I find it ironic that only now, at 55, am I comfortable with my makeup choices. It was scarcely two years ago that I was having my eyelids brutalized by Eastern European makeup artists. I have you all to thank for my newfound courage. Had I found it in my pretty days who knows what might have happened. So, for all of you working towards the confidence and sense of humor that builds Attractive, I give you Zuzu’s Petals, the author of Everyday Beauty. She wears blue-toned, natural makeup, her Beauty Spotlight team addresses the broader spectrum. Oh, and she’s not a teenager. This is a good thing.
I am not a professional makeup artist, but I have spent a lifetime experimenting with products and colors, perhaps trying to reconcile the tomboy-preppy side of me with my inner tutu. I love beauty in all its forms, and there’s no quicker way to transform a plain canvas into a thing of beauty than with a little lipstick.
1. Tell us the story of the moment you first realized you could make makeup work for you.
It began at a very young age, as I watched my mother get ready for the day. Instead of a complicated makeup routine, she preferred a good haircut, pearl studs or simple gold hoops, and layered fragrance. But she never left the house without lipstick. Even today, she continues to wear her signature color (Revlon Blasé Apricot), and such a little thing, a sheer layer of bright color, immediately brightens her appearance
2. Tell us about your three favorite secret, i.e. non-mainstream, products, and why you love them.
- Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel. Yes, it does its intended job on sticky-hot summer days for those of us whose upper thighs touch, but it also makes an excellent facial primer when smoother, sparingly, over pores. You can spend four times as much on a facial primer by Laura Mercier and the like, but you don’t need to. If you regularly use silicone-based products on your face, you’ll want to use a salicylic-acid product (BHA) at least once a week to decongest your pores.
- Lemons. To whiten nail beds from nail polish discoloration, I soak my fingertips nails in a small bowl of lemon juice for a few minutes, dry, buff, and moisturize. For toenails, I make a paste of baking powder and lemon juice and apply with a Q-tip, poking the paste under the nail. While my toes are bleaching, I stick my elbows into the squeezed lemon halves, which helps lighten dark elbow discolorations.
- Lipstick as concealer. A semi-matte, pinkish-beige lipstick (like Dior Incognito) can blend into the skin better than some concealers, which can often be too yellow.
- Eyeliner on lips. To give lips the appearance of fullness, I use a skin-toned eye pencil (NARS Eyeliner in Rue Bonaparte). I lightly trace the vermilion border just outside the Cupid’s bow, center of top lip only, and then extended the line up both raised ridges of the philtrum, toward the nostrils. I them lightly blend the color into the surrounding skin but not so much as to erase it completely. Then I apply my lipstick, as usual.
3. What do you think is the single most important piece of knowledge to have in mind when buying makeup?
I would actually suggest two, which are related.
- Coloring. Ideally, you already have a good sense of your skin’s undertones. Are you warm toned (yellow/orange) cool (pink/blue)? This knowledge can help prevent numerous makeup mistakes, such as purchasing products that don’t harmonize with your natural coloring. Pay close attention to what looks good on you and keep a discerning eye on trends so you don’t fall into the “lemming” trap. Just because magazines are advertising bronzer and coral lipstick does not mean those colors suit you. The result might look pretty good, but why look good when you can look great? There is no universal color; there is only your right color.
- Lighting. Department store lighting is the worst place to buy makeup: dark and shadowy, interspersed with pools of sickly or harsh light. Try on a product and then ask for a hand mirror. Tip your head back so you are looking at the ceiling, hold the mirror over your face and look up into it, to eliminates shadows. If your upward glance doesn’t make you run for the nearest facial wipe, take the hand mirror to am external door and look at your skin in natural light. If you are still unsure, swatch the product on plain white paper and write the product name under the dot. When you get outside, you will be able to see that color in its most pure form, without skin undertones getting in the way. If you are planning to test nail polish colors, apply some pieces of tape to the envelope and paint on top of the tape. You can later peel off the tape and press it on your fingernails to see if the polish color suits your skin tone.
4. Do you have a favorite insider technique to putting the stuff on? Brushes? Sponges? Finger?
I use them all, but I prefer my fingers for the best control. Having a small collection of makeup brushes can be quite useful, but it depends on your needs and goals. If you enjoy detailed, gradient eye makeup, you’ll need a good brush or two. If you wear a single color all over, a sponge or single brush will suffice. My favorite foundation tool is the fuchsia, egg-shaped Beautyblender sponge. Wet it, wring it out so it is barely damp, and then bounce the foundation onto the skin. It provides an airbrushed finish that keeps frankenpores at bay all day.
5. What is your makeup philosophy, i.e., what you do feel is the point, the goal of makeup, for you?
My philosophy is quite simple—to enhance, not hide. If you love makeup—dramatic or subtle—then have fun wearing it. If you prefer going without, then there’s no reason you should feel pressured to start now. I have always loved wearing makeup, but I apply it so it’s almost invisible, to extend my natural coloring and to even out my skin tone. I do it for me and no one else. It’s so easy to experiment because, at the end of the day, it all washes off.
Now go read the blog. You’ll also find reviews of previously-unknown-at-least-to-me makeup brands like Rouge Bunny Rouge, Edward Bess and Besame. I find browsing Zuzu’s swatches as satisfying as a Saturday at Neiman’s makeup counter. A veritable bargain.