Eyeliner. It’s common to have a love/hate relationship with the product that can emphasize and flatter your eyes, or make you look like a crazy person. There are different formulations–pencil, gel and liquid being the three main ones–and every color you can think of on the market.
Eyeliner can make your eyes look bigger, smaller, more rounded, more almond, closer together or further apart. It can highlight your eye color or bring out the different flecks of color you might not even know you had. It can make you look sultry, more awake, retro or trendy. It’s no wonder that eyeliner is part of the daily routine of so many women.
As awesome as eyeliner is, it can be tricky to apply. I could write a series of posts about the various formulations, techniques and what works best on different eye shapes, but I don’t know how helpful that would be. So I’ve decided help you out with some eyeliner tutorials from professional makeup artists on YouTube. With pro guidance and some practice, you too can excel in eyeliner application. Sound good?
Winged Liner. A classic look, and the one people struggle with the most. Let Lisa Eldridge be your guide.
Winged Liner for Hooded Lids. This can be pretty tough, so give yourself plenty of practice sessions. But once you get it, I think you’ll love it. (If you don’t have hooded lids, watch the first tutorial instead.)
Sultry Eyeliner. A great night out eye makeup look. This is full on so it might feel pretty dramatic if you don’t normally wear eyeliner. It will make your eyes look smaller, so if your eyes are already on the smaller side, it’s probably not the best choice for you.
Sometimes that alarm clock goes off and you just want to cry, right? A randomly sleepless night, a tossing-and-turning-from-the-flu slumber, a tiny nocturnal human screaming for you every hour, or the fun one, an unexpected late night out. All of those things will make you feel like crap before your feet even hit the floor the next day. But duty calls, and you have to pull yourself out of bed. Swear as much as you want–you still have to do it.
Then you look in the mirror. Yikes! Puffy eyelids and undereyes, redness on your inner eyelids, dull looking skin, forehead lines the opposite of on fleek, and parched lips. Some coffee and a shower might help you feel less tired (at least temporarily), but what can you do about those visual signs of exhaustion?
That’s where I come in. Replace “tiny nocturnal human” with “4:42am call time,” and I’ve been there. As a business owner, I have to push through exhaustion like anyone else with a job or commitment. But as a makeup artist, I feel pressure to also look polished any time I’m in public. I can’t go to a job, meeting or other appointment looking like I only slept for three hours, even if I did.
So I’ve learned some beauty hacks to give the illusion that I am well rested and definitely not thinking about how comfortable my bed is every 15 minutes. So read on and get woke.
Ice, Ice Baby. When I wake up from a near-sleepless night, I am puffy. Not Sean Combs “Puffy,” but swollen puffy. My undereyes may be holding some baggage, but my eyelids are usually worse. And it doesn’t stop there. My whole face looks slightly swollen and trust me, these cheeks don’t need any extra help. Luckily, there is an easy fix for this one: an ice cube. I put one in a dish towel then press it over my face, starting from the forehead down. I press, hold for about four seconds, and move. For my lids, I hold the cube there for 20 seconds. This whole process takes maybe five minutes and it really works.
Stay Hydrated. Lack of sleep accentuates fine lines, and alcohol (if that was a factor in your reduced slumber) dehydrates the skin, which also brings out the lines. Rehydrating skin will blur those lines, so get to it. You’ll get a little help from a moisturizer alone, but layering hyaluronic acid under that is a better choice. For more on the miracle product that is HA, peep my blog post.
Exit the Dark Side. In most cases, dark undereye circles are blood vessels showing through the thin underye skin. When we are tired, our body produces more cortisol to help us feel awake. That increased cortisol causes bumped up blood flood, which makes the blood vessels expand, in turn making them more visible through that thin undereye skin. If you want to know how to minimize them, I’ve got a blog post for that too. On days when you are feeling especially vampire-y, stay away from purple tops and berry-toned lipsticks, as they will bring out the undereye darkness you are trying to hide.
You’re Blushing. When people are tired, they often look paler than their natural skintone. The easiest way to bring color back onto the face is blush. A little blush (soft pink for fair skin, brighter pink for medium and a reddish pink or red for dark skin) makes a world of difference on tired skin. I prefer a cream blush in this situation, because as we discussed, your skin is probably dull looking and/or dehydrated after sleep deprivation. Cream blush blends into skin more easily than powder, which can get patchy on dry or dehydrated skin. My favorite cream blushes are the Make Up For Ever HD Cream Blushes. Pat a small dot on the center of each cheek, blend with your fingers and watch two more hours of sleep magically appear on your face.
Hey, Bright Eyes! Eye drops may help with any bloodshot business you have going on, but makeup can hide the telltale red inner eyelids. Applying some off-white pencil to the waterline will cover the redness and instantly make your eyes look more awake. MAC keeps discontinuing the ones I like (R.I.P. Pale Yellow and Chromographic Pencil NC15/NW20), so I sadly don’t have a good personal recommendation for you right now as I had stockpiled some Chromographic Pencils a few years back. I’ve heard this one is good, and it’s cheaper than the MAC ones, so I’d go for it. I’ll be sure to post reviews of any new ones I try.
Shadowy Lady. If you don’t normally wear eyeshadow, I wouldn’t recommend starting that on a day you are exhausted and low on patience. But if you do normally wear eyeshadow, stay away from shimmery shadows if your lids are puffy, as that will only accentuate that. I also tend to avoid light matte shadows, as light colors highlight whatever area you put them on. I tend to do a light gray or mid-tone brown smokey-ish eye (I say it that way so you don’t think I’m doing some dramatic, heavy look) along with a shadow liner, as that seems to work best when my lids are puffy. The ice cube trick will usually take care of the puffyness, but sometimes I run out of time or am being lazy. Hey, I’m not perfect.
Lip Service. Dry lips go hand in hand with tired skin. A good lip balm like Glossier Balm Dotcom will bring some moisture back, so start there. As far as lip color, again, if you don’t normally wear any, this might not be the day to start. But if you do, something sheer or creamy will look and feel best. Hold off on the matte lip colors if your lips are dry, as matte formulations stick to dry patches, making them more obvious. Unless you’ve cancelled out all of the redness in your skin and waterlines and your eyes are not bloodshoot, I would avoid a red lip as that will bring out redness on the rest of your face. Much like with the blush, a lip color in the pink family will bring some color back onto your face and make you look more rested.
There are levels of tired you just can’t push through. But I’ve found that when I can hide the obvious signs of exhaustion with makeup, I feel a little less tired when I look in the mirror. It’s like tricking your brain, you know?
I hope you have lots of well-rested days in 2018, but when you don’t, you’ve got these tips to fall back on.
I’m solidly in my mid-30s (and it’s a great age, FYI). I’m part of the Oregon Trail Generation–those born in the late 70s through the early 80s–so I feel I am experienced and wise enough to offer advice to Millennials. You know those “Letter to My 25 Year Old Self” posts that pop up every once in a while? They are advice posts disguised as self help/growth posts, but I know what’s up. And I’m into it. But as much as I want to, I’m not going to give you life advice, Millenn’. Because you’re going to date him/her anyway. You’re going to have meltdowns over a bad day at a job you know you need to leave. You’re going to have nightmare roommates, landlords and neighbors and you are going to bitch about them until you move and realize no living situation is perfect. But you need to go through that yourself, boo.
What I do feel qualified to give you is beauty advice. I’ve been in the industry for almost a decade and oh, the things I have learned. I meet women my age and older with beauty issues that bother them, and they are often things that could have been prevented. So in this gem of a blog post, I’m going to tell you some things you can start doing right now that will allow Future You to put your best face forward. Aging is a natural part of life, but physical signs of premature aging don’t need to be. When I see a 37 year old woman with skin damage that she inflicted upon herself in her teens and 20s, I want to put us both in a time machine so I can teach her what to do to prevent that damage. (I would also of course make a quick stop to March 9, 1997 and save Biggie’s life.)
I take care of my skin, but I wish I had known what I’m about to tell you fifteen years ago. What you do in your teens and 20s dictates what your skin will look and feel like when you get older. You might think “Whatever, it’s fine if I have wrinkles when I’m 70.” (And it is.) But I’m not just talking about the senior citizen years of your life. I’m talking about you at 35. And trust me, many of you will be upset if your skin starts looking like what you’ve envisioned at 50 when you hit your mid 30s. Because you will be in your 30s before you know it. Believe that.
I may not be able to convince you to stop listening to Drake or lay off the selfies for a bit, but I can help your beauty life. Think of it as an investment in Future You.
Let’s get into it.
Protect Your Skin. If you want to jump start the premature aging process, spend as much time as possible in the sun. Nothing causes physical signs of aging–wrinkles, lines, sagging and dark spots–like UVA and UVB rays. In my opinion–and I’ve only seen like a thousand faces up close and personal–sun damage is the number one cause of premature aging. I can tell a sun worshipper the moment they sit in my chair, even if they are a reformed sun worshipper. Once the damage is done, it’s there unless you have a lot of money, time and high pain threshold for the procedures that might be able to reverse it. So SPF, SPF, SPF. Always. I think I’ve made my point.
Step Out of The Tanning Booth. These things are horrible. Not only do they increase your risk of melanoma by 75%, but they contain only UVA rays, which get to the deepest layer of skin and wreak havoc while they are there. The bulbs in tanning beds/booths can emit as much as 12 times the amount of UVA as the sun. That speeds up premature aging, which again, I’m pretty confident no one wants to do. Listen, I get it–you want to look tan. I too like the look of a tan on my skin. I think it makes my eyes look brighter and my skin look healthier. But there are safe ways to get the same effect. Spray tans and self tanners have come a long way since they came on the market, and there are some fantastic formulas out there. If you’re a Millennial who goes to a tanning salon, I beg you to stop.
Drop Some Acid. Hyaluronic acid, girlfriend. I am all about The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid, which comes in a dropper (hence my perfect pun). If you get ahead of skin hydration at a young age I mean, damn, your skin will look and feel amazing as you age. You can tell people you are into the No Makeup Makeup trend so they don’t get jealous that your skin is that good. Want to know more about it? Peep my blog post about that magical skin elixir.
Request The Ret. If you can get your hands on a prescription retinoid in your 20s, do not pass up that opportunity. A lot of women experience some adult acne in their early to mid 20s, and some dermatologists will prescribe a retinoid to combat it. I’ve found (both in my experience and what I’ve heard from others) that a lot of derms will prescribe a retinoid for you if you ask for it. They know it works. And from what I’ve been told, most health insurances will cover prescriptions for acne, as it is considered a medical issue. So if you can access to it and it’s affordable for you if it’s not covered by your insurance, do ittttttttt. If you want to know more about retinoids, I’ve got a blog post about that too.
Put Down The Tweezers. In this Era of the Thick Brows, over-tweezing is not as much of an epidemic as it’s been in past decades, but there are still some compulsive brow tweezers out there. I’m all for tweezing away stray hairs or manicuring your brows into a shape you like. But if you’re heavily tweezing, just make sure that is a shape you will also like in your 70s. Repeated over tweezing will eventually damage the follicle, stunting hair growth. And keep in mind that hair growth slows as we age anyway. Accidentally tweeze a brow hair at age 12? Give it two weeks. It’ll be back. (But don’t ever wait around for a guy/girl like that. Screw it–I have to give some life advice.) Tweeze that same hair at 67? It may be a few months before it grows in. Tweezing the middle of the unibrow is fine–unless you think you may want to go full Frida Kahlo some day–but avoid tweezing above the brow, as that is where part of your shape comes from. Many of the women over age 60 I see have thin brows, and they usually almost immediately tell me some version of “I tweezed my brows too much when I was younger.” It makes sense, because these women were in their teens or 20s in the 1960s and early 1970s, when thin brows were en vogue. But decades later, they paid the price. Consider this your cautionary tale.
Don’t Be a Picker. For the love of God, stop popping and picking your pimples! That is the best way to create acne scars and uneven skintone, both of which can only typically be eliminated by expensive and painful laser treatments that don’t even always completely work. Each time you poke a gel manicured nail into a blemish, you are causing tears in the skin. Frequent tearing–or even one big dig (shoutout to Boston)–will likely cause a divot in the skin. And you know what can’t cover that? Makeup. Sometimes those scars you form from picking and popping will turn dark as they heal, and those kinds of dark spots often don’t fade or cover well. Why put yourself in that position? Resist the urge to pick and pop and your Future Face will thank you for it.
Respect The Basic Trifecta. Cleanse every night, moisturize every morning and exfoliate 2-3 times a week. (Skip the exfoliation if you are using a retinoid or any other products that are contraindicated.) If you are using the right products, these three very simple steps will be your building blocks to good skin. They will also only take up maybe six minutes per day and yes, you do have time that.
Lose The Lighter. Do Millennials even smoke? I feel like I rarely see young people (wow, yup, I said that) smoking anymore. I don’t know if it’s because you can’t smoke anywhere or even within 20 feet of anywhere, so maybe they are only smoking inside their homes. In my day–up until the summer after I graduated from college–smoking was allowed inside of bars, and it seemed like everyone took advantage of that. You know that smoking is horrible for your lungs and overall poison for your whole body. But do you know how it affects the skin? Yes, wrinkles and lines around the lips from the repeated lip pursing (which I think you can also get from frequent duck-faced selfies, so be careful) will happen. I think smoking also changes the texture of the skin. Much like I can tell a sun worshipper when they sit in my chair, I can also usually tell a smoker when I touch their skin. It’s often both oily and dehydrated, typically with enlarged pores. The only thing that should be smokin’ is that picture of you in your favorite OOTD. So do yourself and your wallet a favor and QUIT.
Listen, this isn’t about being superficial or vain. Skin is the largest organ, so I personally like to take care of it the same way I take care of my liver, bones, etc. Think about this: 86 years old is the average life expectancy for a Millennial. Do you want as many of your organs to be in as good shape as possible for as long as possible, or do you want to spend a couple decades having issues because of completely preventable damage you inflicted on yourself? I mean, it’s your choice.
Do other beauty bloggers talk about life expectancy in their posts? Probably not. But my brain, you see, is not one of a normal human. Like one of the artists who works for me said recently “You think a lot!” I do, and most of my thoughts have to do with improvements–improving my business, my relationships, my health, etc. If I can help you improve one facet of your life–by preventing some early signs of aging–that makes me so happy.
Most people wait until they see signs of damage or premature aging to start doing something about their skin. In many cases, it’s too late to make much of a difference. But you, you are in this awesome position of being able to prevent or slow down some of those things that may bother you in the future. Do you realize how awesome that is?
You’ve got a lot of possibilities in front of you, Millennial. And you’ll also inevitably encounter some challenges. Why not avoid or slow down some of the skin issues that may concern you in 10-20 years? This certainly won’t be the biggest challenge of your life, but if you already have a lot going on, why add concerns about the way you look to that? From what I’ve observed, it does bother many people (or at least women) when they start to see signs of skin damage or premature aging. Some people are deeply bothered by those issues, to the point where it affects their confidence. If you can avoid having those concerns so you can fully focus on the important things–your career, your family, how many Instagram followers you have–why wouldn’t you?
I’m taking a break from my uber popular Prep School series to write about the new skincare product I’m loving. (It’s not new to the market and I’ve been using it for a while, but I wasn’t using it correctly, so it’s like it’s new.) You know when you are crushing on someone real hard? Like they make your days better and you catch yourself smiling whenever you think of them? That’s how I feel about hyaluronic acid. Particularly, the Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 by The Ordinary.
If you haven’t heard of hyaluronic acid before, here’s the Cliffs Notes (are those still a thing?). Hyaluronic acid is something our bodies naturally produce. It’s a clear substance that hangs out in our skin, inside our joints, in our peepers and in other tissues. It lubricates, helps hold in collagen (which would be what the Fountain of Youth flowed with, if it were real), provides moisture and gives elasticity and flexibility to our joints and tissues. Important stuff, right?
As we age, a lot of the good stuff our bodies naturally produce gets depleted. At least our society really values the wisdom of its older citizens though, right? Always a bright side. Anyway, there are foods you can eat and supplements you can take to slow the aging process internally, but that’s not my forte. What I can speak on is the products you can use externally to help your skin look and feel its best. And hyaluronic acid is one of those products.
Don’t be fooled by the “acid” part of the name, though. It’s not an exfoliator like glycolic acid, salicylic acid or alphahydroxy acid (nor will it get you high). This miracle product helps the skin by allowing it to retain water. That’s usually not thought of as a desirable thing–although maybe “PMS” will start trending someday–but it is good for the epidermis. Hyaluronic acid molecules can hold up to 1,000 times their weight in water, which is more than any other biological substance. That shit cray.
Sagging skin is partially due to the lack of water in those tissues, and hyaluronic acid keeps that water in. Sun exposure can also cause skin dehydration, but hyaluronic acid can help keep the moisture in so skin looks and feels healthier. Hyaluronic acid plumps up the skin and minimizes the appearance of wrinkles when used consistently and correctly. It’s often used in fillers and is very effective in that capacity. It also doesn’t tend to cause side effects like other fillers can, since hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body so it isn’t recognized as a foreign substance when it is injected.
There are a ton of moisturizers and serums out there that contain hyaluronic acid. But my experience is that products that contain the highest effective percentage of the ingredient without having to compete with a ton of other ingredients work best. (For example, I recommend a prescription retinoid cream over a moisturizer that includes retinol.) Part of the problem is that hyaluronic acid molecules are livin’ large. They are “bruisers” (which is what my father calls any male child who is big for his age). When molecules are that big, they can’t penetrate the skin and are therefore ineffective. But The Ordinary HA (I’m done with typing the whole product name every time) contains hyaluronic acid molecules in varying weights, which allows them to penetrate the skin. It also contains Vitamin B5, which helps increase surface hydration.
Because it doesn’t contain oil, The Ordinary HA is great for acne-prone skin or anyone who doesn’t normally do well with oily products. You can have both acne and dehydrated skin, so this is a good choice for someone in that category.
HA works great in humid environments. So if you live in the Southeast in the summer, hollahhhhhhh! But if you’re reading this from Minnesota in February, don’t you worry. HA can still work for you. The key (and you should do this regardless of your locale) is to apply HA right after you wash your face or get out of the shower. Apply a small amount–a dime-sized amount is more than enough for your face, neck and decolletage–after you have lightly patted your skin dry. Your skin should be damp when you apply HA, not dripping wet. Apply the product to your face, neck and chest and lightly rub it in. You don’t need to massage this in. Your skin will absorb it with the quickness. If you’ve applied too much, your skin might feel tight or dry. So scale it back, mama. It’s normal for it to feel a little tacky, but that will go away as soon as you apply moisturizer, which you will do next. A thin layer of that will get rid of the tacky feeling and will help seal the HA in.
I apply HA once or twice a day. (Every morning and every other night when I am not using retinol.) Don’t overdo it by applying it more often than that, and don’t use a huge amount thinking that will help either. Going buck wild with skincare products does not yield faster results and can actually cause adverse effects (on your skin and to your wallet). I started seeing a difference from HA after a month, but disclaimer: I have good skin to start with because of the rest of my routine and my diet. So your visible results time may vary depending on the condition of your skin. And please make sure to do a patch test before committing to daily use of HA. Simply apply a small amount on your neck and wait 24-48 hours to see if you have a reaction. It’s not a product known to cause allergic reactions or irritation, but I recommend doing this with any skincare product.
I can’t promise that HA or any other skincare product will work for you. But I do believe that The Ordinary HA is a fantastic product, and science supports the claim that HA is a super hydrator. Hydrated skin looks and feels better (and younger, if that’s your jam), plus it allows makeup to blend more easily. And who wouldn’t want that? If you’re interested, you can buy it here.
If you’re a loyal reader, you’ll remember I mentioned that I’ve been using castor oil on my lashes and brows lately. (If you’re not a loyal reader, you should re-think your priorities in life.) I’ve been using castor oil for a few months on my eyelashes and eyebrows, and I’ve seen a definite difference.
Got questions? I’ve got your answers right here.
Where do I get castor oil?
I found mine at a local health food store, but Amazon carries a ton too. Just make sure to get organic 100% castor oil. You don’t want to mess around with castor oil that is packed with chemicals or additives because the product is going on your eyes, and peepers can be sensitive. I’ve been using the Now Solutions Castor Oil, which they have on Amazon.
What does this stuff even do? And how?
Well, that’s two questions but I’ll let it slide. Castor oil nourishes the eyelashes and eyebrows and encourages growth of new lashes and brow hairs. It is packed with antioxidants, fatty acids and proteins that strengthen the lashes and brows and make them less prone to breakage. The molecules in this oil are teeny tiny and therefore able to get into the small lash and brow follicles. When the lashes and brows are able to be this healthy, they can reach their fullest and longest potential. If the lashes and brows you grow naturally are not healthy, they might be very slow to appear or only grow to a certain length and thickness. But because castor oil gets down deep in that follicle and creates a healthy environment for lash and brow hairs, they are able to flourish.
How much it is going to run me?
A 16 ounce bottle shouldn’t cost you more than $15, and that will last you for-freakin’-ever. I bought mine in mid-April and have barely made a dent in it.
How do I apply it?
All you’ll need is a disposable mascara wand and a decently steady hand. Dispense a small stripe of product on one side of the wand. That should be enough to coat both sets of lashes. You don’t need to completely saturate the lashes–just coat them enough so that they look shiny but not slicked back. I use what’s left on the wand on the front of my brows, where they are sparse. Some people prefer to use an eyeliner brush to apply the castor to the lash roots, which makes sense. But I apply castor oil like I apply mascara, so it gets to the roots. I also like the idea of coating the length of the lash with the product so that it nourishes and hydrates the entire lash, not just the root.
When should I use it?
At night, fo sho, unless you want to look like a little wet lashed weirdo. I’m a firm believer in applying products that need to penetrate/absorb at night. Skincare products in that category work better when your skin doesn’t have to also be on guard against the sun, pollution and bacteria you are applying to your face when you touch it. And unless you rub your eyes constantly while you are sleeping, the castor oil will have more of a chance to do its job while you’re in dreamland.
How often should I use it?
You only need to apply castor oil once a day. I think overdoing it could potentially have the opposite effect of clogging the follicles, which would inhibit growth. I know that when it comes to beauty and skincare products, some of you impulsive folks think “Oh, I’ll just do double the amount, twice a day!” That’s not how it works, and overdoing beauty product usage can sometimes cause more harm then good. So have patience and do as I say (and as I do).
Do I have to remove it?
Yeah, man. A cotton swap saturated in eye makeup remover will do the job. Run it gently on the underside of your lashes the morning after you’ve used castor oil. This will remove the oil that is left, which would otherwise get into your eyes/contacts and wreak havoc on the eye makeup you wear during the day.
How long does it take to work?
I started using castor oil on my brows and top lashes on April 13. (What kind of a inconsistent beauty blogger would I be if I didn’t record these things?) By May 1, I noticed a difference in my brows. They use to be very sparse at the front, but now they are much fuller there. It took closer to two months to see a difference in my lashes, but it’s definitely working. They look fuller than before, and I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on them lately.
Are there any weird side effects?
Negative. I started researching lash serums last year because I had seen some great results on friends and clients. But I learned that with serums, there is a high probability that the regrowth will fall out as soon as you stop using the product. Oh, so NO THANKS. I’m fantastic at thinking of the worst case scenario for all situations, and my worst case with a lash serum would be this: I use the serum, love it, it gets discontinued, and the relationship ends with me in tears, new lashes shedding as I sob. The way I see it, using a lash serum when you know what it can do is like re-dating the joker who broke your heart two years ago. You know what the outcome will be, but you do it anyway because it might be good at the beginning. When you stop using castor oil, the new lashes you’ve grown do not fall out right away.* They just chill. What I’m really saying is that you should date castor oil.
If you want better lashes and thicker brows, I absolutely recommend castor oil. It’s an easy, effective, affordable product that does not have any side effects. That’s as close to magic as you’re going to get in this life.
Have a beautiful day 🙂
*All lashes eventually fall out–c’mon, they’re not immortal–but lash serums can make your regrowth fall out as soon as you discontinue use.
I recently received a request to write a blog post about which pimples can be popped (the technical term is “extracted”). I’m nothing if not accommodating, so here we are. I’m not only going to help you identify which pimples can be extracted, but will very begrudgingly teach you how to properly do extractions, because I know that you will do them with or without my guidance. I’ve heard stories of people extracting with their fingernails, with safety pins, with needles, etc. And that’s not extracting–it’s tearing the skin and causing damage. I’m like the mother who lets her teenager and their friends drink at her house because “they’re going to do it anyway and it’s safer at home,” except this blog post is legal and does not contain questionably bad esthetician-ing.
It is always preferable to have extractions done by a licensed esthetician. These skincare experts have been trained in the proper techniques for extractions. They know which pimples are the right candidates and how to extract without scarring the skin. (I’m saying this as a licensed esthetician who did extractions almost daily during my six months of schooling.) Acne scarring is often caused by people incorrectly doing their own extractions. Textured acne scarring can not be fully covered by makeup, and scarring that causes hyerpgmentation (dark spots) is a bitch to cover with makeup. Widespread acne scarring can really only be removed via lasers and other in-office dermatologist treatments, which are considerably more expensive than going to an esthetician for a facial. So that’s something to keep in mind if you pick and pop without abandon.
However, I understand that facials are not in the budget for everyone. So I’ll admit that extractions can be done at home but only only only if you know how. If you have true acne–not just an occasional blemish or two–I’d suggest putting your focus on clearing up your acne instead of extracting every day for eternity. (Maybe even read my Breakout Star blog post for tips on how to treat and prevent acne.) But if we’re just talking a few blackheads on your nose or a whitehead every couple of months, those can be taken care of at home if you absolutely can not get to an esthetician.
I’m going to Glamour style Do’s & Don’ts you here, but please leave a comment if you need clarification.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Extractions
Do thoroughly wash your face and hands first. (No halfass five second cleansing. Because I’ll know.) You will be opening up the blemish and your poor little pore will be vulnerable, so you don’t want any dirt, oil or makeup pushed into it. If that happens, another blemish or an infection can occur. And that’s on you.
Don’t attempt to extract any papules, cysts, nodules or milia. If a blemish does not have a white head or black head, it can not be extracted. The sebum/dirt/bacteria in these types of blemishes is several layers down and impossible to reach via extractions. If you try, you will likely cause some serious damage to your skin and end up with scarring. Need help identifying them? Here are some pretty pictures for you.
Do know which blemishes are okay to extract. Blackheads, which are most commonly found on the nose and chin, are fine, as are whiteheads and pustules. End of list. Pustules and whiteheads are “ready” when the white area is raised, soft and very pronounced. Attempting to extract before the white area is at this stage is futile. You can attempt a blackhead extraction if you see one, but some blackheads are too deep and can not be extracted, so don’t force it.
Don’t forget to steam first. After cleansing your skin, put a warm washcloth on the target blemish. (I prefer to do extractions after a shower when my skin has already reaped the benefits of some steam.) Leave it there for 10 minutes. The steam from the washcloth will temporarily open the pores and soften the sebum inside the blemish, making the extraction itself easier. This is an essential step in the process. If you skip the steam, you risk the scarring.
Do wrap your extracting fingers in tissue first. I use my two index or my two middle fingers for extractions, depending on the area where the blemish is. Use whatever digits you want, but keep your fingernails the hell out of it. If you prefer, you can use two cotton swabs instead.
Don’t force it. Start by gently applying pressure on either side of the center of the pustule/whitehead or blackhead, by first pushing downward then upwards on the area. Some articles tell you to use a needle to pierce the center of the white area, but absolutely do not do that. For whiteheads/pustules, if they are ready to be extracted, applying pressure as described will cause the center of the white area to burst open and the pus/debris will come out easily. Keep gently applying pressure until no white pus comes out. For blackheads, the black area turns white once it has been released from the pore. Keep gently pushing until it comes out completely.
Do stop after five minutes if nothing has been extracted. This either means the blemish was not ready, or it was not the type that can be extracted. This is not one of those situations in life where extra time and effort will yield the best results. Show some restraint, my friend.
Don’tforget about the Golden Age of Hip Hop. Biggie, Big Pun, Nas, Jay-Z, Li’l Kim, DMX, Foxy Brown, Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes, Noreaga, etc. This has nothing to do with properly performing extractions but is equally important.
Do use an astringent on the area post-extraction. Witch hazel or alcohol free toner on a cotton pad works great. This helps wipe away any bacteria that came out during the extraction.
Don’t put makeup on after extracting. You’ve opened your pores after steaming and slightly irritated your skin by pushing on it, so leave it alone now. It might be a little red and definitely mad at you, so step back. I do my extractions at night so my skin has time to calm down while I’m snoozing.
Doknow that extractions are not the answer if you break out a lot. If that is happening to you, you’ve got to address that first. I said this earlier in the blog post, but my how people have short term memories/retain what they want to retain.
Don’t just not wash your makeup off every night then extract the inevitable whiteheads and blackheads. That’s lazy, bro. If you get your skin into good shape, extractions will be something you only have to do once in a while. And even then, at home extractions should be a last resort if you can’t get to a licensed esthetician.
This is the first blog post I haven’t felt 100% great about because I know that going to a pro is the best route for extractions. I might catch some heat from fellow estheticians for this, but I maintain that it’s better than people doing extractions at home incorrectly. If I can save someone from bad extraction skin scarring, I feel like I’ve done my job.
So you’ve identified your face shape, know where to sculpt if desired and have learned how to minimize features you don’t love. Now it is essential that you choose the correct products and tools so no one knows what you’ve been up to. Obvious contour and highlight is about as flattering as harem pants.
The Products: Contour
Contouring products come in powder, cream and liquid formulations. You can use whatever best suits your skin type or layer them (but use restraint, please). As previously discussed, contouring makes areas recede, sometimes giving the illusion of a shadow. Because actual shadows are gray and cool-toned, you want to make sure your contour product(s) are also on the cool side. Anything too warm–think orange-y bronzers–will look off. Bronzers are for bronzing, which is different than contouring. And definitely stay away from any contour products with shimmer, as that defeats the purpose. Shimmer brings light to an area, which will make it look larger–the opposite of what contouring is supposed to do. Using a shimmery bronzer to contour can also make your skin look muddy, aka streaky, aka dirty, aka not a good look.
So, what should you use? For powder contour, I swear by Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kit. It includes a matte contour and a matte highlight and comes in different shades for different skin colors. This bad boy has been my go-to for years.
If you like cream products (typically good for normal to dry skin) and have light skin, check out Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow. It is taupe with gray undertones, so it doesn’t look obvious on fair skin. Jen, one of the AB Beauty makeup artists, uses this and swears by it.
For medium to dark skin, I use MAC Matchmaster Concealer. I know it’s not technically a cream contour, but it’s a stick concealer and works just as well. The shades I use tend to be a little more warm than I would normally go for, but there is a reason the rule can be bent. The kind of face sculpting I do is not as aggressive as current day contouring, so using something slightly warm-toned on medium to dark skin (it would be too obvious on light skin) works as long as it is blended well.
For very dark skin–like the gorgeous blue black skin that some people have–you can skip the contour. To shape your face, you would apply highlight on the areas you want to bring out and the contrast of the natural skin color against the highlight will create a sculpting effect.
The Products: Highlight
Highlight–particularly of the shimmer variety–is crazy hyped up right now. If I can see your cheekbones, Cupid’s Bow and tip of nose (remember–don’t do that!) glowing from across the room then sweetheart, you’ve done too much. Subtle highlight, whether shimmer or matte, is infinitely more flattering. You can believe me, or you can regret it when your Facebook memory selfies come up in five years.
For cream and liquid highlighters with some shimmer, I like Benefit Watts Up (stick highlighter) and Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow Skincare Primer (liquid). Yes, Wonderglow is meant to be a primer, but I think it works beautifully as a highlighter. (I’m having a hell of a time trying to insert photos of those products into this post but Google images will hook you up.)
For powder highlight, I typically reach for the highlight powder from the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Duo. I apply it with a very light hand, as a little goes a long way.
You for sure want to avoid placing shimmery highlight on skin with fine lines or visible pores. If you want to highlight those areas, use a matte highlight. The highlight powders from the Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kits are great if you prefer a powder formulation. For a matte cream highlight, you can really use any concealer that is lighter than your skin. I prefer ones with a thinner consistency, like MAC Select Moisturecover Concealer.
You can also highlight and contour using foundation. For this technique, you would use your regular foundation around the edges of your face and on any areas you would want to contour. Then a lighter foundation with the same undertone in the same formulation would be used on the areas you want to highlight (but use concealer–not foundation–under the eyes). If you’re someone whose skin color changes throughout the year, this is a great way to use your “winter” foundation during the summer.
The type of product you are using should dictate the tools you choose. I always use a brush for powder products. For creams and liquids, I apply with my hands so my body heat–of which I have none of lately in New England, even though it is MARCH–breaks down the product. When it is broken down (melted a bit) that allows it to apply more evenly. I then blend it with a buffing brush if needed. My go to buffing brush is the one from the Real Techniques Core Collection.
Any contouring and highlighting you do should be blended well. That’s such a huge thing with highlight and especially contour. A foundation buffing brush is great for blending larger areas, and a fluffy-but-not-too-soft eyeshadow brush like the MAC 217 is perfect for blending highlight or contour on the eyes and nose. A sponge of your choice can also be helpful for blending out larger areas of contour.
If you want to see some pro highliingghting and contour in action, check out these tutorials. (By the way, I miss the days when WordPress would let me hyperlink.)
In my experience, makeup civilians–the non-makeup artists of the world–are more interested in minimizing or emphasizing certain features as opposed to sculpting their face shape. If that sounds like your jam, read on.
But first–you look fantastic! Like body shapes, “desirable” female features change with the years (and the culture). In ancient Rome, an aquiline nose was the ideal. A rounded eye shape was considered attractive in the 1920s. Full lips became a trend when Angelina Jolie came onto the scene. I think the idea of any physical ideal is bullshit. If you are reading this post because you feel like you are supposed to look a certain way, STOP. Don’t let anyone else dictate what you should or shouldn’t look like.
However, I realize than many people have a feature or two they would like to minimize or alter with with makeup. If there is something that bothers you–not because a magazine says it should but because you don’t like how it looks–some of the tips below might help. (This is also good for makeup artists who will undoubtedly have clients with some of these areas of concern.)
Prominent Cheekbones: Well, lucky you! Skip the cheekbone highlight and don’t contour under your cheekbones, because it can make your face look un-proportioned. You basically have a natural cheekbone highlight built in, so rock it.
Flat Nose: Contouring down the sides of the nose will give dimension to a flat nose. No highlight is needed.
Wide Nose: If your nose is wider at the bottom than at the top, contour the sides of the nose from the bottom third down and bring that contour around the tip of the nose. Highlight at the top, right up to the start of the browbone, to widen the most narrow part of your nose and bring in balance.
Narrow Nose: Apply two thick lines of highlight down the sides of your nose. No contour is needed.
Crooked Nose: This is when the nasal bone is crooked, sometimes because it has been broken. Starting where the base of your nose meets the beginning of your brows, draw two straight lines of contour down the sides of the nose and bring it around the tip. Apply highlight down the center of the nose, stopping before the tip.
Indented Nose: An indented nose may look similar to the crooked nose, but in this case, it’s the skin–not the bone–that changes the shape of the nose. You’ll want to highlight just the indented part and contour the other sections of the nose.
Prominent Nose Bridge: If the base of your nose (right below the space between your eyes) protrudes, you have a prominent nose bridge. If you apply highlight from right above that into the section between your brows, it will make the prominent area recede.
Bulbous Nose: Starting at where the base of your nose meets the beginning of your brows, draw two straight lines of contour about 1/3 of the way down. Then contour around the bottom third and tip of the nose. Apply highlight to the center section.
Close Set Eyes: A little bit of highlight (shadow with shimmer or a matte shade lighter than your skin if you have fine lines there) on the inner corners will make the eyes look further apart. I also recommend keeping eyeliner thickest at the outer corner and using some shadow on the outer V to draw attention outwards. Concentrate your mascara on your outer lashes.
Deep Set Eyes: Instead of applying a darker shadow in the crease of the eye like many eye contouring tutorials will tell you, apply it slightly above the crease. This one can be tricky because you don’t want to go too high and hit the browbone–unless it’s 1989 and you’re going to do some Glamour Shots–so read this blog post for further tips. https://allisonbarberamakeup.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/big-up-to-the-deep-set-crew/
Thin Upper Lip: A little highlight above the Cupid’s Bow (or center of the top lip if your’s goes straight across) will add the illusion of fullness. If you’re confident with makeup, you can also slightly overdraw the top lip with lipliner, but make sure to blend it onto the lip. You can also use a lighter shade of lipstick in the same color family as the lipstick you are wearing on the center of the top lip, which will make it look fuller.
Thin Bottom Lip: Highlighting under the bottom lip will make it look fuller, as will using a lighter shade or some gloss on the center of the lip. You can also slightly overdraw the bottom lipliner if you’ve got the skills.
Full Lips: As a thinned lipped girl, I’m jealous of full lips, but I know some people feel that their’s are too full. In that case, you can draw lipliner slightly inside of the natural liplines then fill in and top with lipstick. That can be hard to pull off though, so practice a bit before wearing it out. If you don’t want to emphasize the fullness of your lips, stay away from light, shimmery or glossy lip colors. A darker matte color–of which there are a million on the market right now–will minimize fullness.
Double Chin: Contouring just under the chin/at the jawline will help minimize the fullness there by bringing definition to the area. Bring that contour down onto the neck and blend, blend, blend. I find that wearing a shade of lipstick also helps bring the attention up away from the chin area.
Here are my thoughts on browbone highlight: no. I know there are some pro makeup artists who disagree, but I also know there are many on my side. If you highlight that area, you are giving the illusion that the browbone protrudes further than it does (particularly unflattering for those with deepset eyes). Especially in photos, this can look masculine at best, Cro-Magnon at worst. If you for some reason feel obligated to highlight the browbone, I beg you not use anything with shimmer. Use a matte shadow that is a shade lighter than your skin. Or don’t do it at all! That would be better.
A highlight trend that I don’t get–highlighting the tip of the nose with a shimmery highlighter. Apparently this is supposed to make a nose look upturned or button-y (I’m making it a word) but instead, it just looks like a white dot on the nose. If anything, most noses are thickest at the tip, so why would you want to draw attention to that area? Not to mention many people have oily noses and/or visible pores on their nose, so shimmer is only going to accentuate that. I say skip this one for real.
If I’ve missed any that you want me to address, please leave a comment and I’ll help you out. And remember–you already look great.
Now that you have read Part 1 (and loved it) and have identified your face shape, I’m going to help you learn how to sculpt it, if you so desire. I want to emphasize that this is not a necessary technique. There’s nothing wrong with your face shape. Really! But if there is an area you’d like to minimize, bone structure you would like to bring out or you’re a makeup artist, you may find this information helpful. I’ll be addressing face shape sculpting in this post and Part 3 will be about emphasizing or minimizing specific features using contour and/or highlight. In Part 4, I’ll walk you through product choices and tools of the trade. And Part 5 will be a request for your resume, since you’ll know enough to be a makeup artist who I can hire. (Kidding. There is no Part 5 but if you’re a makeup artist in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, go ahead and send me that resume.)
Oblong: If you have an oblong face, you might want to make your face look fuller and less long. To minimize the length, you can contour at the bottom of the chin and the top of the forehead, close to the hairline (that part is not on the diagram, but that’s what I sometimes do if a forehead seems “tall.”) To add fullness to the face, applying blush to the apples of the cheeks–blend it well!–will be flattering. Unless you have oily skin, large pores or wrinkles on your cheeks, a blush with a little shimmer in it can help bring light to the apples of the cheeks, making them look more round.
Rectangle: A rectangle face can look a bit sharp around the outer edges, so the idea is to soften those edges by contouring them (which will make them recede). Contouring at the top of the forehead will minimize the height of the forehead if that’s a concern. Blush on the apples of the cheeks can also bring some roundness to the face.
Round: If your face is round, it is wider than it is long. You can minimize that difference by contouring the temples, under the cheekbones and around the sides of the face. Light contour right under the jawline is also flattering. Highlighting the chin and forehead will add some height to the face. Blush looks best when applied a little further out on the apples of the cheeks and slightly–now not 80s style, but slightly–blended upwards.
Square: The idea of sculpting a square face shape is to make the chin and forehead more prominent. Applying highlight to those areas will give that effect, and contouring around the temples and on the jawline will make those areas recede. Contouring under the jawline is not advised unless you want to accentuate the angled jaw shape. This diagram shows highlight under the eyes, which is really more about eye shape and concerns (dark circles vs. puffiness) so ignore that part.
Inverted Triangle and Heart: With inverted triangle and heart face shapes, highlighting the entire chin adds width to the most narrow part of the face. If the chin is pointed though–which is often the case with heart shaped faces–I would not highlight the center of it but rather right around it and onto the bottom of the jawline. Contouring around the edges of the forehead and under the cheekbones on both face shapes is also typically flattering. Often the heart shaped face forehead is short so highlighting the forehead will give the illusion of height there. I don’t suggest doing that if your forehead is prominent/protruding, which is common with inverted triangles. And see the Square Face Sculpting section for my thoughts on highlighting under the eyes.
Diamond: This face shape is widest at the cheekbones, so highlighting the chin and forehead will give balance to the bone structure. Contouring the sides of the face will help minimize the width. I do not recommend any type of highlight on the cheekbones for diamond peeps. Blush looks most flattering when applied on the outer apples of the cheeks.
Triangle: On a triangle face, the forehead is more narrow than the jawline, so highlighting the forehead brings balance. A small dot of highlighter on the center of the chin can be flattering if the chin is weak (meaning in profile, it looks like it is pushed back in comparison to the nose and forehead). Contouring the sides of the face from the cheekbones down will minimize the width there. This is not shown on the diagram, but I would also lightly contour right on top of the jawline (to the right and left of the “Highlight” circle on the chin. Highlighting under the jawline is not advised, as that will only accentuate the width there. Blush looks best when applied on the outer apples of the cheeks.
Oval: Oval faces are generally symmetrical but the chin can be slightly more narrow than the forehead, so a dot of highlighter there is flattering. (This diagram shows highlight on the center of the forehead too, but I don’t think that’s necessary.) Contouring under the cheekbones and highlighting on top of them brings out the bone structure.
I hope this has helped you get a better feel for sculpting your face shape, if that’s something you’re into. There are other factors that can help flatter your bone structure–your haircut, the way you style your hair, your glasses or sunglass frames, even the jewelry you wear–so you can dive in pretty deep if you want. If this is fun for you or there is an area of concern you want to address, I say play around with this stuff until your little heart (and maybe heart shaped face) is content. But remember that there is nothing wrong with your face shape or bone structure so you don’t have to do any of this. It’s optional, like a hair glaze at the salon or leather seats in a new car (heated seats, however, are essential in my book.) Just because an option exists doesn’t mean you have to take it. That’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re dating too…
Contour. As a makeup artist, I’m a bit sick of that word. Contouring has been around since Elizabethan England, when stage actors would use soot to define their faces so that the audience could read their expressions better. But a lot of people seem to think the Kardashians and their makeup artists were the first to contour. Contour has been quietly on the scene for almost 500 years, particularly in the entertainment industries (theatre, film and the courts of European and Asian royalty.) In modern times, makeup tricks of the trade were kept quiet in Old Hollywood, which is why those of you who know it’s not a new technique still might have thought it was something Kevyn Aucoin created in the 1990s. Contouring and its sister, highlighting, has become trendy in the past three years, and it’s a trend that some say is on its way out.
There is Kardashian contour, and there is the more subtle sculpting/face shaping type of contour that I (and most makeup artists I know) do. This technique is more about flattering each face shape than covering the skin in layers of highlight and contour creams and powders to achieve the “perfect” shape. To do this kind of face shaping, you need to know what your face shape is. A big problem with today’s contour craze is that it assumes everyone has the same oval face shape. So for Part 1 of this Shape Up series, I want to help you identify your face shape so you know where to subtly highlight and contour, if you’re into it. Part 2 will go into the specifics of sculpting your features to flatter your face shape.
There are nine commonly recognized face shapes: Oblong, Rectangle, Round, Square, Inverted Triangle, Heart, Diamond, Triangle and Oval.
Now for a closer look at each face shape. To figure your’s out, pull your hair away from your face and pin back those bangs that you either newly love or are desperately trying to grow out.
Oblong: If you have an oblong face, your face is longer than it is wide. Your forehead, cheeks and jawline are all the same length. Your face shape celebrity twin is the beautiful Liv Tyler.
Rectangle: A rectangle face is about one and a half times longer than it is wide. The cheeklines running from temple to jawline are straight. The jawline is defined, unlike the oblong jawline, which is more rounded. If you have a triangle face shape, you are in good company with Hilary Swank.
Round: A round face shape is as wide as it is long, with the widest point at the ears. If you have a round face shape, your jawline is softly curved. Ginnifer Goodwin is your super cute round face shape sister.
Square: A square face shape is characterized by a defined jawline that is only slightly curved as well as straight sides of the face. It’s almost as wide as it is long. Bombshell Olivia Wilde has this face shape.
Inverted Triangle: If you’ve got an inverted triangle face, your forehead is wider than your jaw and your chin maybe be pronounced. You know, like the fabulous Tyra Banks.
Heart Shape: A heart shaped face is similar to the inverted triangle, but the forehead tends to be shorter in height. The chin is usually the most pronounced part of the face. Many people with heart shaped faces have widow’s peaks. If you are not French and feel a kinship with Audrey Tautou, it could be because you have the same face shape.
Diamond: Diamond faces are characterized by high cheekbones and a pointed chin. If your face shines bright like a diamond (shape), you’ll see the widest part is at the center. If you’re a diamond, you share a face shape with one of my favorite celebrities, Anna Kendrick.
Triangle: If you’re a triangle, the widest part of your face is the jawline. The forehead is narrow in comparison. Think you might be a triangle? Then you’ve got a connection with the talented Minnie Driver.
Oval: Oval is sometimes referred to as the ideal face shape, because it is the most proportional. If you are an oval like smokeshow Megan Fox, your forehead is only the tiniest bit wider than your jawline. Oval faces are similar to oblongs, but with a softer chin and more of a curve to the sides of the face.
There is no ideal face shape, contrary to what oval enthusiasts may believe. As you can see from my perfectly inserted celebrity photo examples, every face shape is beautiful. If you want to look proportional, some light sculpting (as well as the right haircut and style) can help you out. But if you are happy with your face–and I hope you are, because I can tell it’s a good one–don’t feel any pressure to contour, highlight, strobe, sculpt, shape or otherwise give the illusion of different bone structure.
If you are interested in sculpting your face with makeup in a subtle way, stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I will go over the typical techniques for highlighting and contouring each face shape. It will also be a good read for aspiring or beginner makeup artists. I promise.