Brides Across America

Planning a wedding is time-consuming. And expensive. The venue, the photographer, the flowers, the music, the hair and makeup (call Allison Barbera Beauty for that!) and of course, the dress. The dress is such a key part of the day. Whether it’s a mermaid gown, a princess gown, a retro lace gown or anything in between, every bride has a picture in her mind of the dress she wants to wear on her wedding day.

Now imagine not being able to go dress shopping because you are serving in the armed forces and are deployed. Or your fiance is deployed, and the financial hardships of planning a wedding make it too difficult to buy a wedding gown. Enter Brides Across America.

My friend, whose husband is in the Coast Guard, told me about this organization, and I think it is wonderful. Brides Across America, partnering with bridal salons, holds events twice a year where they give away donated wedding gowns to military brides. If you are a military bride who is in need of a dress, or a woman who has a wedding dress that you would like to donate, it’s definitely worth checking them out.

For more information, click here:

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Lashing Out


I refuse to be put into a box. Like I told one jackass I dated, I’m multi-faceted. I’m not just an Entrepreneur, or Makeup Artist, or Biggie Fan. I’m also a Vodka Drinker, a Half Assed Runner and a Diorshow Girl. I have been using Dior Diorshow (the original) for eight years. I’ve mentioned it in several of my blog posts, and wrote this post about it in 2010:

But don’t think I have refused to try other mascaras once I found Diorshow. I would be a crappy makeup artist if I never tried new products and honestly, trying new products is one of the best parts of my job. When I open a new product, I have so much hope. Will this be the one that blows all of the others out of the water? I think, heart pounding in anticipation. Sometimes it is. But with mascara, I have never found anything that even came close to Diorshow.

Until now.

I had heard about L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black for years. Many of the veteran pro makeup artists I look up to recommend it. My local drugstore usually only carries the original L’Oreal Voluminous, so when I saw Carbon Black in stock, I grabbed one. After years of trying disappointing mascaras, I knew better than to get my hopes up. But at the same time, in the back of my mind I thought If Billy B likes it, it must be really good!

And you know what? It friggin’ is. I tried it first on its own, then up against Diorshow (Carbon Black on one eye, Diorshow on the other–the only way to compare). It volumized, lengthened and my top lashes didn’t smudge. (My bottom lashes did smudge a tiny bit, but I have found that happens with any non-waterproof or non-beauty tube mascaras). When I compared it to Diorshow, I could hardly detect any difference.

It’s got a standard wand and the formula is slightly on the inky side. I didn’t experience any clumping, nor did it flake off during the day. It removed easily–no fighting or lash casualties to report. And at $7.99 per tube, it doesn’t break the bank.

I’m still kind of in shock that I found something as good as Diorshow. I think I may actually make the switch to Carbon Black when I finish my current Diorshow tube. So yeah, I 100% recommend L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black.  This is big, folks. But your lashes will be bigger.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Nearly Newlywed

In an ideal world, I would do nothing but eat pomegranates and watch Shark Tank for the majority of my waking hours. That may seem like an odd combination, but everyone has their thing. And mine happens to be enjoying a low calorie, antioxidant-packed fruit while watching successful, creative entrepreneurs (and some, um, interesting ones) pitch their products/services to the sharks, in hopes that they can win over one of the mega rich investors.

While watching Shark Tank recently, my ears perked up when Jacqueline Courtney of Nearly Newlywed came into the tank. As the owner of a beauty services company that specializes in weddings, I am always interested in products and services that may be useful to my bridal clients. If there is something new or different in the industry, I love to be able to share that with my Allison Barbera Beauty brides. And Nearly Newlywed definitely falls into that “new or different” category.

Looking for a wedding gown? Nearly Newlywed has gowns designed exclusively for them, as well as sample and pre-owned gowns at 50-90% off. Their selections include gowns from designers Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang, Valentino and more. Whichever gowns you choose are shipped to you, which is great for those brides who don’t have the time or desire to visit several bridal boutiques. Nearly Newlywed gives you five days to try on your dresses, and whatever you don’t like, you send back for a flat $25 fee.

Want to sell your gown? Simply take your measurements, send photos and a description of the dress and pay the $25 listing fee. (If you bought the dress from Nearly Newlywed, it is already pre-approved for listing and you won’t pay the listing fee). They handle the transactions with any potential buyers and notify you when your dress has sold. Then you ship it to them and receive 75% of the sale price.

Jacqueline didn’t end up getting a shark to invest, but hey, that’s their loss. As someone with 6+ years in the wedding industry and hundreds of weddings under her belt, I think this is a really smart business idea that will continue to gain momentum. Check out the (very gorgeous) Nearly Newlywed site here: And here’s the Allison Barbera Beauty site, for all of you brides-to-be:

Have a beautiful day 🙂


1950s Beauty

Ava GardnerAudrey Hepburn Debbie Reynolds Elizabeth Taylor Grace Kelly Jayne Mansfielddoris_day_1955-226x300Marilyn Monroe

The 1950s saw a boom in economic prosperity and business. America had proven to be a major world power in the past 50 years, and times were good (well, if you were a middle class or wealthy white male, anyway.) In terms of beauty and fashion, the 1940s, especially during the war, were very understated and no-nonsense for the average woman. In the 1950s, a huge increase in  marriage and birth rates turned the American woman’s focus back to being a wife and mother. Not just a wife and mother, but a model wife and mother.

The 1950s, more than any past decade, were about being the perfect housewife. There was an strong focus on femininity. Influenced by the pin up girl look, clothing was about creating the illusion of a narrow waist and a high, rounded bust. Corset-like undergarments became popular again. Women wore heels, not flats, even around the house (at least while their husbands or guests were there). Those stilettos meant there was a lot of baby-step walking going on. Dainty and ladylike was the ideal.

Makeup, seen as visual indicator of femininity, was not used sparingly. Most women used cream, liquid or pancake foundation, flesh toned setting powder, blush (then called rouge), eyeshadow, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, mascara, lipliner and lipstick. If primers and setting sprays had been around in the 1950s, you can bet those women would have included those in their daily regimens.

A pale complexion was en vogue, and the idea was to create and mask-like base. Rouge–usually soft peach or pink–was used sparingly. Lipstick was often a bold or bright color. Pink reds, true reds and corals were the most popular. The average woman used lipliner to follow their natural lipline but some actresses slightly overdrew their top lip. Women often matched their nail polish to their lipstick. The most common nail shape was oval, and long–but not too long–fingernails were considered classy and ladylike.

Eyeshadow was applied just to the lids, with contouring mainly used on actresses. Pastel shadows, particularly blues and greens, were popular. Frosted shadows entered the market in the late 50s. Eyeliner was normally black or brown and applied in a winged out line at the top lashline. The thickness of eyeliner lines varied, with the more natural look women tending towards thin lines and a smaller flick. Lower lashline eyeliner was not popular. Tube mascara was invented, although some women still chose to use cake or block mascara, which was applied with a small brush. Mascara was applied to top lashes, but not usually to the bottom lashes.

Eyebrows were thick to medium thick. They were groomed and generally highly arched, tapering at the ends. The inner corners were sometimes rounded, sometimes squared off. Some women preferred the thick, straight across brow a la Audrey Hepburn. No matter which brow shape they chose, brow pencil was often used to darken or thicken.

Revlon, Max Factor and Pond were the leaders in the beauty industry (in what we would today call the drugstore sector). Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein were the big luxury product lines.

1950s hair was typically very “done”–the opposite of today’s desired beachy waves and bedhead looks. There were several popular looks. Shorter hair (chin length or above) was most common. The Italian Cut, inspired by Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida, was a short, structured cut with soft curls. High ponytails, with the ends often flipped out, were all the rage with teens. Pageboy or brushed under bobs were considered classy, while the gamine or pixie cut was more edgy. The bouffant became popular in the mid 50s, but didn’t reach the height of its popularity–pun intended–until the early 60s. Chemical relaxers became more readily available in the 1950s, which popularized straight hair for African American women. The 50s had one interesting hair fad that I was unaware of–temporary gold and silver streaks.  Metallic powders or spray were used to create these. Fake hair pieces for chignons and other styles also had a spike in popularity.

Hollywood actresses continued to have a major influence on hair and makeup looks. There was a divide between the looks of the decade–I call it The Good Girl vs The Bad Girl. On the Good Girl side of the spectrum, you had the more natural, girl-next-door actresses like Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day. Blonde Good Girl, Grace Kelly, was the ultimate in understated but elegant glamour. Audrey Hepburn was the brunette Good Girl, girl-like but womanly at the same time. Elizabeth Taylor was more of the glamorous Good Girl. On the Bad Girl side of the spectrum, you had the gorgeous Ava Gardner (she’s kind of my favorite), drinking, swearing and having a scandalous affair with and then marriage to Frank Sinatra. Italian star Gina Lollabrigida had that temptress thing going for her, and Jayne Mansfield did the blonde, sex kitten version of it. While the Good Girls wore pretty dresses that nipped in at the waist and flared at the hips, the Bad Girls favored styles that hugged the body. Marilyn Monroe had a look all her own. She was more done up than a Good Girl, but not as overtly sexy as a Bad Girl.

If I had to chose a word to sum up the look of the 1950s, it would be feminine. Whether a look was done in a cute, girl-next-door way, an elegant understated way, or a sultry, glamorous way, it was womanly and polished. At least one of these looks will speak to you, so why not give it a try?

Have a beautiful day 🙂





You Need Us

When is the last time you looked at the website of a company you wanted to buy from or book some kind of service with? Probably the last time you wanted to buy something or book a service, right? And if you are looking for a particular person to work with–like a real estate agent, dentist, accountant, etc.–chances are you probably looked at the About Us page to check them out. Then, you most likely formed an impression before even reading about the person, based on their photo. You might not be conscious that you are doing this, but you probably are. (It’s okay, that doesn’t make you a bad person!) Not in the “Are they attractive?” way, but in the “Do they look the part?” way. What we think of as professional varies by industry–someone in a creative field, like an interior decorator, may have a more casual picture than an attorney. But there is still a professional standard we expect from people we may hire, even just appearance-wise.

Regardless of the industry, when you see a business picture of someone that was probably taken with an iPhone, it stands out–and not in a good way. Is that mortgage lender wearing a baseball cap? What’s that, a Fireball shot on the table next to them? And who the hell is cropped out of the photo? Half their face is still in it! I have seen several photos like these on professional websites, which makes me cringe. Your professional photo is the first impression many potential customers/clients may get, so it seems crazy to use a picture that’s more appropriate for Facebook. You could be the best banker/massage therapist/marketing manager in the world, but if you look like you are on Spring Break or at home in your kitchen, you may be giving potential clients reason to look for someone else.

It’s not superficial, it’s professional image. You can get angry about it and blame society for paying too much attention to appearance, but it is part of the whole package of Professional You. Whether you run a company and want to show who your employees are, or you are an independent contractor/sole proprietor with your own website, having a professional photo is essential. In some cases, an “action shot” of you doing your work–training a client at the gym, styling someone’s hair, creating a flower arrangement–may work fine (even then, I definitely recommend using a photo shot by a pro). But a lot of people in the business world need headshots for online presence, marketing materials, business cards, etc. Putting effort into your appearance shows that you take yourself and your job seriously–which makes you more credible to potential clients/customers. I’m not suggesting that you drop $1,000 on an outfit and get Botox for one photo. But also don’t expect your industry reputation and two paragraph blurb to speak louder than a blurry photo of you from your neighbor’s Fourth of July cookout. If a potential client/customer doesn’t know anything about you and that’s the first thing they see, they may not take you seriously.

Hiring a professional photographer and a hair and makeup artist for your photos (and your employees, if applicable) makes a huge difference. A professional photographer knows the optimal lighting, angles, posing and backgrounds for the kind of photo that makes sense for your business. A professional hair and makeup artist knows how to make someone look their best for their professional photo. This applies to both males and females.

Don’t write this off, guys–there is a reason every man on ESPN and in every film, tv show and magazine ad is wearing makeup. For male hair and makeup, it’s all about evening out the skintone, eliminating shine and redness, concealing blemishes and undereye darkness and grooming hair. If you look at a picture of someone who has red, shiny skin and a blemish in the middle of their forehead, those things stand out. And a bald head reflects some serious shine on camera if a makeup artist isn’t there to prevent that. Those things are distracting and look unprofessional, but are easily fixed by a good hair and makeup artist. It’s a quick process–I typically spend about 5-8 minutes on business photo male hair and makeup–but it makes a big difference. And don’t worry, I always have makeup remover wipes with me, so no one ever needs to know what went on…

Ladies, I’m sure most of you already know the difference between being photographed wearing makeup and without it. Having an even skintone, some color on the lips and cheeks, no darkness under the eyes and hair that isn’t frizzed out or greasy looking goes a long way on camera. A good hair and makeup artist can create a look for you (or adjust the look you are already wearing) that is what we call “camera ready.” Because even if your everyday makeup looks great in person–and I’m sure it does!–a good makeup artist will know how to adjust colors and intensity so your makeup shows up beautifully on camera. And while your hair may look like a L’Oreal ad in person, there are some things a pro can do to make it more flattering in photos.

Need more convincing? Man, you are tough. I do a lot of  corporate/business/headshots work with talented photographer, Shawn Read, and we wanted to show you why you need us. Between the two of us, we have done shoots for large and small businesses–from real estate agencies to pharmaceutical companies to financial firms–as well as Ivy League universities and nationally known hospitals. Because of confidentiality, we typically can not post photos from these shoots. So we did our own shoot to show you what this Dream Team can do.

Below are Before and Afters of two models (doubleclick to enlarge). The Before pictures show them prior to hair and makeup services. The first After photos show them with hair and makeup that I did, no retouching from Shawn. The second After photos show them with minimal retouching from Shawn. That is the level of retouching he typically does for business photos. Shawn doesn’t retouch the photos to the point that a person is unrecognizable, which is part of the reason he is so in demand in this industry.

So you might be wondering why you should even hire me for hair and makeup when Shawn can just retouch everything. First of all, Mr./Ms. Trying-to-Cut-Corners, it is very hard and time consuming for a photographer to create a full hair and makeup look with Photoshop or similar retouching programs. It would take Shawn several hours more per image to do that (and honestly, those programs don’t allow you to create looks the way real hair and makeup can). So your photos would take longer to get back to you, and the cost would be considerably higher. Higher, in fact, than if you just hired me for hair and makeup in the first place. Photographers are not hair stylists and makeup artists, so even if they could easily Photoshop in hair and makeup for you, there is no guarantee they would know where to start.

Another reason professional hair and makeup is beneficial for business photos/headshots is the confidence factor. Most people don’t love having their photo taken, but knowing they look their best definitely makes them feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Shawn shows people a few of the photos as he shoots, and people always like those unedited photos more if they have hair and makeup done. (I also help with some wardrobe/accessory stuff, like making sure ties are straight, necklace clasps are hidden, pants aren’t tucked into shoes, etc.) It’s a definite team effort. While Shawn is focused on the shot, the lighting, making people feel comfortable, etc., I am able to be a second set of eyes, noticing a piece of paper sticking out of a pocket or hair tucked into a collar. Lastly, when people make their selections after Shawn has completed the shoot (the photos are accessed via his private website galleries) they are more likely to be happy with the unedited images if they have had professional hair and makeup.

Ready to book us? Whether it’s an individual session or a group session, we will work with you and/or your employees to provide you with polished, professional photos.  We’ll go to your workplace and will create an efficient schedule so we take up as little of your time as possible. Feel free to check out Shawn’s website, LB Read Photography,!/index  and mine, Allison Barbera Beauty, We can be contacted directly at and

Have a beautiful day 🙂


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Endangered species. Women’s rights. Access to education. Childhood diseases. I think we all have causes we are drawn to. I’ve got a few, which is why I try to make donations to different organizations when I can. One of the world problems that has always been important to me is the state of our environment. From a young age, I have been a big recycler and have tried to do my part to consume less and be more green (and I don’t mean by wearing green eyeshadow on occasion). There are a lot of things you can do that don’t cost a dime–and actually save you money–that are also kind to our planet.

What the hell is this post doing on a beauty blog, right? Shouldn’t my causes be more like helping you learn about mascara or reviewing red lipsticks? I do those kinds of posts and will continue to. But this one is going to tie into the beauty aspect of your life, I promise.

The idea for this post happened when I realized that I do a few earth-friendly things that are related to my personal beauty regimen and/or my makeup artist work. But I will also include some tips to green-ify (I don’t care, I think it’s a word) other areas of your life too. None of these are very hard, and I do believe that especially if a lot of people do even some of them, it will make a positive impact on the environment. You know, that place where we all live?


  • Turn the water off when washing your face and brushing your teeth. Normally, the only times you need water when washing your face is to emulsify your cleanser and to rinse it off. And when brushing your teeth, you only need the water on right before or after you put the toothpaste on your brush and when you rinse. You don’t need to leave the faucet running while you are massaging cleanser in or cleaning those chompers. It’s a waste and you know it. Clean water is something most of us take for granted, but it’s not a given in many parts of the world. Bonus: Using your water only when you need it will lower your water bill.
  • Don’t use makeup remover wipes. I mean, seriously, is it that hard to wash your face? Unless the wipes are biodegradable, like Josie Maran’s Bear Naked Wipes, your laziness is adding to landfills. Sorry to be harsh, but someone needs to give it to you straight. Bonus: You will be less likely to break out. In my experience, makeup wipes don’t fully remove makeup. If you go to bed with some of your makeup still on, you are increasing your chances of waking up with a blemish or two. Serves you right. : P
  • Use towels instead of paper towels or tissues. Whether it’s to dry your face after cleansing or to wipe makeup off your hand, a towel is a much more earth-friendly option than a disposable item. Bonus: You save money on Bounty and Kleenex.
  • Re-use cotton balls for eye makeup remover. In my experience, cotton balls are the best option for removing eye makeup. Towels and re-usable cloths tend to absorb eye makeup remover, causing you to waste product. They are also often too rough for the delicate eye area skin. Tissues tend to fall apart when wet, which leaves fibers on your face. Cotton balls are like the Baby Bear of eye makeup remover vehicles–they are just right. And unless you are removing an eye makeup-heavy look or have an eye infection, you can usually use the cotton ball a few times. Bonus: You save money on cotton balls and don’t wake up looking like Courtney Love in 1994.
  • Recycle your empty used makeup products and packaging. A lot of packaging and shipping materials are recyclable, so check yourself before you…wreck the environment. MAC Cosmetics offers a great incentive program called Back to MAC. Return any six primary packaging containers and receive a free lipstick. Bonus: You clear some space in your makeup drawer/bag while helping the environment. And if you do the Back to MAC thing–free lipstick!


  • Recycle everything. You’ve got a bin, right? Find out what your city/town accepts and throw it in there. Don’t cry about it if you need to rinse out a glass jar, just do it. It will take two minutes–you can find the time. Bonus: You save money on trash bags.
  • Turn off the water when you are scrubbing your dishes. You don’t need water running the entire time. I haven’t had a dishwasher in any of my homes in ten years, and at family holidays and dinners, I often take on the role of the dish washer–a time consuming task at Italian holidays and three course family dinners. When you’re scrubbing away at a pan, you don’t need the water on. Bonus: Your hands won’t be robbed of as much moisture if they are not immersed in hot water for long periods of time. Also, the thing about your water bill again.
  • Re-use plastic utensils. Stop looking at them as disposable and start looking at them as re-usable. Once they break, rinse them off and recycle. I keep some clean ones in my car and some at my office so I am always ready for peanut butter or soft serve if the opportunity presents itself. Bonus: You’ll double your utensils collection.
  • Shut those lights off. If you are not in a room, why does the light need to be on? There is no good answer to this question. It’s a complete waste of energy. My father is horrible at this–I can trace his path in his house by seeing which rooms have lights on. My mother is the opposite–my father calls her “The Mole”–which hopefully balances him out. Bonus: You save on electricity and lightbulbs. More money for makeup.
  • Turn the heat down. Winter sucks, I know. But keeping your heat at 75 degrees while you are gone all day is a pointless silent protest of the season. Whenever I leave my house for the day (or days, as it often is), I turn my heat to 60 degrees. (I normally don’t turn it lower than 60, as that can make pipes freeze in cold weather.) Bonus: If you pay for your own heat, this will save you money. My landlord pays for mine–ah, the joys of being a tenant–but I still do it to save energy. I also think that if I jacked the heat up and left it like that November-April, he might decide it was too expensive to pay for it himself and either raise my rent or make me pay for it the next year. So I may also be protecting Future Allison’s bank account.
  • Unplug what you are not using. Microwaves, hair dryers, phone chargers–all things that consume energy even when they are not being used. I’ve made a habit of unplugging pretty much everything except my clock when I leave for the day. Bonus: More electricity bill savings. And you’ll never burn your house down with the flat iron you left on…
  • Use paper towels sparingly. I use rags instead of paper towels to wipe up spills and clean counters. Rags can be washed and re-used instead of thrown out after one use. Bonus: This is a great way to re-use old clothing and socks (just wash and cut into different sizes), and it will save you money on paper towels.
  • Give away items you don’t use. That’s recycling too! I constantly give away clothes I no longer wear, as well as books I’m done with, household items I don’t use, decor I’m no longer into, whatever. I offer items to my friends first and if I don’t have any takers, I donate to the thrift shop at my mother’s church (you can donate to places like that or Goodwill locations in your area too). Bonus: Instead of adding to a landfill, you are giving away things you don’t use that someone else will. That’s gotta make you feel warm and fuzzy.
  • Tote a re-usable coffee mug. If Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or your local coffee shop is your second home, try bringing a re-usable mug when you get your coffee or tea fix. I’m not sure about the policies at different places, but when I used to frequent a local coffee shop, I bought a mug from there and they would fill it up. Or, if the disposable cup they give you is recyclable (some are), you know what to do. Bonus: Tag your mug up and no one will accidentally drink your coffee at a work meeting. And let’s be honest, a person with a good coffee mug looks more legit.


  • If you live close enough to your work, trying walking or biking when weather permits. I know this isn’t an option for a lot of people, but if you can, it’s worth doing whenever possible. Bonus: You save on gas and mileage or public transportation costs. And you burn calories. That’s called a win-win.
  • Try to only print necessary things. Some documents don’t need to be in your life in hard copy form. Save them to your hard drive or in your email. Bonus: If you work for yourself, you will save on paper and ink costs. If you are an employee, your boss will be glad you are saving the company money. Maybe that can go towards a well deserved raise for you? I also think that having less paper around you can make your tasks seem more manageable. A desk stacked with unnecessary papers could very well add to the “Holy shit, I have a lot to do!” feeling.
  • Only print the pages you need. I have to print receipts and statements for my bookkeeper, but I am always careful to only print the pages that have information I need. Many receipts include a second or third page of crap that doesn’t have relevant information. Bonus: Same as the one before this.
  • Re-use paper. When I’m done with a piece of paper, I use the blank space or other side to write down notes or lists. If it’s an 8×11 sheet that has only been used on one side, I print documents that only I will see on the blank side. I keep a file in my desk where I put scrap paper for easy access. Bonus: See the last two.

That’s all I got! I realize none of these are new ideas, and I won’t lie to you and tell you I do them all 100% of the time. But I do make a conscious effort to do them more often than not. I’d like to think they make at least a small impact on the world. If you have any tips to help me be a better earth friendly person, I would love to hear them.

Have a beautiful day 🙂