I’ve been using MAC eyeshadows since the beginning of my career as a makeup artist. Especially with an eye primer underneath, I’ve found these shadows to be the longest lasting, most pigmented powder shadows in the game. But if you’re at a MAC store or counter or on their website, the sheer selection of colors (currently 108 of them) can be daunting.
So allow me to present my go-to’s and thoughts on who I’ve found they work best on. I’ll include the shade descriptions MAC gives for each, but I won’t be shy in voicing my opinion if I see them differently.
All That Glitters. Beige with gold pearl. To me, this looks more rose gold than beige gold on most people. I think it works best on light and medium skintones. It’s pretty shimmery, so stay away if you’re a Matte Girl.
Antiqued. Ash brown with bronze. This is gorgeous on deeper skintones with any eye color.
Brown Script. Warm chestnut brown. Works especially well on medium and deeper skintones, either on the lid or in the crease. It’s matte, so it can work for either. (I stay away from shimmer in the crease, as it defeats the purpose of making an area look recessed.)
Brule. Soft creamy beige. One of my matte go-to lid colors for fair, light and light-medium skin.
Brun. Muted blackish brown. I use this cool, matte shade as a liner on light and medium skintones, any eye color. I also use it to fill in brunette brows.
Carbon. Intense black. Everyone should have a good black eyeshadow, and this is my favorite. I mostly use it at the lashlines, as it’s pretty rare for me to use black on the lid or in the crease unless it’s for an editorial look.
Charcoal Brown. Muted taupe brown. I use this a lot at the lower lashline on light and medium skintones. It provides soft definition. It also works as a neutral matte lid color on deeper skintones.
Club. Red brown with green pearl. Club is a really unique shade. Depending on the skintone and the lighting in a room, it can look green, silver, gray or brown.
Coquette. Muted grayish taupe. I like this as a lower lash liner on green or hazel eyes, as it brings out the green.
Cork. Muted golden brown. Another lower lash liner choice for light to medium skintones.
Embark. Intense reddish brown. Really pretty on deeper skintones and on green eyes (green and red are complimentary colors, so the red undertones makes green looker greener).
Era. Soft golden beige with shimmer. Works well as a lid color on medium and deeper skintones.
Espresso. Muted golden brown. I use this warm brown a lot as a crease color on deeper skintones, or an outer V color on light and medium skintones.
Goldmine. Intense gold with shimmer. It’s a very yellow gold, so I tend to use it over other golds (from different lines, sorry) or over a darker shimmery color that I want to lighten. I find it usually pulls too yellow to wear alone.
Mulch. Red brown with bronze pearl. Gorgeous on green eyes, but it can be too dark on fair and some light skintones.
Naked Lunch. Minimal pink with shimmer. Pretty on fair and light skintones with any eye color. Can look frosty on medium and deeper skintones.
Nylon. Pale gold with icy shimmer. This one can get intense, so I mainly use it for inner corner highlight or as part of the look for a shimmery gold lid. It’s pretty in small doses.
Omega. Soft muted beige taupe. I mainly use this for brow fill-in for blonde brows, but have also used it on medium and deeper skintones on both the lid and the crease.
Phloof. Frosted off white. Similar to Nylon in my application of it. I also use it with a light hand on the lid for Flower Girls.
Ricepaper. Peachy gold with shimmer. This works on light skintones, but is especially pretty on medium and deeper skintones. It’s what I reach for when a client shows me an inspiration photo with a very shimmery lid.
Satin Taupe. Taupe with silver shimmer. Great for light and medium skintones. It can get a little ashy (due to the silver) on some deeper skintones. Especially flattering on brown eyes.
Scene. Muted blue gray. I work this into gray smokey eyes, as it tends to look more gray than blue when blended into other grays. Works with all eye colors.
Soba. Gold brown with gold shimmer. Really pretty in a subtle way on medium and deeper skintones.
Soft Brown. Soft golden peachy brown. This is gorgeous on those with blue eyes, as it’s got an orange undertone and orange and blue are complimentary. It can pull too orange on fair skintones though. Also pretty on deeper skintones.
Wedge. Soft muted beige taupe. This is my go-to crease color for fair, light and medium skintones. If this one ever gets discontinued, MAC and I will have a problem.
Woodwinked. Warm antique gold. Perfection on medium and deeper skintones. Can pull orange on light and medium skintones. Flattering on green eyes.
Yogurt. Soft pale pink. Very pretty on fair and light skintones with blue eyes.
MAC has discontinued some other shades I use and have backups of so I’m good for a bit, but I won’t tell you how great those ones are since you won’t be able to buy them. I mean, I’m not a jerk!
If you have any MAC shadow faves, I’d love to hear. Comment away.
What is it about going out at night that makes us feel like we want to be more bold, fancy or done up? Clothes, hair, makeup–they often get a little boost, refresh or change when we go from our Daytime Selves to our Night Out Selves. Maybe it’s that we want things to pop more after the sun has gone down, or that society tells us cocktail dresses are not for coffee dates. Or it could be that we want something to help us get out of productive-ish daytime mode to our more relaxed or fun nighttime mode. I don’t know, guys. I was only a Psych Minor.
What I do know is how to make that day-to-night makeup change, which was another blog post request. (I didn’t forget, Bonnie!) Some of these tips may not apply to you if you don’t already wear certain products, but I want to try to cover everyone here, so I’ll include a bunch and you can choose what makes sense for you.
And now for some ideas to change your look from Office to Happy Hour.
Conceal Your Sins. This won’t necessarily make your look more night out-ish, but most people could use a little concealer refresh before going out, when they’ve already had their makeup on for several hours. Here’s how I do it. 1) I first add concealer to my chin, around my nose or anywhere else where my concealer or foundation has faded or I have some redness (I’m looking at you, chinny chin chin). 2) Then I completely remove my undereye concealer and re-apply it, as I’ve found my undereye concealer can get a little caked or have a tiny smudge or two several hours after I’ve applied it, as I don’t wear waterproof products on a daily basis. If I’m going to add any dark shadow to my eye makeup, I do this step after that in case of shadow fallout onto the undereye area.
Zap That Shine. If you have oily or combination skin, you’ll be looking a little (or a lot) shiny by the evening. Luckily, this couldn’t be a simpler fix. Some pressed powder applied to those annoying reflective spots will take care of the problem. You can also use oil blotting sheets during the day or prior to the powder retouch to absorb some of the oil without removing any makeup. This is another fix that won’t make you look more night out-ish, but it will make your makeup look better.
The Eyes Have It. There are several things you can do to intensify your eye makeup and make it more after-sunset like. It’s going to depend on your eye shape and what you already have on for eye makeup, but these are all changes that won’t take long to do on their own.
1) Thicken, darken or wing your upper lash eyeliner. You can do this with a shadow (my preference), a pencil or a gel liner. If you had brown or gray liner on, trace over it with black. If you have the lid space, slightly thicken the line or wing it out (not for those with hooded eyes).
2) Add some darkness to the outer V. As long as you already have some eyeshadow on your lid, adding a darker shade to the outer V will add some dimension to your eyeshadow look. This is a great option for those with hooded eyes.
3) Apply waterline eyeliner. Using a black or brown pencil on the waterline (inside the lower lid) will give your eyes a sultry effect. This does make eyes look smaller, so that’s something to be aware of if your eyes are on the small side.
4) Layer on some mascara. Add a coat to your top and bottom lashes. If you didn’t start with lower lash mascara on, you’ll notice that this one makes a big difference.
Get Cheeky. Your blush definitely fades between breakfast and dinner, so why not retouch and maybe even bump it up? If you have a deeper or more intense shade that feels a little “too much” for the daytime, bring that bad boy out for your evening look. Generally the interior lighting you are in at night will be darker than what you’re in during the day (until you walk into the women’s room and the lighting sobers you up), so this is the perfect time to intensify it.
Give ‘Em Some Lip. You know the lipstick you are scared to wear during the day because it’s too bright, dark or bold? Try it after dark! A statement lip is perfect for nights out, and nothing changes your look more than going from nude or subtle to look atme lips. Just be aware of the color of the top or dress you are wearing, as while a certain lipstick may look good on you, if it clashes with your top or dress, it’s not going to work.
A Hair Different. I’m technically not an authority on hair, but I do know that switching up your hair style can help transition you from your Daytime Self to your Night Out Self. This might mean taking your hair down when it’s been up all day, or putting it into a top knot if you’ve worn it down. It could be switching your part, or flat ironing or adding some curls. Or maybe it’s just some dry shampoo or some hairspray to freshen up your style. You do what works for you, girlfriend.
You don’t need to spend a long time making your look go from a.m. to p.m. (In fact, you don’t need to do it at all!) But if you’re looking for some tips on how to change things up after the sun goes down, hopefully you’ve found this post helpful. I’m here for you, day or night, if you have questions.
I’ve taken a lot of language classes in my life. Six years of Spanish between middle school and high school. Three years of Latin. (Who cares if I had to take Latin I twice? I couldn’t carpe the diem the first time around.) A few months of Italian at Mount Carmel church in Worcester, MA, with a wonderfully energetic teacher named Angelo Villani. One semester of Italian I in college, the highlight of that being the time my professor asked “Does anyone know what they call ‘The Mafia’ in Italian?” to which I responded “La Cosa Nostra” and then quietly “But there’s no such thing.” (Only 10% of you will get that joke, but I’m still proud of it.)
Even after all of those classes, I was only able to pick up one other language. And it wasn’t even one I studied! It’s called Makeupese, and I’m not only fluent in it, but I’m also a (self certified) translator. Makeup artists, beauty editors, YouTube gurus and just those in the know will often throw out Makeupese beauty terms, forgetting that we are speaking a different language. So I’m here to help you understand the language of my people.
I did a post like this a while back, but there are new terms now, so you deserve an updated post. Let’s do this.
Airbrush Makeup: Makeup applied from a machine that sprays out a fine mist of product via an airbrush “gun” (mechanical applicator). Airbrush is said to be longer lasting than traditional makeup formulations, but I think that depends on the brand of airbrush, the products you are comparing it to and how it is applied.
Baking: A technique created by drag queens to super-set makeup using loose powder. (See below for “setting” definition.) The powder is left on the skin for 5 – 10 minutes while body heat sets it into the previously applied foundation and/or concealer. Then the powder is brushed off.
Buffing Brush: A short bristle dense face brush used to blend face makeup. It can also be used to apply liquid foundation and highlighter. It can be a flat or angled brush.
Contouring: Everyone has heard this term by now (thanks, Kardashians.) Contouring is using a dark color to make an area recede. We use contouring to minimize the width or length of a feature. Keep in mind that contouring is different for each face shape and for the shape of any feature(s) you want to contour, so beware of which contour tutorials you watch. If you have a different face shape than the person contouring and you duplicate that look on yourself, it will backfire.
Cat Eye: An eyeliner look that is thickest and angled at the outer corners. A true cat eye will also feature a thin line of liner all the way in to the tearduct. A cat eye is not for those who want a subtle look, but it’s fire if you can pull it off.
Color Wash: Using one shade of eyeshadow for the entire eye. This the most simple eyeshadow look you can do in terms of steps. It’s perfect for a bold or bright eyeshadow, if you keep the rest of your makeup toned down.
Crease: Also known as the “socket.” It’s the space above the eyelid and under the browbone where skin and bone structure dips in. There is no visible crease present on those with hooded or monolid eyes–and that’s okay! There are no bad eye shapes.
Cupid’s Bow: The curve at the center of the top lip. Highlighting that area of skin between the two peaks makes lips look slightly fuller.
Cut Crease: An eyeshadow technique popularized in the 1960s using a light color on the lid and a much darker color in the crease. This is a go-to look in the drag community, and with Instaglam makeup looks.
Dewy Skin: Skin that has been enhanced with luminizing and radiance-providing skincare and/or makeup to look like there is a sheen on the high points of the face. For more about this look, check out one of my most popular blog posts ever.
Doe Foot Applicator: A spongy tip wand applicator found primarily in lip products and cream eyeshadows. It can flat or angled.
Dupe: Short for “duplicate.” You’ll most often hear this term used when someone has or wants to find a very similar product or shade at a lower price, or when a product has been discontinued and someone has or is looking for its next of kin.
Foiling: Using a powder eyeshadow or eyeshadow pigment with a mixing medium (cream or liquid). This creates a liquid eyeshadow effect.
Fallout: Usually used in reference to eyeshadow. It’s any extra shadow that falls under the eye or onto the face while shadow is being applied. It’s the reason why makeup artists like me do the eyes first!
Flare Lashes: Also known as clusters or individual lashes, these false lashes come in groups of 6-8 lashes instead of strips that are the length of the lashline. They come in different colors, lengths and thicknesses and can be built up. They tend to look more natural and stay on better than strip lashes.
Highlight: Using a light color to draw attention to a feature or area of the face. Commonly used on cheekbones, brownbones, inner corners of eyes and above the Cupid’s Bow.
Hooded Lid: An eye that has no visible crease. Sometimes that’s the way a person’s eye is naturally, and other times it happens as a person ages and the skin under the eyebrow starts to sag and fold over the crease.
Juicy Skin: An amped up version of dewy skin, popularized by pro makeup artist, Katie Jane Hughes.
Kit: A makeup artist’s supply of tools and products.
Illuminating: Products that contain some kind of light reflecting particles. Great for places you want to highlight. Stay away from illuminating products if you have oily skin, because they can make the skin look more oily.
Matte: Products with absolutely no shimmer or shine.
MUA: Stands for “Make Up Artist.” I prefer “Makeup Artist,” but no one says “MA,” because Massachusetts already claimed that.
No Makeup Makeup: A very natural makeup look that is meant to look like the wearer does not have any makeup on. No Makeup Makeup products are meant to match the area they are being applied to. No red lips or black liner with this look!
Non-comedogenic: Means that the product will not clog pores. But I think that any makeup you don’t fully remove at night has the potential to clog pores, so this doesn’t mean “you don’t need to wash it off.”
Outer V: Used in reference to the section of the eye from the outer end of the crease to the outer end of the lashline. Drawing a little “v” here (with the point going towards the hairline) works well with a lot of eye makeup looks.
Prepping The Skin: Applying skincare products to the skin prior to a makeup application so that makeup goes on smoother and looks better than straight away applying makeup to the face.
Primer: A face, eye or lip product put on prior to foundation, eye makeup or lip color to help the products stay on longer. They also give a good base and help provide a smoother, more even surface for the products.
Setting: Using a powder or spray to lock in the makeup that has been applied. Some makeup artists do not consider cream and liquid products to be set until they have been layered over with a powder or setting spray. Setting allows the products underneath the setting product to last longer, as the setting product provides a barrier between the skin and the oils that naturally come through and break down products.
Sheer: Minimal coverage products that have a hint of color, so that you can still see through to the skin.
Spoolie: You know what a standard mascara wand looks like, right? A spoolie is just product-free version of that designed for brushing brow hairs into place and combing through lashes to get rid of clumps.
Smokey Eye: A true smokey eye is an eyeshadow look that is on a gradient with the colors. The darkest color gets applied at the upper lashline with colors in the same color family getting lighter as they go up towards the crease or middle of the eye area. It also includes a gradient effect on at the lower lashline, except the darkest color starts at the top (right at the lashes) with lighter colors in the same family below that. The lighter colors above (top lid) and below (bottom lashline) the darker colors give that “smoke” effect. Contrary to what you’ve probably seen, heard or read before, a smokey eye is not darker shadow at the Outer V or black liner in the waterline.
Smoked Out: This is what we call it when a liner has a lighter color above it at the upper lashline or below it at the lower lashline. (Also, what you might be if you spent some time with Snoop.) This doesn’t have to part of a smokey eye, though. You could have a contoured eye or a cut crease with a smoked out liner.
Stippling: An foundation application technique using a stippling brush (for liquid foundation) or a sponge (for powder foundation) to press the product into the skin. For powder, you load the sponge with product, place it onto the skin, press down, move to the next section and repeat. With a stippling brush…I’ll just let Wayne explain. Stippling generally gives more coverage than a powder puff or flat foundation brush.
Strobing: It’s just layered highlighting without contouring nearby to provide contrast. Strobing is done on the cheekbones, temples, bridge of the nose and on the Cupid’s Bow. Normally a cream or liquid concealer in a shade lighter than the skin is applied first, then set with a powder that matches that concealer, then topped with a powder highlight. Some people also use a cream highlighter layered with a powder highlighter.
Tightlining: Lining the upper inside eyelid with a pencil eyeliner, usually in a black shade. This can help make top lashes look fuller.
Transfer: When a mascara or eyeliner smudges onto the eyelid, crease, or browbone before it has dried.
Waterline: The inside lower eyelid. Lining here with a dark color makes the look more dramatic and makes the eyes look smaller. An off-white liner here will open up the eyes.
Winged Liner: Eyeliner that extends past the end of the eye on the upper lashline and is angled upwards, giving the illusion of a lifted and elongated shape.
Look at you now! Talking like a pro. The quiz will be on Tuesday, so get ready, class…
If you need clarification or have any terms I missed, fire away (aka comment).
A while back, I posted on the Allison Barbera Beauty Facebook page asking what kind of posts people would like to read. I got a lot of great suggestions, and I will get to all of the topics.
Since it is the start of a new year, it seems fitting to begin with a post about my skincare routine, requested by AB Beauty makeup artist and hair stylist, Candie. As I’ve said before in this blog, I can give you all the makeup tips in the world, but if you aren’t taking care of your skin, your makeup can only look so good.
Skincare routines should be customized for your skin type and concerns, so what works for me may not make sense for you. Let me first tell you what I have going on, as some of my product choices are based around that. My skin is combination with visible pores on and around my nose. I get oily in the T-zone during the warmer months. I have some fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes. I have hyperpigmentation (some freckles and small sun spots) on my face. I also have melasma above my upper lip. I do not have acne, but I occasionally break out on my jawline and chin. My nose is prone to blackheads. So my skincare routine is based around keeping my skin clear, hydrated, moisturized and slowing down the visible signs of aging. Any of that sound like your skin or skin concersns? Even if not, I’ll provide alternate products suggestions for different skin type and concerns.
Ready? Sure you are.
Cleanser. I cleanse once a day, at night. When I was in school for Esthetics, we were taught that unless you have very oily skin, a nightly cleanse is all that’s needed. They told us that the twice-a-day cleanse idea was created by the beauty industry so that they could sell double the cleanser. And that makes sense to me. Because if you are properly cleansing your face before bed, your pillowcase is clean and you don’t live inside a fume-filled factory, how dirty is your skin getting while you sleep? It’s much more important to cleanse at night to not only remove your makeup and sunscreen if you wear it, but also all of the dirt, oil and bacteria that latched onto your skin during the day. Because if you sleep with all of that on your face, guess what you’re asking for? BREAKOUTS.
To properly remove everything that you applied to your skin, and what showed up there uninvited during the day, you need to bring in a truly thorough product. And that product is–say it with me–oil cleanser. I’ve talked about this many times, because in my humble yet experienced and licensed opinion, oil is the only thing that fully removes makeup. And don’t worry–it won’t make you breakout. It will actually help prevent acne, since it removes the crap that can cause blemishes to appear. My current favorite oil cleanser is the Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil. It works for all skin types, and it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and formulated without GMO, formaldehyde, and synthetic fragrance.
If you have a cream, gel or lotion cleanser that you love though, I’ll still let you use it. But I strongly recommend using an oil pre-cleanse first to remove your makeup. Dermalogica Precleanse is the gold standard of pre-cleanses, so if you are not going to go full oil cleanser, cop this. A little goes a long way so you won’t need to re-stock it often.
Have truly oily skin? If you wake up shining bright like a diamond every day, I give you permission to use a gentle cream cleanser (like Clinique Liquid Facial Soap in Mild) to remove the surface oils. (I also sometimes do this myself if I’ve used an overnight mask or something that leaves a little residue on the skin.) The thing with oily skin though is that you don’t want to use anything too strong that strips the skin of its natural oils. You know that squeaky clean, tight feeling? That’s the skin being stripped of those oils. If you regularly do that to oily skin, your skin says “Our oil is being depleted! Ramp up production!” Then it produces more oil, and your plan backfires. So if you have oily skin and you feel the need to cleanse twice, just make sure that morning cleanse isn’t setting you up for failure.
Moisturizer. I don’t care who you are or what your skin type is–you need to moisturize every day. I do not go a day without moisturizing, ever. All skin contains fats and oils that will prevent it from completely drying out and cracking open (if I need to gross you out to get my point across, I will), but it needs help. Moisturizer will deliver that assistance and will make your skin feel softer. It also plumps up the skin so that fine lines and wrinkles are less noticeable, and it has a smoothing effect that allows makeup to go on much better. I use Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 35 which is great for normal, combination and oily skin.
For dry skin, I recommend Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre (although it contains almond oil, so not the best choice for those with almond allergies). Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer is another good option for dry skin. And there’s nothing that says you can’t switch moisturizers if you have combination skin that changes with the weather. If you get oily in the warmer months and dry in the colder months, use an oil-free moisturizer when it’s sandals weather and a more hydrating moisturizer when it’s boots weather. But make sure you are moisturizing every day if you want good skin.
Sunscreen. Not only can sun damage cause skin cancer, but it is the number one cause of visible premature aging. It not only causes some types of hyperpigmentation (like age spots), but UVA rays–which Esthetics school taught us to think of as “Ultra Violet Aging rays”–penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and break down collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are what keep the skin firm, so when they are attacked, wrinkles, fine lines and sagging show up. Sunscreen protects the skin from that damage, so it’s a must.
My moisturizer contains sunscreen, but I also use a separate sunscreen if I’m going to be outside for long. I used to use the Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Face Moisturizing Sunscreen but was given Glossier Invisible Shield for Christmas, so I’ll patch test that and as long as my skin approves and it doesn’t leave a white cast on my face (which I HATE), I’ll be making the switch. If you’re thinking “But Allison, I like the way I look tan!,” I get it. I like the way I look with a tan too. But I haven’t gotten a real tan for years, and that is part of why my skin is in good shape. The skin is the body’s largest organ, so I’d rather take care of that and fake it ’til I make it with Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops.
Hyaluronic Acid. H.A., as I call it, is one of my favorite skincare product discoveries of the last five years. And it’s one that’s suitable for all skin types. Everyone I have ever recommended it to has told me they saw results soon after using it. So what is H.A., you ask? It’s a substance that our body naturally produces that helps hold in collagen and lubricates joints and tissues. It gets depleted as we age, but luckily we can add it back to the skin topically. I’ve already written a whole other post about it, so you can get more details there, and I strongly encourage you to read that. H.A. is an essential part of my skincare routine, and is one of the few skincare products you will notice a difference from early on.
It’s the best hydrator out there, and we could all use some hydration. Even oily skin can be dehydrated, so don’t go scrolling to the next section yet if you’re thinking “I don’t need that!”. When the skin is dehydrated, that means it lacks water. When the skin is dry, that means it lacks oil. If you are unsure what dehydrated skin looks like, look in the mirror when you are hungover, battling the stomach bug or have just gotten off a flight. Those are all common causes of loss or lack of fluids, which your skin is happy to announce you have via dullness, flaking or more pronounced fine lines. I’m no doctor so I’m not going to advise you about systemic dehydration, but if you can see the signs of skin dehydration on your face, get yourself some H.A.
Retinoids. Retinoic acid, a derivative of Vitamin A, is one of the the only scientifically proven anti-aging ingredients. Prescription retinoids contain retinoic acid, while non-prescription retinoids (aka retinol, the general term which I am guilty of using for my prescription retinoid cream) products have to be converted into retinoic acid at the cellular level. Basically, a retinol will take longer to show results because of the retinoic acid conversion time. So why not go in the with the big guns right off the bat and use a prescription retinoid?
I started using a prescription retinoid (Trentinoin Cream 0.05%) when I was 33 and three years later, my skin looks pretty much the same. People are frequently surprised by my age, and I think my boo Trentinoin plays a big part in that. For more on retinoids, check out this post.
Exfoliation. I personally don’t exfoliate since I am on Trentinoin and exfoliation is contraindicated with retinoids, but I am including it because it’s something I did before I was on Trentinoin. I still think a prescription retinoid cream is the way to go if you are over 30, but if you’re under 30 or can’t/won’t use a retinoid, I recommend regular exfoliation.
Exfoliation removes the dead skin cells from the top layer of skin, making it feel softer and allowing makeup to go on more smoothly. If you leave those dead skin cells to chill on your epidermis, your skin will look dull and your makeup might get patchy as it grabs onto those cells who have crossed over. I’ve been out of the exfoliation game for a minute, but I can tell you that when I was in it, I preferred chemical (aka enzyme) exfoliation over physical (aka manual or scrub) exfoliation, as chemical exfoliation is more gentle. When exfoliation was part of my normal routine, I liked Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment (they also make a gentle version for sensitive skin). Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant is another good one.
Blackhead Extraction. When I notice blackheads on my nose, I do extractions on the area. I’m a licensed esthetician so I can confidently do extractions in a way that I know won’t cause scarring. If you are not an esthetician, I recommend periodically going to one for a facial, which should include extractions. You can also use the Biore Pore Strips, which can remove some blackheads. If those don’t work for you, schedule a facial and make sure that you are thoroughly cleansing each night, as going to bed with a dirty face is a great way to get blackheads.
Face Oil. Don’t be scared of face oil. Oil does not always = breakouts. Think of it as a souped up moisturizer, okay? I have been using the Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil for several years, and my skin is better person for it. Face oil is one of the skincare products I noticed almost immediately results from. I use it a couple nights in a week in the winter, when my skin is on the dry side. I apply it at night and let it absorb while I sleep. I use it year-round when I do facial massages, which really help when my skin is looking dull. (Lisa Eldridge explains that well here.) I reach for it as a sort of spot treatment if I get dry patches, which crop up if I’ve used too much Trentinoin, after I’ve been sick and my skin is dehydrated or when frigid weather causes dry patches and flaking. In those cases, I apply a small amount to the dry patches and it always heals them within a couple of days. Lastly, I use face oil 20 minutes after my Trentinoin if I have noticed any recent peeling or redness from it.
For more info on the Josie Maran Argan Oil, I’ve got another post for you! Unless you have truly acneic skin–in which case I recommend limiting your products until your acne has cleared, as adding anything new can irritate your already irritated skin–face oil should be part of your routine.
Spot Treatments. As I mentioned, I get the occasional blemish. When I do, I use a spot treatment to attack it overnight. If it’s a small whitehead or a pustule, I first try to get it with salicylic acid. I like the Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel. If that doesn’t do it, or if I’m dealing with a papule, I go after it with Persa-Gel 10, a kickass benzoyl peroxide treatment.
If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about with my acne terminology, I can help with that. Clickety click click here.
Face Masks. I’m not a mask addict, mostly because I already have enough steps in my routine and they work well. But I do like to use the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm every week or two, especially if my skin is looking dull or tired. I think this is a great mask that should work on all skin types, but if you have a specific skin concern you want to address, there’s probably a mask for it. Charcoal and mud masks are great for oily skin, while Vitamin E, avocado, and shea butter masks will make dry skin happy. If you have sensitive skin, look for masks that contain oatmeal, honey or aloe.
Hydroquinone. Let’s start with the definition of melasma. It’s a hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) that appears in gray-brown patches, usually on the face but sometimes on other areas of the body. Melasma is caused by birth control pills, pregnancy, hormone therapy and sun exposure. I think my upper lip melasma came from sun exposure. I regrettably had some serious sunbathing days in my 20s, and I started to pay for it a few years later via creases on my chest, moles that had to be scraped off or gouged out of my body, and melasma. Even though I did always wear sunscreen on my face, during pool days in the hot Florida sun, I could feel my face sweating, particularly at my hairline (where I also have faint melasma) and my above my upper lip. My theory is that the sweat on those areas broke down the sunscreen and allowed the sun damage to kick my melanocytes (pigment-producing skin cells) into overdrive.
My melasma got worse as I got older. Even though I was keeping my face protected from the sun, cumulative sun damage can take a while to appear. My dermatologist prescribed Hydroquinone 4% Cream to diminish the darkness above my lip. Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching cream and although some people says it’s harmful, I ran it by my MD/ND (medical doctor and naturopath) and he gave me the okay. You are supposed to only use it for three months at a time, which I do mostly during the warmer months, as that is when I notice the melasma most. It’s definitely faded to the point where I forget I even have it, but sometimes it crops back up, at which point I start my three months again.
If you don’t have melasma, this of course doesn’t need to be a part of your routine. And even if you do have it, Hydroquinone might not be the best choice for you. Get thee to a derm and go from there. But since I am telling you all of the products I use, I had to mention this one.
Sleep. This sometimes elusive skincare “product” is just as important as the rest. Even if I am doing everything else right, if I’m not sleeping enough, my skin does not look its best. I realize we can’t all regularly get as much sleep as we need, but lack of sleep does affect how your skin looks. I have to mention it because if you’re only clocking a few hours of sleep most nights, I don’t want you to say “I’m using all of the products Allison said and my skin doesn’t look good!” and think it’s my fault.
I obviously have a post about sleep too. I have an opinion on everything.
Supplements & A Clean Diet. I’m not a medical professional (although I have referred to myself as an “amateur doctor” before), but I do think what you put inside your body has as much of an impact as what you put on your skin. For example, I don’t mess with too much sugar because it makes me feel like shit. When I do, I not only feel gross but the fine lines around my eyes are more pronounced the next day. I don’ think I’m imagining that, and studies do show that sugar can break down collagen, aka accelerate the formation of lines and wrinkles. You mean the very things I am trying so hard to avoid?!?!
In general, I’ve found that when I take the supplements I personally need (fish oil, iron, probiotics, multivitamins and some stuff that helps with hormonal issues I was born with), I feel better. When I physically don’t feel well, it shows up on my face. Think about it. What does someone’s complexion look like when they are ill? Bright and glowy, or pale and dull-looking?
I was a vegetarian for six years (ages 12 – 18) and my skin did not look great. I wasn’t breaking out, but my skin was sallow and my undereye circles were even darker than they normally are. Turns out my body thrives on protein and iron, and I wasn’t able to get the amount I needed from a plant-based diet. Although I would prefer to not eat meat, I didn’t feel great–and my skin showed that–when I was, so I had to make the change.
My point is, finding the right combination of foods and supplements (if that’s your jam) helps you have a healthier system, and your skin is included in that.
Wow, you made it through this whole post? Congratulations! I hope you have found it helpful. I know it may sound like a lot, but it’s not that bad. The total time needed for my evening routine (not including the wait time in the Trentinoin process, which I detail in the post linked in the Retinoids section) is maybe 15 minutes. In the morning–normally just hylaluronic acid, moisturizer and sometimes sunscreen–it’s around five minutes. It probably took you longer to read this post that it takes for me to do my morning routine. I barely even count my bi-weekly mask time, as it takes about 30 seconds to apply it and maybe three minutes to thoroughly wash it off. When I do a facial massage with the Josie Maran Argan Oil, that can take 15 minutes, but I do that while watching something, so it’s multi-tasking. Extractions are on an as-needed basis, and that’s an under-ten-minutes process as well.
The hardest parts of getting into a skincare routine are finding the products that work for you and then getting into the habit of using them. And sorry, but there is no shortcut there. Hopefully my recommendations have helped, but actually doing the routine is on you.
If you have any questions, comment away. I am here for you and your skin.
Back in the day, the only skin concerns you heard about were acne and wrinkles. Women’s magazines focused on wrinkles, while teen magazines were all about preventing or covering acne. The only times you heard the word “pores” was when an article told you to splash your face with cold water after cleansing to close the pores. (And hey, it doesn’t work that way–cold water will temporarily stop the pores from producing oil, but they don’t completely close up from it, which is a good thing.)
Then, in 1996, Biore Pore strips happened. “Pore” became a dirty word. Everyone wanted the gunk (technical term) ripped out of their skin and shown satisfyingly on a piece of what appeared to be hardened cotton. Cleaning out pores wasn’t just a fad. It became an obsession in the beauty world, later followed by the need minimize those clear–but still visible–pores.
And I get it. Clogged pores cause blackheads and other kinds of acne, and pores are more obvious and look bigger when they are clogged. And large pores–even when they are cleaned out–don’t make for a sought-after skin texture, hence the creation of pore minimizing makeup.
If you are engaged in a war with your pores, I may be able to assist with your battle strategy. I got your plan all laid out.
Cleanse. First of all, you gotsta cleanse every night. Remove your makeup first then cleanse your skin (or use an oil cleanser and kill two birds with one stone). What do you think clogs pores? A lovely mix of dirt, oil, makeup, dead skin cells, sweat and bacteria. Properly removing your makeup and cleansing will get a lot of that junk away from your pores, so if you skip this important step, you’re making your pores vulnerable to attack.
Exfoliate. Dead skin cells are like that last guest at your party–they won’t leave until you make them. They stay on skin and hide inside pores, and the only way to get them out is by exfoliating. You can use a physical exfoliant (aka a scrub) or a enzyme exfoliant, but either way, regular exfoliation–2 – 3 times a week–is an important part of keeping your pores un-clogged. Salicylic acid is an exfoliating ingredient that works especially well with clogged pores, so keep that one in mind. (Skip this step if you use a retinoid or any other product that is contraindicated with exfoliation.)
Get A Facial. An esthetician will do extractions during a facial, and those extractions will get rid of any clogged business you couldn’t get out yourself. It’s best to have extractions (the manual emptying of blackheads and whiteheads) done by a professional, because many a “I can do this myself” extraction has resulted in scarring.
Pore Minimizer. If your pores are clean but still visible, a pore minimizer will be your best friend. Pore mimimizers temporarily fill in pores without clogging them so that makeup can apply smoothly over those areas. I use a pore minimizer on myself and many of my clients, and it really does make a difference.
Matte Liquid Foundation. I’ve found that sheer liquid foundations are much better on those with large pores than powder foundation. As long as a pore minimizer has been applied first, a sheer liquid foundation won’t sink into pores and highlight them the way a powder foundation can.
Stipple Your Powder. You can still use a pressed powder (more lightweight than a powder foundation) to set your foundation if you have large pores, but you’ll get the best results if you use a sponge and stipple/press a thin layer of powder over those areas as opposed to applying it with a brush.
I hope my battle plan serves you well. Godspeed, Pore Warrior.
You know what time (of year) it is. If you are still working on your holiday shopping–I know I am–and you have someone in your life who is into skincare and/or makeup, I’ve got some suggestions for you. (Or maybe you want to add these to your own holiday wish list!)
In no particular order, I present the strongest players in the beauty game.
I recently posted on the Allison Barbera Beauty Facebook page asking people what beauty-related topics they would like to read about. People commented with a lot of great suggestions and trust me, I’m on it! One person–hi, Candie!–said she would like to read posts about skincare (specifically my skincare routine). But I’ve been sick lately and my brain isn’t at its creative best, so I’m going to start with some skincare tutorials I love, then I’ll be back with a post about my current skincare routine.
There are some folks in this world who would fight you if you took away their eyeliner. (That is a fight I would pay to see!) Many of us have that one makeup product that we can’t live without, and for a lot of people, that product is eyeliner. That makes sense, since eyeliner is one of the makeup products that can give your eyes definition, make them look bigger, make your eye shape look different, and enhance your eye color. That’s a lot of payoff from one product, right?
So we’ve got Eyeliner Lovers in one camp. They will fight you to the death for the last kohl pencil at Sephora, so keep your guard up. In the other camp, we’ve got those people who are scared of eyeliner, or so they tell me. In some cases, I think what they are really scared of is working with liquid liner, doing a winged liner or having their eyeliner smudge. If you also have that Eyeliner Fear, there is hope for you. Step 1 is to get educated on your liner options. And I can help!
Here’s what we’ve got:
Liquid Liner. Many makeup masterpieces have been created with liquid liner, but it is the hardest to liner work with. Because a good liquid liner is strongly pigmented and is meant to create a sharp line, if you slip up, there’s no hiding it. Liquid liners come in tube, pen or small bottle form, generally with the the applicator attached. The applicator may be a thin brush or a pointed felt tip applicator. The circumference (am I using that word correctly?) of the applicator will dictate how thick of a line you get. If you want a sharp wing or a graphic liner look, you should go with liquid.
Kohl Eyeliner. Y’all need to thank the Egyptians for this stuff. It’s been around since the Protodynastic Period in Egypt, which goes wayyyyyy back to 3100 BCE. It has been used in many cultures by men and women for different reasons. Some believe lining inside the waterline with kohl prevents eye infections, while others think it keeps the sun out of the eyes. Because of the amount of lead in true kohl, it’s actually banned by the FDA in the US. So when we are talking about kohl liners here, they are just a (safer) facsimile of the real thing. You’ll see them in pencil or crayon form in this country. Kohl’s biggest identifying feature is the softness of the formulation and how easily you can blend and smudge it. I like kohl liners for the top lashline, because you can draw them on and smudge them upwards with an angled brush for a smokey effect. I generally stay away from them on the bottom lashline, as the same thing that makes them easy to blend makes them quick to smudge under the eye. They also work really well in the waterline, as they glide on smoothly and a quality kohl liner has loads of pigment. Kohl liners won’t give you a sharp line, as they tend to smudge out a little as you draw them on, so I wouldn’t recommend them for a sharp winged liner or graphic liner look.
Non-Kohl Pencil. I have to differentiate between the two because although they can look the same, they are different animals. Non-kohl pencil eyeliners (let’s just called them “NK liners”) seem to be the most popular with makeup civilians. Which makes sense, because from what I can tell (and I couldn’t find the research to back this up), there are more NK pencils than any other type of eyeliner on the market. Pencil liners can be soft or hard. I don’t recommend using a pencil that’s too soft, as the tip can break off with even the lightest pressure. But using a pencil that’s too hard can cause tugging of the thin eye skin, which is not only uncomfortable but can lead to fine lines. So you have to find the right formulation, Goldilocks. If the pencil has a thin enough tip, you can get defined line from it. If that’s your goal, just make sure to keep it sharpened. Some pencil formulations set instantly, so there is no room to smudge/smoke them out once they are on. Others are more creamy and give you time to smudge/smoke. So think about your liner needs before purchasing an NK pencil.
Crayon Liner. Crayon liners are most closely related to NK pencils, but might be a distant relative of kohl. They are generally a softer consistency and can usually be smudged/smoked out. They might start out as a pointed shape, but even with the ones you can sharpen, they usually end up more rounded. I tend to use crayon liners at the lower lashline, as they are softer, so more comfortable to use there than a hard pencil. I don’t like a harsh line at the lower lashline, but a waterproof crayon liner will allow for a soft line that stays in place. I use a crayon liner at the bottom lashline on all of my female clients (unless they don’t like bottom lashline liner), so my favorite Bobbi Brown ones have an important place in my pro kit.
Gel Liner. I love me a little pot o’ liner! Gel liners are actually more like a cream consistency, but for some reason, “gel” is typically used to describe them. To apply gel liner, you scrape some out of the pot with a clean makeup spatula (don’t you dare use your fingernail), put that on a palette or your hand and apply with a fine liner brush. I know some people dip straight into the liner with their brush when they are doing their own makeup, but that transfers bacteria from your eye to the liner. The pot gets closed after using, trapping the bacteria into your gel liner and making it so you reapply the bacteria–which if high school Biology taught me correctly multiplies when in a enclosed space–back onto your eye the next time you use it. And from an artistry standpoint, I’ve found that dipping the brush straight into the gel liner loads it with too much product, which you either end up wasting it if you notice it and wipe some off your brush first or you apply to your eyes then realize you have way too much on, and that’s not an easy fix. With gel liner, I recommend first applying a very thin line then building it up if need be. Once you go too far with gel liner, there’s no coming back. But it is a versatile liner because you can use it to create defined lines, wings or graphic liner looks, or you can smudge/smoke it out before it sets for a softer look. There’s a little learning curve if you are used to any type of crayon or pencil liner, but if you love liner and haven’t tried this yet, you should give it a go.
Shadow Liner. If you want a soft look that still gives you definition, using a eyeshadow as an eyeliner will get you there. 95% of the time, I use shadow liner only on myself. All you need to do this is a matte shadow and an angled or fine liner brush. You can layer it for more intensity or keep it light for subtle definition. Shadow liner is the most forgiving of the liners because since doesn’t have the texture of a waxy pencil, shiny liquid liner or cream gel liner, so it doesn’t stand out as much against the skin. It also won’t typically show a tiny slip up, where some of the other liners will immediately announce that you had a hand twitch or didn’t get your line even as you were drawing it. If you are doing a graphic or winged liner, mapping out your shape first with an eyeshadow will make the job much easier. Shimmery shadows won’t give you the same type of definition as a matte shadow, as the shimmer particles can look patchy when drawn in a line. (Don’t believe me? Use a brush to draw a straight line of shimmer shadow next to a straight line of matte shadow on your hand, and see which one stands out more.) If you don’t use eyeliner but want to, shadow liner is a great gateway drug to the other liner types.
Permanent Eyeliner. You can’t find this in a makeup kit! Permanent eyeliner is tattooed on. I get the appeal for someone who always wears liner, but put a needle near my eye and I’m going to bite you. If you are considering permanent makeup, keep in mind that we lose collagen and elastic in our skin as we age, and everything starts to droop a little. So that liner that started at your lower lashline could end up a lower than you wanted it. And with the permanent liners I’ve seen, they all seem to turn navy blue after a while. I’m not super knowledgeable about permanent makeup, as it’s not the type of “makeup” I work with, so I would just say, do your research.
Guyliner. Guyliner is most typically black pencil liner at the bottom lashline and/or bottom waterline. It’s most popular with duded who have a punk or rocker style. In my opinion, it looks great on the right kind of guy. But if you put it on a 50 year balding man who wears suits to work, it’s going to look off. I’ve dated two guys who could pull off guyliner and even though they didn’t regularly wear it, I convinced them to let me try it on them. Because why should only one person in the relationship wear makeup? Sephora Date Nights could be a thing…
Did you learn, like, so much? Good! Now your part, Step 2, is to play around with the liners you have or go out and buy one that you don’t have. Then practice, practice, practice and feel free to hit me up with questions.
I’ve got a “one more” addiction in many areas of my life. Let me answer one more email before I go for a run, watch one more episode of Grace & Frankie before I get into bed, read one more chapter of this book before I turn my lamp off, eat one more chip with guacamole before I hate myself. I guess that Daft Punk banger from 2001 really had an effect on me…
Luckily, I don’t have the “one more” inclination with cocktails, which has saved me from many hangovers. I also never “one more” another part of my life–my skincare product application. I know that there are a lot of people out there who think that if they use one more pump of product than instructed or apply it one more time a day than they are supposed to, they will see quicker results. But that’s not how it works, Little Miss Impatient.
Here’s a list of things that can happen if you apply more product than you are supposed to (particularly if the product contains a strong active ingredient) or apply it more often than instructed:
Often times, overusing a product will have the opposite effect and make it not work at all, which is a waste of product and therefore money. Although changes may be happening deep down in the layers of the epidermis, depending on the product and the issue you are trying to improve, it may take 2 – 3 months before you start to see a difference. I know this is a tough pill to slowly swallow when we live in a world where a quick injection of instant gratification is preferred, but some things can not be rushed.
Visible skincare results take time. If you are one more-ing any skincare products, you are likely setting yourself up for failure, disappointment and my voice saying “I told you so!” in your head. If you are using high quality products that are right for your skin type and concerns, you will see results if you use them properly. It’s that simple.