlized: Satin’s big sister. Pearlized shadows aren’t quite frosts, but they pack more of a punch than satins.

Metallic gold

Metallic: These shadows are meant to look like actual metals–gold, silver, bronze, etc. Their light reflecting particles are usually larger. Because of this, they can’t be as tightly packed as matte shadows, which means they are more like to cause fallout.

Shimmer eyeshadow

Shimmer: Contains light reflecting particles. Shimmer is a broad term that encompasses pearlized, frost and metallic finishes.

Velvet eyeshadow

Velvet: This finish is very soft and buttery. It can contain no shimmer, a little shimmer or full-on shimmer. Cheaper velvet shadows may not adhere well to the skin.




Naked palette

Powder: The most common type of eyeshadow. It can come as a single shadow, a duo, trio, quad or larger palette. Powder eyeshadows are usually applied with a brush.

Chanel eyeshadow

Stick: Creamier than a powder and easy to apply. You draw it on, then blend with a brush or your finger. Some stick shadows are very sheer, “slippery” and wear off easily, others are more opaque and long-lasting.

Waterproof eyeshadow

Cream: Cream shadows typically come in a little jar. The can come in any finish. Cream shadows, like stick shadows, can be slippery and wear off easily. Some companies make long-lasting and/or waterproof cream shadows. You can apply them with a brush or fingers.

Eyeshadow pigments

Pigment: Pigments are loose, highly concentrated powder eyeshadows. A good pigment will give you strong color payoff with minimal product. They adhere best to the skin when placed over a cream shadow or primer. I find them easiest to apply with a brush.

I hope I have answered all of your burning questions about eyeshadows. Have a beautiful day :)

My Beauty Philosophy: Part 2

Allison Barbera makeup

I love putting makeup on my face. Always have, and I suspect I always will. It accessorizes my outfits, allows me to express my mood and has the power to turn my outlook around. You’ve read Part 1 (unless you’re the kind of non-conformist who starts in the middle of a series and works backwards), My Beauty Philosophy as it relates to others, so here’s your chance to read about my personal beauty philosophy. In other words, it’s your lucky day.

I think each of us has a multitude of makeup looks that we can technically pull off (meaning the makeup is applied in a flattering way with colors and textures that work with our skin type and overall coloring). But we all have our preferences within those looks, and this post is about mine.

My Big Three. All of my looks fall under one of three categories–Work Makeup, Minimal Makeup or Cocktail Makeup. Do I always stick to these guidelines with no exceptions? Hell no. But since I made the rules myself, and I only hold myself to them, they don’t feel restricting.

Since my career encompasses different types of jobs as well as meetings, Work Makeup has subcategories. They are: Corporate or Film Job Makeup (conservative–no bright colors or smokey eyes), Wedding Job Makeup (full on, long-lasting makeup with a pop of color on the lips or at the lower lashline), Photoshoot Job Makeup (can be more creative, depending on the photographer and the client) and Meetings Makeup (like Corporate/Film, but often with a stronger eye or red lip).

Minimal Makeup is what you will find me wearing on the days when I don’t have any clients or meetings, but am working from home and will leave the house at some point in the day (probably at 5:00pm, when I’m starving and craving a burger with goat cheese, no bun). Minimal Makeup is undereye concealer, powder to set that and mascara. This is the amount of makeup I need to not scare myself when I walk by a mirror. Seeing my dark circles immediately makes me feel tired, and seeing my bare lashes just makes me sad. My Minimal Makeup is like coffee for my soul–it perks me up and gives me the energy to answer emails, phone calls and do the tasks that are essential for running my beauty empire. It also only takes a couple of minutes, which is perfect because I need all the time I can get when I’ve got my Business Owner and Manager hat on.

Cocktail Makeup is my term for the makeup I apply before any type of social engagement. A summer afternoon out with a friend, a birthday party, Happy Hour–they all get the Cocktail Makeup treatment. I call it that because unless I have clients or work related appointments after my social plans, I have a cocktail while doing my makeup. One of my greatest pleasures in life is listening to Hip Hop BBQ on Pandora while sipping a vodka-and-something drink and creating a killer makeup look. This ritual started in college (the soundtrack was provided by Napster then) and like the student loans I also acquired during college, has stuck around since. For me, sometimes the best part of doing something social is the getting ready process. When I have the chance, I love to take 45 minutes to do my makeup. Like really do it. The exact look changes depending on the event, my mood and my outfit, but there are no restrictions.

Italian to the Core. I don’t always have the time to do a full makeup on myself, but when I do (and this is really only for Cocktail Makeup), I like to go hard. I’m not afraid of wearing makeup and I’m not afraid of people knowing I’m wearing makeup. Sure, a natural look may work great on other people, but I like dark eyeliner. I like a shit ton of mascara. I like foundation…and blush…and bronzer or a light contour. I’ve been to Italy twice and I noticed that the women in Florence, Rome and Milan are like me. They don’t try to pretend their blush is just flushed cheeks and their eyelashes are naturally that long and thick. These women are done up–hair, makeup, nails–and driving motorini in tight pencil skirts and heels. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. We are not afraid to look like we spent time doing our makeup, because we did. I find that to be much more honest than the “effortless” (another post coming about that one) thing that some people do. Why spend an hour applying your makeup to look like you didn’t spend time applying your makeup? I don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. Now pass me my kohl liner and a red lipstick, please. Grazie.

Mood Makeup. I use makeup as a tool to help me get into the mood for whatever I am doing. Giving a presentation about my business? My makeup is going to be polished and full on, because that helps me feel more confident and ready. Freezing cold and hating New England in February? That’s when I do bright or beachy makeup to lift my spirits and trick my brain into thinking summer is not far away. Going out on the prowl with one of my single girl friends? Now, I’m quite sure this is something I have never done. But if it was–and this is purely hypothetical–there would be some kind of smouldering eye makeup and bronzed-but-not-overdone face going on. My point is, makeup helps me get into the role of whatever part of my personality I am bringing out that day. (There’s a reason actors use hair, makeup and wardrobe to “get into character.”) Whether it’s Girlboss, Warm Weather Optimistic or Heartbreaker, there is a makeup look I can do that shows on the outside what I’m feeling like inside. This is one of those magical things about makeup and a big reason why I love it so much.

Not My Chair, Not My Problem.* I mean this in the nicest way: I don’t really care what you think I should or shouldn’t be wearing. I don’t care if a HuffPost article tells me men don’t like women who wear bright lipstick (in fact, that makes me want to wear it more). I don’t care if you think I shouldn’t be wearing a teal and navy eye makeup look at 9:00am on a Tuesday morning. I’m not interested in some magazine’s “Do’s and Don’ts” rules for what I put on my own face. If it bothers you, you can close your eyes while you are talking to me. Just know that I will absolutely use that opportunity to stick my tongue out at you.

So now you know where I stand. (I’m sure you were dying to find out). If you don’t already have your own beauty philosophy, I encourage you to create one. Stand by it when challenged, but change it as you want. It’s your philosophy, and there is no right or wrong way to approach what you use makeup for. If anyone tells you otherwise, stick your tongue out at them…

Have a beautiful day :)


*10 virtual beauty points if you get that reference.