mommyhood has not gotten to me . . . I’m growing my eyebrows out on purpose.

 

I’ve been getting funny looks lately from some of my friends, family, colleagues, and especially my clients. No one ever says anything to me, but I know what they are staring at: my uneven, patchy eyebrows! Maybe no one says anything because I am a mom now, and they think, Poor thing really has no time to groom herself.  Or maybe they don’t say anything because I am a makeup artist, and it would be offensive to criticize and call me out on my own craft.

Actually, there was one person who said something. I was getting a pedicure and the first thing out of my nail tech’s mouth was “eyebrow wax too?”

“I’m good, thanks.” I said politely.

“You sure? You need it!”

I suppose so. But I was inspired to put my tweezers away for a while—at least for the time being. It’s actually a hard thing to do when you look in the mirror in the morning and see a little tuft of hair that doesn’t belong. I know many women can relate to this. It’s kind of like seeing a big juicy zit and refraining from squeezing out all that gooey white stuff. We are basically monkeys, and it is in our DNA to want to pick, poke, and pluck!

Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of women’s artificial and oddly shaped eyebrows. They’ve been jumping out at me for some reason. Everywhere I turn, there is some woman with overly plucked eyebrows and in their place (or actually usually some centimeters higher up on the forehead) are drawn-in, harsh, dark, geometrical shapes. Some start as rectangles, then turn into triangles. Some look like “L’s” that have been tipped over on their sides. Some are dark brown or black. Some are even blue or purple! No joke. It’s actually quite fascinating once I started paying close attention. Kind of turned into a game for me.

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The sideways “L”

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Eyebrows are such an important feature of any face as far as how dramatically it can affect the way a person looks. The shape, size, and intensity of an eyebrow can make a person look sexy, sultry, sweet, innocent, scary, angry, intimidating, crazy. But the eyebrows I’m talking about are just plain clown-like. Beyond chola. Eyebrows that are completely out of context. What I’m noticing are seemingly average-looking women from head to toe with the exception of their painted-on brows.

 One of my favorite: Sherilyn Fenn's sultry eyebrows

One of my favorite sets are Sherilyn Fenn’s sultry eyebrows

The other day, I was on a shoot, and the main talent (who was your average mom) sat in my chair with no makeup on except for her eyebrows! She said to me, “I have to have my eyebrows on. I never leave my house without them.”

Well the first thing I had to do was take “them” off. I would never be asked to work with this company again had I left them on. The shoot called for a natural look. And no way did she look natural. Not with those brows! It looked as if they were drawn in with thick oil pastels. Like I could scrape them off with my thumbnail or a coin and maybe win some cash.

We discussed how, when she was a teenager, she overly plucked her brows. She followed that same thin line ever since. Now (about 20 years later) the hairs that she has removed won’t grow back. She is stuck with the ultra-sparse arch she initially made while in high school and has never left home without coloring them in.

This is very common. Usually it starts around junior high school age, when young girls get into makeup and self-grooming. It’s so typical to overpluck one’s own eyebrows. Overplucking is often a result of trying to make both brows even. Remember that Seinfeld episode when Jerry shaves his chest? It’s just like that! He notices an asymmetry in his chest hair and tries to even it out with a razor. Before he knows it, his whole chest is bare! Once you start, you can’t stop! Girls are like this with their eyebrows. I did it too, and I never stopped—until now . . .

I’m not sure exactly where my experiment will take me. I don’t know if my eyebrows will ever fully grow back or if they’re destined to stay patchy. I’m not certain how much longer I will do this until I cave and pull out my tweezers again. But I am curious and have taken much more of a liking toward natural, unruly, virgin-like brows.

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Brooke Shields

Mary Kate and Ashley

Mary Kate and Ashley

 

 

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

 

 

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’80s Madonna

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a little girl now. If and when she plans on having her eyebrows shaped, I will give her the following advice:

  • Do not tweeze, wax, or shave the initial eyebrow shape yourself. When you do it yourself, you cannot step far enough away from the mirror to see the whole picture and properly groom an even shape that’s right for your face.
  • Do not let your friends do the shaping. Friends can do a pretty botched job—especially if they have bad taste. Go to a professional.
  • Do not get waxed at your nail salon. I’m sorry, but just because they have a wax room does not mean they know what they are doing. A waxer is not necessarily an artist. I personally do not like waxing as a method for shaping eyebrows anyway. The skin around the eye area is superthin and sensitive. I’ve seen skin burned from the wax being too hot or ripped off from it not being hot enough. Or red and irritated from an allergic reaction to the wax. Plus I generally do not trust the sanitary conditions in the wax room. That same pot of wax may have been used for other people’s bikini lines. Who’s to know who’s been double dipping?
  • Do get threaded! It’s fast and cheap—anywhere from $5 to $30. Those trained to thread usually do a beautiful and even job. They tend to lean toward a more full and natural brow. Threading (like plucking) removes each individual hair without running the risk of burning or ripping the skin off. It may hurt a bit depending on your pain threshold. But it’s super quick! Do find a great threading salon in your area and stick to it.
  • Do tweeze in between professional appointments. It is okay to pluck the stray hairs as long as you are not reshaping.

I remember when I was about 9 years old, before I started messing with my own eyebrows, I used to mess with my dad’s. I guess it was the young barber (or maybe monkey) in me. His eyebrows were always super long, coarse, and wiry. I used to pull his eyebrows down past his bottom eyelash to the top of his cheekbone (no exaggeration) and beg him to let me trim them. He was reluctant and jokingly took offense:

“But my eyebrows make me look wise.”

Mark Twain's eyebrows resemble my father's

Mark Twain’s eyebrows resemble my father’s

 

Posted in eyebrows, grooming, makeup, misc, skin, threading, tips, waxing

****Glamour Shots*****

One of my very first jobs doing hair and makeup was at Glamour Shots, a makeover photography studio inside malls all over America. It’s probably best known for its early ’90s images of women in feather boas and big teased permed hair. Or my favorite … “the holding of a bedazzled leather jacket collar” pose.

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I was about 17 years old—a junior in high school when I worked as a makeup artist at this Northern Virginia studio in Springfield Mall. I remember wanting that job more than anything in the world. Deep down in my teenage heart, I knew that position was meant for me. And when I was hired, a light bulb went off. Chills. I knew, at an early age, this was my trajectory. Every cell in my body said, “This is absolutely my career path!”

I have always been a devotee of the arts. A painter. A sculptor. A doodler. My favorite subject matter always was and always will be women. Beautiful, feminine figures and faces.  And so, enhancing the beauty of real life-breathing women with the use of makeup and curling irons was a medium that came so divinely and naturally to me.

Springfield Mall was definitely a melting pot in the D.C. metropolitan area. So diverse. I very quickly and skillfully learned how to work with all ethnicities, ages, skin, and hair types. Dark skin, light skin, plump skin, wrinkled skin, teenage acne-prone skin. Curly hair, straight hair, fine hair, course hair. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, etc. I became very comfortable and confident with anybody who sat in my chair. This job also taught me how to work fast and efficiently under pressure. And being able to scrutinize my customers’ photographs instantly gave me an eye for what works (or doesn’t work) on camera. Everything I learned from my experience at Glamour Shots was invaluable.

But the best part was not what I learned, but how much fun I had in the process. That included messing up and goofing off. Playing dress-up with my girlfriends in silly outfits and ridiculous backdrops. When you can laugh and have fun doing what you do, or laugh at and make fun of what you do, 🙂 you’re probably on the right path in life.

Kat Cicco. Playing in the water.

Kat –  Look out!! A giant wave!

Amanda - The other reason I was meant to work at Glamour Shots was to meet one of my best friends. A true soul mate to this day!

Amanda – The other reason I was meant to work at Glamour Shots was to meet one of my best friends. A true soul mate.

Tiffany - Friend since the fourth grade. Introduced me to my first lip stain product. Owner of The Magpie in Richmond, VA.

Tiffany – Friend since the 4th grade. Introduced me to my first lip stain product. Owner of The Magpie in Richmond, Va.

Caroline - Dear friend since 2nd grade. No matter how much time passes or how much has changed, we are always the same.

Caroline – Just chillin’ out in the Alps. A dear friend since grade 2. No matter how much time passes or how much has changed, we will always be the same 8-year-old girls singing Lucky Star.

a 17 year old glamorous me

A 17 -year-old “glamorous” me

Posted in hair, makeup, skin

Girl Time

After a week of spending lots of quality time with some of my best girl friends, I feel compelled to stress the importance of girl time! It is vital! So good for the soul. Girls…. we need each other to relate, laugh, dream, and play like we did when we were kids.

I let off some steam and had a sleepover with my dear friend Kimmi in her magical little cabin. I brought over yummy food to cook and an array of botanical scrubs, lotions, and masks for our skin and hair. We made dinner and pampered ourselves with an at home spa night. All at our leisure.

The next morning, after sleeping in for once, my girlfriend took me to Cafe Mimosa located in Topanga Canyon where I became obsessed with these muffins. I’m not really a muffin girl. But I was enticed by the variety of fresh, locally-made, gluten and sugar-free options. Oat and Flax filled with Raspberry, Banana-Chocolate, Blueberry-Lemon, Apple, Pear, Carrot…. I got them all! I had to try! Not all coffee shops carry such things. I think, maybe, I will be moving to Topanga in my very near future.

Anyway, our girl time did not end there. We met up with another girlfriend and laid out on the beach on a gorgeous, perfect, sunny September day in LA. We soaked up all the vitamin D we could get. We laughed about boys. Played in the refreshingly clear and calm ocean water.

Sunshine, fresh air, ocean water, good friends, laughter… nothing can make a girl feel more beautiful.

Our day didn’t stop at the beach. We carried on and met up with another girlfriend. Ate some more food. Had our heart to hearts. Shared the energy with her new little girl that just entered this world only a month ago.

I’m guessing there’s already such a thing as National Girlfriends Day that exists somewhere. I think that day should be any day we feel like we wanna connect. Pamper ourselves. Tell a secret. Anytime we want to feel beautiful. Feel like women or little girls again. Anytime we wanna eat ice cream or muffins.

What’s good for my soul is good for every cell in my physical body. So thank you girlfriends for making my skin glow just a little bit more.

Posted in hair, nutrition, skin, tips

Bathing

It’s that time of year again. The air is cold with lower humidity. Many of my clients are complaining about dry, irritated skin and brittle, dehydrated hair. It’s the perfect time to break out those natural oils I’ve mentioned in previous posts. (see My Top 4 Favorite Moisturizers)  I’ve also stressed the importance of a healthy lifestyle, diet, and drinking plenty of water to keep the skin and hair hydrated. (see my very first blog) This is number one in my book.

But another very important, simple, and affordable thing one can do is to change the water you are bathing in. Invest in a shower filter and don’t take such hot showers!

I know it may be hard during these cold winter months not to have that steaming hot water running first thing in the morning. But the cooler water will save your skin and hair. Cold water closes the pores and cuticles, in turn, will lock in more moisture. It strengthens the hair and makes it shinier. It also helps with overall hair loss. Other benefits of cold water include reduced swelling and dark circles under the eyes and makes for a healthier glow. Colder showers also trigger better circulation which can help with all kinds of problems including varicose veins.  And it’s simply invigorating and energizing.

Personally, I have a really hard time with cold showers in the winter. But I am mindful not to take piping hot ones anymore. If you have a hard time, like myself, you can ease into the cold by starting off warm and finishing off as cold as you can stand.  But remember to at least end cooler to seal those pores and cuticles.

As for the shower filter… this one’s easy. First of all, I will say we are fortunate to have clean running water in this country. But it’s a little too clean to the point where it’s toxic. How is that so? Chlorine! Chlorine is added to our water supply to kill off harmful micro-organisms. It’s also a toxic gas that attacks living cells and organic materials such as the skin and its natural oils. Add hot water to the mix, and it is an especially bad combination. Hot chlorinated water vaporizes and those toxic chemicals are inhaled in high concentrations and more easily absorbed in the skin. Remember, hot water opens pores. Cold – closes. Five times more chlorine enters through the skin during a shower than through drinking 8 glasses of chlorinated tap water, according to some experts. A shower filter will remove the chlorine and naturally soften the water. Your skin will look and feel smoother and be less itchy. It’s especially great for people with extra sensitive skin. It  helps with brittle hair, split ends, and colored or chemically treated hair.  I highly recommend getting a shower filter. They can be found online or at most health food stores.

Posted in hair, nutrition, products, skin, tips

Sunblock

I’m about to head to the beach for a much needed summer vacation and I just realized… I haven’t shared a very important favorite! Sunblock!!! It’s taken me years of frustration before discovering a great everyday sunscreen to wear under makeup. Either they’re too greasy or too dry and powdery. Or they don’t have a high enough SPF or contain too many harmful ingredients. But Elta MD makes a wonderful product that is just right. In fact, they carry a whole line of amazing sunscreens. I personally use the UV Shield SPF 45 over my moisturizer. It’s oil-free, sheer, light and leaves no residue. It’s great under makeup. And best of all… paraben-free!

I will stress that this is the perfect sunscreen to wear on a day to day basis. However, I wouldn’t necessarily use it under makeup for film and television . Especially when shooting in HD as it contains zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is an ingredient that is great to help protect the skin against harmful uva rays. But it also reflects a lot of light on camera.  Like I said, it’s perfect for everyday use. And very affordable. Ask your dermatologist or physician if he or she carries it. Or you can check out their website to find the closest carrier to you.

Posted in makeup, products, skin, tips

New Favorites

Mascara

Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara by Tarte Cosmetics

This is my new favorite mascara. I love how it builds on the lashes. It’s hydrating and reparative. It lasts all day, doesn’t run,  yet comes off easily with eye makeup remover. And best of all, it is all natural, paraben and cruelty free!

Facial Oil

Tarte 100% Cold Pressed Maracuja Oil

I think oils are perfect to apply straight out of a hot shower right before bed. I like to have something rich to rehydrate my skin over night and apply something lighter under my makeup during the day. This Maracuja oil is perfect for the face and neck. Especially after a good steam and exfoliation. Again, it’s all natural, reparative, and free of parabens and mineral oils.

Thank you Tarte for creating a nourishing, natural, green, and amazing cosmetics line!!! Love it!!

Treat

Banana Manna Almond Shake with Carrot Coconut Juice from Beverly Hills Juice Co.

My friend Cindy introduced me to The Beverly Hills Juice Co. and now I am obsessed! They make the best juice I have ever had. Freshly pressed, nutritious, rich and organic.  There’s something about this little cash only business that’s been around since 1975 that no other juice place can compare to.  It’s all in how they press their juice that makes it so special.  I have tried to recreate what they do at home with my own juicer and Vita-Mix. But it’s just not the same. Their product is worth every penny. My favorite item on the menu is The Banana Manna Shake with Carrot Coconut Juice. The banana mana is an alternative to ice cream, made simply from banana and almonds or banana and sunflower seeds. Then blended with your favorite juice. And it doesn’t taste “banana-y”. To me, it’s such a decadent treat. Similar to a rich vanilla shake, but unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. And it’s guilt-free with nothing but simple, healthy, and delicious ingredients.  Juicing can do wonders for the skin. If you’re ever in the Beverly Hills area, stop by, treat yourself and you’ll see what I’m talking about! Make sure you have cash! You’ll be hooked too!

Appliance

Shark Vac-Then-Steam

I’m talking about a vacuum and steam cleaner in one! What does this have to do with hair or makeup? Not much, but it is one of my new most favorite things! Another obsession. If you have hard wood floors and like to keep them clean, then this is the perfect gadget for you! Especially if you live in polluted LA like I do. My friend Michelle, another amazing makeup artist, introduced and geeked out on me about this. And I am so grateful she did! I dont like mops, because they just push the dirt around. And the Swifter only works for smaller spaces. But the Shark not only cleans, it sanitizes your floor! It’s light weight, easy to assemble and use. And the best part is that you dont have to wait for your floor to dry before walking on it again. The steamer cleaning pad dries the floor within seconds. I LOVE this product! Thanks for introducing me, Michelle!

Posted in makeup, nutrition, products, skin, tips

My Top 4 Favorite Moisturizers

In my very first blog, I expressed the importance of what we put inside of our bodies. Now I want to touch base on what we put on the outside. Skin absorbs 60% of products used topically, whether natural or chemical. So I try to use natural and organic products as much as possible. But being a makeup artist and hairstylist, it is not always easy or practical to avoid chemicals. I am asked all the time about natural/mineral makeup. In all honesty, my opinion is that it’s great for everyday use, but I have not found anything “natural” that works for film and TV.  (I promise to get more into this subject another time) Point is that I have yet to find any great chemical-free makeup lines. But there are amazing all-natural skin care products! And here are my top four…

#4 – Coconut Oil

Not only is coconut oil delicious and great for cooking, but it does wonders for the skin. Inexpensive, all-natural virgin, organic coconut oil from your local grocery store will do the trick. It’s loaded with antioxidants that keep the skin smooth and supple, while fighting against free radical damage and long-term signs of aging. It also promotes skin elasticity and wont clog pores. It helps with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Coconut oil is so naturally perfect, healing, and versatile. No man made product could ever compare. It can be used as an eye makeup remover, shaving cream, hair conditioner…..the list goes on. Great for inside the body, all over the body, face, and hair.

#3 – Original Sprout Scrumptious Baby Cream

I love this stuff because it absorbs instantly in the skin and does not leave a greasy residue. It is also free of parabens, phytoestrogens, petroleum, gluten, and soy. It contains zinc, a natural sunscreen and is safe for everyone including babies.

#2 – Ghee

Ghee is essentially clarified butter. A lactose free product as the result of the process of melting, simmering, evaporating, and separating milk solids. Ghee, like coconut oil is also a delicious and nutritious item to have in the kitchen. It is mostly popular in Ayurveda for its healing qualities.  I love it as an all over face and body moisturizer. It used to be my favorite product to coat myself in straight out of the shower. That was until my boyfriend started doing the most horrible Elmer Fudd impression.  “You waskally wabbit! Why dont you come over here and take a nice warm bath? I’m going to make wabbit stew!” Yes, I was all “buttered” up and I smelled like it too.  But the way my skin radiates and glows from ghee is like no other.  I still use it every once and a while despite my boyfriend’s awful impersonations.  It soothes and nourishes and is great as a massage oil. It’s also wonderful for scrapes and burns. If I had one word to describe ghee, I instantly think nurturing.

#1 goe oil by Jao

My newest discovery and now my favorite! It is an all over body oil for hands, elbows, knees, feet, heels, and hair. Goe Oil is great as an eye makeup remover and soothes chapped skin and cuticles. It is 100% natural, free of parabens, sulphates, and synthetic fragrance. Yet it smells AMAZING without being harsh or artificial.  This product is great in replacing sebum, the natural oils our skin produces and loses due to age, environmental stress, and weather. I love love love my newest indulgence!

Posted in hair, makeup, misc, nutrition, products, skin, tips

Airbrushing

Kind of obsessed these days

Posted in makeup, skin

The hunt for mascara

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a product I love gets discontinued. It ALWAYS happens. About six years ago Bourjois stopped making my favorite mascara. Since then, I’ve been in search of something comparable.  I tried everything from Dior Show to Maybelline’s Great Lash and have never been thrilled. That was until I received a sample of Tarina Tarantino Fleur de Lash! Finally… the search is over!

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Posted in makeup, products, tips

Welcome to my First Blog

I’m back in my hometown, Fairfax, VA for the holidays. I have to say that being away from dry, polluted Los Angeles air makes such a difference in my skin. Dry polluted air = dry polluted skin. I know I’m aging faster than I should be, living in the city.  I can’t stress enough the importance of diet and exercise to combat the  increasingly imposing environmental damage done to our skin. Of course there are creams, lotions, potions, and sunblock to protect us topically. But we need to pay close attention to what we are putting on the inside, as it will eventually reflect on the outside.

Our skin is the largest organ of our body and it is so important that we take good care of it. Most of us are exposed to thousands of toxins on a regular basis just from the air we breathe. Unfortunately, we dont have too much control over that, unless we choose to move, which is not practical for most of us. But we do have control over other things we put in our bodies, like what we eat, drink, and smoke. Why not make the most of it? Why not make the skin we’re in the best it can be? Diet plays a huge role. Eating an alkaline diet full of anti-oxidants and staying hydrated will dramatically change ones skin. That means staying away from toxic and acidic substances such as coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes and adding more things like green tea, water, blueberries, tumeric, and fresh air.

I’m definitely not perfect. I love a cup of coffee with cream, sugar, and a cigarette in the morning. I love a glass of wine before bed. (Especially around the holidays) But I see the damage it does to my skin! Never mind how it makes me feel. The wrinkles, the redness, the enlarged pores, the tightness, and inflammation.  But when I am living “clean” (not smoking, eating a diet rich in alkaline foods such as organic brown rice and vegetables, drinking tons of water and no coffee), there is a dramatic difference. My skin radiates and glows. And everyone around me notices. Not only is my skin  shining, but my eyes become brighter. Feeling great, weight loss, sleeping well, having energy, being clear headed are among the other amazing benefits.

As I said, I’m not perfect and most of us aren’t. But we can start somewhere. And awareness for 2011 is a great place to begin.  We dont have control over the toxins in our environment, but we do have the power to counteract any damage by the lifestyle we choose. Maintainenece is the key.  Start paying attention to what is going into your body, as it will undoubtably have an effect on your one and only outer shell.

Cheers to awareness, honoring, and maintaining our skin along with our bodies and well being from the inside out!

Happy New Year!!

-Michelle

Posted in nutrition, skin, tips