Another Roundup: A Pretty Addiction’s Most Popular Posts

It makes me happy that this blog has been helpful to so many people. Several times a month, someone tells me how they now use a product or technique they learned about in one of my posts, which is exactly why I have this blog. I want to make your beauty life better.

I find myself in a lot of discussions with clients, family and friends which end in me directing them to one of my blog posts. So without further adieu, allow me to present the most popular “A Pretty Addiction” posts.

Forever Young: My Retinol Journey. When it comes to slowing down the signs of aging, ain’t nothin’ better than prescription retinol. Believe that.

Product Review: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Your skin–whether it’s oily, dry, normal or combination–can only look so good if it’s not hydrated. Hyaluronic acid hydrates like no other product, so why wouldn’t you use it?

Eye Makeup Smudges, Be Gone! One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that their eye makeup melts off after a few hours. It doesn’t need to be that way! Check out this post for tips.

Product Review: Castor Oil. Lash serums can have some pretty gnarly side effects, like reddening of the eyelid skin, yellowing of whites of the eyes and general irritation, which is why I stay away from them. I’ve found organic castor oil to be an effective, natural lash growth stimulator, and I mention this post whenever people compliment me on my lashes.

Skincare Device Review: NuFACE Mini. If I got a commission from all the people I know who bought this because I recommended it, I’d be sitting pretty! I don’t though, and I’m happy enough with my commission of people’s faces looking better ๐Ÿ˜‰ The NuFACE Mini is a true gem.

Product Review: MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation. This is the foundation I recommend to pretty much everyone. I like foundation that looks like skin, and F&B does that better than any of the foundations I’ve tried.

Product Review: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops in Medium. I’ve referred two people to this post in the last week alone. The product is that good.

I think I’ve left you with enough reading. As always, please feel free to comment with any questions.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Eye Makeup Hacks: How To Make Those Soul Windows Look Even Better

Shadow liner and double mascara. What’s up now?

Eye makeup can seem complicated. So many brushes, so many products, so many techniques. But with a little knowledge and some practice, you can really step up your eye makeup game.

You in?

Brush Up On It. Using the right brushes makes a world of difference. A dense brush is best for packing shadow onto the lid, a fluffy brush is ideal for crease work and blending, a pencil brush allows you to easily apply shadow in the hollow above the tearducts, angled brushes and fine liner brushes are best for applying various liners, and a small smudger brush is great for diffusing lower lashline liner and shadow. If you can equip yourself with the right tools, you’re off to a great start.

Prime Time. Why even bother with eyeshadow and eyeliner if it’s going to fade off after a few hours? Using a good eye primer will help your eye makeup stay on much longer. Eye primer is my first step in all makeup applications.

Blackout. Want a sultry eye makeup look? Apply a black kohl pencil liner on your bottom waterline for instant bedroom eyes. Va va voom, baby.

Turn Around, Bright Eyes. The easiest way to make your eyes look bigger and brighter is to apply an off-white pencil or crayon liner to the bottom waterline. That gives the illusion that the whites of your eyes (which are actually off-white) go down further, making your eyes look bigger. It’s easy and effective, so give it a try already!

Double Up. If you expect to get to good length and good volume from one mascara, you’re probably going to be let down. I’ve found that the best way to achieve both is to use a volumizing mascara first, followed by a lengthening mascara layered over that. I’ve used this technique for years, and I think it’s the reason that I frequently get asked if I’m wearing false lashes (I never am).

Shadowy Lady. Pencil, gel and liquid liners aren’t your own only eyeliner options. For a softer but still defined look, try applying a matte eyeshadow with a pencil brush.

Wingin’ It: Part 1. Before attempting a winged liner with a gel, map out your shape with eyeshadow first, then trace over the line with your gel or liquid liner.

Wingin’ It: Part 2. Afraid that you won’t be able to get the angle of your wing right? Put a small piece of Scotch tape at the outer corner of each eye, angled up towards your temples. Then trace above the top part of the piece of tape. As long as you position it correctly, you’ll get a wing that doesn’t wobble.

Crease Work. The whole point of applying shadow to the crease of the eye (in most situations) is to make it look more pronounced/deeper than it is. When you want an area to recede, you use a color that’s darker than the skin. Along those lines, I think it make sense to also only use matte shades when you’re trying to make an area recede, as shimmery shades–even if they’re darker than your skin–attract light to the area on which they’re applied, which is the opposite of what you want if you’re trying to make the crease of your eye more recessed. Basically, find yourself a matte shadow that’s a few shades darker than your skin (I suggest choosing a warm brown shade, whether that’s a light, medium or dark brown) and make that your go-to shadow for the eye crease.

This might seem like a lot, but it’s not like you’re getting quizzed on it! This post is here for you to reference when you want to play around with eye makeup. And that’s they key–play around so you can get used to the different techniques. You’ve got this.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

My Current Makeup Routine: Step by Step

A full face of makeup. And I loved doing it!

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’ve had several people over the years ask me how I do my makeup. Some of the products change, but the process has stayed the same. If you’re wondering how I do the damn thing when I wear a full face of makeup (very rare these days), keep reading.

Step 1: Eye primer. I have combination skin and my giant Glo-Worm eyelids are on the oily side, so without this eye primer, my eyeshadow fades off almost completely within a few hours.

Step 2: If I haven’t previously applied my moisturizer, I do it now. But it usually goes on post hyaluronic acid, which I apply after I shower, since it needs to go on moist skin.

Step 3: Even though my moisturizer contains SPF, I don’t use enough of it (half a teaspoon of sunscreen is the recommended amount) to get the full benefit. So if I’m going to be outside for an extended period of time, I add sunscreen to my routine.

Step 4: By now, my eye primer has completely absorbed so I can start my eye makeup. My base/lid shadow goes on first.

Step 5: Since my moisturizer and sunscreen (if needed) have now absorbed, I can do some pore minimizing. I apply a pore minimizer it to any area where there are visible pores, and well as to the fine lines on my forehead and around my mouth. Sometimes those fine lines are barely visible, but if I’m tired, dehydrated or my skin is dry, they’re out full force.

Step 6: Back to the eyeshadow. I finish that up and add eyeliner. Most of the time, I use eyeshadow as an eyeliner, but occasionally I use a gel liner at the upper lashline and/or a pencil liner in the waterline.

Step 7: It’s foundation time! I use a liquid foundation, applied with my hands and blended with a buffing brush.

Step 8: I fill in my brows next, using a matte brown powder eyeshadow. I do brows after foundation so that they are not disturbed while I’m blending the foundation on my forehead, as sometimes the brush will lightly hit my brows as I blend.

Step 9: I erase any shadow fallout from under my eyes with micellar water.

Step 10: While the residue from the micellar water is drying off, I apply my cream brush. The shades I choose vary, but I typically go with a pink or light peach.

Step 11: I apply a thin layer of moisturizer under my eyes to prep. I blend that in with a fluffy eyeshadow brush, then I apply some concealer. If I need to conceal anything on the rest of my face, I do so now.

Step 12: I apply a volumizing mascara to my top lashes.

Step 13: I set my foundation with pressed powder, pushing it into the skin with a buffing brush.

Step 14: I apply a beauty tubes mascara to my bottom lashes, because the tubes don’t smudge.

Step 15: I apply a thin layer of powder under my eyes to set my concealer.

Step 16: I apply a matte bronzer to add some warmth and lightly sculpt my face.

Step 17: I apply an inky black, lengthening mascara to my top lashes.

Step 18: I apply either more cream blush or some powder blush.

Step 19: If I’m going to wear lipstick (I often don’t), I apply it now.

It sounds like 19 steps would take forever, but this whole process only take me 15 – 20 minutes, and that’s usually with multiple email and text distractions. If you have the products and the tools but don’t know when to apply what, hopefully this post has helped.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚


Your Burning Beauty Questions Answered

I’m almost 12 years into being a licensed esthetician and a makeup artist, so I’ve been asked countless beauty questions, and I’ve gotten many repeat questions. In case you share some of the same questions, I’ll post them here.

Bear with me, please. This won’t be my most well-written blog post because I just don’t have it in me.

Where does bronzer go?

If you want to use bronzer for its intended use–to make your skin look sun-kissed–it should go on the “high planes” of your face, aka where the sun naturally hits most. This can vary by person, but in general, the sun hits the tops of cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, the center of the forehead and the center of thin chin. So if I’m trying to create a sunkissed look, those are the areas where I apply matte–not shimmery–bronzer in a shade one or two shades deeper than a person’s skin.

How often should I wash my face?

If you have anything other than truly oily skin, you can wash your face at night only, as long as you use a good cleansing balm or oil cleanser than both removes makeup and cleanses the skin. If you have oily skin, you can add in a morning cleanse to remove some of the excess surface oils, but I would use a gentle cleanser for this cleanse.

Do I need to wear foundation?

You don’t need to wear any type of makeup! But if you want to even your skintone and can’t get the desired results from a tinted moisturizer/CC cream/BB cream or concealer on its on, you might want to try foundation.

How do I cover a zit?

The real answer is that you can’t. Makeup covers color, not texture. So you can color correct the red (from an active blemish) or brown (usually from a blemish that is healing or from an acne scar), but you can’t cover texture. Properly erasing the color will make the blemish barely noticeable, but it won’t make it disappear.

What’s the best way to do mascara?

For volume, hold the wand horizontally as the base of your lashes and wiggle it up towards the ends. For length, hold the wand horizontally towards the tips of your lashes and blink into it. For optimal results–and this seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t know this–use a volumizing mascara for the volumizing wiggle and then a lengthening mascara for the lengthening blink.

What color blush should I wear?

I could tell you by looking at you, but my best advice for you to figure it out on your own by trying different shades. Try a peach, a light pink, a bright pink, a deep pink, a terracotta, a berry, an orange and a red. I’ll give you some guidance: In general, peach will look better on warmed toned skin and pinks and reds are tough for those with rosacea. Oranges and reds are best for deeper skintones. The right blush color will make you look awake and may even make the whites of your eyes look whiter.

Why does my eyeliner always smudge?

I’m going to answer that question with this blog post.

How can I make a matte lipstick not dry out my lips?

Matte lipsticks are often drying, but the formulations have improved over the last few years. Still though, the best way to avoid this is to start out with smooth, moisturized lips. If you know you are going to wear a matte lipstick the next day, use a lip scrub that night, and apply a thick layer of lip balm before bed. Apply more balm in the morning, right up until it’s time to apply your lipstick. Blot off what’s left of the balm, then go for the lipstick. It won’t catch on any dry patches because you’ll have exfoliated them off, and you’ll have some moisture there from the balm so the lack of moisture in the matte lipstick won’t have as much of an effect.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚


Time Killers: The Beauty Edition

Trying to make the days go by faster so we can get back to normal life when we all didn’t have time to do anything? Beauty distractions can help.

It’s safe to say that some of us are finding ourselves with extra time on our hands this month. You might not be in that position if you work in an essential business (thank you) or have children at home (God bless you), but I know I’m not the only one who is looking for some ways to kill some time. I can only work so much (literally–I have a vestibular disorder that prevents me from looking at screens for too long) and my apartment is already clean and organized, but these days feel long as shit, and I need to make the time pass by quicker and/or keep myself distracted. So naturally, I’ve been upping my beauty game.

I’m going to first tell you about the things I’ve been doing, then give you some other suggestions of things I’ve done in the past or don’t need to do now, but think they could be helpful if you’re looking for some time killers or distractions that will also make you look better or improve your beauty life.

Brushing Up On It. I’ve been using this bath brush on my body a couple times a week before getting into the shower. Dry brushing is supposed to rev up circulation, which I am half sold on, and exfoliate skin, which I am fully sold on. Here’s some info on how to do it. This video doesn’t show it, but I recommend doing your stomach and back as well. I personally skip the chest area because that skin is more delicate, but you do you. Time It Kills: Two minutes.

I’d say there’s about a 50% chance that you own one of these.

Put The Lotion in the Basket (Or On Your Body). Normally, I’m the valedictorian of face moisturizing but am a solid C student when it comes to body moisturizing. I come up with all kind of excuses for myself not to do. “It’s too cold when I get out of the shower!” (in the winter), “I don’t want to to attract bees to my scented lotion!” (in the summer), “I don’t have the time!” (up until mid-March 2020). I did get a little better with it in Charleston this winter because I have more time during my Charleston months and it’s usually not cold, but I’ve been extra good with it since I got back to Newport. I don’t think I’ve missed one day. I’ve been using The Body Shop Body Butter in Coconut, and once I finish that, I have half a tub of their Mango Body Butter to get through. You can’t really see it in my pajamas and hoodies, but I know there’s soft skin there. Time It Kills: Five minutes.

It’s like buttah.

Olaflexin’. I get my roots colored to cover the gray (I don’t have a ton of it, but enough to be obvious), the bottom third of my hair is blue (and needs to be bleached twice a year to get there) and up until recently, I blowdried my hair straight once a week (now I mostly let it airdry and be curly, because no one sees it). That’s a lot of damage to my locks, so I keep them in the best shape possible by using Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 every other time I wash my hair. It’s like a suped up leave in conditioner, but it does more than those do. It rebuilds the broken bonds that are caused by heat styling and hair color. My hair looks and feels considerably better whenever I use Olaplex. It says to leave it on for a minimum of 10 minutes, but I usually do 45+ minutes, and I know people who leave it on for hours or overnight. I sometimes don’t have time for this extra step during my busy season, but since things have changed, I certainly have the time. Olaplex 3 is really a miracle worker, and is one of my all time favorite hair products. Time It Kills: It only takes a few minutes to apply and a few more to wash out, and you can do other things while it’s on. I’ll call it a 10 minute total time investment, since you can multitask while it’s processing.

The good stuff.

Multi-Masking. When I’m being my best self, I do a face mask once or twice a week. I guess I’m being my best self now (minus the daily crying), because I’ve been great with the masks. I alternate between the FRESH Rose Face Mask and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. I can tell the difference in my skin when I’m regularly masking it, so the effort does pay off. Time It Kills: It depend on the exact mask you use, but the whole process will probably eat up about 15 minutes.

Good cop/good cop.

Keepin’ It Tight. I used the NuFACE Mini 5 – 6 times a week for three months as directed, but now I’m past that and into the maintenance phase, where they say to just use as needed. Once or twice a week seems to keep my face tight and toned, so that’s what I do. Time It Kills: Five minutes to use the device, plus a minute or two before to apply serum or aloe and a minute after to remove it if desired.

Personal training for my facial muscles.

Then there are things I already do regularly but you might not. I’m not calling you out, but as a beauty professional, I do some things now that I didn’t do before I was a makeup artist, so I get it.

It’s Come to an End. No, not the world (although it sometimes feels like that). Some of your makeup and beauty products are expired, and you need to get rid of them. If you don’t know when to toss what, have I got the blog post for you! Time It Kills: I’d say 15 – 30 minutes, depending on how much of a product hoarder you are.

Sort It Out. Now that you’ve thrown out the products that are older than your kindergartner, you’ve got something o work with. I suggest sorting them into two piles–the I Use This and the Forgot I Even Had This pile. Sort your makeup brushes and skincare devices too. I’ve got a project for you after this. Time It Kills: I’ll give you 15 minutes.

Play Time: Part 1. Look at that pile of makeup you don’t use. No, really look. Open each product and ask yourself “Why?” Maybe you’ve got a vampy merlot lipstick you’d never wear, but try it on. Now try it on with a different color shirt. Now try it with your hair up or down. Now blot it with a napkin to make it a stain. Does any of that make you like it? If it’s still not you, try layering a nude or pink lipstick over it to make a new color. You might find a way to wear it that you actually like. You can do a similar thing with eyeshadows and blushes. You can mix two colors together to make a new one. You can play around with eyeshadows and eyeliners, using a light shimmery color that’s too much on your whole lids on just the inner corners, or applying a thin line of the electric blue liner at the bottom lashline but using your regular black liner on top.ย  Makeup comes off, so go crazy! You might find a new way to wear a product you didn’t think you’d like, or you may just realize that no matter how hard you try, terracotta blush does not look great on you. Knowledge is power, boo. Time It Kills: I can see a whole hour disappearing while you play around with makeup.

Go ahead. Have some fun!

Play Time: Part 2. Now it’s time to attack your skincare products, brushes and devices. I’d start by sorting them into three files: Doesn’t Work, It’s Okay and Not For Me. In the Doesn’t Work pile, put your splayed and shedding makeup brushes, your cleanser that never gets all of your makeup off and that Clarisonic that you dropped and has never quite worked the same since. Toss all of that while saying “You’re dead to me.”

The It’s Okay pile should be products and device that work fine, but you don’t really love. So maybe a face oil that makes your skin soft but you’re not wild about the texture, or a body lotion that does the job but takes for ever to absorb. Ask yourself “Can I re-purpose this?” Maybe you designate that body lotion as a foot cream that you use then put socks on, so you can’t really tell how long it’s taking to absorb. And how about using that face oil on your hands, which are dry and cracked from excessive hand washing and will be happy for the healing properties of the oil and won’t care about the texture? (Yes, I did just make your hand sound like their own people.) You can move these products to other places. It’s not a bad idea to have cleanser at the office for a night when you’re working late and know your future self will be so happy not to have to cleanse when you get home, exhausted. Or maybe keep that body lotion at your sister or parents’ house (if they allow it) if you ever spend the night there. Less stuff to pack, you know? If a product or device is good enough for occasional use, keeping it somewhere else (even if it’s just in the downstairs bathroom that you don’t often use) where you may use it is worth it.

The Not For Me pile is for products and devices that you know you will definitely never use or they work but you really can’t get past the scent or texture. If they haven’t been contaminated, you can try passing them off to someone you deem worthy. That’s means don’t give anyone an eyelash serum with a wand that’s touched your lashes or a tub of moisturizer you’ve dipped your hands into, but if you’ve got something that you’ve only touched the outer packaging to–like a bottle of moisturizer with a pump dispenser or a squeeze tube face mask–then go for it. They can disinfect the packaging with a wipe or alcohol, but most beauty products themselves can’t be disinfected. Time It Kills: A good 45 – 60 minutes, depending on how many products you’ve accumulated.

Tubby Time. You should be washing your brushes every 7 – 14 days if you’re using them. You can use a specific makeup brush cleaner or baby shampoo if you only use your brushes on yourself. After you wash your brushes, put them on a counter top or table with the bristles hanging over the edge so they don’t dry with one side flattened. While you’re at it, sanitize any tweezers you have with alcohol. Time It Kills: 10 – 15 minutes.

So fresh and so clean, clean.

New Look. Who Dis? Always wanted to try winged liner, a smokey eye or a red lip? This is the perfect time to practice and perfect! If there’s a technique you want to perfect, there’s a tutorial out there for it. Just make sure you watch tutorials from professional makeup artists, not beauty gurus who aren’t pros. I recommend checking out the YouTube channels for Pixiwoo, Lisa Eldridge and Wayne Goss. KatieJaneHughes on Instagram is also fantastic. Time It Kills: Between watching the tutorial and doing the look, you can easily kiss 45 – 60 minutes goodbye.

Get Buff. Going polish-less while in lockdown? You can still show your nails some love. Buffing is an easy way to make your nails look better without having polish on. Time It Kills: 5 minutes.

It’s your time to shine.

Now Hair, Hair. A leave in conditioner or hair mask can work wonders on dry or damaged hair. If you’re home all day and you’re not in a Zoom meeting and don’t have children climbing on you, maybe you can help your hair out with some repair/moisturizing/color enhancing. There are lots of different hair masks and leave in conditioners out there, so if you don’t have one but want to try one, see if your salon or any local salons have one that you could have shipped to you, dropped off or picked up curbside. Then you can support a local business and improve your hair. A win-win. Time It Kills: 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the products.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better when I look better. I’ve barely worn makeup since March 18, but my skin, hair and nails are looking and/or feeling healthy. And any non-work project–whether it’s using a hair treatment, applying a face mask or buffing my nails–is a distraction and a way to make the day seem a little shorter and a little more enjoyable. That’s reason enough for me to keep up these habits.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t Be Intimidated: A Foundation How To

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

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

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

Let’s get to it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you choose the right foundation formulation and shade for your skin and you apply it correctly, you’ve mastered it! Want a job with AB Beauty? ๐Ÿ˜‰ With a little bit of trial and error (and isn’t this a great time to try things out at home?), I know you can do this.

If you need help, comment away.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Undetectable Makeup: How To Avoid Cake Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Oily Skin Help

I could have done a little better with my shine control that day.

Everybody’s skin produces sebum (an oily substance) via the sebaceous glands. But for those folks with truly oily skin, their sebum production is kicked up a notch. Oily skin is primarily caused by hormone fluxations and genetics, so it can be something a person experiences for certain periods in their lives when hormonal changes are happening (like puberty, pregnancy or menopause) or it can be their type for life, as dictated by their DNA. Some people age out of oily skin, as our bodies produce less sebum as we get older, but I’ve had clients in their 50s who still have it.

The good thing about oily skin is that excess sebum often slows down the appearance of fine lines, as the sebum acts as a mega moisturizer. The bad thing is that it can cause breakouts when the excess sebum mixes with bacteria and/or clogs the pores.

Don’t you worry, though. As a licensed esthetician, makeup artist and combination skin human, I know the tricks of the trade for both dry and oily skin. I already told you about dry skin, so now it’s oily skin’s time to shine (pun intended).

We have to start off with cleanser. For dry, normal, and combination skin types, cleansing once a day (at night) is really all you need to do, as long as you use a good oil cleanser or a cleansing balm like Farmacy Green Clean. But if you wake up and your face looks like it could sing the theme song to Grease, go ahead and give it another cleanse. The key here is to use something light and gentle, as you only need to remove the excess surface oils, not a face full of makeup, sunscreen and the debris of the day like you encounter at night. I’m not a big proponent of Cetaphilย for night time cleansing, but I think it’s fine for a morning cleanse on truly oily skin.

This thoroughly cleanses the skin without stripping it.

Another good option is the Fresh Soy Cleanser, which is gentle and calming. No need to scrub your face in the a.m. (and in fact, massaging the skin can rev up sebum product). Please don’t go the way of many of your oily-skinned brethren and use a harsh, oil-free clarifying type of cleanser–you know, the type that makes your skin feel squeaky-clean. Those cleansers strip your skin of all of the surface oils, which signals to your sebaceous glands that the oil is gone, so they need to produce more. Counter-productive, you see? If you cleanse correctly, you should see an improvement in your skin.

Cleansing isn’t all there is to it though. Don’t assume that you should skip moisturizer because your skin is oily. You just need to choose the right moisturizer for your dermis. I’m a big fan of Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture because it gives the skin just enough moisture without making it look or feel greasy. It’s a no-frills, reasonably priced product that I’ve personally been using for years.

Since excess oil on the skin can clog pores, exfoliation (unless you use a prescription retinoid) is essential. Exfoliating helps remove the dead skin cells that can get trapped by sebum inside of the pores, as those trapped dead skin cells mixed with sebum is what causes blackheads. If you have oily skin, you can exfoliate two times a week with a quality exfoliant like Kate Somerville ExfoliKate. Or, if an every day exfoliation routine suits you better, I recommend Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. Whichever exfoliant you choose, consistency is key. So set it as a reminder, leave a Post-it note on your mirror or rename your dog “Exfoliant” if that will make it happen.

No skincare routine is complete with a mask. Charcoal masks, clay masks and mud masks are great for oily skin, as they pull out and/or absorb those surface oils. Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask is a cult favorite peel off mask, and one that I hear really works (I’m not oily enough to benefit from it myself). If you don’t love a peel off, a clay mask like Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask or a mud mask likeย Shea Moisture African Black Soap Clarifying Mud Mask might be a better option. Whichever mask you end up with, please patch test it first to make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the ingredients. Masks can have some pretty strong active ingredients, so if you’re allergic to one, it’s probably best to find that out before it’s been on your face for 15 minutes.

If you’re a makeup wearer with oily skin, you’ve probably noticed that your makeup can fade quicker than your normal and dry skin counterparts. That’s because oil melts away makeup (hence my love for oil cleansers). A setting spray for oily skin–like Urban Decay DeSlick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray–will work wonders. This particular setting spray should be used before and after your apply your face makeup. You simply spray it on–no blending or brushes needed–so it’s foolproof, as long as you know where your face is.

Set it and forget it.
Photo: Samira Rabinowitz Photography
Makeup: Jennifer Smith for Allison Barbera Beauty

Whether or not you wear makeup, you’ll see some areas of shine throughout the day if you have overactive sebaceous glands. Oil blotting sheets are a quick fix that anyone can use. They typically come in a slim package that fits in a back pocket, the little bit of space you have left in your top desk drawer and even in the tiniest of clutches. Oil blotting sheets are thin, lightweight little guys that simply absorb oil when pressed onto the skin. I give a pack of Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets to each one of my brides. Their makeup is built to last, but if they or anyone else in the bridal party have truly oily skin, they may see some shine 12 hours after I’ve done their makeup. But with the oil blotting sheets, no one needs to know about that shine.

I hope these suggestions help you keep your oil at bay. Your sebaceous glands don’t need to win this battle. With consistency and the right products, you can dull your shine (in a good way).

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚


Dry Skin Help

Back when I used to live in RI all winter, I had dry skin. So I know what I’m talking about!

Dry skin. You’ve heard of it, right? Hell, maybe you even have or have had it. But why does it happen? And how can you fix it? Let’s start at the root of the problem.

Normal skin has enough sebum (oil) to form the lipids that create protection against external influences. Dry skin lacks that sebum, making it feel rough, as well as making it prone to cracking and peeling. Dry skin can be caused by genetics, illness, medications, hormonal changes, aging, dietary deficiencies, weather, skincare products and heating units.

Now that you know about dry skin, let’s talk about products that can help restore some moisturize to your poor little dermis.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. If you have dry skin, the last thing you want to do is use a cleanser that strips your skin of moisture. Green Clean does no such thing, which is why it’s perfect for dry skin. If it’s in the budget, I highly recommend switching to this cleanser. If you already use it, bravo!

Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream. Back when I lived in RI during the winter, my combination skin would get some serious dryness once temps dropped below 40. This was the first moisturizer I used that made any difference. I’ve recommended it to a lot of my dry skin friends and clients, and they’ve all loved it. It contains mango butter, which I know to be an effective moisturizer from my teenage obsession with The Body Shop Mango Body Butter. That stuff made my skin so soft it was almost criminal, so I believe in the power of mango for dry skin.

Embroylisse Lait Creme Concentre. This French moisturizer is a long-time makeup artist fave. It works wonders on dry skin without leaving a greasy film. It feels lightweight but still packs a punch with its hydrating shea butter and skin firming soy protein. I’m recommending two dry skin moisturizers because, you know, preferences.

Josie Maran Argan Oil. Dry skin lacks oil, so add some back in! You can use this Argan Oil over your moisturizer (oil molecules are hefty, so it’s better to apply moisturizer first so it can penetrate the skin) or as an overnight treatment. You can also use it to spot treat dry patches. It works miracles, I’m telling you.

Fresh Rose Face Mask. Using a hydrating mask once or twice a week will help you on your quest for softer skin (and boy, does this make your skin feel soft). The Fresh Rose Face Mask provides hydration without leaving a film or causing the skin to feel tight. If you have an allergy to floral ingredients or fragrances though, I would try looking for masks that contain avocado, Vitamin E, shea butter or honey instead.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. If you have dry skin and you want it to feel soft, you HAVE TO exfoliate. Dead skin cells don’t shed themselves as easily on dry skin because there is less oil there to loosen them up. Exfoliants will melt them (if they are enzyme exfoliants) or slough them (if they are physical exfoliants) right off. ExfoliKate is a enzyme exfoliant, so you apply it, massage it in for 30 seconds, then let it sit for two minutes while it melts the cellular glue, if you will, that binds dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. I would recommend using this twice a week on dry skin.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. If physical exfoliants (aka scrubs) are more your thing, you might like the Daily Mic (as we used to call it in Esthetics school). It’s a powder that turns into a paste when you add water. It’s gentle enough for every day use, so if you are someone who might forget to do something twice a week but can stick to a daily skincare routine, the Daily Mic might be a good option for you.

The Ordinary Hylaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Technically, dry skin lacks oil and dehydrated skin lacks water, so dry skin needs oil. But you can have both dry and dehydrated skin, and many people do. For that reason, I have to recommend the world’s best hydrator, hyaluronic acid. You can use a moisturizer or serum that includes hyaluronic acid, but it usually not an active ingredient. My suggestion is to get the purer form of HA–one that is undiluted by lots of other ingredients–to reap the biggest benefits. The Ordinary’s version has been my go to for a couple of years, and I recommend it for all skin types.

So, there you go. Is your skin feeling more moisturized already? Good! If you’re going to try any of these products, please, for the love of Biggie, patch test each one first and introduce only one new product a week if you’re thinking about testing out a few. Overdoing it with several new skincare products all at once is like starting a diet on January 1st–it ain’t gonna work.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Fall Beauty Tips

Thinking about changing your beauty regimen for the fall? I can help.

Well, it’s officially fall. That makes some people giddy, and fills others with a sense of impending doom, as they know which season comes next. (Guess which category I’m in?) With the shorter days, cooler temps and darker colored clothes in rotation, some skincare and makeup changes might be in order. You don’t have to make changes, but if you want to, here’s what this licensed esthetician and makeup artists suggests.

Re-hydrate. If you live in a part of the country where temps really drop in the fall, you may notice that your skin looks and/or feels dry. That’s caused by the humidity drop, which makes the water in your skin evaporate more quickly. To combat this drying attack on the skin, I recommend using hyaluronic acid twice a day. It has to be applied to damp skin (and immediately followed by moisturizer), so I use it once in the morning after I shower, and once at night after I wash my face. I also start working in a face oil (I likeย Josie Maran Argan Oil) in early fall, before my skin has too much of a chance to dry out. And if you don’t already use one–especially if you have dry skin year-round–I would switch to a cleansing balm or oil cleanser, like Farmacy Green Clean or Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil. If you want extra credit (aka better skin), throw in a hydrating mask like Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask or Fresh Rose Face Mask once or twice a week. Adjusting your skincare routine seasonally makes a big difference.

Lip Service. You may find that in addition to your skin getting dry, your lips feel dry or chapped (also due to the lowered humidity). This seems to get worse for most people later in the fall into winter, but why not stay ahead of the game? I am all about keeping my lips hydrated with Glossier Balm Dotcom. Even if they don’t feel dry, I apply it a few times a day. The other thing that can cause dry lips is dehydration. I think some people drink more water during the summer, so it would make sense that they are less hydrated in the fall. I do notice a change in my lips on days when I haven’t had much water. So if your lips are dry or chapped, try upping your water intake and applying Balm Dotcom a few times a day. Or you can use whatever lip balm works for you, but be aware that wax-based balms don’t really correct the issue on the deeper level. They do surface work, and you deserve better than that.

Shed Some Skin. Dry patches can creep in once the weather changes, so unless you’re using a product that is contraindicated with exfoliation, you might want to use an exfoliant twice a week. Exfoliating removes the dead, dry skin from the top layer of your epidermis, making your skin smoother and more receptive to skincare products. What’s not to love? Kate Somerville Gentle Exfoliating Treatment and Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliant are both great options for exfoliants.

Amp Up Your Makeup. Make no mistake–I love summer. I get pretty angry the first day I have to switch from sandals to close-toed shoes.ย  But I will admit that summer clothing that has light colors or patterns can sometimes limit your makeup options. I’m not saying you can’t wear a vampy merlot lipstick with a blue and white romper, but I personally think it looks better with, say, a light gray sweater dress. I also find myself doing darker eye makeup during the fall than I do in the summer, because it tends to go better with my colder weather clothes. Heavier clothes and heavier eye makeup, right? It makes sense to me. Do what you want with your makeup, but if you have a bold lipstick or a metallic eyeshadow you’ve been wanting to try out, you might find it works better with your fall wardrobe.

Bring Out That Self Tanner. Sun exposure is minimized as the shorter days roll in, and that means reduced Vitamin D. That can cause some skintones to appear sallow. If that bothers you, try applying some self tanner. I don’t do it every day, but I do use self tanners a lot during the colder months, as I’m already very fair skinned and the darker colors of my fall wardrobe make my skin look even lighter in contrast. Also, I know a lot of women either have hair that gets lighter during the summer, or they dye their hair darker in the fall, so they might feel their skin looks lighter due to the darker hair contrast. Some people like that contrast, and if that’s you, go on with your bad self, Snow White! But if you feel pale either due to a fading tan or your hair contrast, self tanner can be your best friend.

There’s no rule that says you have to switch up your skincare and makeup routine as soon as the leaves start changing color. But if you feel so inclined, hopefully my tips will help.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚