If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.
Also, check out the blogsale.
Into The Gloss
Grain de Musc
Drivel About Frivol The Selfish Seamstress
Bois de Jasmin Glossed In Translation
Jak and Jil
Worship at the House of Blues
I Smell Therefore I Am
The Natural Haven
Moving Image Source
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Colin's Beauty Pages
Barney's jewelry department
loodie loodie loodie
The Straight Dope
Sea of Shoes
London Makeup Girl
Sakecat's Scent Project
Tom & Lorenzo: Mad Style
Beauty and the Bullshit
La Garçonne Flame Warriors Everyday Beauty
Fashion Gone Rogue
Now Smell This
A Fevered Dictation
Once the first-time thrill wears off, long distance air travel settles rapidly into the category of bloody nuisance. Unless you have the good fortune to be flying private or first class, it means hours or even days spent in queues, waiting rooms, packed into uncomfortable seats, breathing recycled air, and completing your toilette in a tiny cubicle roughly the size of a pantry. Hardly the glamourous Pan Am image of air travel.
Nostalgia: The jet-setting life of 1960s aristocrats.
In the effort to combat stress and exhaustion, I find it exceedingly helpful to have a few basic rules when it comes to dress.
Plan your travel clothes ahead of time, everything down to your shoes and bag. For one thing, it will help you to narrow down what else you still need to pack in your suitcase. For another, it will allow you to sleep a little while longer if you have to take a morning flight, which is a gift not to be dismissed if you find it difficult to rest on planes.
Tomorrow, on my trip from Sydney to Shanghai (with a 3-hour layover in Singapore), I will be wearing what has become my habitual outfit for long distance flights.
I get more wear-time out of my abi and joseph Relaxed Fit Pants ($115 AUD) whilst travelling than actually doing yoga. Made of Supplex, a type of nylon used frequently in fitness wear, they have the look and feel of cotton, but are much more easy to wash and maintain. The super-quick drying time with Supplex is also very useful if you have to wash your clothes on trips, and the straight, slim leg and low waistband keep the pants from looking dowdy. Over that, I throw on a soft t-shirt, like the T by Alexander Wang in Lavender ($95 AUD), or my sentimental favourite: a marl grey cotton Collette Dinnigan t-shirt that came free with an issue of Vogue Australia.
For warmth, I prefer a soft, heavy knit or sweater. My Carl Kapp Cashmere Cardigan ($720 AUD) is a tactile, understated luxury, like being wrapped in a hug. Last of all, my beloved Milani snakeskin loafers, so scuffed and well-worn by this stage, but still the ideal travelling shoe - my equivalent of wearing sneakers (which I do not favour for flying, what with all the shoe-laces). A more stylish (and pricy) alternative are Salvatore Ferragamo Ballet Flats in leather and linen ($393.51 AUD).
A look into my everyday beauty habits and routines, inspired by the series "The Top Shelf" at Into The Gloss.
I have been wearing makeup regularly only since I was twenty-two. In the few years since, I have managed to become high-maintenance pretty quickly. But being also bookish, introverted, and working in an industry that demands a conservative look from me, there is by design nothing flashy or theatrical about my day-to-day appearance. Left to my own devices, I favour the urban elegance and sophistication of La Garçonne; it's great fun to be able to play with colour, but nothing feels quite so right on me as a barely-there eye paired with a red lip (NARS Rouge d'Enfer, in the case of the photo above).
When it comes to skincare, I appreciate its importance without being fully committed to the ritual of facials, exfoliates, and treatments, although I'll wager that it's only a matter of time. I use a combination of old faithfuls and new products that I am testing. First, I remove my make-up with Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil - one pump is sufficient for getting rid of everything, including waterproof mascara - before cleansing with an oil-targetting cleaner, followed by the application of layers of various toners, serums and creams. Shu Uemura Depsea Hydrability Intense Moisturising Concentrate is a stalwart that I wear on its own in summer and beneath a moisturiser or oil in winter. Another product I have repurchased many times is Clinique All About Eyes Rich; after too many bad experiences with eye creams on my sensitive skin, I tend to stick to what is known and safe. Huiles & Baumes Face Smoothing Serum is a rich facial oil I have been testing for the last month or so - I love the fresh herbal scent and the way it shrinks my pores.
My lips chap easily, especially in cold, windy weather, so I never leave the house without lip balm, preferable ones that are non-sticky, flavourless, and colourless. I keep Blistex Lip Conditioner with SPF 20 around the house, on my bedside table and at my desk, and a tube of Clinique Superbalm Lip Treatment in every purse. Both are great, intensely nourishing and not so expensive that you can't afford numerous back-ups. Lip balm is something that needs to be applied frequently and liberally, so you never want to be caught without one handy.
If my skin is clear, I am happy to get away with just wearing tinted moisturiser and some concealer. When I do wear foundation, I apply it directly with my fingers - it's quicker and saves me the bother of washing a foundation brush after every use - before dusting a bit of loose powder over it to keep it in place.
Brow pencil is a minimum requirement when mine are so naturally sparse and patchy - I use Shu Uemura in the shade 06 Acorn. On a normal day, all I wear on my lids are matte or satin browns and taupes, for a look that is polished, but not painstakingly drawn in. Even my eyeliner and mascara are brown. I am already on my third tube of Shiseido Perfect Mascara in BR602, and I've lost count of how many of the Guerlain Eye Pencil in Kohl Me Brown 03 I have bought. I smudge the pencil into my upper lashline, to give my eyes some subtle definition. Gel and liquid liner has its occasional uses, but not whilst I am on the clock.
My go-to lip colour - lipstick, never lipgloss - is always changing. If you keep your eye makeup clean and effortless, it is a simple matter to change your look in the middle of a day by switching lip colours. I have a red imitation-leather lipstick case that I bought in the markets in Shanghai for around 150 RMB (or $21 AUD). It has an inbuilt mirror and holds three lipsticks, usually a sheer natural colour, a deeper berry or rose, and a red. Continental Couture has one that looks very similar but made from shark skin for £119.
Cutting my hair short was a decision I made the year I left high school, and it's been that length ever since. Short hair is freeing and conveniently low maintenance. But also, looking back at old photographs of myself, I feel like that person with long hair is a stranger, someone still wore school uniforms and had not yet been introduced to undergraduate anthropology. In a not unsubstantial way, we are not the same, just as I will not be the same person ten years hence. Identity is an ever-evolving thing, and often the outward change - manhood initiation rituals, the widow's weeds - marks also a significant internal overhaul. (The reverse is also true, and it is not in my interest here to quibble about direction of causality between the mental and the physical, for both are intrinsic and interdependent.) It takes me less than 5 seconds to style my hair: a few strokes with a synthetic and boar bristle brush is all it needs. If it is in a truly disastrous state of disarray, a tiny daub of Frederic Fekkai Glossing Cream, combed through with my fingers, is usually enough to tame it.
I do not have a signature fragrance, but I always come back to a select few, like Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental. In my work bag, I keep a Travalo filled with Chanel No. 19, for those times when I forget to apply before leaving the house. Perfume is the last step of my routine of getting ready. Without it, I always feel a little unfinished.
*Australian regulations don't allow SPF factor numerals greater than 30 to be claimed on sunscreen labels, for several reasons, so SPF 30+ is the highest level of sun protection that you will see on any product in Australia.
Top photo credit: Orion Mitchell, 2010
1920s advertisement for Three Pagodas Brand Cosmetics Company
Suppression, of course, only breeds rebellion. My mother and father never repeated the platitude that "appearances do not matter." Instead, the message they imparted to me, their only child, was that - as a woman and a Chinese woman at that - I would inevitably be judged by how I looked. The least I could do was take control and use it to my own advantage. Mercenary and cynical, perhaps, but pragmatic above all else. Want to dress to impress or instill confidence, to appear younger or more mature, to tell the world that you're a free radical - there are ways and means.
To bloggers for whom beauty is a passion and an art, it might seem tasteless to give voice to the underlying notion that beauty is also functional, particularly in cases of societies that are highly stratified. Yet what magazine copy and fashion advertisements tip-toe around is this very concept - better to be clear-eyed than blindly steered.
The way I conceive of make-up is as an element of style, not to be scrutinised or evaluated in isolation from general grooming, dress, and deportment. Because I take joy in what is aesthetically pleasing, it is all as much for my own benefit as to ease the myriad social interactions that most of us necessarily engage in on a day to day basis. Though the precise semiotics of taste are complex and ever-evolving, it is impossible to deny that image is power. At the same time, it is worth remembering not to take it all too seriously - as Dain says, "It's only make-up", after all.
How to use the power of the image, to enjoy it as a medium of self-expression, without becoming a victim of it, is every individual's balancing act.
A large part of what I love about perfume is that there is something very personal, and a little selfish and defiant about scent. The codes are less normalised than with make-up, more esoteric. You don't have to look at yourself for every minute of the day, but your own scent is something that stays with you, and if other people don't like it - if, for example, they take askance to you wearing Bandit loudly and proudly in their close vicinity - well, then they can stand a little further away.
Image credit: Old Orient Museum
Growing up close to the textiles industry, I learned that fashion was short-lived, but that good fabric would last a lifetime. My parents bought yards of cloth for their coats and suits overseas (Italian wool woven from Australian merino), before having them tailored in Shanghai: the best of both worlds. I know grades of wool, silk, mohair, alpaca, linen, cashmere and cotton by feel, and I am very particular about what I will allow near my skin.
100% polyester? Not a chance.
90% cotton/10% cashmere? I will be needing second, third, fourth back-ups, in different colours, please.*
On my most recent trip to Shanghai, while scouting various boutiques in the French Concession for a suitable birthday gift for a discerning friend, I came across Shokay ("yak fiber" in Tibetan), a brand founded in 2006 by Marie So and Carol Chyau, former classmates at the Harvard Kennedy School’s MPA/ID program.
According to their website, Shokay is "the world’s first lifestyle brand focused on using yak fibers to provide maximum warmth, comfort, & style. Shokay prides itself not only in its classic and modern designs, but also in its social impact." Their scarves, shawls, throws and other products are made from hand-combed yak down sourced from Tibetan herders in Qinghai Province, and knitted in Chongming Island, off the eastern coast of China, before being sold in up-scale boutique stores in Shanghai, Beijing, abroad, and online.
The business model is not new: sell to a niche market something that gives people in less developed areas (in this case, one of the poorest regions in China) a sustainable income. The Oxfam Store runs on the same basic principle. What is unique about Shokay is how it is almost single-handed creating a market for a product that most people outside of the region do not know anything about.
I am not entirely unfamiliar with yaks. On a trip last summer to Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, also know as Shangri-La, in Yunnan Province, I had the opportunity to get pretty close to a number of those large, shaggy animals. But what I could not have anticipated from seeing them is just how truly luxurious their down was.
I own the plaid shawl ($105 USD) from Shokay in the colour pale green, made from a blend of 75% yak and 25% bamboo. (Bamboo!**) The fabric is superbly soft, breathable like linen, with the warmth and lightness of weight of cashmere. It is ideal during the warmer months, when the weather can turn chilly all of a sudden, or if you need a temporary shield for your bare skin against the over-zealous air conditioning.
I have since gone back to the store (Nuomi on Xinle Road, for the curious) for three more scarves from Shokay, in different sizes and colours. They are a great conversation gift, I find, and well-appreciated by people who like quality, but not showy, accessories. Also available at the online store are dyed yak yarns for knitters.
Ethical consumerism is very much in vogue right now, but despite largely good intentions, it systematically runs into the problem of turning into yet another product differentiation tool, used to sell over-priced items to the middle class. What's more, the outcomes of such projects as Fair Trade and Oxfam have often been mixed, and less positive than expected.
Cynic that I am, before buying too enthusiastically into the social entrepreneurial-ship aspect of the brand, I would need to know more about how money is divvied up between the various parties in the production and distribution chain, and perhaps hear what the Tibetan farmers have to say about the business.
The products, however, already speak for themselves.
Find your nearest stockist here.
*It's warm, comfortable, and machine-washable. What's not to like?
**Bamboo is a hardy, fast-growing plant that requires almost no pesticides, and that produces a silky organic fabric with a similar texture to cotton.
The Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Color Trios are the brainchild of Dick Page, creative director for the Shiseido cosmetics, who was featured in this recent article by Dain. All the trios are top quality, exquisite in design, highly covetable (not to mention, they come with a miniature natural hair brush that - brace yourselves! - you can actually use). Though they look intimidatingly bright in the pan, there is not a single one that I don't think I could realistically wear.
Case in point: GR305 Jungle (above left).
Three greens. One neutral golden khaki (left), one slightly cooler/bluer (right), and one slightly warmer/yellower (centre). My local Myer was so understaffed today that the SA at the Shiseido counter literally handed me a couple of clean eyeshadow brushes (Shiseido #4 brushes, by the way), eye makeup remover, some tissues, and told me to go away and play by myself.
I wasn't expecting to fall in love with Jungle, it was more of an experiment. I wanted to see if I could wear those three bright greens in combination, with nothing else. But the quick look I ended up producing with it was so soft and pretty, I could not help but think about the possibilities that could be achieved with more time and better tools at my disposal.
This was my inspiration image, a jewel-toned smokey eye from an editorial in the September 2011 issue of Harper's Bazaar Australia (1). The makeup was by Amanda Reardon at Viviens Creative.
Finding no iridescent emerald in my stash, it was impossible for me to attempt to recreate this look entirely. So I followed my whimsy, and added red lips to the look.
First came the base: Giorgio Armani Designer Shaping Cream Foundation in #4, which is about two shades lighter than my present complexion, to contrast more strongly with the lips. Having just gotten back from Shanghai and Singapore, I am far more tanned than I would normally be in the winter here in Sydney. There is no blush, just a hint of bronzer to contour.
For the lipstick, I wanted a matte: Shu Uemura RD178M Rouge Unlimited Creme Matte is a dark red with brown and purple undertones. For greater precision, I layered it with a brush over NARS lipliner in Amazon. On the eyes, all three greens from the Jungle trio, applied with a damp brush, the coolest shade in the inner corner graduating outward to the khaki near the temples. Then a blackened lame green from the Yves Saint Laurent Ombre Duo Lumiere No. 11 to deepen the crease, and Stila Cloud on the ball of the eye, creating a highlight.
Perhaps not the most wearable of looks, but given that it was created in the spirit of fun, I think Dick Page would approve.
Like the other writers on staff, I am all for giving Shiseido the better blogosphere attention and credit it deserves. Next trio to tackle when I am again in the mood to splurge: BL310 Punky Blues...
(1) Scan by Visual Optimism
A young waitress with sleek, boyish hair and matter-of-fact grace applies lipstick in the bathroom mirror of a smoke-dimmed club.
Despite her youth, she has the air of someone who is never surprised by anything. Certainly not by the louche, middle-aged man sprawled all over the grimy floor tiles. Needle in one hand, he is injecting heroin into his other arm. He wears a shirt and pants that have seen far better days.
Not the most likely candidate for a knight in shining armour. Not that she will admits she needs saving.
Neil Jordan is a writer/director (and sometime-novelist) with a "big-hearted tolerance" and a particular talent for sympathetic, even Romantic, portrayals of characters that society ordinarily shuns or overlooks (2). His films - which include the Oscar-winning The Crying Game (1992), in which Stephen Rea played an IRA terrorist who falls in love with a transgender singer (Jaye Davidson), and Interview with the Vampire (1994), an adaptation of the Anne Rice novel which sparked a whole sub-genre of vampire-as-antihero - are about rebels and outsiders, defiers of conventional morality and customs, whether by fate or by choice.
There are two such loveable rogues at the heart of The Good Thief (2002): an ageing gambler/thief named Bob Montagnet, played by Nick Nolte at his most wrecked and beautiful, and 17-year-old Anne (Nutsa Kukhnianidze), a Bosnian immigrant. The setting is Nice, the French Riviera, where Europe and North Africa meet.
Gamine and tough-fragile, seemingly unaware of the sharks surrounding her, Anne inspires protectiveness in the world-weary Bob. Although the two have an undeniable chemistry, his relationship to Anne is paternal, not sexual. When they meet for the first time, Bob at the tail end of a long career peppered by addiction and incarceration, and Anne on the verge of a slippery slope that leads to unwilling prostitution, each brings about the other's redemption. Throughout the course of the film, Bob imparts lessons about life, art and gambling. In return, Anne becomes, in a whimsically magical realist fashion, his good luck charm.
Starting in the bowels of Remi's disreputable club, they gradually ascend through the stratas of this colourful and decadent underworld - cafes, boudoirs and Monte Carlo casinos. When at the end they emerge together, dazed and triumphant, stepping literally into the daylight, they are physically as well as mentally transformed; her in a glittering black sheath dress, he in an elegant tuxedo.
But whether winning or losing, this is that type of film where everything is done with style.
I have been enamoured with The Good Thief for as long as I have been a Neil Jordan fan; that is to say, for a considerable length of time, but not as long as those who first fell in love with him through The Company of Wolves (1984).
For me, the experience of (re)watching The Good Thief is like slipping back into a conversation with a much admired friend, someone who taught you how to become the person that you are, and whose words still have the power to stop your heart with desire and envy. The moment when "Parisien du Nord" starts to play, and the opening credits appear like an absinthe dream over the jewel-coloured neon of an alley behind a gambling den, is both a homecoming and a seduction.
The Good Thief, in other words, is to me what Breakfast at Tiffany's is to so many women, a jewel of pop culture that is my own beauty manifesto. Others point to Audrey Hepburn as the epitome of chic, but for me that iconic status is held jointly by Bob and Anne. (4)
Witty and sexy, with their never-gone-to-bed rumpled nonchalance, their smoke-roughened voices, the line-up of thieves and con-artists in The Good Thief, and the nocturnal world they inhabit, exude a cool and easy lyricism that is almost a life philosophy, a way of being. Its soundtrack, filled with Leonard Cohen and French-Algerian raï music, is a constant companion to my humdrum day-to-day. If I were Alice and could have my pick of rabbit holes, this darkly dazzling version of Nice would be my notion of Wonderland.
* * *
Early August is the pit of winter for those of us who live in the southern hemisphere. As the body shivers, neck huddling into furred collars and wrapping scarves against the cold wind, the mind longs for the Mediterranean.
Looking at Picasso's portraits of his wives and mistresses (one of which plays an important role in The Good Thief), one first notices the sensuality of their eyes, the curve of their breasts, the luxurious textures of their dark hair. This dress from Oscar de la Renta Resort 2012 collection (not yet in stores), with its sweetheart bodice and graphic, Cubist print, tailored to flair out slightly at the hips, is sophisticated without ever being staid, and exposes those most admired attributes to perfection. Turquoise is the colour of the tropics, the blue of warm, shallow seas; here it provides vivid accents against a palette of neutral beige, tan and charcoal grey. The slender straps and the horizontal stripes at the hem lend it a youthful coquetry, which can be dressed up for a night of sizzling jazz and cocktails, or down for a walk along the beach.
As always when wearing such a busy print, care must be taken that it doesn't wear you. Mixing prints and colours takes skill and a willingness to risk looking like this; if you would rather let the dress speak for itself, keep the rest of the outfit minimalist. Being comfortable, holding yourself in a way that is relaxed and fluid, goes a long way toward helping project the feeling that you belong in an outfit. If you find that this does not come naturally, try a glass or two of wine.
The runway look features mid-heel pumps and leather belt in exactly matching turquoise. These Reed Krakoff snakeskin and leather sandals (£504.17), on the other hand, in contrasting coral and pink would provide a pop of warmth without being too bottom-heavy or overwhelming, while the silver leather and snakeskin detail echoes the neutrals in the dress. A warm red or orange lipstick, such as NARS Heat Wave ($24 USD), or alternatively, a brightly saturated fuchsia like Anna Sui #360 Lip Rouge V, could then provide striking counterbalance.
The Alexandrite Eternity Ring by Satomi Kawakita ($1440 USD) and the Four Knot Yarn Bracelet from Wendy Nichol ($345 USD) have a rough-cut, nautical flare that complements the resort theme without intruding. To finish, a touch of rakish masculinity with a classic broad-brimmed brown fedora, like this one from Juicy Couture ($56.92 USD), and a spritz or two of a citrusy leather chypre like Estée Lauder Azurée ($38 USD for 2.0 oz.), to juxtapose against the feminine dress and heels; an artful play on innocence and experience.
(1) Neil Jordan, "The Good Thief - Dialogue Transcript", http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/good-thief-script-transcript-nolte.html
(2) Eric Hynes (2006), "The Butcher Boy", Reverse Shot, http://www.reverseshot.com/legacy/winter06/jordan/butcherboy.html
(3) Justin Stewart (2006), "Chance Encounter", Reverse Shot, http://www.reverseshot.com/legacy/winter06/jordan/goodtheif.html
(4) Gong Li's character in Miami Vice (2006) also holds that place of influence over me, but that's another film, another column altogether.
Diana (Li Wen)
Brown/black - coloured dark brown with tan/auburn highlights
Light/medium beige, with yellow and olive undertones
Dark circles under my eyes and acne-prone skin, which breaks out whenever I eat dairy products. I like to wear bold, bright lips so getting as flawless and immaculate a base as possible always is my main task. I also have unruly eyebrows - sparse, straight hairs that stick out in all directions - which require a combination of brow setter, pencil, and powder to tame. Unless I am at home, or spending hours on an airplane, I usually wear one-day contacts, so having eye makeup that does not run or smear is important to me.
Sophisticated, by turns fresh and bold
TOP THREE FAVORITE PRODUCTS
Shu Uemura Hard 9 Brow Pencil - Acorn
Guerlain Eye Liner & Khol - Khol Me 03 (brown)
Red lipstick - cannot pick just one!
WHAT BLUSHES IN YOUR COLLECTION MAKE YOU LOOK MOST ALIVE?
NARS Zen for a neutral with a hint of red, Cargo The Big Easy for a summery peach, and Becca Amaryllis for the perfect winter flush.
Asian brows are indeed tricky to tame. The black is emphatic and the hairs are pin straight, so an unruly hair refuses to behave, even with lashings of brow gel. Within minutes, it comes undone. One option might be to use a good hairspray, one with excellent hold, onto a toothbrush. A more frustrating, but ultimately more satisfying, alternative would be grow your brows in thicker. It'll get worse before it gets better, but resist the urge to pluck those messy, minute hairs for a few months until they've reached their full length. Then you can zero in—carefully! ever so carefully—on individual hairs so they lie more or less in the proper direction.
A peachy tone to your undereye concealer (Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, or professional brands like Ben Nye and Graftobian) will counteract sallowness. You can always layer a highlighting pen on top, if you need extra brightening.
Li Wen already owns a formidable collection of red lipsticks and well-edited neutrals (from her Livejournal, Fire of Spring). It's clear she's driven by a spirit of adventure, "I think there are areas that I have missed, colour blindspots that I would like to explore a bit more", as well as a fascination with a conceptual approach to makeup. In response, we've adjusted our recommendations accordingly, slightly more saturated twists on her reliable stable of neutrals.
On the premise that flattering lipcolors should pick up on undertones in a well chosen blush, Lipstick Queen Saint Berry (top center) is a richer, slightly warmer color, a hybrid between brown and warm red known as clove, but not so far removed you cannot detect the relationship with Amaryllis. Sheered down so it doesn't become draining, it's soft and naturalistic without resorting to a nude. For excitement, it doesn't get much bolder than Shiseido OR418 Day Lily Perfect Rouge (top right), a heartstoppingly chic shade of vibrant orange. Day Lily takes the thread of warmth lurking in Saint Berry, isolates it from the neutralizing brown, then saturates it to high intensity. On Li Wen's olive+/yellow undertones, it illuminates her face entire*.
For eyes, we've chosen shades that should integrate beautifully together. For neutrals, a greyed khaki, Shiseido Kombu (far left), and a blackened plum, Laura Mercier Black Plum (bottom left). Though they seem more colorful, they'll wear as easily as Li Wen's favorite ashy browns, like off-browns. Her perfect contrast, aligned exactly opposite Amaryllis on the color wheel, would be a periwinkle. At full strength, Stila Mambo (bottom, second from right) would serve as a bright wash, but it'll contrast nicely against greens and play a more tonal game with darker purples and blues. Alternatively, we might recommend Chanel Bambou (not pictured), a very fresh spring green. Finally, we've included an accent color, to provide a touch of highlight against Black Plum, Kombu, and Mambo, Stila Cloud (bottom, far right). Li Wen notes she doesn't wear silver very comfortably, but Cloud is sufficiently softened by a hint of rosy taupe to take the bite out of the harsh metallic.
* N.B. Since we've been talking to Li Wen over an extended period of time, it's been possible to check various suggestions for their affinity to her coloring.
I think it's hard to be truly frugal with makeup when you've made a hobby of it. Even if I look askance at people who purchase entire seasonal collections or refer to nearly identical nail polish colours as "so different you need both", I understand the impulse; I always have that urge to try the shiny new thing that is slightly different from the former shiny new things in my makeup drawer. I've become better at resisting, as some novelty has worn off; even so, I find it hard to imagine giving up drugstore-sale thrills.
I have perennially insensitive skin, such that I'm surprised when a skincare product makes any visible difference at all. It seems that no matter what I do, it's a bit dry in the winter or when I've just washed it, a bit oily at the end of the day, shiny regardless of its condition (what is up with that?) and prone to minor breakouts. Accordingly, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it, and aside from the occasional experiment, I don't like to spend a lot of time or money on skincare.
DHC's Deep Cleansing Oil has been a staple for me for several years now; it smears off makeup and dirt and leaves nothing but clean, slightly tight skin. (I have yet to commit to a moisturizer or an exfoliant.) There are cheaper cleansers out there, but a $25 bottle of this stuff lasts me several months.
I am pale and vain: sunscreen is a must. I've tried expensive sunscreens, but in my opinion, the cost makes it too tempting to skimp. Sunscreen application guidelines make me roll my eyes — who has the time or inclination to re-apply every few hours, all day, every day? — but it surely does help to apply generously at the beginning of the day, and in the winter, Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer is cheap and inoffensive enough to allow that. In the summer, I go to a higher SPF: right now I'm using a good-but-not-great SPF 60 lotion from Neutrogena.
Besides that...I don't have exciting health habits. I sleep a lot. A lot a lot.
I've owned a lot of NYX eyeshadows; they're inexpensive and usually highly pigmented, great for experimenting, and the colour selection is staggering. And I've got rid of a lot of NYX eyeshadows, because they tend to have coarse, over-the-top shimmer or glitter particles more suited for a 21-year-old clubber than a wannabe professional staring down the barrel of 30. That said, NYX's newer matte shadows (generally, the ones with higher numbers on the label) are brilliant: silky and highly pigmented, with the softest satiny sheen.
When I was a teenager, I never bought anything but cheap drugstore makeup; my budget and confidence didn't stretch to anything else. It being the 1990s in Canada, though, my selection was pretty limited, and I quickly discovered that almost all reds and pinks turned to neon fuchsia on me. I ended up with a lot of too-dark 1990s browns, the most classic of which was probably Revlon Super Lustrous in Coffee Bean. I liked the way the colour looked (it was the 1990s), but I still remember the vile chemical smell.
Fifteen years later, though, the smell is gone, and Revlon makes my favourite cheap lipsticks. I prefer the longer-lasting Mattes, but Super Lustrous has the biggest colour selection, including a new variety of warm reds, corals and pinks that don't turn fuchsia against my skin.
I also love buying cheap makeup on eBay, which makes available hundreds of brands that can't otherwise be had in Canada, or even in North America. My current favourite blushes are actually from the cheap Korean brand Etude House: the blush above is the Face Color Corset in a colour I think is called Orange Mango, a finely milled, intensely pigmented matte peach, like NARS Gina at a lower price point.
Just in general, I don't see the point in spending a lot of money on mascara or gel eyeliner: Bobbi Brown's gel liners probably have the best shade range out there, but they smudge like mad on me, whereas much cheaper liners from Sonia Kashuk and Essence barely budge. And while I used to think all drugstores mascaras would run down my face, I can now find many cheap ones that don't: whether this is due to a change in my skin or an improvement in formulas, I haven't found out. And though I've bought a couple of Rescue Beauty Lounge nail polishes, my favourite brands are the much cheaper Zoya and China Glaze.
It's becoming tedious to read this, I'm sure, but Hakuhodo does make the most beautiful brushes I've ever used; I didn't know brushes existed that would never feel the least bit scratchy against my face. They handle pigment beautifully, they feel wonderful against my skin, and they are -- let's face it -- psychologically satisfying to use.
There are some decent red lipsticks at the drugstore, but as Dain says, for the richest pigmentation one needs to spend a little more. My favourites are still probably from Julie Hewett's Noir collection: Belle Noir and Coco Noir suit me the best, but all of the Noirs (save the bizarrely described "nude invisible red" Nude Noir) are serious, intense, gorgeous reds.
Perhaps the most surprisingly good investment I've made, though, is my Anastasia Perfect Brow Pencil in Ash Blonde. I bought it nearly three years ago for an obscene, jacked-up Canadian price (about $30) and have used and sharpened it constantly, watching it turn into a STASIA pencil and later an ASIA pencil; it's currently a letterless stub, and the spoolie on the end has seen better days...but it's lasted me nearly three years.
I am not convinced that this expenditure is necessary; though my efforts to find a drugstore eyebrow pencil went nowhere (Annabelle's Taupe is too green, Cover Girl's too red, Maybelline Define-A-Brow is annoyingly crumbly and gram for gram as expensive as MAC), I balked at buying another Anastasia pencil and instead went for MAC's automatic eye pencil in Fling, which is pretty much the same shade as Ash Blonde but cheaper, and later, out of curiosity, a tub of Laura Mercier's Brow Definer. But will they last me as long?
College students are no strangers to scrimping, and when you're putting your budget on a diet, so to speak, there are three well recognized approaches one can take: buy a cheaper version, make your expenses last, or simply do without.
Low prices aren't necessarily correlated with low quality: when it comes to beauty, you don't, contrary to popular belief, always get what you pay for. There are products that can be bought for cheap that are comparable to their more costly peers, and why pay more for the same effect?
Sometimes, however, it pays to spend a little more money at the outset for a product you will keep coming back to. Not only is it difficult to find a comparable quality at lower prices, but investing in reliable and high-quality products in these categories will curb redundant and unnecessary future purchases, especially of gimmicks and quick fixes that will only disappoint.
Products for every concievable beauty want have been developed, but it requires shocking amounts of money to buy everything out there that's targeted at reassuring us that solutions to our problems are all here, packaged in pretty bottles. Plus it's often just more convenient to use things that are lying around in the pantry or medicine cabinet, or the cheap and dirty tricks that often work at a more fundamental level than creams or foundation.
The Mnemonic Sense
The Beauty Primer
On The Label
The Hit List
Color Me In
The Makeup Artist
& orientals arc