Posts Tagged Personal Essay

The Case Against Microblading – According to a Brow Expert

Being my mother’s daughter made it pretty much inevitable that I would become brow-obsessed. My mom, Sania Vucetaj, is the owner of Sania’s Brow Bar in NYC and has been in the industry for more than 25 years. A pioneer for full, bold brows, my mom trained me, my sister, and cousin on the art of brows, and we are now part of the business as well. I love being able to transform people’s faces and enhance their confidence with a good brow shaping.

With that said, we’ve seen it all when it comes to brows. We’ve seen people try everything on the quest for fuller eyebrows from growth serums to brow hair transplants (ouch!) – but the new microblading fad may be one of the worst.

Microblading is a form of semipermanent makeup that uses fine deposits of tattoo pigments to enhance brows using small strokes. Or, it’s another glammed-up word for “tattoo.” Committing to something permanent or even semipermanent on your face is something you must carefully consider. Once that tattoo is drawn on, this is the shape you will be stuck with (at least, for a few years).

As someone who works on brows daily, I’ve seen some unfortunate results firsthand. Our team has had many clients’ rush to our salon desperate to fix poorly or unevenly microbladed brows. Most women opt for microblading because they are hoping to shorten their morning beauty routines – but women with wrongly tattooed brows end up having to rely on brow products to fix them anyway.

While full brows are here to stay (and gladly so), as women, we have a right to change things up. Maybe we want to try a little bit more of an arch or a slightly straighter brow. Tweezers can achieve this with the pull of a few hairs (and maybe with the help of a few good products). But you cannot adjust the shape of the microbladed brow .

Women should be fiercely protective over their eyebrows. Do these technicians have real knowledge and understanding of brows and how to work with your natural shape? Are you comfortable entrusting their vision with your face? Think of how many times you’ve left the salon unhappy with your brows or how long it took you to find a specialist you trust. If you are unhappy with the outcome, there is no growing them out this time.

Research brow artists who actually specialize in only brows and who have proper training. And find someone who will work with you on repairing your brows back to a healthy place. We put new clients on a growth program and work toward an end goal when it comes to achieving fuller and more symmetrical brows.

While you may think you can adjust the colors of these “hair strokes,” truth is it’s nearly impossible to match the exact hair color. Microbladed brows usually look harsher and darker than natural because you must mix inks to adjust the color, and this requires extreme precision. Moreover, just like tattoos fade over time, these tattoos will fade into a purple/blue tint. My mom has witnessed this discoloring firsthand, and obviously this is far from the natural look women desire.

Women with naturally oily skin should also be warned: “hair” strokes may expand more than women with drier skin, making brows look extremely unnatural. And for those women with sensitive skin: run! If you have a history of allergic reaction to dyes or tattoos, your skin may scar or have an allergic reaction to the ink.

Something else to consider: as we age, we rely on a good brow shaping to open and lift our eyes. Over time, skin begins to drop, and the illusion of lifting the arch takes years off your face. The microblader looking for a facelift will be out of luck, because you cannot create more of an arch since you cannot erase the hairs that have been tattooed on. Brow shaping is an art form, and creating an arch requires the removal of very specific hairs in certain areas of the brow. Brows are an investment, so think long term!

The solution to getting fuller brows is actually a lot easier than you think. We urge clients to avoid getting any moisturizers, sunscreen, facial cleanser, makeup remover, foundation, etc, onto the brow area as these oils and lotions clog the hair follicle. We have noticed with clients that these creams not only prevent growth but also cause hairs to fall out, so that sparseness you’re noticing could be due to creams! While it can take up to six months to a year for hairs to regrow, our clients are so happy with the growth they see.

We are naturally eager to try new innovative products and techniques in the quest for full brows. Companies and salons are feeding off that eagerness and pushing so many products in front of us – gels, pencils, powders, highlighters, tints, growth serums, pomades – and it can get confusing and overwhelming for consumers. For us ladies who aren’t blessed with perfect brows or are growing them out, the answer to all of our brow prayers lies in a good pencil !

Before you consider taking a blade to your brows, try growing them in and finding a brow specialist who will help you repair and regrow them. Avoid those creams. And don’t be afraid of the pencil – you’re only 30 seconds away from perfect brows.

How a Basic Hair-Removal Product From the 1950s Changed My Life

Women will stop at nothing to get a hairless face. Hair removal is not exactly a fun and luxurious beauty treatment – it can be costly, and it can often leave behind red skin irritation.

There are the obvious methods of hair removal for the standard lip, brow, and chin strands. You can spend time and money at a salon to get great results, and many try all different methods at home, including shaving and tireless plucking with a magnifying mirror.

As an Italian woman, hair removal is a constant chore that I’ve had to face since the ripe age of 11 years old. Something commonly referred to as peach fuzz strikes almost every woman’s face at some point or another. However, no matter what ethnicity you are, growing hair on your face as a woman is unsightly, difficult to control, and hard to manage.

It is important to note that makeup simply does not look its best on a hairy face (I say this as a working makeup artist). When bronzer, in particular, is applied to the hollow of the cheek and jawline, it can look muddy and uneven when there is fuzzy hair in the way.

This very fine hair growth can be found on the jawline and chin and is hard to remove. I have never wanted to wax my whole face, as that can result in more hair growth. Also, I feel like I will create yet another beauty maintenance task that will become overbearing.

I tried threading the area, which resulted in tiny red bumps all along my chin and hairline. I attempted bleaching the hairs, however, this simply results in a white/blond beard that is just as disturbing as the black beard in certain lighting.

So what’s a girl to do?

I mentioned my dilemma to my facialist. “Oh, just use Nair Face,” she said casually, as though the world knew about this secret from the 1950s.

“What? Nair – my face?” I asked with horror.

“Yes! It will get rid of everything and your skin will be totally smooth and perfect,” she said matter-of-factly.

When I was growing up, Nair was a popular way to groom unwanted leg or bikini line hair. It also works well on arms or any other area that shouldn’t have unsightly hair. Since then, hair removal has become a booming industry. Nowadays, a woman can get sugared, threaded, waxed, dermaplaned, or plucked into hairless perfection. The thought never crossed my mind to “Nair” my face.

I ventured into the hair-removal aisle warily at my local drugstore, not really even believing that such a product existed. Lo and behold, there it was, for a mere $4 . I was still a bit skeptical but I made the purchase and brought it home and tried it out. What happened next was absolute magic.

It was like an amazing gift from the olden days.

Here I was waxing and threading and bleaching like a fool, when all along, there was this amazing depilatory face cream just waiting for me. The amount of peach fuzz that came off was alarming. The cream was gentle and hydrating, and my face felt like baby skin. I examined the ingredients and found almond oil and baby oil were main ingredients, which explained why my skin was so soft.

My first test was to look at my face in the most evil of all mirrors. The rear-view mirror in my car in the blazing sunshine showed not one hair on my face.

Next I applied my bronzer and contour. My makeup went on my skin seamlessly without one imperfection. I had no idea just how much those little fuzzy hairs had been disrupting my gorgeous makeup application. The makeup brush glided across my cheekbones and deposited color more evenly than ever before. Also, the texture of my skin was so soft and smooth that it looked absolutely perfect.

It did tingle a bit and it did seem to lighten my skin in areas, but both of those cons were not relevant compared to the unbelievable plusses of smooth hairless skin.

This trick is a way to instantly transform your face. Even if you feel like you have just light peach fuzz that isn’t that bad – seeing is believing.

Nair your face today and thank me later.

You Are Better Than a Smoky Eye – So Don't Ask For It Again

After being a makeup artist for over a decade, I can pretty much size you up the minute I see you coming. I can quickly assess you by your outfit, your bag, your hairstyle, and your jewelry and know immediately that you want only a tinted moisturizer . I know that, even when you say you want something more than that, you won’t like it.

I know that you use retinol everyday without you telling me. I know that you have botox and fillers. I know that you only wear chapstick on your very chapped lips. When you say “Um yeah, I have an eye cream,” with hesitation, I know that you are referring to the free Clinique sample that has been in your drawer for at least a year. I also know that you are compulsively plucking your brows that “just never grow!”

I don’t judge. I really don’t care what you do at home. Please, I am asking you to just be honest.

I can also tell as soon as you sit in my chair, if you can handle a lot of makeup or not. But without fail at least once a day, a preppy, non-makeup wearing woman will sit down and look me straight in the face and say “I think I would like a smoky eye.”

I don’t know who came up with this clever term, but if I ever meet him I will punch him in the face.

You don’t want a smoky eye . You like the idea of it. You see Kim Kardashian on Pinterest and you fantasize about having this sultry look the next time you are attending a wedding or bar mitzvah. You imagine yourself as a much younger, sexier version of yourself, and you think that at the ripe age of 37 you are now ready to look like that sexy woman on Instagram with fake eyelashes and “contour” and black eyeliner rimming every inch of your eyeball.

Sometimes you have a Naked Palette from Urban Decay so you think you are edgy, but if you were to be honest you would admit you only use the lightest shades in the palette and the darker colors are untouched. You may have watched the tutorials on YouTube on “how to create a smoky eye,” so you think you are ready for it.

You’re not.

I know it.

You will have to learn the hard way.

“So do you normally wear a lot of eye makeup?” I ask innocently, while I prep your skin. I start with a soft fleshy tone on your lid and then I add a little bit of a darker tone. Never a true smoke color, because I don’t want you to cry or run away. You will clutch the hand mirror and ask if you can look. I will let you.

I know. Please stop saying this. I don’t even know how to make someone look like a clown. If you hired me to do clown makeup I would have to decline the job. I am not in the clown business. I am simply attempting to do what you requested me to do.

PS. We haven’t created any “smoke” yet.

You will clutch your mirror and try to watch what I am doing, as you give me permission to proceed. I will add some dark brown or smoky color in your crease. I add some smudgy black liner and some mascara. You don’t even have two layers of fake lashes on yet like a Kardashian . I see that you are clutching your hand mirror and your knuckles are white so I let you take a peek.

You don’t. But you also don’t look like yourself.

I ask if you would like me to take off some of the makeup and gently remind you that you are nowhere near the amount of makeup featured in the Instagram photo that you showed me when you first sat down. You sheepishly say that you would like to take off some of the liner . . . and maybe some of the dark shadow.

I take off the makeup.

You say “Maybe just do what you think looks best?”

Now we can get along.

I suggest a more realistic “eye look” that will allow you to feel comfortable while still making you look good. I say “Let’s create a look that shows off your eye color and makes you look like a better version of yourself.” The tension in your shoulders lessens and the grip on the hand mirror relaxes a bit.”Yes, let’s do that.” you say with relief.

Because you are not Kim Kardashian, nor do you want to be. You will not be followed by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi and you will not spend your days taking selfies. You simply want to look like a better version of yourself and a “smoky eye” does not do that for most women.

You will leave with hydrated glowing skin and makeup that makes your blue eyes pop and your cheekbones glow. You are simply a better version of yourself, and you will walk out the door with your head held high and a little bit of a skip in your step.

You are better than a smoky eye. So don’t ask for it again.

Too Faced Co-Founder Jerrod Blandino on Breaking into the Beauty Industry

Jerrod Blandino is the founder of Too Faced Cosmetics .

I’ll be the first to tell you that working in the beauty industry is full of glitz, glamour, and fabulous creativity. I’ll also be the first to tell you it can be tough. It’s been almost 20 years since I started Too Faced with my husband and business partner, Jeremy Johnson.

It’s been an incredible journey and along the way when people ask me for advice on breaking into the industry I always tell them it’s going to take guts, more work than you can ever imagine, prayer, and a belief in yourself and what you’re doing that will push you to the edge – but it’s worth it. Take the road less traveled and above all be prepared to work your ass off.

Along the way, you might find that people might discourage you from going for your dream, even people who love you, because they are afraid you might fail. Find the strength in yourself to go on because there will be 1,001 reasons to give up, but all of that hard work will teach you more about yourself and reap more rewards and love than you can imagine. If you’re lucky enough, all your dreams will come true and you’ll get your happy ending.

Read on for some of my best advice for anyone looking to break into the industry.

Don’t Do It Better – Do It Differently
When I started Too Faced, I was at the cosmetics lab, and I saw these amazing vessels of glitter that I wanted to have pressed into an eye shadow. The woman working at the lab said it couldn’t be done.

I said, “Well, why not?” and she told me how binders work. So I told her to just add more binders! I was so naïve that I didn’t know things were impossible.

It worked, and we created the world’s first glitter eye shadow. My entire career I have stayed true to the idea of pushing boundaries and never taking no for an answer. I’m not always concerned with trying to do things better than someone else, I want to do it differently. That’s how you change the world.

Never Say “No”
I always tell my team you can say not right now, or not today, but you can never say no. To break into an industry as tough as beauty and to stay competitive and innovative you’ve got to push yourself and your boundaries.

You don’t change the world by accepting the limitations of your circumstances, of science, or of other people’s ability to understand your vision. You have to keep pushing. True pioneers turn no’s into yes’s.

Failure Is Temporary
Listen, if you’re not failing, then you’re not risking anything or growing. Failure is temporary, but success is permanent. In the beginning, there were times where our bank account only had change and where major things didn’t go as planned or were out of our control. From each failure we learned and we pushed ourselves to succeed.

The wonderful thing about failure is that it can be your greatest gift in the end.

We’ve all heard of other brands’ success stories, when it seems like they hit it out of the park overnight. That was never us. You’re going to fall down a thousand times on your way to the top, and the wonderful thing about failure is that it can be your greatest gift in the end. Sometimes you learn more from your failures than your successes. Don’t let it define or discourage you. Let it empower you.

Sharpen Your Makeup Tools
If you can keep your eyes, heart, and makeup bag open, you will go far. Try that new product, go to that seminar, and do makeup on anyone who will let you. I started my career working behind the makeup counter, and it was a fast track through my own personal makeup school. I got to touch so many different faces, ages, skin tones, and work with so many different products. It is the best way to truly learn about makeup.

Be a makeup junkie. Live it, breathe it, own it.

How Adopting a More Natural Beauty Routine Simplified My Mornings

Busy mornings are not a walk in the park, especially when it takes upwards of 30 minutes to do my makeup every day. With countless items I’d somehow accumulated over the past few months cluttering my a.m. beauty routine, I decided it was time for a change. I vowed to purge unnecessary products and use this as an opportunity to begin using all-natural ones that pack a punch in beauty benefits and truly care for my skin.

After discarding my questionable cosmetics, I began thinking about brands that are known for their wholesome and trustworthy ingredients. Burt’s Bees is a brand that my family and I know well, so with this familiarity in the back of my mind, a trip to Walmart was all I needed.

I spotted the new Burt’s Bees BB cream , which is composed of 98.9 percent natural ingredients and contains SPF 15. I also needed a great lip color for Spring. I noticed that the new Burt’s Bees lipstick is 100 percent natural, so that was a no-brainer. Finally, I grabbed a volumizing mascara to round out my new regimen.

Every morning I start with the lightweight BB cream, which protects against harmful sun rays while keeping skin moisturized. It conceals and perfects my complexion and provides the coverage I need, but without the thick texture many creams tend to have. As the weather warms up, I’m confident that this product won’t clog my pores and leave my face streaky, plus it’s an easy way to incorporate SPF into my daily routine.

I apply a few swipes of mascara and finish off with the hydrating lipstick, which comes in 14 full-coverage, satin-finish shades. It’s formulated with moringa oil, which offers benefits like antiaging, exfoliation, and anti-inflammation.

Not only does it take me significantly less time to get ready before work, but I also feel better about what I’m putting on my face. The benefits of chemical-free makeup go way beyond the surface by supplying skin with nutrient-rich vitamins and oils. My goal of adopting a simplified beauty routine is on its way to becoming one of my best decisions yet. Finding natural, quality products is the cherry on top.



More From Burt’s Bees

This Instagram Movement Will Make You Stop Photoshopping Your Face

The morning I took the selfie ahead , I did not feel good about my skin. It was blotchy and dull, and I had a few breakouts. I attempted to take a Snapchat but immediately deleted it, because the results were not flattering. Since I was into my hair that day (shout-out to Jen Atkin’s line, Ouai , which gave me those air-dried beach waves), I wanted to make it work. So I blended some of Charlotte Tilbury’s new Magic Foundation onto my face, along with Clé de Peau Beauté concealer , La Prairie cream blush , and Benefit highlighter . I was shocked when I stuck my camera phone in front of my mug and was able to snap a photo that needed little filtering (and I can admittedly feel very self-conscious about my #selfies ).

I didn’t want to brag – because that’s so obnoxious on Instagram, right? – but I was really excited about how glowy my complexion looked thanks to makeup. Unlike past images, I felt no need to zoom in using apps like Aviary, Snapseed, or Facetune to blur my under-eye bags, red spots, or fine lines. With a touch of brightening, the photo was ready to post. But before I pushed “share,” I wanted to call out that this was a “real” photo. So I dug around the social media tool and discovered that diverse women have been using the hashtag #nofacetune when they shared similar sentiments and images.

The message behind #nofacetune is to shed light on the fact that these close-up pictures were not photoshopped in a popular app called Facetune . Kim Kardashian famously uses a comparable one called Perfect365 , while many top vloggers rely on the former. In this essay , I coined the term Botox Instagram Face (aka BIF), which described the flat, matte complexion you often see on influencers. In person, their skin looks very different, but these aforementioned Photoshop Instagram apps can quickly change it with just a few swipes.

#Nofacetune is the antimovement to the BIF. Instead, women are calling out the foundation, self-tanner, and other makeup they’re using instead of Photoshop. And if some skin imperfections show through the coverage, so what? Makeup is not necessarily natural, but it’s a lot more realistic than photo manipulation. Instagram users are also going deeper, bravely revealing their bare skin – sunspots, wrinkles, and all – and philosophies on the matter.

Instagrammer Sarah Woodier writes: “It’s shameful that apps like ‘facetune’ and *ahem seriously* ‘cream cam’ exist, you don’t need a smooth face, no wrinkles, no freckles to be beautiful. What does it do for self confidence adjusting your face to within a inch of recognition? How does that increase your self worth when you’re not being yourself. I would revel in our differences and embrace the ageing process, you are you and nobody else can be you. That’s pretty powerful. Please embrace the you that doesn’t need to look like a generic version of beauty/womanhood. We’re all different and that’s a GREAT thing.”

Her message is empowering – as are these 15 photos shared by real women (including yours truly) incorporating the hashtag #nofacetune. There are even some familiar faces, such as a model made over by Kim’s go-to makeup artist, Mario Dedivanovic, and Jourdan Dunn . I encourage you to share your own snap and tag us (@POPSUGARBeauty ) so that the world can see your true beauty!

The One Thing You Should Never Say to a Women Over 30

Image Source: Giafrese

Last week, I struck up a conversation with my Uber driver. As the conversation continued around politics, he made an assumption that we were close in age, saying as someone in her late twenties/early thirties, surely I could relate. I pointed out that I’m actually in my mid-forties (I’ll be 45 in June), at which the driver abruptly adjusted the rearview mirror with shock and said, “There is NO WAY you’re that old! You don’t look your age!”

This situation happens to me often. I know he meant it as a sincere compliment, but I’m troubled by the concept that somehow I’m winning at life because I don’t have more visible, external signs of aging. It seems after a certain age, “You don’t look your age!” is supposed to be the Mother of All Compliments, feathered in a soft nest of “I would never have guessed!” and “OMG, are you serious?” While I appreciate the flattery, I’m always left with a very uneasy feeling: what does that say about how we feel about women and aging ?

What makes this well-meaning compliment so unsettling is it implies there’s something wrong with looking middle-aged or older. We live in a youth-obsessed culture. It’s almost as if we have invisible expiration dates on our skin, and any sign of wear and tear sets off an alarm. The catalyst makes us feel suddenly shamed and expendable.

Our societal thirst for youth is undeniable. Entire magazines dedicated to “The Age Issue.” Intense media scrutiny on the appearance of every woman in the public eye, as parodied by Amy Schumer, Tina Fey , Amy Poehler , and others in “Last F*ckable Day .” And the beauty business wages a full-scale war on time, complete with antiaging weaponry meant to eradicate, decimate, and bury all evidence that a woman might be getting older, like “age-defying lasers ” and “miracle worker ” eye creams. Every day, I watch women battling time with everything they’ve got, attempting to stay in the same jeans from high school while pushing foreign matter into their faces in order to literally freeze everything right where it is today, forever and ever more.

The fear of being seen as anything less than sexually viable, the palpable threat of being traded in for a younger model, the intense messaging that we’re going to die alone if we show a crack in the armor of our skin – all of it is crushing, pervasive, and punishing. We treat women like the newest release of the iPhone: just wait a minute, because we’ve got a hot newer model coming, and she’s so much sexier than your old one that we’ve made the old model obsolete.

I find this incredibly disturbing. The lines running across my forehead mimic those of my father’s. And I can’t imagine doing something to get rid of them. Recently, I discovered the magical power of rainbow-colored hair, and I defy someone telling me I’m too old to have it. My jawline and breasts are slowly descending, and outside of exercise, good bras, and products, I’m letting them continue on their path. I truly find softness truly sexy. But I am worried about the women my age (or older) and for the young impressionable girls who are imprinted with an unnecessary fear of aging.

My age is awesome . I know so much more than I have ever known before. The light that shines within my skin is knowledge of how amazing life can be if you just hang in there. I laugh more easily, and I’m so much better in bed because I know my body. My soul, wit, intelligence – the very spark of life within me makes for my vibrancy. I feel like I’ve done a pretty damned good job taking care of myself. I come from a long line of extraordinary black women who take incredible pride in appearance, and we all have daily rituals that reinforce that sentiment.

“The less you do to your face, the less you will ever have to do to you face,” is a mantra my mother once said. I swear by it. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I cleanse, I treat, I moisturize; repeat daily. Outside of that, I’ve never had anything “done” (re: cosmetic dermatology). The only needles near my face have involved piercing my ears and dental work, and the only surgery has been wisdom teeth removal. No fillers, no nothing. It’s real, and it’s all mine.

That said, I did start using products at the young age of 9 years old, when my Olay -obsessed Aunt Bert used to slather my face with the legendary cream. I would stand on the stool in her bathroom as she performed her nightly beauty ritual.

Image Source: Courtesy of Kristin Booker

At first, I used moisturizers as a teenager to offset the drying effects of cleansers and astringents. And that routine has now evolved into a twice-daily regimen of cleansing, serums, and moisturizers. My regiment has guest-starring appearances from other products weekly, because I test so many things. But the mainstays remain SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser ($34), Simple Cleansing Micellar Water ($7), Kiehl’s Since 1851 Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($72), and, you guessed it, Olay Moisturizing Lotion For Sensitive Skin ($10).

I also admit to spending a ridiculous amount on night creams (my desert island products would be Erno Laszlo Luminous C10 Night Treatment ($135) and SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair ($102).

Since there’s no beauty cream or cosmetic procedure that can cure our obsession with youth, I’d like to propose a different solution: awareness. Instead of telling a woman she doesn’t look her age, just tell her she looks good. Really good. “Wow, you’re beautiful,” is something every single person on the planet recognizes as sincere currency, and we can live off that bank of positive energy for days.

Also, accomplishments, goals, dreams, and intelligence are incredibly beautiful. Women living unapologetically, like Angela Bassett, Halle Berry , Oprah Winfrey , Lauren Hutton, Meryl Streep , and Rita Moreno, are vibrant, exquisite beings. Smart brands are starting to recognize the sensuality that comes from a life of experience. Marc Jacobs embracing Jessica Lange, Joan Didion in a Céline campaign, NARS featuring Charlotte Rampling, and most recently Lancome signing on Isabella Rossellini are all steps in the right direction.

The childish fear of the inevitable end of our lives is forcing us to take extraordinary measures that don’t celebrate women. Ladies, if you’re with people who don’t see the sum of your beauty, ditch them and find your tribe of women who are as juicy and amazing as you. Same goes for the men in your life. Someone out there will love you right as you are . . . no further assembly required.

It’s time for a new standard of beauty. Let’s all look amazing, regardless of our age. The ultimate compliment is to recognize all of what’s in front of you, inside and out. Every single woman has something to bring to the party, and it’s time we celebrate that in all its glory.