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Local libraries are wonderful places-- you can try out a book, and find it isn't for you. Or that you must have it, now!
For me, cookbooks and beauty manuals are always interesting to read, but if I bought each book I enjoyed looking through, I'd need a square mile to keep them all. So I take them out for a spin and return them to the Kenmore Library for others to enjoy, and in the process, sometimes I find one I want to refer to again and again, enough to purchase.
Recently I read through the Robert Jones book, Looking Younger. It's a nice how-to for those that aren't experimental on their own, or for anyone that needs a few extra tips to get their makeup in gear with their changing skin and contours. Jones is a thorough guy, explaining in detail and with pics all the little hows and whys of his approach.
Plus Points: He does a good job of showing women how to use contouring to help combat the sag that may happen as we age.
The use of each item, from blusher to brow gel, is handled thoroughly, with step-by-step instructions for placement, shade, and purchasing guidance.
I'd say his biggest strategies for looking younger are whiter teeth, strong and well-filled brows, glowing skin (however you get it glowing!) and moist lips.
Which brings me to the first negative: heavy glossing.
I don't know why some people are so drawn to a single, constant approach to glossing, but Mr. Jones clearly has a love affair with the stuff, as evidenced by the many photos in this book, all of which contain smiling older women with heavy-duty gloss. I love gloss, we all know that by now, but to use it the same way every time is to lose the texture and feel of so many other types of moments.
Which brings us to the second negative here: although Jones urges women to use makeup to bring out " their individual beauty," every single model in this book is wearing the same safe, neutral makeup of soft browns, cream, taupe and apricot with a little warm-toned pink on a few lips. They all have the same exact level and application of shadow, blush and eyeliner set in an utterly safe and even balance with not an ounce of edge or excitement. It's a look that an Avon beauty manual once tagged "naturalness with style."
Does it bring out their beauty? Yes. Well-applied makeup always does.
Does it play up each woman's special features? NO. Not remotely. And even if it did, why should we stick to one boring palette and one ultra-safe, simple approach just because we're not thirty anymore?
Fuck that philosophy to death in a handbag. I won't go there, not now, not when I'm eighty, and I resent like hell the idea the implication that I should have to, if I don't want to look old. You can bet Kat Von D. won't be turning in her electric eyeliner with a sigh when she hits 55. And neither will I and neither should any of us.
It breaks my spirit a little to see so many artists unwilling to really take on the challenge of age in others. No fashion designer demands that all the fabric they work with should be flat and smooth, without a single ripple-- on the contrary, texture and character are always prized in the plastic arts. Why not here, too?
Just makes me more determined to put out the message that women over 40 need not pander to ageist beauty attitudes. Makeup isn't just about looking younger, or looking "your best," whatever that means-- it is one small way to be whoever you want to be. That, my friends, is ageless.
Overall, Jones' book had much good basic advice to offer; it's a good book, it's just not what it could be-- so how can it help us be all we could be? I would encourage anyone reading it to look beyond the palette and style shown, using the solid techniques offered with a wider range of colors, a more adventurous sense of placement, a more playful approach to balance. You CAN look gorgeous without resulting to a daily diet of light caramel lipgloss.
Recently, I entered a beauty blog giveaway, at Ageless Beauty, and to my enduring shock, won a wonderful product-- Sua Young's Bio-Whitening Complex Serum.
The contest was sponsored by Peach and Lily, importers of the best in Asian skincare. We all know that Eastern cosmetic companies create and use the most cutting edge technology-- Peach and Lily make it their business to search out the best and brightest in skincare and pass it on.
So, I shouldn't have been surprised to find out that this serum was far more than just another under-your-moisturizer anti-aging step. This lightweight liquid is a multi-benefit serum, that also moisturizes and primes the skin, as it gradually evens out tone. It is made primarily from plant extracts, and disappears instantly, leaving the face smoothed, silky, toned, primed, looking even-toned and lovely.
It is utterly non-greasy, yet has handled my mature skin's moisture needs perfectly through our current cool Autumn weather. There is a subtle rose scent that is pleasant and very light, added through the use of the natural flower oil essence. Along with that, the serum contains aloe, witch hazel and allantoin, among other ingredients. It is produced in Korea, and packaged in a cylindrical pump containing 30ml.
Through a week+ of daily use, I've found it to have a cumulative brightening and smoothing effect, making my overall skin texture fresher, the pores appearing smaller, the surface a little more luminous and light-reflecting. One caveat-- you still need eye gel or cream, since the serum is not meant to be used around the eyes, but other than that, enjoy it on your face and neck luxuriously. A little goes a long way, which is good, as this product costs about $55 USD. But then, it has removed the need for several other products, too.
Along with the full-sized serum, P&L sent me a nice note of congratulations, and at least $15 worth of free samples. Very exciting, until I found that several of them contain "92% Snail Extract." Why, I can't say, though a friend suggested that perhaps it naturally "slows down aging." Thanks, Rod! That could be it.
Whatever the reason for the inclusion of such an extract in toners or creams, I'm a vegetarian, an animal rights activist, a simple American chick-- and I can't stomach the idea of snails on my face, especially squished snails. I prefer to enjoy them visually, in their natural habitat:
Pretty, yes, but will that transfer through a facial cream?
I do appreciate the samples, though, and may try them on my feet so that those poor snails will not have died in vain. The other samples may be reviewed in future. Meantime, I'm considering buying another round of this serum since it's doing such a stellar job. The better your skin, the easier it is to look beautiful and healthy; so the most effective skincare you can afford saves money and time. I think that for me, this stuff is worth the cost, and I'd suggest it for most other skins, too. Sensitive or oily skins can probably handle this well and benefit from it, and drier skin may need, at most, a little extra moisturizer over the serum after it has set in for a minute. My somewhat dry, very sensitive skin is happy, and fresher-looking every day. I hope it lasts through the Buffalo winter.
The last word on Sua Young Bio-Whitening Complex Serum? Absolutely recommended-- and no snails were harmed in the creation of this review.
Lately I've been reading mondo amounts of make-up manuals, for fun and education. I like to keep up with the latest ideas, techniques, and products. In my reading, I haven't learnt anything I didn't know already, though it is always exciting to see other artists in action and compare methods.
What I've gotten out of the last 8 books, mostly, is inspiration, tempered with a little disbelief at how even the most open-minded people can cling to ideas that should have been kicked to the curb long ago. Without meaning to, we've become set in our ways, and I know this from reading books published just two years ago, that sadly reflect the same tired standards as the instructive texts I read when I was just starting out in makeup, 35 years ago.
Bigotry still rules the world of beauty ideals. An unintentional bigotry, maybe, but potent nonetheless.
I'm talking here about the Greco-Roman idea that the Oval is the Perfect Face Shape, which all other shapes should be contoured to mimic. This little fallacy has been bought and sold by almost every artist on the planet for hundreds of years, but it is still WRONG.
Along with that, you've got your "standard" eye shape, your cupid's bow lips which must be neither too thin nor too full, and evenly colored, unmarked skin, plus HIGH cheekbones you can cut your fingers on.
Which might be great if your parents are runways models from certain parts of Europe and India, not so great otherwise.
It's funny how many fads in beauty have come and gone without touching this one-- despite the eternal popularity of the triangular or heart-shaped face, despite the (slooooooow) opening of the fashion world to women that aren't white, despite the breakthroughs we've had in recent years over body image and self-esteem. Somehow, the perfect face (and lip, and eye) shape has stayed set in the minds of artists, in the trade mags and textbooks, in all the literature of looks. The attitude that some women have fantastic bone structure, and some don't, is prevalent among the most lauded creatives in the world.
But it is wrong. Good bone structure is having a face that holds your insides in without incident. And the best face shape for you is the one you were born with-- there may be other good shapes for you too, if you feel like playing around to make your face appear thinner, longer, rounder, less sharp. Still, you really are beautiful as you are. And the longer you live in your own face, the more comfortable, and beautiful, you should feel with it and in it. Contour because you like the look, not because someone told you your jaw isn't feminine-- of course it is, if it's yours and you're a woman!
Let's blow through a few more of these myths. A current favorite look is the full, big eyebrow. I agree that thinner brows can sometimes make us look older, but the catch is, that's only because younger people are wearing thicker brows these days. If you, like me, were from a generation that plucked a leaner line, then fill your brows in a little, sure, but don't try to pretend you have Mega-Brows just to fit in. Your brows belong here just as much as those of any eighteen year-old that has never picked up a pair of tweezers. Let those kids revel in their bushy beauty, but don't be intimidated by it.
Lip bigotry should be easier to wipe away, since the fad for fuller lips hit about twenty years ago. The flipside, though, was that naturally thinner lips have come to be seen as nothing but an invitation to Botox, and that is sad. If you want proof, look at any of a dozen celebrities that have gone from gorgeous to scary by comparison with their old selves, because they weren't satisfied with their perfectly lovely lips.
We can get used to their new looks and still find them beautiful; but why in hell can't they accept the faces they were born with, faces that helped make them famous?
I'm guessing they each internalized someone else's opinion so thoroughly that they couldn't see themselves clearly. What's worse than feeling like your very self is wrong?
Let's not do it. Ditch the baggage about our eye color, our freckles, our strong chins, our cheekbones...
Perfection isn't a static thing. To paraphrase Richard Bach in his novel Illusions, it's always a perfect sky, even though the sky is always changing. Our perfect look or shape or coloring, at any time, is what captures the moment, our moment-- not an attempt to capture the look of someone else's face.
I'm here to speak up for your actual nails, that have been hiding in fear under gel, filler, tips and polish. They want to tell you something, and that is: give us a break once in a while.
And they're right, you should. Nails are a special protective type of skin, and they are important indicators of health. They give signals which may be subtle; but subtle or not, those clues can easily be missed if we constantly cover them with polish and tips and such.
You have probably heard that you need to let your nails "breathe," and also heard that idea scoffed at, since nails don't literally breathe. What is really meant, is to let your nails be clean and clear for a day or two now and then, to help keep them free from fungus, and to allow this very helpful "early warning system" to work properly. This practice also keeps them from getting overly soft, which in itself can lead to health problems.
I can tell you from personal experience that ignoring something as simple as sensitive cuticles can become life-threatening. I have been recovering from a skin & muscle affecting auto-immune disorder for the last eight years, an illness that might not have dealt so much damage to my muscles, skin, hair and organs if I had addressed it sooner.
And it all started with sore cuticles. Please, pay attention to what your nails would like to tell you-- it could save your life.
Now we've discussed the health part, let's talk fashion, the other burr under my index.
When nail fads first got me, as a teen, I wished and wished for those perfect elongated rectangular shaped nail tips I saw in ads everywhere, and even tried some false nails, hoping to get the look. Alas, if your nail is much wider than the false one, it still won't work. I learned an array of polishing and filing techniques to make my nails look slimmer and longer, and then the fashion went short and sharp. This was easier for me to adhere to, but still called for less width than I had naturally.
Now in my forties, I finally wonder why it is that we talk the talk of individual beauty, and are happy to say that any lip shape is great, any skincolor beautiful, but that all nails should look alike-- meaning like the same shaped fake nails I wanted to wear thirty years ago.
It doesn't make sense, and it excludes so much beauty. I say, forget the standard tips, which make every perfectly executed new "creative" mani look samo-samo, and flash your own nails, in whatever shape works best to keep them from splitting. For me, it is not the current squared off short shape, but instead rounded ovals, and not too long a length. It might be long and pointy for you, or squared might work best after all.
Each of us has different daily tasks, a different lifestyle, different heritage.
Why should we all have the same nail shape??? Why should we even keep the same shape from month to month, or season to season, when we change the colors and the texture so often?
I woke this morning thinking about some of my first makeup experiences-- like the day I got to dress up for an outing at a bar with my oldest sister, using my mother's makeup, my instincts, and what I'd learned from watching her and Mom and Gailz put on their faces (but mostly Linda, since she'd let me watch anytime, and never ever left the house without full makeup back then, not even to buy milk).
And I felt a little pull, a little poignant catch that had not so much to do with having lost Linda to cancer, although that too, or having lost my perfect young skin-- much. As I thought about it, I realized that what I was missing about those days, was the unknown that I faced, the pure spirit of experimentation I let myself enjoy, for hours if I wanted, back then. It was indulging that spirit that allowed me to become a makeup authority in a short period of time, just about a year and a half, with girls following me into the lav at school to ask me to fix them up, teach them things, help them get nicer skin.
I never lost that spirit at all, and I've learned scads since-- but like many of us past forty, my routines tend to take over when life gets busy, and I more often plan to play around with new colors and looks, than I actually take time to do.
Me, in the '80's, rocking a fave clubbing design, and an angry look, just for show-- the cameraman wanted rebellion.
Photo courtesy of Joe Porebski
And here's the thing: now that I have older, less impossibly pure, less forgiving skin, a whole different canvas in fact, I'm facing just as great a swath of the unknown as in my teens. Especially if I want to hold on to the idea that mature beauty doesn't have to be boring, neutral, the merest bland enhancement. And I do think that, I want to keep that as my mantra, live it, spread it!
All it takes it a little extra time once in a while. After all, the moment to try a shadow you're not sure about is not while you're rushing to go to work, or a bridal shower with all your nieces and cousins, or a night on the town you've been planning for weeks. That's when you want to have solid knowledge of how to dazzle, with techniques you have grown comfortable using through repetition.
To that end, I think all of us that want to keep our look fresh should take some spare time to assess what we look like NOW, and then to play with all those goodies in our kit. Try a liner look you've admired, wash it off, try it again. If you're not walking out the door, who cares if you mess it up?
For me, I'm getting back into making up others, which widens your perception of your own face, as well. I'm even taking a course to refresh my rusty spots. And I'm giving my less used goodies some attention. Otherwise, they're no more than wasted money, space, and dreams.
When was the last time you took an hour or more to just play with different makeup ideas?