I thought I did this review ages ago! I use Balm Dotcom every day on my myself, as well as on every wedding and event client and I’ve sung its praises in many an Instagram post. I’ve written about it in other blog posts, which might be why I thought I had reviewed it. But I didn’t, and so now, here we are.
Like any other human, I get dry lips sometimes. Part of it is probably due to dehydration (I’m not the best water-drinker some days) and part to the sometimes-drying lip products I test out (occupational hazard). Whatever the reason, I can not stand the feeling of dry lips. I’m from the Lip Gloss Generation (shoutout to my other 90s Girls). We were brought up on Lip Smackers, then we graduated to lip gloss in middle school and kept that going through our mid 20s. Our lips didn’t have a chance to be moisture-less! I have always kept a lip balm in my purse, and another on my nightstand. Because what kind of maniac goes to bed with dry lips?!?!
But if I’m being honest, I was never 100% happy with any of the lip balms I tried. Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Rosebud Salve, Fresh, Aquaphor Lip Repair–I made the rounds. Some worked better than others, but none really did the trick. Then I discovered Glossier Balm Dotcom. Like many of my favorite products, it was a gift from my cousin, Saint Maria. This was back when Glossier only made one Balm Dotcom, so we’re talking original flavor here.
I was immediately impressed by this universal salve, as they call it, so I kept buying it and have now tried most of the flavors. I mainly use it on my lips, but I’ve also used the original one on areas where I’ve got little burns (via a curling iron, usually). It does seems to help the burns heal quicker, which is great. But what I’m really impressed with is how well it hydrates my lips. The only time they are ever really dry anymore is after I’ve worn a matte lipstick. As long as I apply Balm Dotcom several times for 24 hours post-lipstick, my lips revert back to their normal state.
Balm Dotcom now comes in eight flavors: Original, Birthday, Rose, Cherry, Mint, Coconut, Mango and Berry. Berry is new so I haven’t tried that one yet, but I plan to. I have not tried Mint because I don’t think I’d like it, but my borderline OCD brain can’t stand the thought of trying seven out of eight of the flavors, so I’ll probably cave in. I’ll update this post as I try those two flava flaves, but in the meantime, I’ll tell you what I think of the other six, in order of how much I like them.
Original. It’s perfection. I keep one on my nightstand because I have to apply it before I go to sleep, and I have another in my pro kit. Like all of the Balm Dotcoms, it comes in a squeeze tube and it is takes surprisingly long to use up all of the product. I find the Original to be the most hydrating of all of the flavors. It has no tint to it, so you can use it anywhere.
Mango. This Balm Dotcom came out this year, and with my penchant for tropical scents, I knew I had to try it. It has a sheer coral tint, which I love. It seems maybe a tiny bit less hydrating than the Original, but it’s still more hydrating than other lip balms I’ve tried. Mango currently resides in my purse, and I will be buying a new one when this tube crosses over.
Coconut. Coconut is one of the untinted Balm Dotcoms, and it is 99% as hydrating as the Original. I love love love coconut scented things, which is why this was my dream balm…at first. For the first week I had it, it smelled beautifully coconut-ish. Then after that, it started to smell like–I swear to you–buttered popcorn. I thought I was going crazy, but I have since talked about this with other Balm Dotcom fans and they agreed with me about the popcorn transition. That’s not really a scent I care to have on my lips, so I didn’t end up buying a second tube. But in terms of hydration, it is really good.
Rose. Rose has a “barely there pink tint,” which I know a lot of people like. In terms of hydration, it’s as hydrating as Coconut. I’m just not a big fan of the rose scent in my lip balms (but somehow like it in Diorshow Mascara). If you like rose-scented products, I would definitely recommend this.
Birthday. Birthday smells like cake, and has the perfect amount of shimmer. If we were going off just scent and appearance, this would hands down be my favorite. But when it comes to hydration, it’s not there for me. I actually find it to be a bit drying. I like it the look and scent so much though that I still wear it. I just prep my lips first with the Original, wait for that to absorb, then apply a thin layer of Birthday. There’s a work around for everything, if you want it enough.
Cherry. I like cherries and I often wear red lipstick, so you’d think I’d like this cherry scented lip balm with a sheer red tint. Sadly, I do not. I think it smells like cough medicine, I don’t love the tint, and I find it very drying. Sorry, Cherry. I really wanted this to work out.
For the most part, I love the Balm Dotcoms. I find several of the flavors to be superior when it comes to hydrating. None of them feel sticky or heavy, and they all have great packaging. The caps stay on, and the product doesn’t leak out. They are $12 each (or $30 for three), which can seem like a lot if you compare it to $2.94 for a three pack of Chapstick. But the difference is, Balm Dotcoms work. If you have constant dry lips, you might find that $12 (or $30) worth it.
Getting married in the Newport area? Congratulations! It’s a great place to have a wedding. From the waterfront venues to the mansions to the beach and park options, Newport has a lot to offer for weddings. My company has been doing weddings since 2008, and the majority of them have been in Newport and Middletown (the town right next to Newport on Aquidneck Island). I’ve learned a lot about having a wedding in this area, and I think the right thing to do is pass that knowledge on to you.
Ready for some local, wedding vendor intelligence?
Festivals & Events. A tourist destination is nothing without its events, right? And Newport has a lot of them. Some are on the smaller side, and others bring in huge crowds. If you’re planning your wedding for an event weekend, you might want to let your guests know to tack on a little extra travel time. Also, you should be prepared in terms of hotel room blocks. The heaviest traffic events are usually the Newport Folk Festival (last weekend in July), The Newport Jazz Festival (first weekend in August) and the International Boat Show (mid-September). The International Tennis Hall of Fame Championship (early July), The Newport Flower Show (usually the third weekend of June), and The Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival (late September) bring some traffic to Bellevue Avenue and the Newport Marathon (usually the second Sunday in October) causes road closures and detours. Salve Regina University graduation (usually the third weekend in May) can make some dents in hotel room availability. The Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade (the Saturday before March 17, or on March 17 if it falls on a Saturday) really affects the downtown area, as Thames Street is part of the parade route so it gets blocked off. Those are the biggest events that I’ve noticed that can have an impact on a Newport wedding. You can keep an eye on the Newport events schedule here. It also might be worth it to follow Newport Buzz, What’s Up Newp and Newport Patch on Facebook for local info.
The Newport Season. The Newport Summer Season technically starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day, but it’s not a ghost town for all of the time before and after that. Newport is pretty quiet in January, February and March though, really only coming alive a little during February school vacation week and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March. April can start to pick up if the weather is nice. The last weekend of April has been a popular one for weddings because from what I understand, that’s the last weekend for off season rates at many of the venues. May gets busier, particularly on the weekends and then definitely on Memorial Day Weekend. June is also busy, especially once schools get out, as Newport is a popular family vacation spot. I consider Peak Season to be Fourth of July through Labor Day Weekend. After Labor Day, the weekends stay busy as long as it’s nice out, but it’s easier to get around and find parking on weekdays. Some restaurants close in late September or early October, then re-open in April or May. Beach weather is usually gone by October, which thins out the weekend day-tripper traffic. November and December are much quieter, with some holiday season shoppers on weekend but no big events. If you want your wedding in the busy, fun summertime Newport, aim for between Fourth of July and Labor Day. If you want that seem feel but a little quieter, Memorial Day until the Fourth, as well as the weekends after Labor Day in September, will do it for you. You can have a beautiful fall wedding in Newport (with lower prices at some venues) in October and November. If you like the holidays, Newport looks pretty in December, so that could be a good choice for you. The deep off-season months (January, February and March) definitely hold their own appeal in terms of pricing and likely vendor availability. And if you consider April the pre-season month, with its longer days and sometimes spring weather, that can be a good one. And now I’ve covered the whole year for you!
The Weather. New England weather can be unpredictable, but you know, that’s how weather works. January is usually cold and typically Newport sees some snow during it. And the last few years, January had a least a couple single digit days from what I remember from Facebook posts (I’ve been getting the hell out of RI and loving life in SC from January until April the last few years). February brings more cold and usually some snow, but at least the sun sets later each day! March has been the mean girl the past few winters, with cold temps and usually one last big-ish snow storm. Early April has been feeling like winter, but with little whispers of warmer temps. It is extremely rare to see any major snowfall in April. By late April, it’s typically in the 50s, but I do remember one glorious late April weekend a few years back that was in the low 70s. The temps begin to go in the right direction in May, starting in the high 50s and low 60s and ending in the high 60s and low 70s. June is usually mostly in the 70s, and the days are wonderfully long. July has been our warmest and most humid month the last few years, with temps in the 80s and occasionally low 90s. August is definitely summer too, although the cool air can start to creep in at night as early as mid-August. September tends to be beautiful. 70s during the day, little or no humidity and cooler nights. If there’s a hurricane in the southern part of the country though, we can get the tail end of it as a tropical storm or just a rainy, windy day, but a direct hit is rare. It’s still usually warm enough to wear open-toed shoes through mid-October, and you’ll get plenty of fall foliage photos opps that month. November is solidly fall weather, and in terms of photos, you might want to keep in mind what time the sun sets (most people end up doing First Looks and formal photos before the ceremony in fall and winter, due to the shorter days). December typically isn’t brutally cold in Newport and we don’t usually get big snow storms in December, but some light snow is common.
All of that being said, Mother Nature ain’t on nobody’s schedule. We’ve seen snow in October in Newport, and days in the 60s in February. Rain can happen any time, and sometimes September has more warm days than June. My advice to you is to pick a venue that has an indoor space you like as much (or almost as much) as its outdoor space, so if you plan an outdoor ceremony and the weather messes you up, at least you’ll be happy under a non-tented roof. Luckily, the Newport area has many venues that are beautiful both inside and out, so you have options.
Newport Bridge Work. There are two ways onto Aquidneck Island: over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, or over the Sakonnet River Bridge to Portsmouth (what locals call “the back way”). If you or your guests are traveling over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, you might want to check the status of work being done there. There is a multi-phase bridge work project that has been happening on the Newport Bridge over the past couple of years that has brought with it lane closures and backed up bridge traffic. They have to do the work during warmer months (something about the ground not being too cold), so it’s been starting around June and ending in the fall. If you have guests who would be coming into Newport over the two bridges, you might want to check out RITBA for info on the work schedule.
Newport Street Parking. Made it past the bridge work? Good job! Now it’s time to find parking. It’s usually not a problem for wedding guests to find parking, as all of the churches and venues have parking lots. But the getting-ready part of the day can be a different animal. If you’re getting ready at a hotel, your bridal party, beauty team, videographer, photographer, planner and whoever else will be with you shouldn’t have a problem (although I recommend checking with your hotel first in case they want them to park somewhere specific or get a temporary parking pass). But if you’re at a rental home in the downtown area, it’s unlikely that there will be that many (or any) off street spots available. That’s not really a problem during the off season (although October and April have been getting busier), but during the summer season, Newport street parking is extremely limited. People can get stuck circling around for 20 – 30 minutes, waiting for a nearby spot to open up. (Hair stylists, makeup artists, videographers and photographers tend to have a decent amount of gear to lug around, so parking a 10 minute walk away might not be an option for them.) The good news is, Newport has a lot of pay lots! If you can scout out a nearby pay lot beforehand or ask the property owner where one is, you can cross that off your list early on instead of dealing with it on your wedding day.
Middletown Street Parking. Middletown town is literally the middle town on Aquidneck Island, if you’re wondering where it got its name. (What, you don’t like Jeopardy type facts?) Newport is the southernmost city on the island, with Middletown to its north and Portsmouth above that. Middletown has beaches, wedding venues and a lot of rental homes near those wedding venues, so it’s popular spot for weddings and the getting-ready part of the day. What they probably don’t mention in those rental home listings is that there is no street parking allowed on some of the streets in Middletowns (specifically, from what I’ve experienced, those streets within a mile or so of the beaches). If you’re planning to get ready at one of those rental homes and it has a driveway that fits two cars, but you’ve got six bridesmaids, two hair stylists, two makeup artists, a videographer and a photographer who will be at the house, you’ll need to figure out the parking situation. Unlike Newport, there aren’t really any pay lots in that part of Middletown, so you might want to talk to the property owner ahead of time to try to figure that out. (Sometimes if your venue is near the rental home, they let you park there early and you can have someone from your group shuttle people to the rental home, and I have a vague memory of one AB Beauty bride calling the Middletown Police to get special permission to temporarily park a few cars on the street. And there can be other options too.) Better to straighten it out ahead of time than deal with a parking mess the day of!
Beach Traffic. Particularly around Easton’s Beach (that’s First Beach to the locals), there’s always traffic during the summer between 3:00pm – 5:00pm when most people leave the beach. That traffic also affects the westbound lanes on the Newport and Jamestown bridges, as well as the Route 4 exit off of route Route 1. It’s not major standstill–we’re not talking going-one-mile-in-an-hour-Boston-rush-hour type traffic–but it can add some time onto a drive.
Venue Access. If there is a bridal suite at your venue, your first thought might be “Let’s get ready there!” But often access to those suites is only allowed two – three hours before your ceremony, which is usually not enough time for hair and makeup services. If there is a bridal suite that you’d like to get ready in, I would make sure to ask when you would be able to get in. Some that have that three hour rule also sometimes allow you to rent them out for the day, so that could be an option for you. The moral of the story is, look into it. Ask questions and find out what’s allowed before you make any plans.
Ocean Breezes And Then Some. Aquidneck Island is, you know, an island. That means we are surrounded by water, and with water comes ocean breezes. They’re lovely on a hot day, but things can get windy. And a strong wind will whip your hair back and forth, whip your hair back and forth. If are getting married on the water or taking pictures at the beach, just be aware of the wind and what it can do to hair styles (particularly down styles and half up styles). This is part of the reason we offer additional hair touchups for brides at AB Beauty. AB Beauty hair stylists can make your hair stay perfectly in place in regular weather, but strong wind guests during two hours of photos are a different story. It’s not that every day in the Newport area is windy–I mean, we’re not Chicago–but it’s worth a mention.
Off Season Weddings. If you love a venue in the Newport area but can’t afford a summer Saturday, try looking into a Friday or Sunday. If that’s still out of budget, it’s worth looking into an off-season date if you’re okay with a potentially less ideal weather day. If your ceremony and reception will be inside and the only real outside need you have is for photos, you might be able to make it work. I was a bridesmaid in a Newport New Year’s Eve wedding many moons ago and we took some photos outside. I’m an always-cold person and I don’t remember it being freezing because we did it so quickly. Other than lower pricing, an off season wedding means more hotel availability, less traffic and often more vendor availability. Just something to think about, bride-to-be.
I hope this has been helpful to you if you’re planning or even just considering having a wedding in the Newport area. If you have any questions, ask away. I’ve lived in Newport for most of my adult life and have had a beauty business here for the past 11+ years, so I think I’m pretty well versed in this area.
I know, I know, not all people born in August are Leo’s, but doesn’t it kind of feel like it? And that’s the way they would want it. (That’s a joke for the astrology crowd.) I’ve got a lot of Leo’s in my life and we tend to get along well, so I’ve got nothin’ but love for my lions. In tribute to them, I am calling this August recap “The Leo Month Recap.”
In August, Allison Barbera Beauty celebrated 11 years in business. I have a pre-teen! That’s crazy. We had 15 weddings, a bunch of trials and some corporate shoots. All of the brides I personally worked with this month were awesome awesome awesome. Jamie, Caroline, Taylor, Victoria and Kate–you rock! Thank you for being so great to work with.
We also booked a lot of 2020 weddings, which I’m psyched about. Next year is going to be BANANAS busy, y’all. We ready.
I tried the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation (which Sam from Pixiwoos raves about), but I got a lighter shade that I needed so I’ve just been using that on the center of my face with my regular MAC Face & Body that matches me on the rest of my face. I need to get the right shade of Light Wonder to use on my whole face so I can really review it. I also tried her Legendary Lashes Volume 2, which I liked a lot.
On the personal front, I had some fun times with friends old and new. I had a party with several friends and relatives to celebrate 11 years in business and we had a blast. I dragged my mom to a bunch of stores to help me find more furniture and decor for my apartment, and we were successful even though she pointed out the SAME EXACT CHAIR I told her I didn’t want, thrice. I took my father to Animal Adventures in Bolton, MA for a private guided tour (his Father’s Day present) and he had the best damn time.
I started physical therapy for this (the doctors think) vestibular disorder I’ve had since last October. It messes with my balance and I’ve tried a lot of things to fix it, but PT is the first thing that seems to be helping. I’m still not totally out of the woods, but I can’t tell you how much of a relief is it have found something that is helping.
August was overall a good month. It maybe didn’t feel as balanced as July, but it didn’t bury me as much as June did. Now we are in September, the second busiest month of the year for AB Beauty. It’s September 5th, and we’ve already done four weddings with two more happening tomorrow and four more on Saturday. That’s 10 in seven days, if you’re counting.
And that means I should probably go to bed. I’ve got two great brides this weekend, and they deserve a well-rested makeup artist.
Like every other entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I do as much as I can to be organized, and I systemize whatever I’m able to. There are some business tools and resources that have made a world of difference in my solopreneur life, and I am thankful for all of them. So let’s close out this Top 11 series with a list of my business essentials that will probably still be in my life 11 years from now.
Hatch Tribe Members Circle. If you’ve read this blog before, you know how I feel about the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Hatch Tribe is a group that “cultivates and connects women entrepreneurs,” and the Members Circle is the amazing online platform for the Tribe. With a very reasonably priced membership (which you can do annually or monthly), you get access to a ton of free classes, posts about topics relevant to business owners and the opportunity to ask the many other boss ladies in the Members Circle questions. I’ve learned so much and made so many great connections and friendships since I joined the Members Circle. It’s one of the most important resources in my entrepreneur life.
17Hats. For years, I did my contracts and invoicing in Microsoft Word. It was inefficient and made the wedding booking process take much longer, since people had to print and mail their contracts, and I had to do the invoicing math myself (instead of letting software that didn’t almost fail every Math class it ever took do the work). I knew I had to find an online client management system that I could send contracts and invoices from, so I did some research (aka had the person who was doing some admin work for me do some research) and landed on 17Hats. Between that and starting to accept credit cards, the booking process has been cut down from 7 – 10 days to three or less. I can also send the questionnaires we have for various things right from 17Hats, which makes for a quicker response time. There are a lot of other functions in 17Hats that I don’t use and probably should, but the contract, invoicing and questionnaire functions alone are worth the $300 every two years.
Stripe. I held off as long as I could with accepting credit cards because I knew that the processing fees would add up. But eventually, I caved in and chose Stripe. I knew that we had lost some wedding clients because we didn’t accept credit cards, which makes sense since around 60% of couples who pay for their own wedding use credit cards. I did the math (about 17 times, and mostly got the same answer each time) and realized that if accepting credit cards made it so we booked two to three weddings in a year that wouldn’t have if we didn’t accept credit cards, that would cover the credit card processing fees. So I took the plunge, started accepting credit cards and made us a more appealing wedding vendor for potential brides.
Square. Let me give you some numbers. I currently have 19 Independent Contractors on the team. We have 10 weddings in the first seven days of September alone. There are sometimes as many as six people from my team at a wedding. And they each bill AB Beauty separately for every job. Paying out for jobs used to be one of my most time consuming tasks. I would review all bills on the designated day (which I still do to make sure they are correct), print each bill, enter it in Quickbooks, pay each bill, print all of the checks, sign them, put them in envelopes, address them, mail them, then staple the check receipt thing from Quickbooks to the bill I had printed and file that. It was a monster task which I was doing once a week for most of the year. I finally thought, This is insane! and starting thinking about a better way to do it. I landed on direct deposit, and after my attorney gave me the okay to pay Independent Contractors using that method (you can’t mess around with worker compensation laws), I did my research. Square was the best option for me, and at only $5 per Independent Contractor per month (and they don’t charge you for an IC if you don’t pay out to them that month), it’s affordable. They also prepare and file 1099s for you, which saves me money that I would have otherwise spent having my accountant prepare and file those. But mostly, using Square for direct deposit has been a giant time saver. I still have to review bills, pay bills and enter them in Quickbooks, but I don’t have to deal with checks or printing anything (which is better for the environment too). Switching to direct deposit in Square was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made.
OneTab. I like open windows in my house, because I enjoy the ocean breeze (most of the time) and hearing the hustle and bustle of my busy neighborhood. But open windows on my browser? It can be both overwhelming and distracting. My tech guy, Dan, also told me that having a bunch of windows open slows down your computer, and is there anything more maddening that that?!?! He suggested OneTab, which allows you to put Google Chrome windows–or tabs, if you will–you are not actively using to sleep without losing them forever. It saves them for as long as you’d like, which is key for me because sometimes I have sites that I don’t need to look at for a while after the initial time, but I know I will later, and I don’t want to have a zillion bookmarks. When those tabs are snoozing, they’re not slowing things down, so your computer can be its best efficient self. I’ve been using OneTab for several years now, and I recommend it to anyone who ever looks at more than one website. (If that does not apply to you, who are you? My father?)
Google Calendar. My last job working for someone else was at a construction company. I was the Office Manager, and I learned a lot from my boss, Ralph. He used Google Calendar to keep track of his appointments and reminders about tasks that needed to be done, and now I do the same. GC runs my life. It allows you to create various calendars and share them with different people, so I have a company calendar so the Independent Contractors on my team can see job details, and a calendar that only I can see with all of my meetings and personal appointments, as well as reminders for the 70 million tasks I have to do. I have recurring reminders, like “Review Independent Contractors Bills” every Wednesday morning, and one time reminders like “Follow up with 9/8 wedding planner re: location change.” The email reminders pop up on my laptop and phone, and get sent to my inbox so I have no excuse. I would forget 90% of the stuff I was supposed to do without GC, so I honestly don’t think I would have gotten very far without it. Thanks, Ralph!
Dropbox. Girl, you looks good, won’t you back those files up? That was from Juvenile’s lesser known recent hit, “Dropbox”. I guess he uses the same file hosting service as I do to back up his files. Interesting! Backing up files is of course super important for any business, and Dropbox makes it easy. I pay $10 a month, and all I do is copy some folders into Dropbox when my weekly reminder comes up. It’s one of the easiest tasks I do all week, and also one of the most essential.
The E-Myth Revisited. I don’t know any business owners who don’t read business books. We all crave the expertise from experienced bosses who have succeeded in their respective fields. I first read The E-Myth Revisted in the early years of my business, and it forever changed the way I look at my company. Author Michael E. Gerber talks about the three main types of jobs entrepreneurs often do: the Technician (in my case, Makeup Artist), the Manager and the Entrepreneur. His advice is to hire Technicians and Managers and solely be the Entrepreneur. As someone who has been filling all three roles for the past 11 years, I agree that choosing one–namely the one that grows the business–is the smartest choice. I re-read this book every year or two and it helps keep me motivated.
Quickbooks. I first learned how to use Quickbooks when I was an Office Manager in Delray Beach, FL in 2004 – 2005. The OG of accounting software is still widely used today, and I’ve found no reason to switch to another one. Taking care of your books may not be the sexiest part of being a business owner, but it has to be done. I could fully outsource everything I do in Quickbooks but for now, I can handle most of it and my bookkeeper comes quarterly to reconcile and make sure I’ve entered everything correctly. Quickbooks allows you to run reports to show all kinds of details about income, expenses and comparison to previous years. As a business owner, you have to know your numbers–and know them well–as they tell you how your business is doing. Vital information, don’t you think?
My Business Advisors. I don’t have all of the answers (in business and in life). I probably don’t even have half of them. That’s why I crave advice from the business-minded people in my life. Sometimes that means my Members Circle girl gang, my family members who also run shit, or my friends who–even if they don’t own a business–have experience in the business world. I don’t turn to my advisors with every question I have, but when I’m really grappling with something, I hit ’em up. These folks have helped me countless times, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
My Family and Friends. I’m probably not an easy person to be close to, hopefully mostly due to my career. Being friends with me requires a certain level of understanding, because this entrepreneur lifestyle is not the norm. (My family is kind of just stuck with me and forced to try to understand it. Sorry, guys!) I’m very lucky that the people I’m closest to get it, and therefore get me. They are one of the big reasons I started a business–so that I could spend time with them without having to potentially get denied a time off request. When someone else dictates your work schedule, that impacts your free time, which then affects how often you can see your friends and family. Sure, I’m limited by my workload during wedding season, but I still do get to see my friends and family more than if I had a 9 – 5. I’ve got a lot of spectacular, loving, funny, intelligent, kind and considerate people in my world, and spending time with them is what keeps me going. I’m not going to say “keeps me balanced,” because I’m not nearly as balanced as I’d like be (and I don’t just mean because I’ve had a vertigo-like thing since October). But they keep me sane, or as sane as a Type A, INFJ ambivert entrepreneur can be.
And that does it for my Top 11 series! It’s been a supa dupa fly 11 Years In Business Anniversary Month for AB Beauty. Business is great, my team is killing it and we’ve left a trail of happy clients in our wake. I’ve got a lot more than 11 things to be grateful for, that’s for damn sure.
Full disclosure: I’m not a hair stylist. I have no professional background, and any knowledge I have comes from AB Beauty hair stylists or from hair stylists I’ve gone to. But I do have a lot of hair! It’s naturally curly and dark brown (most people think it’s black) with blue on the ends. It’s prone to frizz and my scalp is more dry than oily. I have gray hairs in the front, and while I don’t have a ton of them, I have enough to be annoying, so I get a color touchup every 5 – 7 weeks. My hair grows crazy fast, which is good for the times I’ve gotten a bad haircut and bad for the roots touchup schedule. My locks are long and I’ve got follicles a plenty, so for most of my life, hair stylists have needed to schedule extra time for me.
Due to my hair type and the fact that (not to be cocky) I get a lot of compliments on it, I think I’ve been using the right products. I’m giving all of the credit to the pros who have guided me, but I think they would be good with me sharing my Top 11. So here we go.
Olaplex No. 3 Hair Protector. I put my hair through a lot. Twice a year since 2013, I’ve been having the bottom third of my hair bleached and then colored blue. Blue touchups follow every month or two, and gray coverage color every 5 – 7 weeks. Up until June, I blew my hair out straight (or someone more qualified than me did it for me) once a week. I now occasionally let it air dry and rock my natural curl, but it’s usually blown out. And when it is, I sometimes add in big curls with a two inch curling iron. So between the bleaching, hair coloring and heat styling, my hair can show some damage. Olaplex 3 repairs that damage, and it does it well. I use it 2 – 3 times a month, and my hair looks and feels better every time. I’m convinced this product is saving my hair from looking and feeling like hay.
Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo. This shampoo came out after Olaplex 3, and was recommended to me by Kristin, one of the licensed AB Beauty cosmetologists. When I use it (before Olaplex 5, which I’ll get to next) after an Olaplex 3 treatment, the combination of all three products does something magical to my hair. Before this came out, I used Olaplex 3 with whatever shampoo and conditioner I had, but it didn’t feel or look quite as good as when I do the 3, 4 and 5 together.
Olaplex 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. This could have been grouped in with Olaplex 4, but hey, I needed 11 products! This conditioner is part of my Olaplex Dream Team, so I love it. Some conditioners leave a film on my hair, but Olaplex 5 does its job then rinses away perfectly. Bravo, No. 5.
Moroccan Oil Treatment Original. I first used this for a while in my early to mid 20s, before I started straightening my hair. I thought it made my hair feel heavy, but I suspect I was using too much of it. A few years ago, I started using it again to prevent the frizz I get some days during my winters in South Carolina (I get Brazilian Blowouts to knock out the frizz during my summers in Rhode Island, but I try to keep those to twice a year). I now use the correct amount on damp hair prior to blowing out my hair or letting it air dry, and I can tell it helps with the frizz. It’s a hair stylist favorite for a reason!
Sachajuan Volume Cream. It gives volume and protects the hair from hear styling damage? That’s all I need to know! I’ve been using this for a couple years and I haven’t been tempted to switch yet. I apply a little to each section after the Moroccan Oil but before I start blowdrying. Simple as that.
Pssst Dry Shampoo. You can’t expect a girl who only washes her hair once a week to not use dry shampoo, right? This stuff works, it’s cheap and it doesn’t have a strong scent, so what’s not to like? And should I continue to only ask questions about this product? What do you think?
DryBar Triple Sec. I like messy, textured, bedhead kind of hair on myself. Too smooth or polished is not my jam. I love Triple Sec because it gives me that type of look without having to use multiple products or tools. The original Triple Sec had a strong scent that I loved, but a lot of people didn’t, so they now have a unscented version which I accidentally ordered then got mad about. Even without the scent though, it’s a stellar product.
R + Co Dry Oil Spray. Another AB Beauty team recommendation, this time from hair stylist, Emily. My hair can get a little dry looking, and nothing brings back moisture like oil. I’ve found some hair oils to be too heavy, but this spray oil is lightweight and fast-absorbing. Love.
Living Proof Humidity Shield. I like humidity for my skin, as it reacts well to that kind of moisturize, but my hair is a different story. I get Brazilian Blowouts in May and July and they keep me virtually frizz-free for the highest humidity months, but I’m still prone to frizz once my Blowouts have washed out. That’s where this hairspray comes in. A light mist of it before I leave combats mid-level humidity. My hair type needs the Blowouts for the kind of humidity that makes people complain on Facebook, but this hairspray is good for the other times.
Living Proof Nourishing Oil. This no frizz nourishing oil is heavier than the R + Co Dry Oil Spray, but I use that more for shine and this more for frizz control. A little goes a long way, and I appreciate that in a $38 hair product.
Celeb Luxury Viral Colorditioner in Blue. My hair stylist friend, Jennie Kay Plumb, recommended this to me to use as a conditioner between blue retouch appointments. It can also be used for color touchups if you leave it on for 30 minutes. I really only use it for that now. I didn’t think it was the best as a conditioner because my hair didn’t feel as soft after as it does with Olaplex 5, but as a blue color touchup, it’s one of my favorites (and I’ve used a lot). It also comes in silver, rose gold, coral, lilac, turquoise, green, red, magenta and purple, so pretty much anyone who has fun colors in their hair is covered.
And that’s it! Thank you to all of the hair stylists who have helped make my hair a better person.
You know what I say–the skin is the body’s largest organ, so friggin’ take care of it! Here’s how I do it.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm. Talk about a luxurious cleansing experience! This cleansing balm feels like heaven, smells divine and removes every trace of makeup. It’s a new-ish addition to my beauty life, and I am grateful for its existence.
Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution. My eyes can be a little sensi to eye makeup remover, but the original micellar water doesn’t sting, burn or otherwise irritate my peepers. I have been using this product for years, and I can’t stop, won’t stop.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Hyaluronic Acid is the MVP of hydrators, and this obscenely inexpensive one from The Ordinary is the bomb. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has told me they’ve noticed results within a few weeks of using it. It’s great for all skin types, so just get some already.
Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum 35. You know, I’ve tried a zillion moisturizers, but sometimes its best to keep things simple. This is a no frills moisturizer that does the job on my combination skin, and occasionally helps me get Extra Bucks.
Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil. Yo, you like moisturized skin? Of course you do. This Argan Oil is idea for facial massage, post retinoids application and elimination of dry patches. If you’re super oily, they have a Lite version too, so no excuses.
Trentinoin Cream 0.05%. It’s the Fountain of Youth in a tube if you start on it early enough. My 37 year old face is often mistaken for a 27 year old face, and I think a big part of that is due to Trentinoin. If you can get a hold of this stuff before the fine lines get too deep, you can seriously slow done the progression of those lines. Some people call it magic, I call it science.
Hydroquinone 4%. I have melasma, a section of hyperpigmenation (dark patch of skin) above my upper lip. It gets worse when I’m in the sun so I make sure to protect my face with sunscreen, but the only thing that fades it is prescription hydroquinone . So I use it, and it works, and it makes me less self conscious about my melasma.
Lancome Advanced Genifique Eye Cream. I don’t use this as much as I once did, solely because I now have two nightstands and it’s on the one opposite the side of bed I sleep on, so I forget about it. (Weak excuse, and I’ll move it to the bathroom tonight so it goes on post-face cleansing.) When I was being smart, I used it every other night, as I use the Trentinoin as an eye cream every other night. It’s a great eye cream–no stinging, burning or irritation and it really seems to hydrate and plump up the fine lines nicely.
Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. If you’re thinking “Wait, didn’t you put this in your last post about makeup products?” I did, you astute little blog reader, you. That’s because it can be used as a foundation primer and as a face mask. When I’m on top of my game, I use it as a face mask every week. It brightens and refreshes dull skin
Glossier Balm Dotcom. They call it a “universal salve,” but I only use it on my lips. I’ve found the Original and Mango shades to be the most hydrating of the ones I’ve tried. They are truly the best lip balms I’ve ever used. Nothing heals my lips like the Original and Mango Balm Dotcoms. I use the Original on every wedding client, and so many of the remark on how good the balm feels. This universal salve is a staple for my pro kit and my personal life.
Glossier Invisible Shield. A serum-like sunscreen that protects my skin, doesn’t leave a white cast and doesn’t make me break out? I’m in.
And that’s how I keep my skin in good shape! I’d love to hear about your faves too.
In honor of 11 years in business for AB Beauty, I figured I’d do some Top 11 lists. And naturally, we’ll start with makeup. Here we go.
Dior Diorshow Mascara. I’ve been using this mascara for a decade, which makes it the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. Nothing gives my top lashes volume like Diorshow, and until I find something better (and to be honest, I’m not even looking) I stand by this mascara.
MAC Face & Body Foundation. I use this foundation on myself and the majority of my clients. It lets the skin show through while giving a nice glow. It transforms from a sheer to medium coverage the more you work it in, so it’s really like having two foundations in one bottle.
MAC ProLongwear Concealer. This is the Holy Grail of concealers, as far as I’m concerned. Its acrylic paint-like consistency makes it buildable, and its pigment and range of shades makes it ideal for both under eye coverage and spot concealing. It’s a gem.
Blinc Mascara. I started using this mascara on my bottom lashes this summer because the Clinique mascara I was using was smudging in the heat and humidity. Beauty tubes mascara do not smudge, and since this is the OG of beauty tube technology, why wouldn’t I use it? It’s called a no-brainer.
Benefit Hoola. Some cult favorites get hyped up for no good reason, but Hoola is as good as they say. This neutral matte bronzer now comes in four shades, as it should. It’s blendable, matte and just the right amount of bronze. It’s the only bronzer I’ve found that works as a contour too. If they ever discontinue Hoola, there will be a revolt.
MAC Eyeshadows. I rarely use any other powder eyeshadows on myself or my clients because these are just the best. And that’s all.
I did a June recap, so it only seems right to do one for July. Don’t you think?
July is always the slowest weddings month, for reasons I’m still not sure of. (People going on vacation? Too-hot weather, even though August is usually hotter? Couples not wanting to share their anniversary month with America?) June 2019 was the busiest month in the history of AB Beauty, so I was ready for a little break in July. Joke was on me, though! While July had a lot less weddings than June, we booked a ton of weddings for 2019 and 2020, which kept me busy. We also did a lot of trials–I personally did seven times as many as I did in June–and I started training two new makeup artists. We broke our all-time yearly weddings booking record which was set in 2018, which I’m psyched about. We also had a new hair stylist finish training and I’m in talks with two more potential new hair stylists. I worked with some wonderful new clients and left all of my jobs smiling. I ended up being way busier than I thought, but I had a little more of a breather some days.
On the personal side, it was a marvelous month. It started off with a Southern Charm binge watching night with my friend Julie, then a fun Fourth of July day out (notice I didn’t say “night out,” because I’m 37) with my girl, Kristin. My father had a big cookout the first weekend of July, so I got to see a lot of family and some friends there. My college friend, Caroline and my Charleston friend, Arryn, were in town the following week, and I was so happy to spend time with them. I made a new friend with someone who has been in to makeup model for makeup artist training sessions, and we had a fun first-time hangout. I went to see Nick Kroll in Providence with my newlywed friends Greta and Chris, and I always have a blast with them.
At the end of the month, I went up to Montreal for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival for my second year in a row. I went with my aunt Michelle and her friend/business associate, Christine. They run the Women In Comedy Festival in Boston, and they are awesome. JFL was fantastic. I saw a ton of great comics and went to a bunch of panels about different shows and topics. I saw people give television show pitches to major networks and I went to two live recording comedy podcasts. I went to a “Boast Rattle,” where comics tried to out-compliment each other. I saw some of my favorite comics and added a few more to my list. I’m already excited to go back next year.
I can’t claim that I had a balanced month, because contrary to the length of the previous paragraphs, I worked way more than I played. Except for when I was in Montreal, 12 – 14 hour workdays were the norm. But hey, that’s the life of a business owner in the wedding industry this time of year, you know?
We have more than twice as many weddings booked for August as we did for July. On top of that, August will be busy because September is our second busiest month this year (and could potentially beat out June as our all-time busiest month), and the month before the busiest month is also always crazy. I’ve got a lot of makeup artist trainings on top of that, plus some trials. In August, AB Beauty will celebrate 11 years in business. That’s bananas, right? I can’t believe I have a pre-teen.
And now, work time. I’ll be back with an August recap before you know it.
I was recently hanging out with a college friend, you know, talking for about five hours straight as I do with my friends. She told me how she was out with the regular group she goes out with and a friend who didn’t usually hang out with them joined and couldn’t believe how much they complimented each other. My friend and I were talking about how we both do that a lot (she’s better at it than I am, especially because I sometimes say compliments in my head and forget to say them out loud).
I’ve been thinking about that conversation and how I often do compliment people–friends, grocery store cashiers, doctor’s office receptionists, whoever–on their makeup, hair and nails. If I see a pretty lipstick color, the compliment is out of my mouth before I know it, followed by “I’m a makeup artist,” I guess to justify it (totally unnecessary). When I compliment people I know, it might be a physical compliment like “I love your new haircut” or “That blue shirt looks great on you,” or something about their personality like “You’re always so patient with things. How?” or “You’re a great listener.”
I also compliment pretty much every client who sits in my chair, because I do think everyone has at least one beautiful feature. It can be eye color, eye shape, lashes, skin, lips, bone structure, etc. I think complimenting clients helps put them at ease, but that’s not why I do it. I genuinely mean every compliment I give.
This has all made me think of how much I have appreciated compliments people have given me. Some of those verbal gifts have stuck with me, and those are the ones I want to share now. I appreciated those compliments when they were given, and I appreciate them again whenever I think of them. Because of that, we have ourselves a blog post.
Here we go.
“You’re the only one who knows how to treat the people who work for them.” Someone who works for me said this to me when she was having a tough time at her day job. She had a series of bosses who were mean or didn’t appreciate her, which blows my mind because she is an incredibly hard worker, professional and really a dream employee (or Independent Contractor, in my case). I try my best to make AB Beauty the kind of company hair stylists and makeup artists want to work at, so her compliment meant a lot.
“You look exotic.” A guy I briefly dated in college said this to me when we first met. I don’t know what made him think that–I suspect maybe it was because in comparison to the more preppy styles around me, I looked different–but I took it as a compliment.
“You should do standup!/”Do you do standup?”/”I can’t wait until your Netflix special!” I gave the Maid of Honor speech at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in 2017, and it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I started writing the ten minute speech (turned into 12 minutes with laughter breaks, so what’s up) a year and a half before the wedding, and decided to memorize it. I know I could make my brother and sister-in-law laugh, and maybe my parents and few friends, but I did not expect the reaction I got during the speech and the dozens of people who came up to me after the speech to tell me how funny it was. Granted, my “audience” was a group of wedding guests who knew the subjects of my speech and didn’t have the comedy expectations you would watching a comic, but I still won’t forget all of the compliments.
“How many men have you killed with those eyes?” This pickup line–my favorite one ever–was given to me (at me?) a few years ago. This gentleman kept telling me my eyes were the most gorgeous eyes he had ever seen, which I attribute to some black waterline eyeliner and the tequila he was drinking. Still though, I chose to take it as a compliment.
“Allie is the busiest person I know, and she still makes the time to visit us.” When it comes to visiting friends, I feel like I should get an F. The nine-ish months a year I live in New England are also the busiest months for my business, and it’s rare that I have more than a couple hours twice a week to hang out. So if a friend lives an hour away and I’ve only got maybe three hours max, with the drive time, it’ tough to pull off. I still try to visit though, and the friend who said this (my friend’s husband, but I am friends with them both) lives a couple hours away. They used to live an hour away so I was able to visit them and their kids a few times a year, which was when he said it. Anyway, I always feel like I don’t visit my people half as much as I would like to because of my career, and I have some major guilt about that, so this compliment made me feel a million times better.
“I need to check your hair.” Said to me by a TSA agent at I forget which airport (either Boston, Charleston or Nashville). I had my hair up in a ponytail with the shorter front layers pinned back then pushed up a little because I HATE flat hair on me. (I’d go full 1960s Priscilla Presley every day if I could.) Apparently my hair looked big enough to be hiding something in it, so the TSA agent had to pat it down. I took that as the ultimate hair compliment.
“You two have the most expressive eyes! You look like anime characters.” This was said to actress Dominique Swain and I by an actor on the set of a Lifetime movie I did the makeup for. I feel like I have very few expressions, so it was a huge compliment to be lumped in with an actress whose expressive eyes are part of what makes her great at her job.
“You are the most organized person I’ve ever met.” A bride said this to me at a trial last week, so this is a fresh one. I don’t know if she’d say the same if she saw my house, but I certainly try my best to be organized when it comes to my business. When a client tells me that and how it makes the bridal beauty process easier for them, it really means a lot.
“You read too fast!” Something my father says every time we watch Jeopardy. I am a fast reader, and although it makes my father mad because I can read and answer a clue before he’s halfway through reading it, I think it’s a good thing. Right?
“Damn, white girl can dance!” Said by a fellow club goer in Ft. Lauderdale, 2006. This was the era of “droppin’ it,” which pre-dated twerking, and as someone who is already close to the floor, droppin’ it was not hard. I’m not a good dancer but apparently this man thought so, and that brings me great joy.
“We’re going to need to use the small blood pressure cuff on you.” Said to me at a recent doctor’s appointment. I feel like my upper arms are bigger than they should be, but my primary care implied otherwise. I’ll take it as a win.
All of these compliments have made me feel good, and I hope I’ve done the same for others with compliments I’ve given. The conversation with my friend–and writing this post–has made me want to consciously give more compliments. Not in a fake way, but when I notice or realize something positive or flattering about someone I should make sure to say it out loud. For me at least, sometimes a compliment can turn a bad day (or bordeline bad day) around. Wouldn’t it be nice to possibly do that for someone else, just with a few simple words? I think so.
Now that you’ve read Part 1–thank you–and know what you need in your kit, it’s time for the rest of the list. This list covers the items I think you need to make your day easier and more comfortable, as well as some essential intangibles. This is just as important as the list in Part 1, so listen up, friend.
Snacks. You can usually get a hold of water on a corporate or commercial set, but the food available (called “craft services” or “crafty” on a film or on a job with people who work in film) may not always be to your liking. I’ve seen it range from tables of crappy junk food to corner of a counter with a few sad looking pieces of fruit and some crackers. I have a gluten allergy and a list of other things that bother me, so I always bring snacks with me. You might want to do the same on set, and at a wedding job if you’ll be there for long enough that you’ll want to eat. Sometimes there’s a big wedding-morning-spread or a bride asks what you want when lunch is ordered, but usually you’re on your own.
Phone Charger. A “full day” on a commercial or corporate set is generally considered to be anywhere from 4 – 10 hours, and it’s not unusual to go over the 10 hour mark. I don’t know about your phone, but mine will start draining battery after a while, especially if I’ve been answering emails during breaks. That’s why I always bring a phone charger to set. As long as the makeup is being done inside (I’ve done my fair share of parking lot, field and garage makeup setups), you should have access to an outlet. If you’re doing a wedding and will be with the bride all day, I would also recommend bringing a charger and plugging it in whenever you can.
The Right Clothing. I’ve worked in freezing cold warehouses, on exterior shoots in January in New England and blazing hot houses in August where the a/c couldn’t be turned on because it would affect sound. And some studios are kept icy cold even in the summer, which is great for the talent because it keeps them from sweating, but unbearable for people like me who get cold if they hold a drink with ice in it for two minutes. So, I suggest bringing a sweater in the summer and if you are going to be in a studio, and always have a jacket with you if you might be outside and temps are cold enough for one. As far as being too hot, tank tops, shorts and sandals are not appropriate for corporate or commercial work, so lightweight clothing is key. At a wedding job, you can get away with a light dress as long as it’s not revealing (and not white!). Sandals are also fine for weddings.
Business Cards. As a makeup artist, you will meet a ton of people. If they are in your chair, you might be having anywhere from a 5 minute to a one hour conversation with them. You might find that the talent you are talking to has a daughter getting married next year who needs a makeup artist, or the bridesmaid you’re clicking with owns a real estate company and wants makeup for marketing photos of her team. You’ll also meet crew members who might work on a future project that needs a makeup artist, and if they have your card, they can easily refer you to a producer. All of these people are unlikely to remember your name (sorry) without a business card, so why risk it?
Contact Info & Parking Instructions. Before you go to any job, make sure you have a contact phone number, parking information, building name or hotel room number and any location/entrance details ahead of time. If you wait until you get to a location to try to find out this information, you might be S.O.L. There’s no reason you can’t request this info a few days before a job. Clients like prepared makeup artists and your stress level will like that too.
A Full Gas Tank. You’ll do some jobs where you stay in one location all day, and others where you drive around to several locations. Unless you know for sure that you won’t be changing locations, make sure you have a full tank (especially if you have a long drive home). I’ve done political campaigns ads that required stops at five different locations in a day, some with 30 minute drives in between. You’re not going to have time to stop for gas in that type of situation. In fact, I don’t even recommend stopping for gas on the way to a job. Why add something your plate the day of when you might need that extra time if you get caught in a traffic jam or the parking lot you were told to park in is full? Fill up the day before and give yourself five points for preparedness.
A Book. On some jobs, you’ll have a lottttt of dead time. You may also be in a location where you have no signal and there’s no WiFi around (like working on a commercial in a field for 12 hours, which I’ve done). Maybe you’d be fine using that time to re-organize your kit, talk to someone (if there is anyone around) or, I don’t know, meditate, but I usually have a book with me in case my phone is useless and I’m in a far away hair and makeup room by myself. That way I don’t die of boredom during an hour-long camera and lighting set up or wedding ceremony (waiting for the bride to get back for a pre-Cocktail Hour touchup).
Set & Wedding Etiquette. This is a monster of a topic. Set etiquette covers who you talk to, when you talk to them, the lingo you use, where to position yourself, when to move, what to wear, etc. If you want to work in film, this is a good read. It’s a little different on a corporate or sometimes commercial job, but these worlds often cross over. There’s no set at a wedding, but there is wedding etiquette. Like say “Happy Wedding Day!” or something similar when you see the bride, don’t wear a white dress, don’t take food or drinks without asking, don’t move things without asking (if you need the space for your setup), don’t talk about breakups/divorces, don’t drink on the job (you will be offered mimosas at some weddings), etc. Some of it is common sense and manners, but you’d be surprised what I’ve seen and heard about from other companies and in reviews I’ve read.
Professionalism. That means always be on time, don’t have inappropriate conversations, don’t take care of personal To Do list at a job, don’t disappear from set or while you’re supposed to be working on clients, invoice accurately, clearly and quickly, etc. You can be the best makeup artist in the world, but if you get a reputation of being unprofessional, you won’t get far. I either have to stop this paragraph here or write 97 more paragraphs about it, so let’s stop.
Between this post and this last one, I think I’ve covered all of the big stuff. Being a makeup artist–at least a successful one–means doing more than evening skintones and filling in eyebrows. It requires preparation, tact and professionalism. The beauty industry has become a very competitive place to work, so my recommendation is to learn everything you can before you start so that you can be more prepared than the other newbie makeup artists. I hope this helped, and I wish you the best of luck in your career.