Don’t Be Intimidated: A Foundation How To

Getting that foundation perfect for my bride. Photo: Rupert Whiteley

Let’s talk about something else–anything else–than the “C” word. (Takes on a different meaning in spring of 2020, doesn’t it?). You’re in the right place/looking at the right screen! This is primarily a beauty blog, so let’s talk beauty.

If I were to pick the makeup product people are most scared of, it has to be foundation. From choosing the correct color match and formulation to how to best apply it, I understand why it can seem like an overwhelming product to start using. But listen, I’m here for you. I’m going to guide you through each step of the process so by the end of this, you’ll have a great foundation–and I do mean that literally and figuratively.

Let’s get to it!

What’s Your Type? The first thing you should consider when buying a foundation is your skin type. Do you have dry skin, oily skin, normal skin or combination skin? Certain foundations work better on certain skin types. Foundations that have a dewy or luminous finish are typically better for dry or normal skin, as oily skin already has its own shine. Matte foundations are normally better for oily skin, as they tend to be a heavier formulation, which can latch onto dry areas. Because they are heavier, it’s hard for the oil to get through the product and because they are matte, they don’t add shine to already shiny skin.Β  I’m not a huge fan of powder foundations (I normally only use them in place of my usual setting powder to get more coverage on clients with acne), but I definitely avoid them on dry skin, as they can cake up when they encounter dry patches. You can check beauty blogs and reviews for the best foundations for different skin types, but I’ll tell you what I like.

For normal and dry skin, MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation is the bee’s knees. For oily skin, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD FoundationΒ  or Armani Luminous Foundation (it’s not that luminous, so it’s fine for oily skin) with Laura Mercier Oil Free Foundation Primer underneath does the job. For combination skin, I use MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation with Laura Mercier Oil Free Foundation Primer underneath and MAC ProLongwear Concealer on the T-zone or oily areas. I realize I’m recommending more than just foundations for two out of four of the skin types, but in my eyes, makeup is a team player situation.Β  Knowing the right kind of foundation for your skin type will help keep your foundation from looking too shiny or cakey.

Throwing Shade. Finding the right foundation shade is key if you want your foundation to look like skin and not makeup. So, here’s how you find that right shade. First Step: Eyeball it. If you look at a row of foundations, you know roughly where you fall. I have faith that you can rule out some shades that would be too light and/or too dark for you.

Second Step: Get samples of 3 – 5 shades that you think could be your perfect match. Stores like Sephora will give you samples, and most chain drugstores will let you return opened beauty products so you can sample by buying a foundation then returning it if it’s the wrong shade. Just keep that receipt, boo boo.

Third Step: In natural light, apply a vertical stripe ofΒ  foundation on your jawline (not om your neck or your hand, which can each be a different color than your face). If you’re testing a few shades, stripe them next to each other. The right shade for you will disappear on your skin when you step back and look in the mirror. You might find that some shades are not darker or lighter than your skin, but look too peach, pink/red, yellow or olive. That’s an undertone issue, so your best bet is to try to find out which undertone the “off” foundation has (some makeup companies will list the undertones of their foundations on their website) and then avoid that undertone when testing foundations going forward, if you can find out that information.

Following these three steps should help you find your Prince or Princess Charming of foundations, but if you’re really stuck, booking a makeup lesson with a pro makeup artist (when life gets back to normal) is an option.

When your foundation is undetectable, you’ve done it right. Photo: Sarah Bastille Photography
Hair: Emily Buffi for Allison Barbera Beauty
Makeup: Allison Barbera

Tools of The Trade. Okay, so now you’ve got the right foundation for your skin type and it matches you perfectly. Congrats! You’re doing better than a lot of YouTube beauty gurus. To really get this right, you have to make sure to apply it in a way that will even out your skintone without overloading the skin with product. There are a few ways to go with this, but I’ll tell you what I prefer to do, as a makeup artist who likes skin to look like skin.

When using a liquid foundation on clients, I use a flat foundation brush to apply the product to the forehead, cheeks and chin. I apply a big dot of it on the center of each area, then use a buffing brush to blend it outwards. On myself, I use my hands to apply liquid foundation, then I use a buffing brush to blend it out. In both cases, I use what’s left on the buffing brush to go over the nose. The skin on noses is different than the rest of the face and it can get quickly overloaded with product, so I typically don’t apply a dot of foundation there. I have combo skin and I get pretty dry in colder, non-humid climates, so when I’m dry, I take a few seconds to press my (clean, washed) hands on each section of face to help the foundation further absorb into my skin via the body heat and the pressure from my hands. I don’t do this when I’m in warmer, humid climates because the oils from my skin already help my foundation absorb.

When I use powder foundations on myself or on my clients, I apply them with a sponge (sometimes the flat one that came with the foundation if I like it, sometimes a wedge sponge). I dip the sponge into the foundation and use a stippling motion to apply to one section of the face. I repeat until I have all of the areas covered. I’ll sometimes lightly go over it with a buffing brush if I think it needs a blend, but I rarely use a brush to initially apply powder foundation, as that can lead to an uneven application.

If you choose the right foundation formulation and shade for your skin and you apply it correctly, you’ve mastered it! Want a job with AB Beauty? πŸ˜‰ With a little bit of trial and error (and isn’t this a great time to try things out at home?), I know you can do this.

If you need help, comment away.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚

The Lockdown List: How I’m Using This Time To Be Extra Productive

This is some crazy shit, isn’t it? It feels like something I’d read about in a novel I’d buy at Hudson News, which I would then half read while I dozed off on the plane.

But it’s real, as is the reality that many people who didn’t previously work from home are now doing so. When I’m not with clients, which is the majority of the time, I work from home. I’m used to spending entire days working from home, without leaving even once, so it turns out I’ve been practicing (but never hoping for or imagining) a quarantine.Β  I know we’re not in a lockdown–yet–in RI, but “The Lockdown List” is a catchy title, so give me a break, okay?

Working from home is a test of discipline, as I see it. I wrote this post about it in January, so if you’re new to the workplace-free life, maybe check that out. That covers the basics, but seeing as though we might all be stuck at home for a while, I wanted to share the specific things I’m doing (you know, besides dealing with the frequent wedding and bridal trial reschedules) with this time. Now that our peak wedding season is getting pushed back and I’m not training any new makeup artists, I’m going to have time to get to all of those little tasks I’ve been putting off because they’re not time sensitive. I thought other people might recognize some of these things as tasks they’ve been meaning to do, so here we are.

Storage Wars. I’m at 91% of the Gmail storage capacity I have, so I’m going to go on a deleting spree. I file and archive a lot of emails, but many of them really don’t need to be saved or referenced again. This is one of those little piddly tasks I always put off, but it’s time to free up some space.

The Ex Files. No, I don’t keep files on all of the guys I’ve dated. (They don’t deserve my energy, said my mother and every psychic I’ve ever been to.) But I do keep files on my computer for jobs, admin stuff, marketing, etc. Some of them are from a few years back–so the exes of my business–and are doing nothing but taking up space, so they gots to go. That’s deleting spree #2, if you’re counting.

Back On Track. Up until I got sick in 2018 (that blog post will come, some day) I was very good at regularly updating our job tracking spreadsheet. But because that wasn’t an absolute essential and I’ve had to keep my screen time to a minimum the last year and a half, I fell behind. Now that my health seems to be getting better, I can get the tracking sheet up to speed. I’ve chipped away at this a little over the last month, but the next few weeks will likely give me the time to make an even bigger dent in it.

Revision Decision. If you don’t assess and revise your business documents, what are you even doing? Company policies change, business operations change, references change–you get the point. I make important revisions–like a location change or changes due to a new law–immediately, but sometimes my docs just need a refresh. I did this a little bit in January and am going to pick up where I left off this month.

But Of Course. I have some recorded online classes I want to watch or finish watching, and I think this is a great time for that. Self isolate and self educate? I’m in.

The Write Right. If I’m smart, I’ll get a bunch of blog posts written because when things get back to normal, it’s going to be crazy town for me. If you write a blog or write any of your social media content ahead of time, if work is slower for you but you still have to get things done as you work from home, this might be the ideal time to do it.

Lemme Update You. (Sung to the tune of Beyonce’s “Upgrade U.”) I keep my website up to date as far as rates and policies, but I’m going go through the content again and see if anything needs tweaking, and upload some new photos. As a plus, Google likes updated websites as it tells them info is current, so website updates are good for the ol’ SEO too.

Pinteresting. It makes sense for my business to have a Pinterest account, so adding to that might be a good thing to do while social distancing is still a thing. It’s also one of the easiest business tasks I have, so I can make some progress with it even after my brain has half melted from all of the wedding and trial reschedules. Who’s to say you can’t pin and have a Quaratine Cocktail (that’s any drink you’d like, when you’d like it)? I won’t tell.

Did that help? Yes? Great! I thought that was what you’d say πŸ˜‰

We’ll get through this, and I know that because Sylvia Browne predicted that we would…

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚

Drugstore Makeup, Part 3: My Haul Reviews

Found a new favorite lipstick from my haul!

You’ve been waiting for this, haven’t you? Okay, then. Let’s do it!

I bought a foundation, blush, concealer, lipstick, cream eyeshadow and mascara. I tried each one at least a couple of times. Here’s what I thought of each one.

Revlon Colorstay Foundation Matte Finish in 200 Nude. When I first starting doing makeup in 2008, I had some Colorstay Foundations in my kit, left over from Esthetics school. I was on a waitress’s salary and needed something to practice with at school that wouldn’t break the bank, and I had heard good things about these foundations. I remember thinking they were a little too thick, so they didn’t last long in my kit. Fast forward 12 years later and…still not loving them. It might have been because I chose the matte version and I’m used to the healthy skin glow I get from MAC Face & Body Foundation, but I felt like my skin looked really dull and the foundation felt heavy. It didn’t look horrible and the shade itself was good, but it was too heavy for me. I come from the school of makeup artists who like skin to look like skin, and I unfortunately didn’t get that with this foundation. I will say it lasted long, even without a primer, but length of wear alone won’t hook me. Did I keep it? Nope. I couldn’t imagine a world in which I would want a heavy foundation on my face.

Too heavy for me.

Maybelline Fit Me Blush in 25 Pink. This powder blush was a very pretty shade and it blended well. I was impressed by the level of pigment. However, it faded extremely fast compared to the MAC powder blushes I use. I think a primer would have helped, but I don’t wear foundation primer on a regular basis because I don’t need it with the products I use. Did I keep it? No, but I might have if it lasted longer.

Not the best fit for me.

L’Oreal Infallible Pro Glow Concealer in 01 Classic Ivory. I bought this in a shade that would work under my eyes but I knew was too light for the rest of my face. It was a good undereye color match for me and did a solid job of minimizing my undereye darkness. I first tried it under my eyes without any moisturizer there, and I found that it got very cakey. The second day I put a thin layer of moisturizer under my eyes first (which I normally do anyway), and it applied very nicely. This concealer is well pigmented and covered my undereye darkness almost as well as my usual MAC ProLongwear Concealer in NW20. The length of wear was very good as well. When I tried it on my face, I found that it caked up quickly, but it was great for undereye coverage as long as I applied a thin layer of moisturizer first. Did I keep it? Kind of. I didn’t return it and I used it pretty regularly for a couple weeks (just swapped it out with my regular ProLongwear when I wanted more coverage), but I ended up giving it to my mother because the concealer she was using wasn’t working well, and I knew this was a good one.

A little moisturizer prep did wonders with this concealer.

CoverGirl Exhibitionist Lipstick in Hot 105. I love a red lip. If I’m wearing lipstick at all, 8 out of 10 times, it’s red. I loved the red of this lipstick, which looks orange-red in the tube but more pink-red on. It lasts for an impressively long time without drying out my lips. Sure, it transfers like most lipsticks will do, but what do you expect? Did I keep it? I certainly did! And I wear it at least once a week.

Too hot to trot…back to CVS.

Maybelline Color Tattoo in Socialite. Cream eyeshadows are underrated. They’re quick and easy to apply, and if you’re lucky, they’re pigmented and stay on well. I wasn’t so lucky, particularly in the longevity department. I tried Socialite, a bronze shade that caught my eye. I first tried it with no eye primer under, and it faded after a few hours. The next time, I used Too Faced Shadow Insurance under it, which made a big difference, although I still didn’t find it to be very long-lasting. The level of pigment was decent and it didn’t crease, but I’d go for a Laura Mercier Caviar Stick or a MAC Paint Point over this product. Did I keep it? That’s a negative, Nancy.

I’m as tattoo-less as I’ve ever been.

L’Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes Mascara. My feelings about this mascara fluctuated as much as spring temperatures in New England. The first day I tried it, I didn’t like it at all. I thought it gave my lashes zero volume, and it smudged a little. To be fair, I was in a rush so I didn’t have time to separate my lashes like I usually do, and I didn’t have translucent powder on my browbone like I often do (to prevent smudging when lashes touch my browbone). I tried it the next day with my typical lashes separation and translucent powder, and I liked it a lot better. Ditto for the next few days. This mascara has a spiky, rubbery wand, which I find uncomfortable to use, but I was really liking the formula. Then I compared it to my beloved Dior Diorshow (one on each eye) and it lost. Diorshow gives my lashes more volume, and there’s no denying that. It’s not a drastic difference and I do think Voluminous Million Lashes is a good mascara, but it didn’t win the battle with Diorshow. Did I keep it? No, but I might have if it had a better wand. I find spiky, rubbery wands really uncomfortable to use. I am picky about mascaras, so I will say this is a good one for most people.

A great mascara at the drugstore level.

So that’s it. Two out of five keepers, and I didn’t even expect it to be that high. I think drugstore makeup has overall improved since I last really used it, but when it comes to pigment and longevity, I think the higher end lines are still where it’s at.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚




The Shortest Month Recap

February went by in the blink of an eye, didn’t it? When I lived in New England year-round, I used to despise February. I thought it was the shortest yet cruelest month, with its dark, short days, cold temperatures and inevitable snowstorms. But now that February is the middle month of my Charleston winters, I wish it was longer. By like 30 days. At least I’ve got March, I guess…

February was the only month in 2020 with no weddings for AB Beauty, which is a weird feeling. But we made up for that with lots of trials, some corporate shoots and a healthy amount of wedding bookings. On the makeup front, I tried some new drugstore products, and a new lip product, all of which I’ll review soon. On the business front, I put a little more thought into some new ideas for AB Beauty and brainstormed with some entrepreneur friends.

Personally, I had a lot of fun in February. Brunches, Happy Hours, ghost tours–it was all very Charleston-y. I took some time to relax in the hopes that I could start to heal some health issues, and I think it helped. I finally got Hulu and made my way through several series (The Mindy Project, Shrill, Broad City, Harlots and High Fidelity) that I enjoyed.

February, I’m sorry I resented you for so long. In the right climate, you are really quite nice.

I hope y’all had a good second-month-of-this-decade too!

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚

Drugstore Makeup, Part 2: My Tried and True Faves

This is a bad picture of some good products.

I rack up CVS ExtraBucks like you wouldn’t believe. Sure, part of that comes from the regular purchasing of toothpaste, contact solution, gum, etc., but a good chunk comes from makeup and beauty products. And you’re dying to know what those products are, aren’t you? Okayyyy….


Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder. I don’t use this on clients because it’s not as long-lasting as the MAC powders I use, but I use it on my own face for day to day use. I have combination skin that gets super shiny in the T-zone in warmer weather, so I’ll usually have to touch up once or twice a day, which doesn’t bother me. The Stay Matte Powders feel lightweight and aren’t as quick to cake up as other drugstore powders. I’ve been using Stay Matte Powders for several years as setting powder, and I think they’re great for everyday use on normal and combo skin. $3.95 at CVS.

Neutrogena Shine Control Powder. I use this powder for on-set touchups, and it works really well. It mattifies the skin without making it look dull or caking up. If you’re a shiny gal, this is a great one to keep in your purse for touchups throughout the day. $14.99 to erase shine on to the go.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick. I don’t have any Revlon lipsticks currently in my own personal makeup bag, but I do have one (Choco-Licious) in my pro kit. I’ve a 90s Girl, so I’ve been into Revlon lipsticks since the days of Coffee Bean and Blackberry (which has sadly been discontinued). Some of the shades can get pretty frosty, but there are also some great shades in the line. I’ve always found these lipsticks to be well pigmented and non-drying, two important qualities for a lipstick to have. If you’re drawn to one of the 72 shades in this line, I’d say give it a try. $8.79 a pop.

Revlon Super Length Mascara. I’ve tried higher end waterproof mascaras, but found that the waterproof version of this mascara works just as well as the waterproofs I’ve tried in the $20+ range. And for a makeup artist who goes through a tube every two – three weeks during wedding season, a lower price tag for a just-as-effective product is well worth it. I don’t suggest waterproof mascara for daily use and in fact, I forbid it. Daily waterproof mascara removal is tough on the lashes, which can lead to breakage. But special occasions, photoshoots or long work events that you want your makeup to stay put through? Go for it. I’ve also used this mascara in a punch to cover grays between color touchups. $8.99 isn’t bad to keep your mascara from running, in my humble opinion.


Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF35. I’ve been using this moisturizer on myself for years, and I’ve yet to find one that tops it. It absorbs quickly, doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky and doesn’t have a strong scent. It also works well when mixed with my Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops. This moisturizer is one of my staples. $11.99 at CVS.

Clean & Clear PERSA-GEL 10. Got a blemish? Watch it shrink down or disappear after applying this benzoyl peroxide spot treatment. The first time I tried this, I had a monster blemish on my jawline. I applied a tiny dot of PERSA-GEL on it before bed, and woke up to a blemish that was 50% smaller. You can use it up to three times a day, but be aware that it will leave a white film after it dries. Benzoyl peroxide is a strong ingredient, so only use a little of this spot treatment at a time on active blemishes only. It’s typically around $8.00 a tube, depending on where you buy it, and especially if you only get the occasional blemish, it will last you a while.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. If you need a good body moisturizer for dry skin, Palmer’s has got you. I’ve used this stuff for years, and I love it. It really moisturizes and has what I consider a pleasant (but not overpowering) scent. If you can’t tell, I hate when a moisturizer is slow to absorb or leaves a sticky film, but I have no such problem with this cocoa butter dream. At $6.50, I consider this a steal.


Revlon Nail Enamel in 680 Revlon Red. Back when I lived in Florida in my early 20s, some guy I was talking to at a bar told me he thought it was sexy when women painted their toenails red. I didn’t know this guy and never saw him after that drunken conversation, but he must have said it right when the “nail polish color choices” part of my brain was impressionable, because I’ve been painting these little piggies red since. I bought a bottle of Revlon Red several years ago and found that it stays on my toenails really well. It doesn’t last half as long on my fingernails, but it’s worth it for the toenail polish longevity. $5.99 is a hell of a lot cheaper than a pedicure!


L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray. I’d read about this hairspray in interviews with many a celebrity hair stylist, so when I found myself in need of some hairspray while I was in Ireland last fall, I picked this up at a pharmacy. I don’t love the scent of it, but man, does it work. Unless it’s mega humid out and I haven’t gotten a Brazilian Blowout recently, it holds down my strands so they don’t frizz up. It’s a pretty strong hold so I don’t go crazy with it, which might be why I haven’t noticed any stiffness, stickiness or buildup from it. $14.99 for all of that? I’ll take it.

Psssst Original Dry Shampoo. God bless the person who invented dry shampoo. And Psssst Dry Shampoo is as good of a dry shampoo as I’ve ever tried. It’s not overly scented and as long as you rub it in–which you need to do with any dry shampoo–it doesn’t leave white residue, even on raven-haired beauties like myself (kidding about the “beauties” part but serious about the absence of residue). $7.29 for a bottle of this instant hair refresher.

I’m looking forward to hopefully adding some new favorites to my list after my Drugstore Haul #1 testing is complete. In the meantime, if you’ve got some drugstore favorites, comment away.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚




Drugstore Makeup, Part 1: My Philosophy

Proof of my recent drugstore haul.

I recently asked for suggestions for drugstore makeup products, so here we are. I understand the request for this type of blog post, as non-drugstore makeup can get expensive. I went out and bought a few makeup products from CVS to test out, but before I start using those and before I give you a list of drugstore beauty products I’ve liked for a long time, I need to explain my philosophy on drugstore makeup and why I can only take testing products so far.

Let me first say that just because a product is pricey doesn’t mean it’s good. I’ve tried makeup, skincare products and hair products that were $$$ and were crap. However, it’s true that some of the ingredients and/or processes used to make a product last longer, absorb quickly, apply more smoothly or make it pigmented are more expensive, and that is typically reflected in the pricing of those products.

I haven’t tried every drugstore product out there, and there will be some that I don’t like that work great for other people. In general though, I have some thoughts on each type of makeup that you can find at a drugstore. I may change my mind after testing out the products from my CVS haul, but I’m writing this before I test anything out.

Foundation. I’ve always told clients that if you can only splurge on one makeup product, make it a foundation. I’ve yet to try a drugstore foundation that comes anywhere to close the quality of the foundations I like best (MAC Face and Body, Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and Make Up For Ever HD Foundation). I find that drugstore foundations often have weird undertones and/or limited shade selections, and the ones I’ve tried don’t blend or absorb as easily as the higher end foundations. The biggest difference I’ve noticed though is the length of wear. Every drugstore foundation I’ve ever tried has worn off wayyyyyy quicker than the non-drugstore foundations I use. Maybe that’s fine with people for their everyday use, but in my line of work, I require products that stay on well. I would think though that most people would want their foundation to still be on by their lunch break, and I’ve had clients tell me that a disappearing act from their foundation was their biggest gripe. So between length of wear, color matching and blendability, I haven’t historically had any love for drugstore foundations. I picked up a Revlon Colorstay Foundation in my recent drugstore makeup haul, so I’ll be testing that out.

Concealer. The drugstore concealers I’ve tried all either wore off very quickly or were thick/quick to cake up. There also seems be an issue with undertones and/or selections of shades in some lines. I think drugstore concealers are similar to drugstore foundations in these ways. Also in my recent haul is the L’Oreal Infallible Pro Glow Concealer, so we’ll see if that one is better than the ones I’ve tried in the past.

Blush. I’ve tried drugstore cream and powder blushes, and I’ve yet to be impressed by any of them. I’ve found drugstore blushes to fade much more quickly than higher end blushes. I also think they tend to have a limited shade selection, although that seems to be getting better the past few years. I picked up a pink Maybelline Fit Me blush in my haul, so I’ll review that in an upcoming post.

Primer. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried a drugstore primer. The last time I looked for one, they were all silicone based, and silicone based primers can ball up and cause foundation to roll off the skin. That happens because silicone doesn’t interact well with the ingredients of some foundations. I’ll test a primer next time I do a drugstore haul, but in the meantime, I’m sticking with my tried and true non-silicone primers.

Powder. I think drugstore powder is fine for everyday use, and I use one myself (details in an upcoming blog post). I don’t use it on clients though because I don’t think it lasts as long as a MAC or Laura Mercier powder. If you’re not super oily and/or you don’t mind touching up a few times a day, I think a drugstore powder can work fine for you.

Eyeshadow. I think you can sometimes get a decent drugstore cream eyeshadow, but I’ve never been impressed by drugstore powder eyeshadows. The color payoff tends to be weak, meaning it takes several applications of shadow to achieve the same intensity you would get from one or two applications of, for example, a MAC eyeshadow. That’s the pigment in drugstore powder shadows being weaker than its higher end counterparts, because the pigments and/or processes used to intensify the pigments are more expensive. So whether it’s the actual type of ingredient used for the pigment or the ratio of non-pigmented ingredients to pigmented ingredients, you’re ending up with a weaker product. Think of a drugstore eyeshadow like a watered down gin and tonic–it’s got more tonic than gin. If you only wear eyeshadow once in a great while and you don’t mind having to apply several layers to achieve the intensity you want, go for it. But if you’re a regular eyeshadow wearer and you think you’re saving money by going the drugstore route, you’re probably not. You’ll likely have to use at least twice as much (probably more) eyeshadow as you would if you bought a higher end powder eyeshadow, so you could end up spending the same as you would have had you bought the higher end eyeshadow first. I picked up a cream eyeshadow and will buy a powder one for my next haul, but I have a feeling the drugstore powder eyeshadows are still weakly pigmented.

Eyeliner. I didn’t pick up any eyeliners in my recent drugstore haul, but I’ve tried enough in the past to have some perspective. I’ve found drugstore pencil eyeliners to either be dry and uncomfortable to use, or extremely smudgy. The crayon and gel liners I’ve tried have all been weakly pigmented or quick to wear off. I do think it’s possible to get a good liquid liner at a drugstore. I don’t personally use liquid liners and it doesn’t make sense to use them on clients because I can’t use the applicator directly on them, but for your own personal use, I think you can find a good liquid liner at the drugstore level.

Mascara. I like waterproof drugstore mascaras and have found one that works better than the high end waterproofs I’ve tried (keep your eyes peeled for the next post in this series). For non-waterproof though, I’ve yet to find one that’s as good as my beloved Diorshow. I’ll be testing a L’Oreal mascara from my haul, so we’ll see how that goes…

Brow Powder and Gels. I’ve found the drugstore versions of these products to be weakly pigmented and quick to wear off. Two things you want opposite of in a brow product! I’ll test out some new ones in my next haul.

Lipstick. I think you can get a good lipstick from a drugstore. I especially like Revlon lipsticks, both for their shade selections and their textures. I’ve tried some drugstore lipsticks that were weakly pigmented or quick to wear off, which again, I think comes down to the cost of certain pigments, processes or long-wear ingredients. But out of all of the drugstore makeup products, I’m most likely to buy a lipstick. I picked up a pretty red CoverGirl lipstick in my recent haul, so I’ll review that soon.

Lip Liner. There are good lip liners at the drugstore level. They don’t tend to have the color selection that a company like MAC does, but with the exception of a few high end lines, I don’t find drugstore lip liners to be that drastically different than many of their higher end counterparts.

We’ll see if I change my tune after I test out the products from my recent haul, but for now, I’m not sold on the quality of drugstore products. Pigment, length of wear and blendability are three very important factors for professional makeup artists, and I think those are the three areas that drugstore products tend to fall short in.

I’ll do another drugstore makeup haul at some point, but I can’t make it a habit. I’m primarily a makeup artist, not a beauty blogger, so I can’t have a kit full of drugstore makeup to use on clients. But because I want to give the people/readers what they asked for, I’ll keep it in mind that people are interested in reviews of drugstore makeup products.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚





Undetectable Makeup: How To Avoid Cake Face

Nothing cakey about this makeup! Photo: East Passage Photography Makeup: Allison Barbera

There have been a lot of makeup trends over the years, but there’s one we’ve never seen and probably never will: cakey makeup. I’m talking visible foundation and/or powder that looks like it’s an inch off the skin, with product settling into lines, pores and other textured parts of the skin.

There are different choices that lead to caked up makeup, and I’m here to help you not make those mistakes.

Shed The Dead (Skin). It all starts with skincare. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that haven’t shed themselves from the surface of the skin. If you’ve got too many dermis corpses hanging out on your skin, foundation will cling to those, which will cause your makeup to look caked on. A regular exfoliation routine (unless you’re using something that’s contraindicated with exfoliation) will help eradicate this issue.

Moisture Matters. Foundation applies much more smoothly on a moisturized skin, so make sure you’re not forgetting this important step. Just let it fully absorb before applying any face makeup.

Hydration Nation. Dehydrated skin causes fine lines to show more prominently, and when makeup settles into those fine lines, instant caking. To help keep skin hydrated–which is different than moisturized–I recommend regularly using hylaluronic acid after you shower or wash your face (it needs to be applied to damp skin).

I Got You Covered. Foundations can generally be categorized as Sheer/Light Coverage, Medium Coverage and Full Coverage. For liquid foundations, the more coverage they have, the thicker they tend to be. Powder foundation coverage is partially due to the pigments and ingredients in the products, and partially due to how you apply it (which I’ll get to). The important thing to know is that the fuller coverage you use, the higher the chances that your makeup will get cakey wit it. And if I may give my two cents on full coverage foundation, I don’t think it’s necessary unless your entire face is covered in acne (and even then, I have some other ideas). If you have generally clear skin with only a few blemishes or some minor discoloration that you’d like to minimize, you’re better off using a sheer foundation all over and concealer and/or color corrector where needed.

Everything in Moderation. A good pro makeup artist will tell you they use the minimal amount of foundation needed for each. They don’t use eight pumps worth of foundation on one face, like I’ve seen many a YouTuber do. Listen here, my friend–the skin will NEVER absorb that much foundation. And if it can’t be absorbed, it’s going to sit on the skin and be noticeable (and probably distracting) to anyone you have a conversation with. Cake City, USA, baby!

I didn’t even use a quarter-sized amount of foundation, which is why my skin looked like skin.

A Layered Story. Much like foundations, concealers come in different coverage types. The best way to avoid caking is to start with less concealer than you think you need. Apply it in thin layers to build up your coverage, as there’s no coming back from thick layers without removing them. If you start with a too thick concealer or use too much at once, your skin won’t absorb and it will sit on the skin, lookin’ all obvious and shit.

Minimize Your Risk. When makeup settles into lines and pores, it looks cakey. If you fill in those lines and pores before you apply your foundation, though…well, we’ve solved that problem, haven’t we? Just make sure to give the pore minimizer a minute to absorb before applying your beautifully thin layers of foundation and concealer.

A No Bake Makeup. Powder is often a culprit in the ol’ cake face dilemma, so beware. It’s not that you can’t use powder, but do so with a light hand. Don’t bake your powder (putting a bunch on the skin then letting it sit there for a while before brushing it off.) Baking leads to caking, darling. Start with less powder than you think you need, then add more if you still see shine. A thin layer is all you really need to set your foundation, so there’s no reason to go overboard.


The Right Tools. When I use foundation on clients, I apply it with a flat foundation brush then I blend it in with a buffing brush, using circular motions. In this case, the flat foundation brush is the vehicle but the buffing brush does the driving. When I apply it on my own face, I use my hands then blend it in with a circular motion using a buffing brush. I think these two techniques allow for the most natural finish. Using a Beautyblender type sponge to stipple on foundation can give you fuller coverage, and that can lead to caking if you haven’t prepped your skin well or are using a heavy foundation.Β  Using a buffing brush to blend, blend, blend tends to give the most natural finish.

Set It Off. Occasionally, even though I’ve done everything right with the makeup, I’ll notice some low level caking on a client’s face due to lack of exfoliation or hydration. But once I apply setting spray, the minor caking goes away. I’m not suggesting you ignore skincare, layer on full coverage products, bake your powder and think you can you fix that all with some setting spray, but if you have a tiny bit of caking–I’m talking a 1 out of 10–a spritz or two of setting spray may take care of your problem.

Cake face doesn’t have to happen to you. With the right choices and precautions, your foundation, concealer and powder will absorb nicely and look seamless. And don’t we both want that for you?

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚

The First Month Recap

Some pretty houses in Charleston. I lived in the one on the left a few winters ago.

I started doing monthly recaps in June, then November came along and apparently I forgot. Samesies with December. My bad! Let’s pick it back up for January, okay?

The first month of this new decade was a good one for AB Beauty. We had two weddings, a bunch of corporate shoots and a ton of trials. We also welcomed hair stylist, Lauren Adamo, to the team. And girl, the amount of wedding inquiries we got was CRAZY! We booked several 2020 weddings, and the inquiries are still coming in strong. Thank you to everyone who booked with us or referred a bride! We really appreciate it.

I got to Charleston, SC on 12/30 for my fourth (working) snowbird winter. It’s been awesome, as always. I don’t really do makeup for any clients while I’m snowbirding, so my time is spent handling bookings, creating wedding schedules, coordinating trials, trying to keep up with the latest social media trends, working on growing the business, etc. Due to some health issues I’ve had for the last year and 13 months (but who’s counting?), I’ve been trying to get in a lot of rest and relaxation. That’s not easy for me, as I’ve got Guilt on one shoulder and Ambition on the other, but I’m trying to give my body and mind a break. Once I get back to Newport, things will get pretty intense, so I should probably take advantage of these shorter work weeks while I can.

I can do things like stroll through alleys in Charleston now that I have shorter workweeks!

January was a good month for me and for AB Beauty, and I hope it was for you, too.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚


My Winter Wonders

I will NEVER be that happy about snow. Mark my words.

I live in a warm-ish climate for most of the winter, so I can’t say I hate winter like I did when I lived in New England year-round. In fact, winter is now probably my favorite season, since I spend it in a city I love and am able to cut my work weeks in half while I’m here. But I still appreciate discovering things I love each season, because who doesn’t want a little (drug-free) upper now and then?

Here’s what I’m feeling this winter:

NuFACE Mini. I started using this skincare device in November, but I have to include it in one of my Favorites blog posts because I love it so much. For more on this miracle worker, read this then this.

Day 2 of using the NuFACE Mini and Day 65 of using it. See why I love it?

The Great British Bakeoff. I don’t bake and other than Nailed It, I’ve never been interested in baking shows. Somehow I started watching this one on Netflix, and I got really into it. I love a British accent but more than that, I love a British person with a sense of humor, and this show has that. And as a creative person myself, I appreciate watching people create things they’re passionate about.

MILK MAKEUP Glow Oil Lip + Cheek. My new favorite makeup product! You can read all about it here.

That’s Halo on the left and Flare on the right.

Zarbee’s 99% Honey Cough Soothers Natural Cherry Flavor. I got sick right before Thanksgiving and the cough I had lasted an entire month. It was the worst cough I ever had, and it would hit me anytime I moved. My friend, Carol, gave me some Zarbee’s cough drops because she said they were the only thing that helped a nasty cough she had the month before. I went to get my own from CVS and they were out of the ones Carol gave me, so I bought these. They didn’t make my cough completely disappear, but if I popped one when I felt a coughing fit coming on, it seemed to help. They contain no processed sugars and they taste great, so bye bye Ludens and Ricola.

Michelle Wolf’s Joke Show. Michelle Wolf always makes me laugh, and her new Netflix special is solid. I laughed really hard several times, and that doesn’t always happen when I watch standup. We all have our own taste in comedy, and some people don’t like it at all (which I find baffling). But if you like to laugh, give this a try. I think Michelle Wolf is truly funny, smart and original and I was psyched to see this special come out. Disclaimer: If you’re easily offended, don’t watch this. Or any standup specials, really. I guess just stick to the news.

The Body Shop Mango Body Butter. Back in the 90s, I was obsessed with The Body Shop. I tried just about everything they made between 1994 – 1996. (Whatchu know about Satsuma?) I spent a lot of my allowance money on their selection of body butters. While I was in Galway, Ireland in October, my friend and I stopped in The Body Shop (as one does in Ireland). I smelled the Mango Body Butter again for the first time in probably a decade, and I was sold. Well, kind of sold. I couldn’t fit one more thing in my overpacked suitcase, so I told my mother I’d like it for Christmas if she was looking for gift ideas. I’ve been using it since, and I really love it. I remember the 90s version being more liquidy, but 20+ years later, it’s become a true body butter. The scent is the same, and it makes my skin soft without leaving a sticky film. I’m glad Mango Body Butter and I are back together again.

Hello, old friend.

Shia LaBeouf. When some asks me who my celebrity crush is, the best I can usually come up with is “a young Al Pacino.” But move out of the way, Michael Corleone. I’ve got a crush on Shia now. I’ve of course known who he was for a long time, but I hadn’t seen any interviews with him until this Hot Ones episode, which is when I fell in love. Then I saw this Burning Questions segment on Ellen, and fell more in love. Think Shia would date a stubborn, partially blue-haired entrepreneur snowbird?

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. I love a gel manicure, but I only get a few a year because a) regular gel manicures would get costly and b) they tend to weaken my nails post-removal. At the same time, when I use regular nail polish, it doesn’t look as good and chips within two days. So I tried the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel set, which I got at CVS. Did it last longer than regular polish? Hell yeah. Did it last as long as a salon gel polish manicure? Hell no. It gave me 4 – 5 days of chip-free life, and I find that impressive for a non-salon gel manicure.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel. This book was another Christmas gift from my parents. (What? I give them a list of things I would buy anyway, and say “Have at it, if you so desire.”) It’s a novel about four people who play in a quartet together, and how their lives become intertwined. It’s really well written and easy to read, and I felt like I really knew the characters. Also, I have to say, I love the cover of the book. I didn’t judge this book by it, but let’s not forget that I do like pretty things. If you’re the type who doesn’t trust book reviews from a beauty blogger, click here.

Tell me that’s not a gorgeous cover!

Pandora 50s Rock Station. I’ve been told that it’s not cool to listen to Pandora, but I’m about as interested in being cool as I am in watching sports.Β  I’m a Pandora gal, and I usually listen to the 90s Hip Hop, Hip Hop BBQ and assorted comedy stations. Something recently made me want to listen to some 1950s rock, and of course Pandora has a station for that. So now, that’s my go to. I think I’m an old soul.

These ten things have made my winter days a little brighter, prettier, more interesting, funnier or just better. (It doesn’t hurt that I’m also in my happy place–Charleston, SC–until spring.) I hope you’ve found some little rays of sunshine/new things you love this winter.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚


Product Review: MILK Makeup Glow Oil Lip + Cheek

I used a lot of Halo on my cheeks this past New Year’s Eve, and I don’t regret it. The perfect flush!

I love a good cream blush. (And by cream, I mean a true cream blush as well as liquid, gel and stick formulations.) A quality cream blush will blend seamlessly onto bare skin or over foundation, and I find that cream blushes often give a more realistic flush than powder blushes on their on. I normally use a cream blush then a thin layer of setting powder, then either more cream blush (if the formulation blends well over powder) or powder blush in a similar color (if it does not).

There are some crappy cream blushes out there, but the MILK Makeup Glow Oil Lip + Cheek sticks are far from crappy.Β  I bought three of these little cuties upon recommendation from my friend, Ali, at the Newport Sephora. They might be my favorite cream blushes ever. I bought Flare (a coral shimmer), Halo (a bright pink shimmer) and Astro (a plum shimmer). Astro wasn’t that flattering on my skintone so I put it in my pro kit, but I had to keep Flare and Halo for myself (I’ll buy them for my pro kit as well, because my clients deserve all of the good stuff, too!). They also have Glimmer, a mauve shimmer which I will likely try and buy too.

I’ve been wearing Flare or Halo most days for about a month. They are both highly pigmented, and they glide onto the skin like a dream. The shimmer is very minimal and doesn’t settle into my, shall we call them, generously sized pores. The rice bran oil in these cream blushes make then super blendable, both over and under powder. I’ve used them on bare skin as well, and they haven’t let me down there either.

Some of Flare (on the left) got stuck to the cap. I didn’t gauge a piece out, and it’s important to me that you know that.

I’ve mostly used the Glow Oil Lip + Cheek sticks as cheek color, but I like the way they look on my lips, too. They’re comfortable to wear on the lips, and then look like more of a lip stain than a lipstick, which is good for you lipstick-phobes out there. I like using the same shade on my lips as I have on my cheeks, as I think that ties a look together nicely.

The packaging is modern and pretty without being frilly. The cap stays on well, and it’s easy to twist the bottom to get more product. Because Flare and Halo especially are so pigmented, one stick of this stuff should last you a while.

The Glow Oil Lip + Cheek sticks give a beautiful application and are pigmented enough to make them worth the price. If you like one of the four shades they currently offer, I would 100% recommend trying one. A believable, blendable flush or a pretty lip is worth $15, in my book.

Have a beautiful day πŸ™‚