Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Brief Interruption of Theory, Discourse, and Analysis in Order to Talk Mascara

I’ve always been curious about the job of a beauty editor because it seems like they’re privy to information the rest of us aren’t—I mean, how many of us have the word beauty in our job titles? And, of course, most ladymag readers share that curiosity, hence the whispered, insider-y tone of most beauty pages (and the reaction Ali gets when she divulges her job to a new acquaintance: “First they say, ‘Oh, how fun!’ Then they want me to look at their skin. I’m practically a dermatologist by now”). So even though traditional beauty tips are roughly #84 on my wish list for what this blog might put into the universe, now is as good a time as any to share the most useful and surprising (eyeshadow primer? really?) tidbits from my interview with Ali.


1) What anti-aging cream actually works? “After interviewing hundreds of dermatologists and hearing the same advice every time, yes, I now use a prescription retinoid. It’s called Renova; it’s a creamier version of the drug that’s in Retin-A. You have to ease yourself into it, using a pea-sized amount every third day for a while, because otherwise you’ll get red really quickly and then you’ll stop using it.”

2) Try an acne system, not just an acne product. “I’ve used the same cleanser for two years—Proactiv, I swear to god, that shit works! Doctors can prescribe benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together, but a single over-the-counter product can’t have both. I think it’s one of those FDA monograph things. So the systems work because they have a benzoyl product and a salicylic product, but you’re using two products so you get them both without having to see a doctor.”

3) Buy the good sunscreen. “People always want to know what you should spend money on. Sunscreen you should spend money on. SPF means nothing because it doesn’t measure the UVA protection. And UVA blockers are really expensive, so cheap sunscreens don’t include them. But nobody wants to buy the good stuff, because it’s expensive! And if you’re wearing it correctly a bottle will last you two days, tops, at the beach. Look at the back, for the drug information—each of those drugs protects you from a different range of UV light for different amounts of time, so you actually want a long list. Neutrogena makes a good one—but it’s still $12.99.”

4) If you care about “clean beauty,” Burt’s Bees is the way to go. “I’ve been to their factory, I’ve interviewed their cosmetics chemist. Their lab isn't even a traditional lab, it's in the middle of the office, because they don't use chemicals so they don't need lab ventilation. They have big bags of sugar and coconut, but they make products that work, and it looks cute and you feel happy buying it. There are other companies that do the same thing but they charge a lot more for it. Burt's Bees is more expensive than some drugstore brands, but there's a reason for it.”

5) How the “natural look” breaks down: “People say to me, ‘You're so pretty, and you're not wearing any makeup.’ I probably have 17 products on right now! I put on SPF 30 sunscreen, every morning—if you interviewed enough dermatologists you'd do that too. Then tinted moisturizer; I'm still looking for the perfect one. If my skin is looking weird I'll use Armani foundation; it’s real sheer and melts in. Then concealer, because everybody needs concealer even if they say they don't; I use Estee Lauder Double Wear, it doesn't crease, and I've tried a ton. Then eyeshadow primer in lieu of eyeshadow, because you know how your eyelids might look bluish and pinkish and weird? This evens it out. The primers I’ve tried aren’t all that different; if it's eyeshadow primer it works. Then I curl my eyelashes. If I do nothing else, I curl my eyelashes—all you have to do is squeeze! No product! Then mascara; I use Blinc, this weird Japanese thing that freaks everybody out because when you wash it off it looks like your lashes are falling out, like little spider legs all over your sink, because it wraps each lash in this mascara tube. Then blush—Julie Hewitt has this rosy cream blush, very sheer—and bronzer on top of that. I still haven’t found the perfect bronzer. On my lips I put on lipstick or lip balm or whatever I'm testing at the time. So if people think I'm pretty without any makeup, I'm like, Shit, you could look like this too! Women think that there are pretty women and not-pretty women. But it's all what you do with what you have.”

6) Primers aren’t necessarily a rip-off. “You don’t have to put makeup over primers. People always freak out over primers because they think it’s priming you for something—like, great, another product I need? But you can use them alone and get good results. It actually does something.”

7) If your favorite item is discontinued, look at partner brands. “All these brands are owned by the same handful of companies, and the same labs do their products. So you liked Prescriptives, which was discontinued? You should look to Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, MAC, and Origins—they’re all owned by the same company that did Prescriptives, so they have the same R&D as Prescriptives. If you Google it you can find out who owns what.”

8) Check out return policies. “It’s great being a beauty editor because I get to actually try everything, whereas the woman in the drugstore would have to buy it to try it. It could take years of testing to find out what works for you.” [Drugstore return policies vary: CVS and Rite-Aid seem the most return-friendly for opened cosmetics, followed by Walgreens (in-store credit). For a more thorough (but not user-friendly) rundown of return policies, go here.]  

9) Know where to look in magazines to find what editors actually endorse. “The beauty editors’ picks page is usually mostly truthful. If I work at a magazine and there’s a ‘My Favorite Beauty Products,’ page, I’m not going to pick some product just because they bought a full-page ad. The line credits in the stories, that’s where sometimes you throw the advertisers a bone. There’s still that separation between edit and ads in that sense, but everything else being equal and I just have to mention a shampoo in a hair story, why wouldn’t I put in an advertiser’s? But I’m not going to claim it’s the greatest shampoo ever in the beauty editor’s picks.”

10) My personal vindication: You don’t need to wash your face that often. “You’re stripping it. Just do it at night to take makeup off—if you don’t wear makeup, you can just splash with water.”

11) And you definitely don’t need a toner. “Toners are bullshit.”

4 comments:

  1. Interesting! I am not a big makeup person, but I used to always wear mascara even if I wore no other products. That is until I moved to the valley for college and had horrible hay-fever. So then I stopped wearing it, because I looked like a raccoon all of the time, even with waterproof stuff. Until I discovered tubing mascara!! I have tried a few brands and Blinc is my fav. I wish they had a different wand, but the product itself rocks and the wand is fine.

    Primer? Tinted moisturizer? Hmmm. Maybe trip to RightAid is in order. They even sell Burt's Bees, which I adore. :)

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  2. I had no idea there were other brands of tubing mascara! It seems like such a bizarro concept!

    I tried a primer and don't know if it made me look different, but it made my skin feel silky so I felt better--which is Ali's whole point, actually.

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  3. I like my toner! I use it to wash half of the time! I use orange blossom water most of the time. :)

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    1. Jame, I'll meet you halfway and say you use orange blossom water as a face wash, deal?

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