2018 Game Plan

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. I figure if I want to make a change, I’ll just start the day I think of it. But since it’s early January and I have some things I want to do, I’ll get in on this Resolutions action. Except I’m calling them goals, because as we all know, “resolution” is Latin for “only do until February.”

Why share these goals instead of keeping them to myself? Because I am a lot more likely to do something once I put it in writing. (Also, see my first Business goal.) And I think some of these goals–most likely the beauty ones–might be helpful to some people.

Let’s get this 2018 Game Plan going.


Mask Appeal. A good face mask works wonders. Whenever I use a mask, I think Ooooh, my skin looks so good! after. Then I forget to do another one for several weeks. Makes no sense, right? Part of the problem may be that I only currently have one mask (Clarins Beauty Flash Balm), which I also use as a primer. I think if I buy a few more–and put them somewhere where I can’t forget about them–I’ll do better with this one. If you regularly mask, good job. You’re an inspiration to me.

Lotioned Up. I am great at keeping my face, neck and chest moisturized, but it’s like I forget I’m not just a mannequin from Esthetics school. I have a torso and four limbs too! I have been actively trying to be better about using body lotion every day, so I’ll continue working on that. Anyone else with me on this?

Esthetics school mannequin
Note to self: You are more than this.

Massage Envy. Facial massage is fantastic because it boosts circulation, which gives a glow to the skin. When more oxygen is brought to the surface of the ol’ dermis, it helps increase collagen, aka the genetic fountain of youth elixir our bodies naturally produce. To do a facial massage, use some face oil, massage into your skin for 5-10 minutes, and watch dull skin disappear. I know this, and I do it, but not often enough. I must do better.

Brush It Off. Ever heard of dry brushing? It’s when you use a body brush on dry skin to rev up circulation, exfoliate, and stimulate lymph flow. I do this when I remember, but my skin will benefit if I do it more often. Doing this regularly in combination with body lotion will help me shed any winter dryness. If your body lotion isn’t quite doing the job, consider adding dry brushing to your routine.

Tame Those Claws. I get my nails done maybe three times a year. I get a gel manicure, because why do any other kind? But regular gel manicures can weaken the nail bed and make a dent in the bank account. So what I should be doing is simple: keep my fast-growing nails filed down and buff a shine into them once a week. But what do I do? File them only when I break a nail and buff them maybe once a month. I can, and will, change my shameful pattern of nail neglect. I hope you are better than me with this (and by the looks of it, most people I see are!)


Get Blogged Down. I love writing these blog posts! But I need to do it more frequently. One of my goals for January is to write a bunch of posts to stockpile for a regular post publishing schedule. I’ve been doing better lately (have you noticed?) so I think I’m off to a good start.

Template Time. I dare you to find a successful business that does not utilize some level of templating and automation. I’ve been using templates for years in my business communication, but it’s time to polish them up. This month, I’ll be reviewing and revising all templates. This will be helpful to my future admin assistant, who I daydream about daily.

Socialize. My social media game could use some help. I’m not horrible at it, but I know I could do better. So I’m taking some workshops so I can step it up and make the AB Beauty brand stronger.

Social media guru

Be a Teacher. Makeup lessons are one of my favorite services that we offer, and I don’t do them often enough. I love teaching other people how to do their own makeup, because I think it’s a helpful skill to have. My goal is to book more makeup lessons to help others emphasize the beauty they already have.

Grow, Girl. I’m tryin’ to expand this beauty empire, you know? I have some specific goals and tasks I’m working on, and hopefully they will lead to a big announcement in 2018. That’s all I’m going to say about this one. How’s that for cryptic?


Give Thanks. I am well aware of how great my life is. I am grateful for my supportive family and friends, the success of my business and the freedom it gives me, how I get to live in two really awesome cities (Newport, RI and Charleston, SC), my health, and a million more things. So when I get frustrated, upset or annoyed at anything, I have been trying to remind myself of what I have. I find it tough to do that when I’m in the middle of what I consider a crappy situation, but I am making an effort to think of all the good to pull myself out of the bad mood spirals.

Love It or List It. I don’t own either of the apartments I live in, so I can’t list anything. (I guess the equivalent HGTV show for renters would be “Love It or Break Your Lease.”) I prioritize my beauty studio but have spent some time, effort and money making the bathroom and kitchen/living room in my Newport apartment look prettier. My bedroom, however, is U-G-L-Y. It’s a mishmash of furniture from college, past apartments and my studio before its makeover. It’s time to transform my bedroom into a room I want to spend time in instead of a room that makes me cringe. I’ve got a Pinterest board of dream bedrooms and a friend with a good eye for home decor, so I’m hoping to Love It in 2018.

Overreact Much? Sometimes I catch myself making a bigger deal out of frustrating situations than I need to (mostly when I’m tired). That’s so unnecessary and doesn’t help anything. In my experience, things always work out. I have been trying to remind myself that the outcome is always fine, so I shouldn’t freak out in the interim. I was tested with this today. It’s my second full day in my winter apartment in Charleston. I have a friend visiting, and we were both planning on working from home this morning then we’d go out for lunch. But we woke up to frozen pipes and a cold apartment (even with the heat turned up high all night). My property manager said nothing could be done about it until the weather warms up. Normally, that would be maddening for me, especially because there have already been a few issues with the apartment. But today, I stayed calm. My friend and I decided we would go out for breakfast instead of lunch, and now we are at a cute little coffee shop in my neighborhood. The pipes won’t stay frozen forever, so eventually I’ll live in an apartment with running water again. Until then, there’s nothing I can do. This is a tough pill for a Sicilian Gemini to swallow, as patience isn’t our thing. But I’m trying!

Listen Up. My mother is a really good listener. So good, in fact, that during phone conversations I often have to ask her if she is still there. I try to channel my Inner Mom when I’m having a conversation. If I realize I’m thinking of my response instead of listening when someone is talking, I try to snap myself out of it. I’ll be extra conscious of this going forward. By 2019, they’ll be calling me Allison “All Ears” Barbera.

Win Big. Without a doubt, this is the year I win the HGTV Dream Home. I have only missed one day’s worth of entries so far, but I won’t let that happen anymore. I try for this every year, but 2018 is going to be the year I finally get it.

HGTV Dream Home, Seattle
My future great room.

I’m going to review this post next year and hopefully I’ll be able to say I made progress with all of these goals. You can hold me to it.

Happy New Year! And have a beautiful day 🙂



Wake Up and Makeup

Alarm clock, beauty hacks, puffy eyelids
Go to hell.

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.

Have a beautiful day 🙂


Start With a Good Foundation (Review)

Foundations have come such a long way. Back in the day, they were all full coverage with pink undertones, and offered only a handful of shades. No wonder foundation got such a bad rep! But with all of the advances in beauty product technology and demand from women for foundation that looks natural and matches their skintone, we now have some great ones to choose from.

I came across this foundation review blog post recently, and I really agree with almost all of it. It’s rare that I find an article like this that I actually like. So I’m sharing it with you, but with one disclaimer. Their recommended foundation for mature skin is MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. That’s a full coverage pressed powder foundation, which I have in my kit and use on clients with acne (usually over MAC Face and Body). I find that powder foundations can settle into the fine lines on mature skin, accentuating them. So I tend to use MAC Face and Body or sometimes Armani Luminous Silk–both liquid foundations–on my 40+ clients.

Other than that though, I love this review and think it’s worth a read. Feel free to comment with any questions.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Hearing Voices: The Entrepreneurial Guilt Dilemma

Marshall Mathers, feeling no guilt. #goals

Do you have a song that’s always stuck in your head? Mine is “Guilty Conscience” by Eminem and Dr. Dre. It makes sense that this is my mind’s default song, because I’m awesome at feeling guilty. I was a double major in Guilt and Worry, and not to brag, but I graduated summa cum laude.

Guilt is a shitty feeling. It’s been a longtime companion in my personal life, asking me questions like “Why did you eat that?,” “You’re going to buy that shirt you don’t need?,” “Did you just skip a workout because you’re tired?” I’ve learned to mostly mute the guilt voice in my personal life because it’s been with me since childhood, but my Work Life Guilt voice is newer, louder and harder to quiet. She’s the brash younger sister of Personal Life Guilt, and she is resilient.

Work Life Guilt (WLG for short, and because it bothers her when people don’t use her full name) comes at me hard whenever I’m not working. When I sleep in, she’s on me the second I open my eyes. “Good morning, Lazy!” When I’m spending time with family or friends, she’s all “Don’t worry about checking your phone. Drinking tequila and catching up is much more important than running a business.” Even when I’m at home, wanting to crash after a long day, she’s there. “You’re going to read a non-business book when you have EMAILS IN YOUR INBOX? You disgust me.”

I know WLG doesn’t add anything to my life. There is nothing that she says that motivates me or makes me feel good. She is unnecessary, always wrong and honestly, her foundation shade is way off, which offends me as a makeup artist. I’ve been arguing with her a lot, and in some cases, I’m winning. If you want to know my strategies, read on.

Sleeping In. WLG thinks I should be up at 5:00am every day, working until my eyes close. I disagree. If I have a morning appointment, I set my alarm. But if I don’t have a morning commitment, I sleep until I wake up naturally. When WLG says “Are you for real right now? It’s 8:24am!” I say “Yup. My body wanted to sleep until now. I am a bad business owner, makeup artist and person in general when I’m sleep deprived, so this was worth it.” It’s easiest for me to quiet WLG in this situation because being well rested directly impacts my job productivity (and patience), so I feel justified.

Friend & Family Time. If you asked WLG, she would tell you friends are not important (my guess is she doesn’t have many) and family is stuck with you no matter how much you work. But I like being with my people. In fact, spending lot of time with them was one of my two main goals when I opened my company. When WLG says “I can’t believe you made dinner plans with Machaela when you have New Hire paperwork to do!,” I tell her to shut it. I remind her that I’ve been busting my ass for a decade and there is nothing wrong with having a dinner date. WLG and I both know that I will do work before and after I see my homegirl, and my business will not fall apart in three hours. WLG usually creeps in while I’m with my friend or relative, but I try to push her away. (The tequila is helpful with this.) I’ve found the best way to silence her in this scenario is to have a few solid productive hours before I have personal plans, so I don’t feel like work is being dangled in front of me by WLG’s demon-like hands.

Personal Time.  The work day has to come to an end, right? Sometimes mine ends at 10:00pm, other times it has a soft end at 4:00pm. (That means I mostly stop working for the day, but address time sensitive issues that arise.) My favorite way to end my work day is by hanging out with a friend or relative, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it ends with me reading a book, watching a comedy special or deciding to re-arrange my bedroom for no reason. WLG is very loud during these times, and she often wins. I’m doing my best to believe and stick to my argument that no one should be working every waking moment, and I deserve and need time to re-charge. This is my most challenging argument with WLG, but I’m making progress.

One of my goals for 2018 is to silence WLG for good. If you have your own WLG, I hope you can get rid of your’s too. Let’s let Guilty Conscience be nothing more than a classic Em and Dre hit.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Product Review: Clarins Beauty Flash Balm

Clarins Beauty Flash, foundation primer
The bombest balm.

I’m a Gemini.* That’s the sign of the Twins, for those of you who are zodiac-impaired. The Twins symbolize two different sides of a personality, which I totally relate to. I have a Work Life side and a Personal Life side. I am an ambivert, which is an extroverted introvert. I even live in two different parts of the country! (Rhode Island for the warmer months, and South Carolina in the winter.) So I like and can relate to people and things with duality. Not in a Jekyll and Hyde way, but in a good way.

And that’s where Clarins Beauty Flash Balm comes in. I first heard about this product years ago in a Lisa Eldridge tutorial. Lisa is an experienced, insanely talented British makeup artist, and she has never steered me wrong with her product recommendations. So when she recommended the Beauty Flash Balm, I went for it.

This product can be used as a primer. It has a tightening effect, which makes it my go-to for clients with mature skin. It’s also great if your skin needs a pick me up the morning after a night out or when you are getting over a cold and your skin looks dull. But take note–you have to apply this product properly or it will backfire on you. Apply a thin layer with your hands, as a brush will absorb too much of it. Make sure you have covered your entire face (not undereyes though) but do not rub it in too much as that will change the consistency. It’s more that you want to smooth it on then rub it in. You feel me? Then immediately–and I mean immediately–apply your foundation. If you wait too long, the Beauty Flash Balm will dry and become a mask, which I’ll get to next. You can apply your foundation with a brush and gently blend with a sponge. Don’t buff it in, okay? I’ve found that MAC Face & Body Foundation works really well with the Beauty Flash Balm. Every time I use this combo on a client, someone comments on how gorgeous the client’s skin looks.

Now for the Beauty Flash Balm’s second side: the face mask. To use it as a mask, apply the product with your hands and rub it in a little. Leave it on for 15 minutes then rinse off. Your skin will look glowy and feel soft as hell after. I think the term “radiance” is overused in the beauty industry and often just a bullshit false claim for many products, but in this case, using the Beauty Flash Balm as a face mask will give your skin some legit radiance. This is my favorite face mask, and there’s nary a skin type it wouldn’t work on.

As great as this product is, you are not supposed to use it every day. (Some of you will ignore this paragraph, but just remember that a makeup artist and licensed esthetician of almost ten years is giving you this advice for a reason.) It’s one of those products your skin can get used to, at which point it will lose its efficacy. So if you are using it as a primer, save it for special occasions. And if you use it as a face mask, I would recommend doing so only two or three times a month.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm is not cheap at $48, but since you wouldn’t be using it every day–right?–you would have it for a while. And if you are a Sephora VIB or Rouge member, you’ll have access to some good sales and discounts in the coming weeks.

If you want to be two faced in the best possible way, this product is worth it. It really delivers. There is a reason it’s a makeup artist favorite. This Gemini would not lie to you.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*Actually, I’m a Temini–on the Taurus/Gemini cusp–but playing to my Gemini side works better for this post.

Look Breakdown

Kristen Bell, Kristen Bell Golden Globes
You gotta love her.


I love Kristen Bell and I think this would be a great holiday makeup look, so let me break it did-down.

Foundation: Full coverage, matte finish. Concealer under eyes and where needed. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD foundation would be a good choice.

Powder: Matte powder all over. Rimmel Stay Matte Powders are up to this job.

Highlighter: Yes, on cheekbones. It’s subtle though. Benefit Watts Up applied sparingly would work well.

Contour/Bronzer: Contour under cheekbones. I’m a big fan of the Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kits for this.

Cheek Color: A minimal amount of a peachy blush, like MAC Melba.

Eyebrows: Soft taupe brow powder filling in sparseness, accentuating the arch and extending slightly at ends. A very 1950s/Marilyn Monroe shaped brow. Brow powder color will depend on your actual brow color.

Eye Makeup: Gold shadow all over lid. Laura Mercier Gold Seduction would work well. Lighter gold shadow, like MAC Ricepaper, in inner corners. Medium brown matte shadow, like MAC Wedge, in crease, slightly extended at outer corners. Black gel liner, like MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack, smoked out into brown (MAC Brun) or black (MAC Carbon) eyeshadow at top lashline. Brown shadow at outer 2/3 of bottom lashline. Thin brown pencil (like Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined Gel Eyeliner in Scotch) or gel liner smudged out/softened on outer 2/3 bottom lashline.

Mascara: Yes, black mascara top and bottom. Dior Diorshow is my favorite for top lashes. Clinique Bottom lash mascara is great for bottom lashes, as it’s a beauty tubes mascara, so no smudging.

False Lashes: Yes, strip lashes that are fuller on the outer ends.

Lipliner: Yes, same color as the lipstick. MAC Subculture would work for this.

Lipcolor: MAC lipstick in Cherish would be a good match. It’s a soft muted peachy beige with a satin finish. In all of the pictures I’ve looked at, I’m seeing that the center of Kristen’s bottom lip looks lighter. That’s a trick to make it look fuller. Her makeup artist likely applied a gloss with shimmer in it to that area, as shimmer particles reflect light and give the illusion that an area is fuller. So a clear or peachy gloss with shimmer dotted on the center of the bottom lip will do the trick. MAC Florabundance Lipglass would be my choice, but alas, it has gone into the underworld of The Discontinued Products.

This look would work on a lot of people. The shape of the eye makeup works especially well on smaller eyes, and gold shadows often look great on medium skintones. The lipstick may not be as flattering on very fair skin, so you could go for something more pink. This look is kind of classic Old Hollywood with a modern nude lip. I think it’s a great one for a holiday party.

Kristen’s makeup artist for this look was Simone Siegl.

Some more pictures of this beautiful look:

Kristen Bell makeupKristen Bell Golden Globes



Beauty Tips for the Millennials


Millenials, beauty tips, retinoid
My cousin and I (I’m on the right) on my 25th birthday. If I only I knew then what I know now about skincare. (And everything, really.)

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?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Prep School: The Graduation

Entrepreneur, freedom lifestyle
Congratulations, future entrepreneurs! Now get to work.

It’s the end of the Prep School series. Bittersweet, isn’t it? Before you head out into the entrepreneurial world, let’s go over what we have learned. (Well, what you have learned. I already knew this stuff.)

  1. Some friends and relatives won’t understand that you need to prioritize your business over socializing, at least for the first few years.
  2. You’re going to be broke for some span of time.
  3. There may be people in your life who expect you to not charge them for the goods or services your company offers.
  4. You’re probably going to work every single day, and some of the folks around you will have a hard time understanding that.

Owning a small business is not the norm. The percentage of people in the US who own their own business has varied between 12% – 14% over the past five years, but that still means at least 75% of people are not entrepreneurs. Unless you run in heavily entrepreneurial social circles–and again, LET ME IN if that’s the case–there’s a good chance very few around you own a business. So yeah, they may not get your lifestyle until you explain it to them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a big believer in learning about the work schedules, lifestyles and priorities of my friends and family so I can understand them better. If you’re going to ask those around you to understand where you are coming from, you’ve got to do the same for them.

If you are considering opening your own business, it’s important that you understand the sacrifices you will likely need to make. Then you’ll have to weigh them and against the advantages of being your own boss. Once you do that, you should be able to articulate to your friends and family how your career will impact your life and why that’s worth it to you.

Everyone has their own reasons for opening their own business.  I had three major ones. 1) I wanted to wake up and be happy to go to work. I had dreaded my jobs for too long and did not want to spend the rest of my working life hating how I spent the majority of my time. 2) I wanted be cold as little as possible. I knew that entrepreneurship would eventually bring me the freedom to live somewhere warmer during the winter months. 3) I wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Yes, I often had to miss out on get-togethers and parties during the early years (and still sometimes do now), but ever since I went full time, I’ve been able to do things like leave at 2:00pm–avoiding rush hour–to drive to another state for my brother’s birthday, help my mother prepare for our Big Italian Thanksgiving or take a friend to doctor’s appointment, all without using personal time or having to get permission. So although I’ve asked a lot in terms of understanding from those I’m close to, it’s so I can spend more time with them.

If you decide to open your own business, you’re going to be met with a lot of challenges. There’s no way around that. But if you have support from your family and friends, that will make it infinitely easier to face those challenges. If you don’t explain your lifestyle to them, they may contribute to the challenges you will have, and who wants that? A little communication goes a long way, so just do it.

Have a beautiful day 🙂




Product Review: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5

hyaluronic acid, The Ordinary, vitamin B5
The ultimate skin hydrator.

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.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Prep School: Of Course I’m Working Today!

Every day I'm hustlin'
The entrepreneur’s anthem.


Like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Tim Ferriss of “The 4-Hour Workweek” would disagree, but I’m with Lori. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll have to first understand–really understand–how you’ll be working more hours than you probably worked in any other job. Once you truly grasp that, your next challenge will be to explain your insane schedule to the people in your life. And that’s what this post will address.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll wear many hats (all of which you will have to design, order and keep track of). Especially at first–and potentially for several years–you’ll be doing some of the what the classic business book The E-Myth calls the “technician” work.  In my case, that consists of doing makeup for clients, ordering the products I need, taking makeup artistry classes, etc. Especially if your career involves services instead of products, you will likely be providing services or covering for employees who provide them at some point. Unless you have a business partner who handles the admin side or an admin assistant from Day 1, you’ll spend a lot of time doing the admin and management tasks. Depending on your industry, that role could include any or all of the following: client/customer communication, vendor communication, invoicing, receiving payments, paying bills, ordering office/store products or supplies, scheduling appointments or deliveries, interviewing job candidates, hiring personnel, firing personnel, payroll, marketing, communicating with your accountant, communicating with your attorney and approximately 27,000 other tasks (that’s a low estimate). And as the owner of the company, throw in time spent on building the brand, making major decisions regarding the direction of the company, constantly re-evaluating systems amd protocols and growing the business via new locations, products and/or services.

So if someone says “Are you working tomorrow?” resist the urge to strangle them. Until/if you have the personnel to cover all of the technician and managerial/admin work, a true day off is unlikely. But it’s unfair to expect your friends and family to know that. I don’t think I would have known it if I hadn’t spent most of my pre-AB Beauty years working in small businesses. And even then, I didn’t really get it until I opened my own company.

I think a lot of people only understand jobs in a black or white way. If you’re not doing something they consider a job, they don’t think you’re working. An all-jobs-are-black-and-white person looks at a teacher and thinks “They only work 7:00am-2:00pm Monday through Friday, and they get summers off.” Nope! They have lesson plans to make and supplies to shop for after school hours, as well as meetings and continuing ed that can’t be done during the school day. Many of them are in the building a few weeks before the school year starts setting up their classroom. (I’m probably missing a lot of responsibilities–this is just what I’ve observed from my time as a school secretary and what I’ve heard from teachers I know). So can we agree that their job consists of more than just the time they are in a classroom with their students?

With my job, which is actually a few jobs (makeup artist, manager, business owner), some people think that if I’m not with clients, I’m not working. In reality, the majority of my 80+ hour workweek is spent managing and growing my business, not doing makeup. I live in Charleston, SC for a few months in the winter and several people–including some friends and relatives–have asked me if I work while I’m there. It’s truly flattering that they think I’m doing well enough that I could go on a three month vacation. But of course I’m working! Because I don’t really take clients while I’m there, I guess some people think that means I just hang out, drink bourbon and eat grits (I wish). What they don’t think about–and this no one’s fault if it’s never been explained to them–is how a business doesn’t run itself. Because I don’t have an admin assistant or business partner–which is the case for many entrepreneurs, at least for a span of time–I do all of the client communication, job schedules, bridal trial coordinating, client invoices, contracts, paying Independent Contractors, managing my team, marketing, coming up with new business ideas, consulting with attorneys and accountants, buying what is needed for our studio and some of those 27,000 other things every day. I don’t expect anyone to understand that until I explain it, and I suggest you have them same outlook if you’re your own boss.

When you do explain it, don’t be a jerk about it. It can easily come off in a condescending “I’m busier than you and my job is more important” way. And that’s not true. It’s just that you decided to open your own business, and that comes with a grueling schedule for a while (if you want to succeed, anyway). If you can clearly–and nicely–communicate to the people you are closest to that you work every day, even if you’re not with clients/customers, you’ve done all you can do with this one.

Have a beautiful day 🙂