Back In The Day

I’m a history geek. I’ve always loved learning about different time periods, I devour historical fiction books and I’m convinced I lived a past life in the 1920s. When my family talks about our relatives arriving at Ellis Island, or those who fought in WWII, or life growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I’m all ears. I love vintage jewelry and feel very much “myself” in retro styles from the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s.

My fascination with times past spills over into my makeup artistry. One of my favorite things to do as a makeup artist is to learn about and re-create looks from different time periods. I’ve been really into researching and re-creating period looks lately, so guess where that information is going to end up? This will be the first in a series of blog posts about beauty looks in America from the 1920s through today. I’ll concentrate more on makeup, since that’s my area of expertise, but will include info about hair styles when possible.

Cosmetics have been around for centuries–you can thank the ancient Egyptians for the black kohl liner look–but I’m going to focus on the 1920s and later. This is partially because cosmetics became more readily available after WWI and partially because there weren’t many pictures (and no color pictures) of beauty looks until well into the 20th century. I think it’ll be helpful to show pictures of beauty icons from different decades along with the posts, in case my writing is unclear or you’re not in the mood to read 🙂

Part of the reason I love learning about looks from different decades is because so much of what we see today takes its inspiration from the past. Celebrities like Adele, Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry wear some of the more obvious throwback looks, and you can see retro inspiration in runway shows each season. But little nuggets of retro-ness show up more subtly in many looks. It’s hard for me to do a cherry red lip without thinking of 1950s pinup girls, and a bright blush applied high on the cheekbones automatically reminds me of the 1980s.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading these posts as much as I’m sure I’ll enjoy writing them. Now time to decide what decade I want to be today…

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Pixiwoo ♥

I did a post about the Pixiwoos about a year and a half ago, but they’re so great that they deserve another.

The Pixiwoos channel on YouTube has hundreds of makeup (and sometimes hair) tutorials on every look you can think of. From celebrity to trend to creative, pro makeup artist sisters Sam and Nic cover it all. I’d like to think I’m a decent writer, but I still can’t explain in words how much I love and appreciate these tutorials. I graduated from Esthetics school, but I think I should be refunded at least 50% of my tuition so that I can write a check to the Pixiwoos. I learned a little bit about makeup in school, but the “instructors” I’ve learned the most from are Sam and Nic.

Whether I want to ensure that I accurately re-create makeup looks from beauty icons of the past (my obsession), or try some different techniques for bridal makeup applications (so I don’t get stuck in a rut), I turn to the Pixiwoos channel. When makeup artists who are starting out ask me for advice, I say my piece then direct them to Sam and Nic. I meet dozens of people each month who tell me that they want to learn to do their own makeup, but don’t know where to start. I offer makeup lessons–one of my favorite parts of my job!–but recommend watching Pixiwoo tutorials as well.

I subscribe to the channel and have seen every video at least once. For me, the Pixiwoos channel is a continuing education resource (for free!), a break from paperwork (that comes with the business side of being an entrepreneur makeup artist), and my entertainment (I don’t have a tv, so I watch makeup tutorials and read for fun). Besides showing me how to do different techniques and sparking new ideas, I love watching Sam and Nic because they seem like people I’d be friends with. Their personalities really come through on the Pixiwoo channel (as well as their Pixiwoo Madness channel, which includes 10 minute makeup looks, their shopping finds and some personal updates), and I think they’re easy to relate to and learn from.

Sam and Nic also do makeup tutorials for the The Daily Mirror (U.K.), and Sam does tutorials for Real Techniques, the makeup brush line she co-created. And while looking for a beehive hair tutorial recently, I stumbled across some videos they did for Channel 4.

I think that even as a professional makeup artist, there are always things I can learn from other pros. Even if you don’t do makeup for a living, watching others can help you with your own makeup routine. If you have any interest in makeup, either professionally or personally, I really really really recommend checking out Sam and Nic’s tutorials. But watch out, you might get hooked and spend hours watching…

Have a beautiful day 🙂


I think too much. Often times when I call someone for business or personal reasons, I’m already having the conversation in my head before they’ve picked up. On our way into a restaurant with my friend recently, I was talking through my possible drink choices and the pros and cons to each one before we were even in the door. And it’s common for me to spend a whole cardio workout thinking of what I’ll do when I win the lottery some day, right down to what color I want the walls in my third guest room in my beach house to be. (As you can imagine, falling asleep can be quite difficult–my brain does not want to shut up!)

So when I can do something without really thinking, it’s amazing. This often happens when I’m doing my own basic day look makeup, which I call my Go To Look (GTL). This changes due to the time of year, what my skin is doing, my mood, etc., but I tend to use the same products for a month or two at a time, letting the makeup part of my brain run on autopilot.

My GTL lately has been:

1) Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream. Usually, my skin starts-a-peeling at the first mention of winter, but this cream has saved me. It’s thick, but doesn’t feel heavy on my skin. It absorbs almost immediately and doesn’t leave a residue or any sticky-ness. Love!

2) Too Faced Shadow Insurance Eye Primer. Even if I don’t plan on wearing any eyeshadow or liner, I use this because it does a little camo action on the tiny veins you can see through my fair skin. And if I do wear other eye makeup, I know it’ll stay on longer and not crease with the Shadow Insurance underneath.

3) Dior Diorshow Mascara in Black. Still the best volumizing mascara I’ve ever used. I use this first, on my top lashes only, because I find it tends to smudge on my bottom lashes (but never the top–so weird).

4) Clinique High Lengths Mascara in 01 Black. It took a little while to get used to the semi-circle comb-like applicator, but I’m cool with it now. The black, inky-ness of this mascara rivals Make Up For Ever Smoky Lash, and it’s a phenomenal volumizer and lengthener. My two mascara combo has caused more than one person to ask “Are your lashes real?”

5) MAC Select Coverup. This is the only concealer I’ve ever liked for under my eyes. It’s a liquid that dries to a powder but it sets quickly, so you can’t be dillydallying around while you apply it. Once it’s on, the coverage is amazing and it doesn’t cake as long as you prep the area with a tiny bit of moisturizer first.

6) Make Up For Ever HD Foundation + Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. I mix my two shades together for a slightly less heavy coverage than the HD foundation. I mainly do this because in the winter, it’s the only way for me to get my perfect shade, but any extra moisturizing on my dry winter skin is a good thing.

7) Make Up For Ever HD Powder. In the summer, I reach for the MUFE Super Loose Matte Powder to control shine, but this time of year, the HD Powder is where it’s at.

8) Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kit #2. I use the darker color to contour and it really makes my bone structure look so much better. It’s not too orangey or too dark, even on my light skin.

9) NARS Blush in Orgasm, MAC Powder Blush in Peaches, or Sonia Kashuk Beautifying Blush in Flamingo. My blush changes depending on what colors I’m using on my lips and cheeks, but these have been the three I reach for most.

10) Lipstick Queen lipglosses from the Peacock Alley collection. The ones I have are sheer with a hint of color and some glitter, so just enough for me to feel polished without doing a lipstick or more intense color.

11) MAC Eyeshadow in Brun to fill in my brows. It matches my coloring and I love the MAC eyeshadows for brow fill-in.

That’s about it for my most basic makeup look. Now when I say basic, I don’t mean I wear this to go for a run, or to walk to the mailbox down the street. But if I have to head over to CVS, or the bank, or the library (oh, do I love the library!), I’m usually wearing my Go To Look. It makes me feel polished and put together. I feel better when I have makeup on, like I’m being true to myself. (Some people feel the opposite way, in which case I say, rock on!) Some people drink coffee–I can’t, gives me the heart palpies–but my Go To Look is what I need to really start my day.

I sometimes go back later in the day to add on some eye makeup or lipstick, and night makeup is a whole different ballgame. But during the day, if I don’t have a lot of time or am feeling lazy, I turn to the Go To Look. And now I need to Go To bed. Can’t wait to hear what my brain wants to talk about tonight…

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Nailed It PART 3: Shellac/Gel Manicure Review

My most recent nail product exploration: shellac. I had been hearing about this from friends and clients for a while and thought, That sounds pretty bomb. I was told it wouldn’t chip or peel at all and that once it was applied, it would be completely dry. So when Emily, a hair stylist/licensed cosmetologist who does work for my company, started offering the service, I felt it was time to go for it.

I chose a gorgeous red color called “Hollywood,” and Emily did the rest. I tried to pay attention as much as possible, but this was close to a month ago, so I’m not sure I’ll get it all. From what I remember, there was some cuticle pushing back, a base coat, two or three coats of color and a top coat. Also involved was a UV lamp (or little oven, as I called it in my mind) that my hands were placed in after each coat. The whole process took around 45 minutes.

When it was done, my nails were completely dry. Even so, I still acted like they weren’t. If there was one person in the history of the world who could somehow mess up a shellac manicure, it would be me. Don’t get me wrong–I completely trust Emily and know that she wouldn’t lie! But I couldn’t get used to the idea that my nails were dry, even though I knew they were.

I got the shellac manicure a couple of days before Thanksgiving, which was the perfect time to test it out. At my parents’ house, we have a Big Italian Thanksgiving, which means that roughly 400 plates, bowls, serving dishes, wine glasses and utensils need to be washed. And guess who is part of the dish washing crew? Miss Hollywood Shellac Nails.

My nails made it through Thanksgiving without even a miniscule chip. And since shellac makes your nails stronger while it’s on, I didn’t break any nails either (I always break at least one nail on Thanksgiving–our dish washing is intense.) For a total of three weeks, I did not get one chip or break a nail. And the polish stayed shiny the entire time. The only reason I had the shellac removed after three weeks is because my nails grow quickly and you could see a gap with natural nail showing through at the cuticle.

There’s a way to remove at home, but I went to a salon instead. It’s only $5 in my area, so I decided that was worth it. After the shellac was removed, the nail tech was nice enough to apply a layer of nail strengthener. I did have a nail break the following day, but I imagine there may have been more breakage without that strengthener coat.

I would absolutely, 100% get this done again. A three week manicure with nary a chip (that people frequently compliment)? It doesn’t get much better than that. Out of my three nail product purchases, this was the most expensive (ranges from $25-$45 in my area), but it also lasted the longest. It took the most time to apply, but there is also no dry time involved.

If you’re a low maintenance nail gal (or fella) like me, a shellac manicure is a great way to go. Once the application process is over, you don’t have to pay any attention to your nails for a few weeks. (Except to stop and admire how great they look, which I did regularly.)

So that’s the end of my Nailed It series. Anyone have any other easy nail products or techniques I should know about?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Nailed It PART 2: Sally Hansen Salon Effect Real Nail Polish Strips Review

Like many other kids in my generation, I had a sticker collection. Because how great are stickers? You start with a boring, blank area, put a sticker on and it BOOM! huge improvement. It transforms into something interesting, something you want to look at, maybe even a work of art (unless the sticker is of a Garbage Pail Kid, in which case you’re just an 8 year old boy from the 1980s who likes to gross people out).

I eventually grew out of my sticker collection phase and entered into my obsession with beauty products. One of the first products I was allowed to use was nail polish. And use it I did! It wasn’t unusual for me to have a different color on each nail and new colors every other day. My previously mentioned adult issues with nail polish–not enough time in the day and chipping issues–didn’t matter to a 12 year old who had allllll the time in the world (at least after school was out) and changed polish before it had a chance to chip.

My one issue at the time was my teeny tiny nail beds. While everyone else was painting hearts, Christmas trees or the lyrics to “Back That Azz Up” on their nails, I struggled to find space for even a tiny star. My toddler-sized nail beds meant I couldn’t go to the nail salon and have wonderfully trashy designs airbrushed on my nails, like some of my high school friends did. How jealous I was of the girls with broad, healthy nail beds! To compensate, I grew my nails super long, prompting my best friend Danielle to name them “little chefs’ hats.” At their peak, the whites of my nails were three times as long as the nail beds. 16 year old Allison considered this an accomplishment.

Fast forward ten years. I read about Minx Nails in Allure and thought, I need these. Minx wraps are flexible films that shrink wrap to the natural fingernail. They’re basically stickers for the nails, marrying my childhood obsession with my teenage years obsession. Don’t you love a clean storyline like that? Minx wraps come in a huge variety of colors and patterns and are custom fitted to your nails. So all nail beds can be decorated, regardless of size!

The product promises to stay on for up to 10 days, with no possibility of smudging. I badly wanted to be Minxed, but it required around $60 and a visit to a nail tech. At the time, I was in Esthetics school and waitressing, so my disposable income was roughly $0.31 per week. Hoping for a windfall, or a month of 70% tips, I ripped that article out and filed it in my “Beauty Wishlist” folder. And then I forgot about it…

…until last year. Sally Hansen, the monopolizer of drugstore nail care, came out with Salon Effect Real Nail Polish Strips. (I know other lines carry similar products and they may have been out prior to last spring, but bear with me here.) The Salon Effect Strips are at at-home process, with no dry time and 24 colors and patterns to choose from. And they only cost about $10 per pack. Sold!

First I tried the “Laced Up” pattern, a pretty black and white design that looks like lace (duh). The package includes 16 pre-sized nail strips which are supposed to fit all nail sizes. Hmmm, not all sizes, Sally. Some adults have the nail beds of an 18 month old. Luckily, this is nothing a good pair of nail scissors can’t fix.

I cut the nail strips to my size, then went to work applying them. (If you’re going to do this, make sure you don’t have any nail polish on. The strips won’t adhere to anything but a bare base.) They’re pretty easy to apply–you just pull the backing off the strip, press down onto your nail and smooth it out. Because the strips are way longer than even my high school nails, you have to file off the excess strip (with the file that comes in the kit). Once you do this ten times, you’re done. No top coat, no buffing and best of all, no dry time. The actual application can take a while, especially the first time you do it, but it’s something you get used to after a couple times.

The Sally Hansen Salon Effects strips didn’t chip from wear and tear. The only downside was that after a week or so, the sections closest to the base of my nails began to lift. So when I’d put my hair up, strands would sometimes get caught under the strips, pulling them up more. I could usually press them back down a little. But after repeatedly catching on a strand, sometimes a bit of the strip would come off. At that point, I’d remove them. I usually just peeled them off–making nail techs across the country cringe–but I did remove what was left with nail polish remover. That worked well with no soaking or elbow grease required.

The strips come in a sealed plastic packet and they do dry out after a while once the packet is opened. I found this out when I went to apply some “Misbehaved” (a fishnet pattern) a month after I had opened the pack. I had already used them as a full manicure the previous month and they worked great. I then eventually painted my nails with a regular polish, and when it started to chip, I thought I could patch over the chips with pieces of Misbehaved strips (this was me rebelling against the “no polish before you apply” rule). I figured with a little lash glue and some ingenuity, I could make it work. But when I went to apply small pieces that I’d cut out, I found that they’d dried out and lost any adhesiveness. So although I think I should get points for a decent idea, apparently the strips have a shelf life once opened.

Overall, I have to say I friggin’ love these things. No dry time, I get to finally! have designs on my nails, easy removal process and I find $10 to be very budget friendly. I just bought some new ones–blue and silver glitter on a black base–called “Winter Funderland,” and I can’t wait to use them.

I have one more nail product I love, coming up in Part 3.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Nailed It PART 1: Crackle/Shatter Polish Review

When my nails are done, I feel polished (no pun intended). My cousin, Brooke, considers nail polish an essential accessory and always paints her nails before going out or attending an event. For me, painting my nails is an event. First, I have to find a good chunk of time where I don’t need my hands. So no makeup, no blogging, no answering emails, no picking anything up. No wonder I only end up polishing my nails a few times a year…

My other nail gripe is chipping. Even with high quality polishes, it’s usually only a matter of days (sometimes hours) before I’ve destroyed my manicure. Chipped nails (on me) drive me nuts, but when it happens mid-day and there’s no remover in sight, I have to deal with it. When that happens, all I can see every time I look at my hands–which is often, as they double as makeup palettes–is (up to) ten areas of imperfection. And because my hands are always making their way into “behind the scenes” or pre-wedding getting ready photos, I’m painfully aware of how my nails look.

Up until recently, my solution to my issues with nail polish was to avoid painting my nails entirely. (Ironically, my toenails are always painted. And always red.) But starting last spring, I tried three new(ish) nail products. And loved them all.

Crackle/Shatter Polishes

There are a bunch of different brands that carry this type of polish, all with different names, but I’m going to refer to it as crackle. For those who don’t know about crackle nail polishes, they’re polishes that you paint over an already dry coat of nail polish. As the top layer dries, the color “cracks”, allowing sections of the base color to show through. Crackle nail polish isn’t new–I remember using it in the 90s–but it disappeared and made somewhat of a comeback in the last couple of years.

Out of the three nail products that I tried, crackle was the only one I didn’t intend to try. I was buying something else at Sally’s Beauty Supply while they had a crackle polish promotion going on. To reward me for spending whatever ridiculous amount I spent, I was given a choice of one free bottle of China Glaze Crackle Glaze in a few different colors. I of course chose black, because black is slimming.

I carved out a portion of my day–which happened to be my birthday, so I felt okay taking some time off to self-induldge–to crackle my nails.

I decided to use gold as a base coat. After that dried, I applied a coat of the black Crackle Glaze. It dried quickly and gave the exact effect it claimed to. The black cracked in random patterns, showing slivers of the gold.

I enjoy playing with different textures, so I loved having textured nails. Best of all, when the inevitable chipping occurred, it was barely noticeable. The polish came off easily with regular polish remover. I found this to be a great, affordable, easy and low-maintenance option.

Stay tuned for Nailed It: Part 2 to find out about the other nail products that I adore.

Have a beautiful day 🙂