Wednesday, November 19, 2014


 If the title of this post seems a little emphatic, then so be it. Few things in the beauty world gross me out more than people who never, ever clean their brushes, puffs, or other tools. It might seem like a weird thing to be grossed out by if you're a fellow beauty aficionado and grew up in the world of MAC spot cleaner and olive oil cleansing, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of people who use makeup never clean their brushes. I'm not joking. Ask random people if you can look inside their makeup bag (for science), and if they don't run away screaming "CREEPER!", you're in for a shock.

Now, let's be fair. I don't entirely blame the average consumer for not knowing how to clean their tools because it's not routinely stressed. I've never seen "wash this brush after use" on a product's packaging, and magazines spend most of their time talking about what colors are on-trend, not how to scrub a sponge. But part of me wonders how brush cleansing doesn't pop in to more minds. I mean, it's only logical: you're rubbing something all over your face (which is a collection of oils, moisturizers and toners, bacteria, and skin cells), then rubbing it all over a product you keep around for months at a time, and you go back and forth and back and forth get the picture. I compare it to eating utensils: you wouldn't use the same fork over and over again without washing it, would you?

You might ask, "Why should I worry about cleaning my tools? They work fine!" Well, if you don't clean your tools, chances are your dirty powder puff and gunky foundation brush are causing you a lot of trouble. Here are some examples of what can happen when you use dirty tools:
  • You might cause a break out or an infection. This is especially true if you're using cream or liquid products, since it's easy for bacteria to fester in moisture, but it can happen with powders, too. Remember that every time a brush touches your face, it's coming in contact with the bacteria, oil, skin cells, and product residue that reside there. When you dip it back in to your makeup, you're giving it a nice place to live.
  • The color of your products might "change." I've heard horror stories from friends at makeup counters. Case in point from a friend who worked at MAC: "I had a customer who really loved Studio Fix Fluid. One day, she came to the counter looking very upset and demanded to speak to a manager. She claimed that her new bottle of NC20 was much darker than it was supposed to be, and there must've been a manufacturing error. I asked her if she was using a clean brush...and she just blinked at me. She had the brush in her bag and she showed it to me. She'd never cleaned it. NEVER. So she had years' worth of product stuck in the bristles, and the bacteria and old foundation was smearing in to her face every time she applied SFF with that brush. That's what was making her foundation look darker: the old, oxidized, bacteria-filled foundation stuck in her brush."
  • You could ruin your products. This is especially obvious with powder products. The oils from your face can "seal" your powders, meaning they'll get a hard, often shiny layer on top that has to be scraped off with a rough tool. Beyond the fact that sealing is gross, it also leads to wasted product.

Now that I've got that off of my chest, here are some personal recommendations for keeping your tools clean.


The most popular (and most readily dirtied) tool is definitely The Brush. This includes all types of brushes: foundation, eyeshadow, brow, spoolie...if it has bristles, we're gonna clean it. I personally clean my brushes once a week unless:
  1. I haven't used them at all AND they were already washed in the recent past (so they're not dirty), or
  2. I used them with a liquid or cream product (so they need washed after each use).
The #1 best brush cleaner has to be Dr. Bronner's Bar Soap. Beyond the fact that it's very effective and easy to store, it's also dirt cheap. My current bar has lasted me well over a year and is barely 1/3 gone: that's $5 well spent, in my opinion.

Washing your brushes with Dr. Bronner's is easy. First, moisten the brush bristles with lukewarm water, making sure you tilt the brush down; this prevents water from getting in to the ferrule and loosening up the glue. Then, rub the moistened brush in to the Dr. Bronner's. It will foam up and be dirt-free in mere seconds. If desired, you can rub the brush bristles in the palm of your hand to spread out the soap. Rinse the brush. Squeeze out excess water. Lay the brush on a flat surface, preferably with the bristles hanging over an edge to facilitate faster drying. In my experience, even the densest brush will be dry within 4 hours.

That's it. That's all there is to it.

NOTE: My brushes are all synthetic hair, partially because they're what I prefer and partially because I think they're easier to clean. Natural hair brushes may require special care. Contact the manufacturer and/or take special precaution when washing natural-hair brushes.


I prefer to use sturdy, reusable sponges like the Beauty Blender over disposable sponge wedges because they're less wasteful. The only downside is that they're a sponge, meaning they soak everything up...including bacteria. They need cleaned often, especially if you're soaking them in water to sheer out product. For reference, I clean my powder sponges (like this white D&G sponge) every couple of my months, and my liquid/cream product sponges (like the pink Beauty Blender) after every use.

My sponge cleaning method is very similar to my brush cleaning method: dampen the sponge, rub it in the bar of soap, rub it in the palm of my hand, rinse, squeeze out excess water. The only real difference with sponges is that they hold more water than a brush, so you'll need to rinse-and-squeeze and several times. I also wrap my sponges in a towel and squeeze to get out every last bit of moisture. Then I lay them on that same towel to dry.


Powder puffs are constantly in contact with your powders and the oils on your face, meaning they have to be pretty clean to prevent sealing. But their fluffy-wuffy nature means that you can't just wash them. Yes, friends, you'll have to just replace the whole puff. You can get cheap puffs that fit most powder compacts from Eyes Lips Face (pictured above) and CoverGirl.

I personally replace my powder puffs about every 3 months, or whenever the bottom of the puff is visibly covered in product. I've never had a problem with sealing.


How often you replace your lash curler pad is really going to depend on when you use your curler. If you like to use your curler after you've applied mascara and eyeliner, you're going to get a lot of sticky residue on the pad, which can yank out your lashes or even cause an infection. It's fine to use your curler after you apply your eye makeup, but you'll need to wipe off the pad with a q-tip or baby wipe after each use, and you'll want to replace the pad every few months.

If you're like me and you use your lash curler before you apply makeup, you won't get as much gunk on the pad. But it's still going to come in contact with your delicate eyes, so you want it to be clean. Also, lash curler pads can deteriorate and lose their "bounce" after many uses. I occasionally wipe off my lash curler pad with a baby wipe, and I replace the pad every 6 months or so.

NOTE: most brands sell replacement lash curler pads; for example, here are the pads for my Shiseido curler. If your brand doesn't sell the pads separately, do a Google search for pads that are a similar shape and size. My Shiseido pads, for example, should fit the infamous Shu Uemura lash curler as well.


Yes, your hands count as tools, and yes, they should be very very very clean when you put on your makeup! A lot of people don't believe me, but clean hands really can make a difference. I used to make YouTube tutorials, and I made a big deal of washing your hands at the start of every one. Without fail, I'd get at least one snarky comment in response, ie, "Ooooooh, I did this and didn't wash my hands! Oooooh, the world's gonna end, ooooooh!"

Then, a few videos later, the same snarky commenter would ask how I keep my skin so nice. Really? Really.

Use whatever soap floats your fancy, but I recommend an antibacterial one over something designed to be moisturizing or look pretty on your counter. The family favorite is Dial bar soap. Also, make sure you use it long enough to really kill bacteria: rub your soapy hands together for about 15-20 seconds before rinsing. If you're having trouble keeping time, just go through your ABCs.

I'm also a huge fan of using my hands like a painter's palette. Instead of dipping my fingers in and out of a pot of product multiple times, I'll scoop out a small amount with a spatula or a clean finger, smear it on the back of my hand, and work from there.

Lastly, I keep baby wipes around. I use these to wipe excess product off of the back of my hands, and to "spot clean" my fingers and brushes.

And speaking of tools: it's almost time to announce the winner of the Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler giveaway! Enter by November 30th, 2014 for your chance to win.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Product FOTD and Some Sloppy Kat von D Swatches

I recently received a number of foundation samples from really kind friends, along with my Sephora VIB order. But unfortunately, a lot of these products haven't been working out for me. Just as I was about to give up on these new foundations altogether, a miracle happened: the last one I tried turned out to be really, really nice, and properly pale! It's the Armani CC cream. The jury's still out on whether or not it's going to wow me, but after a thorough testing, I'll be posting a review.

BASE: Armani Luminescence CC Cream in #01, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Dolce & Gabbana powder foundation in 50 Ivory, Skindinavia setting spray
EYES: Shu Uemura brow pencil in Seal Brown, Maybelline Full n' Soft mascara
CHEEKS: YSL Baby Doll Kiss and Blush in #9 Rose Epicurien, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl
LIPS: YSL Baby Doll Kiss and Blush in #9 Rose Epicurien


Also, here are some quick slap-it-on and go photos of the Kat von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks I recently received. My face looks haggard because I swatched these after a long work day, and I look haggard overall because...long work day. I apologize for the sloppiness! Again, an actual review will be coming along when I can manage it.

Bauhau5 and Armageddon. Less frightening swatches to come.

Don't forget: there are 2 weeks left to win a free Kevyn Aucoin lash curler!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bonus Drag Reprise: Life Goal Achieved

This is just a quick announcement to say 23098ASFN2O3IUT;SIFJ(!UAQW3RUA!!!!! My most recent Bonus Drag post was retweeted by none other than Coco Peru herself!

I would like you to take four things from this post, dear readers:
  1. Miss Coco Peru is still a badass.
  2. I am still a ridiculous fangirl.
  3. Dreams really can come true.
  4. I am more than willing to write blogposts for Tweet posterity.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bonus Drag: Miss Coco Peru and RuPaul Charles in To Wong Foo

If you know me, then you know just how much I love a good comedy queen. Topping that list for nearly two decades is Miss Coco Peru, an actress, comedian, and all-around queen.

I first noticed Coco playing a bit-part in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (which, again, was my introduction to drag at the tender age of 8). The lead character, Vida, shares a tense moment with a fierce drag queen in yellow. Said queen had one line and took up very little screen time, but she had incredible stage presence and absolutely embodied the bitter rival. I was young, though, and the world wide web was still new to me, so I didn't think to look up a cast list and figure out who this badass was.

Several years later, To Wong Foo was playing on cable TV, and my interest was rekindled. Now totally acclimated to internet search engines, I figured out that Badass Queen in Yellow = Coco Peru, and I've been a fan ever since.

If you recognize her signature hair-do in these photos, but you've never seen To Wong Foo, then you may recognize her from one of her YouTube performances, like Let's Play Grand Theft Auto 5 With Coco Peru. And if you haven't watched that video, then you need to watch it right the Hell now. My totally heterosexual, not-really-interested-in-drag brother heard less than a minute of the video and immediately started quoting it, it's that good. WATCH IT WATCH IT WATCH IT HAVE I CONVINCED YOU YET?!

 And RuPaul? Heh. To Wong Foo was also my introduction to the legend...and my reaction when I first saw her is the stuff of legends as well. As she slowly descended to the stage in a form-fitting gown and a wig high enough to hit Heaven, I sighed to my friend, "I want to be as pretty as her some day."

"That's a MAN," my friend shot back.

Without missing a beat, and with every ounce of honesty pouring from my heart, I replied, "Then I've got a lot of work to do."

Bonus photo! Recognize any of these faboosh people?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Way Too Shiny FOTD

I've been trying out a bunch of new things for the past few days, despite being stuck in a makeup rut. For some reason, makeup rut + new things = layering on lots of highlighter and gloss to make your face uber-shiny. I don't get the logic--there probably isn't any, to be honest--but that's what seems to happen to me. I'm also not overly fond of this look, but since it's mildly different from what I do every day, I thought I'd post it and provide a breakdown. Sorry for the up-the-nose shots I seem to like so much.

BASE: NARS Sheer Glow in Siberia, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Dolce & Gabbana powder foundation in 50 Ivory, Skindinavia setting spray
EYES: Too Faced Shadow Insurance, Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadow in Unforgettable Oriole, Charlotte Ronson liquid eyeshadow in Sky [D/C], Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Epatant, Wet n' Wild eyeshadow in Brulee, Shu Uemura brow pencil in Seal Brown, L'oreal Miss Manga mascara, Wet n' Wild MegaLiner in Black, Milani Liquid Eyes pencil in Black
CHEEKS: YSL Creme de Blush in #9 Babydoll, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl
LIPS: Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick in Edition, Elizabeth Arden Crystal Clear Gloss

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Messy Wands and Ugly Tubes: Notes on Mascara

I've just now come to terms with my sizable collection of mascaras. While I definitely don't have the biggest mascara drawer out there, I've gathered quite a few tubes of the stuff despite my self-professed eye makeup apathy. Really, brow pencil and mascara are the only eye makeup I wear on a regular basis...but I couldn't finish my makeup without them. I've come to realize that I have a "lips-lashes-skin" philosophy, a la Poppy King: if my skin looks nice, my lashes are done up, and I've got a great lipstick on, I don't need much else.

I decided I should gather these mascaras together and share my notes.

Here's my current line up, from left to right: Maybelline Full n' Soft, L'oreal Voluminous Miss Manga, L'oreal Voluminous Carbon Black, Urban Decay Perversion, CoverGirl Lash Blast Clump Crusher, Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam, and Maybelline Great Lash Lots of Lashes. The CoverGirl is water-resistant and Perversion is a sample that's most likely not waterproof. Beyond that, I buy waterproof formulas in the blackest formula available with few exceptions.

For the purposes of this post, the mascaras are referred to as follows:

Maybelline Full n' Soft = Full n' Soft
L'oreal Voluminous Miss Manga = Miss Manga
L'oreal Voluminous Carbon Black = Voluminous
Urban Decay Perversion = Perversion
CoverGirl Lash Blast Clump Crusher = Clump Crusher
Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam = Retro Glam
Maybelline Great Lash Lots of Lashes = MGLLL

TUBES: Is there some reason why so many mascaras have to have these ridiculously shaped tubes? Do they do something special for the formula that I'm just not catching? Because Miss Manga, Clump Crusher, and Retro Glam are all a giant pain in my ass to hold. See the big, round middles and the teeny bottoms? They're not ergonomic in the hands, and they can't stand up on their own. If the problem is that you don't want mascara rolling away (admittedly annoying), why not make the tubes square, like MGLLL? All of this aside, I like sleek simplicity with  most of my packaging, so the Urban Decay and Voluminous tubes are the most visually appealing to me. MGLLL is cute, although I'm biased because it's a classic design.

WET OR DRY?: Perversion and Miss Manga have the wettest formulas of the bunch. They take quite a while to dry, especially Perversion, which almost always leads to messiness and clumping. MGLLL is also on the wet side, but it's slightly thicker, more of a cream than a gel formula. I find that it dries faster than Miss Manga and Perversion as well. Full n' Soft is a drier, almost powdery formula, but it doesn't flake or clump, as compared to Voluminous and Retro Glam, which are so dry they actually kind of scrape my lashes. Clump Crusher represents the middle ground, having a gel-like consistency.

SHADE: The advertisements for Perversion are no lie: that is some black, black stuff! It's a shame it's so messy. Really, all of these are quite dark. If I had to pick which was the least black, though, I'd have to go with Maybelline Full n' Soft and Retro Glam, which look softer compared to the rest of this bunch.

BRUSHES: Clump Crusher and MGLLL have rubberized brushes; the rest are of the traditional fiber variety. In terms of shape, we have a small variety here. Voluminous, Full n' Soft, and Perversion all have relatively traditional brush shapes. Of those three, Full n' Soft has the longest brush hairs and Perversion is the most dense. Miss Manga and MGLLL both come to a pointed "spade" shape, but the difference in brush hair lengths is more pronounced with MGLLL. Retro Glam has a wavy shape. Clump Crusher is shaped sort of like a spoon: one side is flat and the other is curved.

BEST FOR A NATURAL LOOK: This award definitely goes to Full n' Soft. You get decent length and volume with this mascara, but no matter how many layers you pile on, it never looks spidery or dry. I've never had any problems with flaking, either, and it's easy to remove. This is my go-to work mascara.

BEST FOR A DRAMATIC LOOK: I don't often go for the super-clumpy, "I'm totally wearing mascara!" look, but if I do, I'll reach for something like Miss Manga or MGLLL. Both of these pitch-black mascaras distribute a ton of product and give me plenty of volume with some length. Clumping is there, but it's minimal.

BEST ALL-AROUND: While Clump Crusher has been temporarily usurped by these other mascaras, it will forever hold a special place in my heart. This product really does give you length and volume without the clumps. At the time of this writing, it only comes in regular and water-resistant formulas, but believe me, that's enough: my only gripe with this mascara is that it's tough to remove. I love that I can get a lengthier, more fluttery look by using mostly the flat side of the brush, or I can get thicker lashes with the round side.

LEAST FAVORITE: Retro Glam is pure trash to me; it does next to nothing for my lashes. Voluminous was a favorite of mine in graduate school, but I'm having a hard time figuring out why; it's a pain in the arse to remove, it flakes everywhere, and it dries out my lashes. Perversion is much-loved in the blogosphere, but I found that it stayed wet for so long that spidery lashes were unavoidable, even with tons of combing. It's also insanely messy.

Monday, November 3, 2014

REVIEW: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation (liquid)

I admit to being hard to please when it comes to foundation. For starters, my skin is a patchwork of colors: my face is N15, but my neck and chest are a cool-toned NC5, and the back of my neck and shoulders are at least 3 shades darker than the rest of me. I've also got a difficult skin type: mostly dry, but with some normal patches and a nose so oily, it puts grease pits to shame. To top it all off, I'm spoiled by products like MAC Face & Body.

"Renee," you're all asking me, frustrated by the onslaught of reviews, "why don't you just freaking repurchase Face & Body if you know it works for you?!"

Because, friends, I'm tired of having to mix my foundation. I'm tired of settling for bases with strong pink undertones. I'm tired of having to buy two bottles, and at least one of them is going to be so huge that I'll waste half of what I buy before I can finish it. (The White shade of F&B only comes in huge "pro" bottles.) I want something that'll match me right out of the bottle. And I want it to give me my light to medium coverage, last for at least 5 hours, and look decent the way F&B does. Basically, I'm looking for a unicorn.

 Natural light on top, flash on bottom. From left to right: Bobbi Brown Skin liquid foundation in 00 Alabaster, NARS Sheer Glow liquid foundation in Light 1 Siberia, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx02, It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream in Fair.

I thought I would find that unicorn amongst Bobbi Brown's offerings, seeing as they provide a wide range of foundation formulas and have some of the palest shades out there. The particular foundation I went for, Bobbi Brown Skin liquid* foundation, has a reputation for being "your skin but better," very light-weight, and well-suited to dry to normal skin. The lightest shade, Alabaster 00, is particularly famous because it's so pale and it's relatively neutral.

As this swatch photo shows, Alabaster is slightly pink, but only slightly. Compared to the very yellow NARS Siberia and the more pink Kevyn Aucoin Sx02, it looks quite beige. It will probably suit most pale undertones. It is, in fact, a decent match for me. Here's a photo demonstrating how well my face blends with my neck when I wear this foundation:

Yes, I'd like something a bit more yellow to match my neck, but really, it's seamless to the naked eye. I was ecstatic when I applied the stuff and realized how pale it is.

Enough about the shade, let's back up and talk about the actual product. Bobbi Brown Skin is $48 for 1oz and comes in a simple glass bottle with a pump top. This product contains SPF15: not enough for my daily protection, but fine for incidental sun exposure. I haven't noticed any flashback in photos.

Skin's texture is incredibly thin and runny. However, I don't think it feels the same as MAC Face & Body. Face & Body feels incredibly wet and slick under my fingertips, whereas Bobbi Brown Skin starts to take on a powdery, slightly tacky feel when I rub it in. I understand that no product feels quite like MAC F&B, but the two products get compared a lot, so I just wanted to point out the differences.

The first time I wore this product, I blended it over my face using the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. It's a sign of just how much I trusted this product that I decided to wear it to work without testing it beforehand. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed; this application method gave me very little coverage and looked a bit dry.

The next time I tested this product--and photographed it for this review--I used my fingers. As you can see above, I've been dealing with a cystic chin breakout. Using my fingers gave me more coverage, but I also had to take more time to pat the product in to my skin because it quickly became streaky. I got medium coverage with my fingers: my redness and freckles were covered up, and my cystic zits were softened, but not completely covered. (I went back in with concealer after taking these photos.)

Immediately, I noticed that this product looked terrible on my oily nose. This doesn't bother me. BB Skin is recommended for dry to normal skin, not oily skin, so I expected that reaction. What I didn't expect was how dry the rest of my face would look, especially my chin and the center of my forehead. BB Skin created texture I never knew I had on my face. Yet oddly enough, it didn't look like makeup. It just looked like...dry skin. It softened up a tad over the course of 30 minutes, but still looked dry on most of my face.

Now, I know what's going to happen: people are going to see the pictures above, taken in macro mode, and tell me I'm too picky. My skin looks decent in those pictures, after all. But let me say that one of the things Bobbi Brown Skin has going for it is it's ability to look great in a photograph. This is especially true in standard definition:

Yes, it looks gorgeous in photos. It's no wonder it's a popular choice for weddings! But it looked much worse in real life, and because I live in the real world--not the world of carefully posed photographs you see on this blog--I need something that's going to look decent when people look at me.

I'm serious, guys. I know I sound like a crazy person complaining about this foundation, given how decent it looks in these photos, but it's horrible on me in real life. I have no reason to lie.

Here are the time lapse photos. Bobbi Brown doesn't claim this foundation is long-wearing, so I tested it under a very average time span: 5 hours. After 2 hours,  I noticed a lot of shin coming through on my face, even on sections that aren't oily. At the 4 hour mark, my nose was a complete mess; the foundation had completely sunk in to my pores and fine lines. Again, that's to be expected, because this product isn't marketed to oily-skinned people. But look at my chin! It still has that dry, flakey appearance, but now it's shiny as well! What's going on there?!

You might also notice that my blush is looking patchy and has darkened to a more red shade. This blush is Cargo Catalina, which normally has great staying powder and stays a light to medium pink on my skin. I can only guess that the foundation caused some oxidization, and it's faded enough on my cheeks to take some of the blush with it.

I might've given up there, except my mom saw my face and said, "Wow, that matches your neck!" My mom, Queen of the Naked face, noticed that something matched me? It deserves another try.

I whipped out every trick in the book here, using every product I normally use with MAC F&B to ensure a beautiful finish. I primed with my sunscreens--Biore UV Perfect Milk on my oily areas, Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion on my dry and normal areas--and mixed a little bit of MAC Strobe Cream in to the foundation.  Then I brushed a tiny bit of my D&G powder foundation on my forehead and nose, just to soften everything up and matte down the oily spots, and used as little makeup as possible on the rest of my face.

The end result is slightly better, but only slightly. My nose is less greasy, but still, BB Skin immediately sinks in to my pores and settings in to my fine lines. My chin still looks like sandpaper. And when I patted the Josie Maran Cheek Gelee in Pink Escape on to my cheeks, I noticed that a bit of the foundation came off on my fingers. Unless you powder this product down, it won't be the least bit transfer-resistant.

Here's a macro shot of my face. Again, this product looks like skin, not like makeup, and it deserves props for that. And it photographs beautifully, looking better in macro shots than it does in real life. But can you see how weird my nose looks, and the dry specks all over my chin? Take that and multiple it by ten, and that's how gross it looks in real life.

In the end, Bobbi Brown Skin liquid foundation just didn't work for most of my face. The shade range is great, as is the light-weight feel and the SPF sans flashback. But it only looks good on me in pictures. In real life, it's an utter monstrosity, exacerbating dryness and melting off of my skin after less than 2 hours. It's a shame, really, because it could've been a unicorn.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

* "Bobbi Brown Skin" is also the name of the stick foundation. I'm not sure why they'd do such a thing, but to be extra clear, this is a review for the liquid, not the stick! They're two different products.