Habits, Schnabits: Part 2

On it. Part 5 of my routine is happening now!

You’ve read Part 1 and loved it, so let’s move on to Part 2. This is where I tell you about the habits/routines I do have and keep because they work for me. There are some you might have tried and hated, or others you inherently know wouldn’t work for you. And that’s cool! I’m not saying this is a Must Do list. But maybe you’ll see something here that you want to try, or it gives you an idea to do something similar. Which is also cool!

Let me preface this by saying this is my routine on my ideal day. If I have an early job, a lot of it has to get thrown out the window. But when I don’t, this is what I like to do.

Phone Check. Before I even get out of my bed, I look at my phone. I know some people say this is bad, but I need to make sure my personal and professional worlds haven’t crumbled over the last seven hours. If there is anything truly urgent, I respond. Otherwise, I leave it until I’m ready for the responding-to-things part of my day.

Social Media Scroll. Another one a lot of people advise against, but this is part of how I ease into the day. It’s usually more of a Facebook scroll than Instagram, and I do it because I like to see what the people in my life who I don’t talk to regularly are up to (or what they choose to share). I leave birthday comments, I send condolences messages, I congratulate friends on professional accomplishments, engagements, pregnancy announcements, etc. I don’t spend a ton of time on Facebook during the day, but most days, I do this scroll for about 10 minutes in the morning.

Supplements: Round 1. One of the first things I do after get out of bed is take my probiotics and a supplement that needs to be taken on an empty stomach. It’s five total pills, and I like taking them because they have corrected health issues I’ve had in the past, so starting off my day staying on top of my health feels great. As a business owner, I need my energy and focus to be high every day. If I consistently don’t feel well, I can’t do my job, so taking care of my health is just as important as booking jobs and paying bills.

Now that’s a choking hazard if I ever saw one.

Mini Workout. Next up, I brew my coffee and hit the floor for some hamstring stretches prescribed by my chiropractor and 150 crunches (75 for upper abs, 75 for lower). Next up is my favorite arm workout, followed by 20 lunges and 20 squats. By the time my coffee is ready, I’ve done something else good for my health and crossed it off my list before the day gets to me.

Blogging. In January, I set the goal of posting at least one blog post a week for all of 2018. We are now in Week 43 of 2018 and I only missed one week (I was away on a semi-vacation), but I made up for that by posting twice the next week. I was able to get about 20 posts done and stockpiled in the early part of this year, but then wedding season buried me so I had to write new ones most weeks. And my mind is freshest in the morning, so that is when it makes the most sense for me to write. I give myself a certain amount of time, then I do my best to stay focused and write during that time. I love writing and would love to have three hours a day to do it, but I usually have to settle for 30 – 60 minutes.

Supplements: Round 2. I have more supplements that need to be taken with food/a protein shake, so I do that while watching a comedy special, comedy video podcast or a business webinar/class. That way I’m either laughing or learning while my body gets some nutrients it needs. I’ll take that Smart Multitasking Award now, please.

A Scheduled Going With the Flow Day. After breakfast, I really get into my emails and tasks for the day. I have certain tasks I do on certain days, and the reminders for those tasks are purposely set to pop up at times I know my brain will be most receptive to them. So blogging, typing up notes for classes I am teaching, creating content–anything that requires my communication to be clear and interesting–has to be done in the earlier part of the day while my mind is fresh. And any tasks that require me to do even the slightest bit of math need to happen early on in the day if I want the numbers to come out right. I save autopilot tasks–scheduled emails I already have templates for, printing documents, filing–for later in the day when my brain is slowing down but is still working. And of course, a ton of emails and calls come in during the day. I do my best to prioritize what needs to be responded to right away (i.e. new leads and time sensitive questions) and what can wait (i.e. creating wedding schedules for a year from now, reading a newsletter that I think will have valuable info, responding to a blog post comment, etc.) So I have to go with the flow and prioritize the new stuff while also taking care of as many of the scheduled tasks as possible. I’m better at this some days than others.

Sums up my business philosophy.

Mid-Day Break. As long as it’s nice out and I’m not booked with clients all afternoon, I take a break around 1:00pm to walk to do errands. Sometimes they are work errands, sometimes personal, but getting myself out of my house or studio and away from my computer gives me an energy boost. I have loved going for walks since I was a kid, so even though my walks now have a purpose, they are still one of my favorite things to do. Being able to walk to do my errands–and to bars and restaurants, if I’m being honest!–is an important part of my life and the reason why I will always choose a small apartment in (or very slightly outside of) the middle of things over a bigger and probably cheaper place in an area where you have to drive everywhere.

Daily Wrap Up. I’ve found that as long as I start my day off right with my morning routines and getting out for a walk mid-day, I am generally very productive. The rest of the day is dependent on what is going on that week, but I try to plan it out the best I can the night before. I always did this to some extent, but I really honed in on this after taking a productivity workshop in the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Every night at 8:00pm (the time I try to end my workday but usually don’t), a reminder comes up to do my Daily Wrap Up. I scan my inbox for anything that absolutely needs to responded to that night, then I look at my calendar for the next day. I delete any non-applicable reminders for the next day (i.e. sending out wedding schedules for one month out when we don’t have any exactly one month from that reminder, following up with someone who has already gotten back to me, placing makeup orders when I’m not out of any products, etc.). I then look at my main To Do list. If it’s a hot mess with crossouts everywhere and tasks written in every available space, I write a fresh one for the next day. Then I look at my new To Do list and what’s left on my calendar for the next day and choose no more than four tasks that I absolutely want to get done the next day. I write “Tuesday” or whatever the next day is on the top of the list and put that next to my computer. Doing Daily Wrap Ups is a newer thing for me but I can tell it’s already been working.

Do what works for you. If that means making an impossibly neat written plan, go for it.

I like structure, but I also like to do what I want when I want, so figure that one out. I have my routines and I stick to them most of the time, but I also create them and can change them up whenever I want, which is where the freedom comes in. All of my routines aren’t fully possible on days when I’m with clients or on set for most of the day, but I still try to grab onto a couple of them when I can. As an entrepreneur, you have so much on your plate. Without a plan or structure, it can feel like complete chaos. And it’s 112% harder (fact that I made up) to run a business when things are more hectic than they need to be.

When you own a business, things are always going to come up. Some days go pretty smoothly, while other days will consist of putting out fire after fire (after fire…after fire). But routines give you that safety net of structure so you don’t feel like you are free falling through your day. Or at least, not falling as far or as fast.

This is my take, but I know I’m not alone. Us small biz owners all have our ways of doing things. If you are successful, happy, and not feeling completely overwhelmed 24/7, I think it’s safe to say you are doing it right. But if you don’t have any routines and you are feeling like things are out of control, maybe it’s time to throw some routines in there. You might already have an inkling of what would work for you, or maybe you’ve read about another entrepreneur’s routines and thought “I like how they start their day off with meditation/a cold shower/running around the neighborhood yelling ‘I did it!‘”

Morning routines for entrepreneurs
She put TWO inspirational quotes in one post? Yes, I did, and I don’t regret it.

So go on, do your thing mama, do your thing. (Anyone get that reference?) If you want to create some routines, there are plenty out there to inspire you, but you’ve got the freedom to choose or create ones that will work for you.

And now my blogging routine is over, so I’m on to the next.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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Fall Faves

I’d be the Friend in this situation.

I’m a Summer Girl and always will be. Early fall in Rhode Island is okay temperature-wise, although I don’t like the short days. Other fall things I don’t like are football (never understood it and don’t want to), apples (they hurt my stomach), sweaters (itchy), and “crisp” days (too cold for snowbirds).

But I can’t write off an entire season just because pumpkin patches aren’t my jam. I’m always going to find things I like and things to look forward to, because my life is pretty bomb and to not recognize and enjoy the good things would be foolish.

Sooooo, wanna hear about my new faves? Let’s do this.

Escada Sorbetto Rosso Eau De Toilette. I have been on the hunt for a new perfume for years. I would ideally like to smell like Banana Boat Deep Tanning Oil, but I can not find a dupe for that (although I won’t pretend I haven’t worn it as a perfume before). Until recently, I’d been able to find other scents I liked, but didn’t love. But then I came across Escada Sorbetto Rosso at Ulta, and my search ended. I’m a sucker for cute packaging, especially when it shows the cartoon version of who I’d like to be, but it’s the scent of Sorbetto Rosso that got me. It’s inspired by the Amalfi Coast and mostly smells like watermelon and sea salt, but has notes of pear, amber and praline as well. Normally I have one scent for day time and one for night, but I like this so much I wear it all the time. I keep it on the table next to my front door so I remember to spray some on before I leave. I may never be a carefree, long-legged woman loving life on the Amalfi Coast, but at least I can smell like her.

I may want to be her, but I’ll never sit on a railing like that. Dangerous!

HotPads. I’m searching for both a Charleston winter home and potentially a new place in Newport, and luckily my friend Jenn told me about HotPads. It has way more listings than Craigslist, and that’s good enough for me. It seems more legit than Craigslist (what isn’t?), as I’ve yet to run across anything that looks scam-ish. Jenn also said she has seen the prices lower on HotPads than Craigslist, which is another good reason to use it. Thank you, Jenn!

Hoping to find something like this that’s in my budget…

Plant Snack Super Seeds Mix Cassava Root Mix. I got the cheddar flavor of these chips as a sample at my local health food store, A Market, a while back and loved them. I only ever saw the full sized version of this flavor at the store though and I thought they looked boring. (Because my regular diet is soooo exciting!) I ended up buying them on a whim one day, knowing I would eat them if I was hungry enough even if they were plain, and I friggin’ loved them! Now I buy them whenever I’m at A Market. They are hands down my new favorite snack.

I’ll kill a bag in two days and feel #noshame.

R+CO Neon Lights Dry Oil Spray. A couple of months ago, I was with AB Beauty hair stylist, Emily, when she said “I got this new dry oil spray that I want to try on someone.” In my memory, I raised my hand then jumped into the closest chair to her, but I think it’s more likely that I said “Do you want to try it on me?” Either way, I ended up being her guinea pig. She loved it, I loved it and now we both use it. Y’all know I’m into hair oil, but I hadn’t used a dry oil like this before. I apply it to my hair when it’s dry and looking like it’s been working those 12 hour days with me (which I guess it has). Neon Lights instantly makes it look healthy, shiny and soft. It’s not sticky or heavy and while it’s got a noticeable scent, it’s one I like so I’m cool with that. I like everything about this product except that it always gets this song into my head. (I realize it’s not called “Flashing Lights Dry Oil Spray,” but close enough.) Thanks, Emily!

The closest thing I use to cooking spray.

High Brew Coffee. I prefer hot coffee–two cups of it–every morning. But I’m going to get a little personal here: I have the smallest bladder in the world (not verified). So if I drink my two cups then go to a morning job, things can get problematic. You see, us makeup artists often have to work for several hours straight without a bathroom break. So when I have jobs that start on the earlier side, drinking two cups of coffee (it may actually be more than that, because the mug I use is plus-size) is not an option. I discovered High Brew Coffee at the convenience store next to my studio, and it’s the perfect substitute for the days I can’t drink a lot of liquid but also need my caffeine fix. Yes, it’s not hot coffee but that makes it easier to chug as I mentally scold myself for saying yes to an early job. High Brew has several flavors to chose from and in my opinion, they all taste great. (Black & Bold has the least amount of sugar, so if you’re normally a black coffee drinker, you’ll probably like this one best.) I keep a bunch in my fridge for my early days. They are my Early Morning Helpers, so don’t you dare take them away from me.

High Brew Coffee
And isn’t the packaging great? Love that vintage feel.

Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. This show, featuring well known British comic, Jack Whitehall, and his father, now has two seasons on Netflix. It’s a reality show about this father-son duo’s travels throughout Europe and Asia. Jack is fun and outgoing and interested in really immersing himself in new cultures, even if that means kind of roughing it. His father, Michael, is what I think they call “posh” in England. Give this man a 5 star hotel, gourmet meals and good wine or give him nothing. And he is HILARIOUS. Michael has that dry, English sense of humor that I love so much and Season 2, which was recently released on Netflix, showcases that even more than the first season. If you are looking for something good to watch on Netflix, here you go.

Travel over to Netflix and watch their show, but only if you want to laugh.

Olaplex Shampoo & Conditioner. My hair, you see, is not allowed to be its actual self. I’ve been straightening it several times a month for a decade, erasing any trace of the Italian ringlets that naturally spring forth from my follicles. I’ve got some grays, but those get covered by a semi-permanent dye every six weeks or so. And five years ago, I decided my natural very dark brown (which most people think is black), was good enough for the top 2/3 of hair but not the bottom. That section gets bleached then dyed blue twice a year, with color touchups–no bleach–once a month or so. I also use a curling iron a few times a month to put in a looser curl or wave. (This confuses my father to no end when he sees me doing it. “But sweetie, why are you putting curls back in your hair when you already have curly hair?” “THEY ARE DIFFERENT CURLS, RAY.”) While it may seem like I am hiding the real Allison (hair), everything that I do to it makes me feel more like the real me, who as you know is part Woman From The Sorbetto Rosso Packaging. But all of the color and heat styling does a number on my hair. I am careful to use heat protectants before heat styling, and I use oil on my ends to keep them from getting too dry. Back in I think 2015, I also started using Olaplex No. 3, a kind of souped up leave in conditioner type product that repairs the bonds that are broken during chemical, thermal and mechanical damage. AB Beauty makeup artist and licensed Cosmetologist, Kristin, recently told me about the Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. She said they were amazing, and right she was! Even after one wash, my hair felt softer and healthier. I also love the look of their packaging. I wouldn’t mind an apartment that looked like their labels, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I’ve been trying samples of different shampoos and conditioners for a while, but these two are champs, so my search is over. Thanks, Kristin!

Olaplex Shampoo and Conditioner
Word is bond. (Clever LL Cool J reference.)

Going to Bed Earlier. In my Summer Faves, I said I loved sleeping in. And I still do, but there’s now a house being built across the street from my bedroom window, so I don’t always get to do that. I’ve been falling apart a bit physically lately, so I decided I would experiment and see if my new issues of pulsatile tinnitus, weight loss and racing heart were being impacted by my long work days (an experiment sparked by three of my doctors saying long hours were causing stress–which I haven’t been mentally or emotionally feeling). So whenever I can, I stop my work day by 9:00pm and get into bed soon after, even if I know it will be a few hours before I go to sleep. And you know what? That shit helps. It also makes it so I sometimes get enough sleep to naturally wake up earlier than usual, and before the beeping of trucks reversing and calming sound of hammering begins. I’m going to keep going to bed early whenever my schedule allows in hopes that it will make my body stop putting in requests for a break.

I’m not quite at 9:00pm yet, but doing better than before.

Daniel Sloss. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might have picked up on the fact that I love comedy. Specifically, standup comedy. That’s why Netflix alerts me anytime a new special comes out. If I’m familiar with the comic, I probably already know about the special. If it’s a comic who is new to me, I have a rule: if they don’t make me laugh in the first 10 minutes, I’m on to the next one, on to the next. (Jay Z lyric, not a written stutter.) Daniel Sloss is a Scottish comic who I had never heard of until his two part special came out last month. Not only did I laugh in 10 minutes, but I LOVED the first special and LOVEDDDDD the second one even more. Daniel is not only a fantastic storyteller and (somehow at only 28) a seasoned comic, but he is smart and his material is new and fresh. I immediately became a big fan and his website is now on the list of comics’ websites I check weekly to see if they are doing any dates in my area. Go on now, check out the special. You’ll love it.

You can just tell he is funny.

MAC 24 Hour Smooth Wear Concealer. Just when you thought MAC couldn’t come out with any more concealers! This new matte concealer is pigmented, longwearing and comes in a lot of shades. I’ve been using it on clients for a month or so now, and I’m loving how it both blends and covers easily. I use it mostly on the face, as whatever makes it long-lasting also seems to be a little to dry for some people’s undereyes. But if you have an oily undereye area, you could probably use this there. As far as the rest of the face though–where the skin is different than under the eyes–I’ve found this to work well on all skin types.

Smooth (long-lasting) operator.

That’s a lot of good stuff, right? While “Fall” might not be on my list of Fall Faves, it’s better than winter (which yes, I know I don’t experience much of anyway). My new faves are all either making me laugh more, making my body happier, or upping my beauty product game. I love hearing about other people’s faves, so if you’ve got any you want to share, you’re only a comment away.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

Habits, Schnabits: Part 1

Let that one sink in.

Habits. Rituals. Schedules. Routines. We all have them, whether we realize it or not. I wouldn’t call myself a creature of habit, but I enjoy a good ritual or routine. I have personal routines and rituals I enjoy–the getting-ready process before a date or meeting friends, taking my supplements while watching a comedy special or video podcast, calling my father to catch up while I’m walking home from doing errands, etc.–but it’s the business ones I want to talk about today.

I read a lot about the habits and routines of successful entrepreneurs. Not only do I find the insights into their lives interesting, but sometimes I pick up tips based off their habits and routines that I can incorporate into Allison’s World. I know who I am and what kinds of habits I’d be likely to stick to, so when I read about something that I think would improve my professional life and make sense for me, I give it a try.

But there are other things that don’t work for me. Some I’ve tried, others I just know. I see several of the same habits and routines come up repeatedly in interviews with successful entrepreneurs. It’s great that they’ve worked for so many people, but they do not have a place in my life. I think there is a small voice in many of us entrepreneurs always telling us to improve (which is good) but also sometimes telling us we need to do certain things that have worked for others (which is bad). Maybe I’m reading too much into it–wouldn’t be the first time I did that–but it seems that some of the articles I read imply that if you don’t have the same habits as some of the mega-successful entrepreneurs in the world, you’re not doing it right.

Hundreds of pages of habits and routines that have worked for successful people from various industries. A great read AND a good doorstop if you’re in a pinch.

So I want to smash the idea that we must do some of these habits and routines that circulate so widely. I’m by no means the most successful business owner in the world, but I’ve been in business for over 10 years and we are having our best year yet on many levels, so I’m not totally screwing up. I’m not saying these routines are wrong or bad, but I want to point out that they may not work for everyone, and that’s okay.

Here’s what I’m not into:

Getting Up Early. “Early” to me is between 6:00am – 7:00am. “Gross Early” is between 4:00am – 6:00am. Anything earlier than than is “Film Crew Early,” which is part of why I don’t work on movies anymore. When I have morning clients or appointments, I set my alarm for 1.5 – 2 hours before I need to leave. That gives me time to have my coffee, work on a blog post, answer any urgent emails, shower and get ready. But when I don’t have to be anywhere in the morning, I wake up whenever my body says, “We’re good on sleep now, ma’am.” (My body is polite, and maybe Southern.) I like the idea of getting up Early or even Gross Early, but I regularly work until 10:00pm or 11:00pm, which means I fall asleep around midnight. Forcing myself to wake up 4 – 6 hours after that would not only be cruel, but it would make for a very unproductive day. I am not a good business owner when I’m tired. Every task takes twice as long when my brain is in an exhaustion fog, and even the simplest things feel difficult. So while I have had days when I’ve naturally woken up Gross Early and have loved the amount of work I’ve gotten through before it was even 10:00am, those days are rare and my sleep is precious. I’m not going to voluntarily move to Struggle City so I can seem like a more disciplined or productive business owner. (Besides, can you imagine living there? Every day would be 57 degrees so you wouldn’t know what to wear, stores would never be open during the hours you could get there and you would only have a strong WiFi connection on Wednesdays.) So y’all can wake up when it’s still dark out if that works for you, but I’m sticking with my slumber schedule (or lack thereof).

Making The Bed. Now why would I want to do that? As a business owner with a brutal schedule (which yes, I created), I sometimes feel like I could collapse under the sheer volume of never-ending work. Sometimes I need a power nap to replenish. If my bed is un-made, boom!, I can jump right in. If it’s already made, I have to peel back the layers–more work–and then get in. I’m mostly kidding with this one. I don’t consistently make my bed because I’ve never been a bed maker. I’ve been sleeping like a maniac lately, sheets all twisted and pillows thrown on the floor (what is happening in my dream world?!?!), so tidying up that disaster zone takes a couple minutes. I figure I could use that time to do something more productive, like work on this blog! I know the idea behind this Successful Entrepreneur Habit is that it starts your day off on a productive note and immediately puts you into Routine Mode, but I don’t need help with productivity or routines. So for now, my bed remains unmade most days and ready for me to easily get back into it whenever I need to.

Unmade bed
What my bed looks like most days. And look at me, still running a successful business!

Meditation. During my freshman year in college, I was part of a mandatory new student group that met once a week, I think with the goal of helping freshmen acclimate to college life. (If acclimating meant “finding new places to hide bottles of Bacardi in my dorm room”, I acclimated very quickly.) For one of our meetings, our teacher/guide/shaman/whatever she was, brought us to a meditation class. We all laid on mats on the floor–which I didn’t care for–and were guided through a meditation exercise. Afterwards, everyone in my group said they felt so calm and relaxed during it. Me? My body cramped up and I could not wait to GTFO. That was my first experience with meditation. I have tried meditating multiple times since that forced meditation ambush and have always been met with lackluster results. My thoughts do not turn off, and I always feel frustrated after attempting to meditate. I think I used to get in a meditative state when I was lying out by the pool or at the beach, which was my favorite way to relax until Esthetics school ruined sunbathing for me. I can see how meditation would be helpful for entrepreneurs, but it’s just not my thing.

Morning Workouts. I get the appeal of working out early. You get that necessary evil out of the way early, enjoy a sense of accomplishment first thing and get an energy boost to help you start the day off right. Fabulous! My problem is that if I try to work out soon after I wake up, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Feeling nauseous isn’t my favorite way to start the day, so I push my workouts to afternoons or evenings. I can do my favorite arm workout, stretches and crunches first thing, but my body needs to wake up a bit more before I do cardio (which is always running for me). If you can do workout out first thing, more power to you. But my body has deemed this cruel and unusual punishment, so it’s got no part in my morning routine.

Waking Up With A Cold Shower. This is the quickest way to get me in a foul mood for the entire day. Will I use cool water to rinse my conditioner out so my blue balyage fades less? You know it. But immersing the body of a snowbird in cold water can cause fainting spells, and I don’t have any time scheduled in for those. I am sticking to my warm showers, and I will not budge on that.

TORTURE.

Daily Affirmations. I can not bring myself to do this. The closest I get is frequently watching the final battle scene from 8 Mile. I find that very motivating and empowering, which I think is the point of affirmations. I don’t have any problems with professional confidence at this point in my career and I’m self motivated by nature, but maybe my brain is doing secret subconscious affirmations all the time. I will kill it like B-Rabbit, I will kill it like B-Rabbit. Eminem is never far from my thoughts. He’s like a living guardian angel from Detroit for me, and we can all use one of those.

Going To Bed Early. I’ll be honest–I’m jealous of people who fall asleep at 9:00pm. I know if I did that, I would naturally wake up Gross Early, and as I said, I like those days when I do wake up before the rest of the world (or so it seems) and get a ton of work done by 10:00am. However, that’s not the schedule my body is on. I work late, and part of why I do that is to make my mornings better. Hear me out.  When I reply or send emails at 10:00pm or 11:00pm, I usually don’t get a response right away. That means I can cross a lot off my list before I go to bed. And then I wake up with less in my inbox, which makes the day feel easier. Starting off the day right is very important to me, and working late at night feels like it gives me a head start on the next day.

When it comes to habits and routines, I think it’s all about what works for you. I have routines I’ve created to make my days productive and organized, but I change them when they stop working for me. I’m open to incorporating new habits or routines, but if something doesn’t make my life easier or make me a better entrepreneur, why would I hold onto it? Surely not because it worked for someone else!

Who would have thought Audrey Hepburn and DMX had anything in common?

I’ll still read articles and listen to talks about other entrepreneur’s routines and habits, because there will be things that speak to me. And even if they don’t, I like learning about what other people do and what’s worked for them. I find it inspiring to hear any entrepreneur’s story, and if their path to success includes waking up at sunrise, drinking hot water with lemon then loudly chanting for 12 minutes, that’s cool. It’s not for me, with my late nights, sensitive teeth and downstairs neighbors who I would scare, but like DMX says, do you.

If you’ve got a habit or routine that you think helps with your professional life, I am all ears. I’ll be sharing some of mine in Part 2, because you know I can’t resist a two part blog series.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Whose Line(r) Is It Anyway?

eyeliner meme
Just tell her she looks great.

There are some folks in this world who would fight you if you took away their eyeliner. (That is a fight I would pay to see!) Many of us have that one makeup product that we can’t live without, and for a lot of people, that product is eyeliner. That makes sense, since eyeliner is one of the makeup products that can give your eyes definition, make them look bigger, make your eye shape look different, and enhance your eye color. That’s a lot of payoff from one product, right?

So we’ve got Eyeliner Lovers in one camp. They will fight you to the death for the last kohl pencil at Sephora, so keep your guard up. In the other camp, we’ve got those people who are scared of eyeliner, or so they tell me. In some cases, I think what they are really scared of is working with liquid liner, doing a winged liner or having their eyeliner smudge. If you also have that Eyeliner Fear, there is hope for you. Step 1 is to get educated on your liner options. And I can help!

Here’s what we’ve got:

Liquid Liner. Many makeup masterpieces have been created with liquid liner, but it is the hardest to liner work with. Because a good liquid liner is strongly pigmented and is meant to create a sharp line, if you slip up, there’s no hiding it. Liquid liners come in tube, pen or small bottle form, generally with the the applicator attached. The applicator may be a thin brush or a pointed felt tip applicator. The circumference (am I using that word correctly?) of the applicator will dictate how thick of a line you get. If you want a sharp wing or a graphic liner look, you should go with liquid.

Kohl Eyeliner. Y’all need to thank the Egyptians for this stuff. It’s been around since the Protodynastic Period in Egypt, which goes wayyyyyy back to 3100 BCE. It has been used in many cultures by men and women for different reasons. Some believe lining inside the waterline with kohl prevents eye infections, while others think it keeps the sun out of the eyes. Because of the amount of lead in true kohl, it’s actually banned by the FDA in the US. So when we are talking about kohl liners here, they are just a (safer) facsimile of the real thing. You’ll see them in pencil or crayon form in this country. Kohl’s biggest identifying feature is the softness of the formulation and how easily you can blend and smudge it. I like kohl liners for the top lashline, because you can draw them on and smudge them upwards with an angled brush for a smokey effect. I generally stay away from them on the bottom lashline, as the same thing that makes them easy to blend makes them quick to smudge under the eye. They also work really well in the waterline, as they glide on smoothly and a quality kohl liner has loads of pigment. Kohl liners won’t give you a sharp line, as they tend to smudge out a little as you draw them on, so I wouldn’t recommend them for a sharp winged liner or graphic liner look.

Non-Kohl Pencil. I have to differentiate between the two because although they can look the same, they are different animals. Non-kohl pencil eyeliners (let’s just called them “NK liners”) seem to be the most popular with makeup civilians. Which makes sense, because from what I can tell (and I couldn’t find the research to back this up), there are more NK pencils than any other type of eyeliner on the market.  Pencil liners can be soft or hard. I don’t recommend using a pencil that’s too soft, as the tip can break off with even the lightest pressure. But using a pencil that’s too hard can cause tugging of the thin eye skin, which is not only uncomfortable but can lead to fine lines. So you have to find the right formulation, Goldilocks. If the pencil has a thin enough tip, you can get defined line from  it. If that’s your goal, just make sure to keep it sharpened. Some pencil formulations set instantly, so there is no room to smudge/smoke them out once they are on. Others are more creamy and give you time to smudge/smoke. So think about your liner needs before purchasing an NK pencil.

Crayon Liner. Crayon liners are most closely related to NK pencils, but might be a distant relative of kohl. They are generally a softer consistency and can usually be smudged/smoked out. They might start out as a pointed shape, but even with the ones you can sharpen, they usually end up more rounded. I tend to use crayon liners at the lower lashline, as they are softer, so more comfortable to use there than a hard pencil. I don’t like a harsh line at the lower lashline, but a waterproof crayon liner will allow for a soft line that stays in place. I use a crayon liner at the bottom lashline on all of my female clients (unless they don’t like bottom lashline liner), so my favorite Bobbi Brown ones have an important place in my pro kit.

Gel Liner. I love me a little pot o’ liner! Gel liners are actually more like a cream consistency, but for some reason, “gel” is typically used to describe them. To apply gel liner, you scrape some out of the pot with a clean makeup spatula (don’t you dare use your fingernail), put that on a palette or your hand and apply with a fine liner brush. I know some people dip straight into the liner with their brush when they are doing their own makeup, but that transfers bacteria from your eye to the liner. The pot gets closed after using, trapping the bacteria into your gel liner and making it so you reapply the bacteria–which if high school Biology taught me correctly multiplies when in a enclosed space–back onto your eye the next time you use it. And from an artistry standpoint, I’ve found that dipping the brush straight into the gel liner loads it with too much product, which you either end up wasting it if you notice it and wipe some off your brush first or you apply to your eyes then realize you have way too much on, and that’s not an easy fix. With gel liner, I recommend first applying a very thin line then building it up if need be. Once you go too far with gel liner, there’s no coming back. But it is a versatile liner because you can use it to create defined lines, wings or graphic liner looks, or you can smudge/smoke it out before it sets for a softer look. There’s a little learning curve if you are used to any type of crayon or pencil liner, but if you love liner and haven’t tried this yet, you should give it a go.

Shadow Liner. If you want a soft look that still gives you definition, using a eyeshadow as an eyeliner will get you there. 95% of the time, I use shadow liner only on myself. All you need to do this is a matte shadow and an angled or fine liner brush. You can layer it for more intensity or keep it light for subtle definition. Shadow liner is the most forgiving of the liners because since doesn’t have the texture of a waxy pencil, shiny liquid liner or cream gel liner, so it doesn’t stand out as much against the skin. It also won’t typically show a tiny slip up, where some of the other liners will immediately announce that you had a hand twitch or didn’t get your line even as you were drawing it. If you are doing a graphic or winged liner, mapping out your shape first with an eyeshadow will make the job much easier. Shimmery shadows won’t give you the same type of definition as a matte shadow, as the shimmer particles can look patchy when drawn in a line. (Don’t believe me? Use a brush to draw a straight line of shimmer shadow next to a straight line of matte shadow on your hand, and see which one stands out more.) If you don’t use eyeliner but want to, shadow liner is a great gateway drug to the other liner types.

Permanent Eyeliner. You can’t find this in a makeup kit! Permanent eyeliner is tattooed on. I get the appeal for someone who always wears liner, but put a needle near my eye and I’m going to bite you. If you are considering permanent makeup, keep in mind that we lose collagen and elastic in our skin as we age, and everything starts to droop a little. So that liner that started at your lower lashline could end up a lower than you wanted it. And with the permanent liners I’ve seen, they all seem to turn navy blue after a while. I’m not super knowledgeable about permanent makeup, as it’s not the type of “makeup” I work with, so I would just say, do your research.

Guyliner. Guyliner is most typically black pencil liner at the bottom lashline and/or bottom waterline. It’s most popular with duded who have a punk or rocker style. In my opinion, it looks great on the right kind of guy. But if you put it on a 50 year balding man who wears suits to work, it’s going to look off.  I’ve dated two guys who could pull off guyliner and even though they didn’t regularly wear it, I convinced them to let me try it on them. Because why should only one person in the relationship wear makeup? Sephora Date Nights could be a thing…

Did you learn, like, so much? Good! Now your part, Step 2, is to play around with the liners you have or go out and buy one that you don’t have. Then practice, practice, practice and feel free to hit me up with questions.

Have a beautiful day 🙂