Things to know when you’re shopping for cosmetics

Posted on December 04, 2014 under Thoughts

I worked in cosmetics before moving to Scotland. It was an amazing job which I loved 95% of the time; I was doing something I was passionate about, making people happy, and learning a lot. Here are some things I would like to pass on to you, the customer, to know when you’re shopping for cosmetics. In many ways, you get what you give to the experience of buying cosmetics, so keep these things in mind!

We are not judging you.

Seriously. You do not have to have a full face of beautifully-applied makeup to set foot in a cosmetics department. You do not have to be conventionally attractive or know anything about makeup. A lot of people come in without any makeup on because they want to try it on, or because they didn’t have time to put it on, or for a million other reasons! Honestly, most of the time I didn’t even notice if someone was wearing makeup or not, because my job was to help them find the product they wanted, not to scrutinize what was or wasn’t on their face! It’s okay if you’re not wearing makeup, it’s okay if you have a huge zit on your cheek, it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s okay if you’re a man wanting to buy mascara. (Seriously, it’s pretty common. We wouldn’t bat an eyelid when men came in.) Sales Associates are there to help you, not judge you.

And in my experience, that’s what we want to do. Most of us love cosmetics and have a lot of knowledge that we are eager to impart. We want to help you find a moisturizer that makes your skin glow, or your perfect red lipstick. I had several occasions where I spent nearly an hour swatching every lipstick in the store to help a customer match an old discontinued favourite or an image they found on Pinterest. That’s what we want to do! So please don’t walk in and apologize for your face, or for not knowing enough.

A lot of us are not formally trained in makeup application.

Personally I was always totally willing to apply makeup on customers, but I preferred when it was in a low-stress situation: just showing a customer how a foundation worked on their skin, testing out different shades of pink lipstick, or a trial for a big event. I did not like to do someone’s makeup for their prom, or for a wedding they were attending, because I am not formally trained and applying makeup on someone else is very different from applying it on yourself!

So if you go in for a makeover, please keep this in mind. If you have somewhere to be, you’re better off hiring a trained makeup artist, better yet if you can have a trial with them before your event. Where I worked, no makeup application qualifications were necessary, and most of us were not formally trained. The majority of my job was sales, but I did have to apply makeup sometimes. Please know that the person doing your makeup may not have formal training! It’s best to come in beforehand and set up and appointment for a makeover – and ask if the person doing it has any training. It’s for your own good!

You get a makeover, you buy.

I feel very strongly about this. It’s simply a matter of common courtesy. Most cosmetics SAs are on minimum wage and make commission. A makeover takes at least half an hour, which is time that could be spent with other customers, cleaning, doing the tasks besides selling that people forget need to be done, etc. This is a simple exchange of goods and services: do not insult your SA’s time and skill by walking away without purchasing anything. This is a transaction. Uphold your end of the bargain.

Low sales can put an SA’s job in jeopardy and damage their entire team. Don’t hurt the person who just spent half an hour doing your makeup, okay?

Be as specific as possible.

If you come in looking for, say, a good sunscreen or your perfect nude lipstick, it helps if you know what you’re looking for. Tell me everything you can think of that applies: your skin type, the finish you prefer, any ingredients you’re allergic to, any specific concerns you’d like the product to address, etc. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Basically, any way you can make your needs, desires, and limitations clear, the better for you!

On the same note, don’t just take the first product the SA recommends.

I always liked to give my customer a few options, and explain the differences between them. This way, they wouldn’t feel pressured to take the first thing I gave them because they didn’t know how to say “No, this isn’t what I’m looking for.” That said, if you feel like your SA is overwhelming you with choice, you can totally ask them to narrow it down to the best two or three options and then go from there. SAs want to make sales, but they also want to build up a satisfied customer base. That doesn’t happen by pushing the first product they think of onto the customer. It happens by asking questions, answering the customer’s questions, and working together to find the perfect product. So don’t be afraid to be a part of this process: it’s so much better for everyone involved if you take the time to talk it through and find the right product!

Not everything works for everyone.

Again, most SAs are not just trying to sell the most expensive product or the first thing we think of. We want to make customers happy. So our recommendations are based on our own experiences, feedback we’ve received from other customers (because we can’t try every product!), and product knowledge that we receive in training. Even if you go through the whole Q&A process and spend a long time selecting something, it simply may not work for you. Obviously some SAs suck and just thrust products on their customers, but please try to realize that what most likely happened is that you got unlucky and were recommended a product that just doesn’t work for you specifically. Look into the return policy of the store you bought it from, because usually stores want their customers to be satisfied, not stuck with a product they hate!

Ask when something will be back in stock.

Thursdays at my store were crazy because that’s when we got all the new stuff in. Sometimes I’d be working up until midnight (when we closed) putting all the new stuff on the shelves where it belonged! Most stores have a set day (or days) when the distribution comes in, so if a product you want is out of stock ask when the store gets new items in and come back the day after. (So – you wouldn’t come to my store on Thursday, because that’s when we were unloading everything. But on Friday, the shelves would be full!) The SA can also check in drawers or in the back for you, just in case something is there. It’s rare, but worth a peek, and they should be happy to check.

Ask for samples.

Depending on the store or counter, you may not be able to request specific samples of items – but it’s worth a try. So, if you really want to try a specific foundation, see if you can get a sample size of it! My store couldn’t make samples from testers, but we did have a big stockpile of fragrance and skincare samples and I was totally willing to give it away like candy to customers who engaged with me and were making a purchase. (Obviously, if you’re not buying something it’s a bit of a dick move to ask for samples.) Normally I would remember to give samples to people who were spending a decent amount anyway, but if your SA forgets and even if you’re not dropping a tonne of cash, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Also, if you wanted a sample of a foundation but the store can’t make samples up for you, you can ask them to apply it to your face so you can wear it around for the day and test it out that way.

And that is all I have for now, which is good since this post is already pretty long!

Basically, what this comes to down to is that SAs usually really like their jobs and want to help. If you come in prepared, open-minded, and willing to ask questions, you are way more likely to walk out of the store feeling happy and in possession of a product that you will love!

Products that are worth the hype #1

Posted on November 27, 2014 under Lists

I won’t even bother writing an introduction about how it sucks when a product is super hyped up and then you hate it, because we’ve all been there and it’s pretty obvious that that’s a shitty experience. Instead, I’ll just say that these five are staples in my makeup routine and in my opinion totally live up to the hype!

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

I know that everyone and their mom talks about this eyeliner, and if you don’t use it you’re probably like, “UGH, SHUT UP, I GET IT,” but the thing is that you don’t get it because it is that good. I have tried a lot of black liquid liners in my life, and I have found exactly two that don’t transfer on my eyelids.

To illustrate how well this one stays put, I will tell you a story of how I put it to The Drunk Test, which is the best possible test. Once, I did perfect winged eyeliner (which this liner makes it really easy to do, by the way), went out, drank several sidecars, rubbed my eyes halfway through the night and vaguely, drunkenly realized I probably shouldn’t do that, came home hours later, decided to wash off all my makeup but my eyeliner so that I didn’t have to do my wings again the next morning, and woke up to perfectly intact eyeliner.

The lesson? Drunk me is an innovative genius, and this eyeliner is the shit.

Illamasqua Cream Pigment in Hollow

We’ve all heard that this is the best contour for pale, cool-toned skin. While I certainly have not tried every contour in the world and so cannot definitively say if this is true, I don’t feel the need to try every contour in the world because I have found The One.

My wonderful friend Jelena let me borrow Hollow for a not insignificant amount of time this summer, and I got so used to using it that when I had to return it to her I was lost. None of the products I was using to contour prior to Hollow came close to reaching its godliness. One of the first things I did when I got the UK, land of many Illamasqua counters, was run to Debenhams and buy Hollow. NOT SORRY AT ALL.

Hollow is, indeed, the perfect colour to give my complexion realistic-looking cheekbone definition. It also has just the right amount of pigment: it’s visible without needing to build up a million layers on your brush, but not so pigmented that it’s like, WOW, YOU PUT A LOT OF MAKEUP ON YOUR FACE. It’s easy to blend out, stays put all day, and after months of use I have not seen a dent in it at all.

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This is a bad quality picture because I actually took it to document whatever the eff my hair is doing after being dyed lavender last month, but you can also see Hollow in action.

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer

Concealer isn’t a very glamourous or fun product, but after hearing so many UK beauty gurus rave about it, it was #1 on my list of things to buy as soon as I got here. It took a bit of hunting to find a store that wasn’t out of the lightest shade (shoutout to the Boots on Princes Street in Edinburgh!), but it was so worth it. It’s creamy and extremely high coverage, which is good because I have this one zit on my chin that pretty much never goes away so I need ALL THE HELP I CAN GET! I also love using this one on my brow bone for when I want ***flawless, high-def brows.

The only downside to this product is that the colour range is very limited, with only four shades. If you’re not fair to tan, you’re out of luck. This is worth mentioning because it’s symptomatic of a wider culture of exclusion in the beauty industry. I really wish Collection would expand this line, because there are so many people needlessly missing out on an excellent product.

Maybelline Colour Tattoos

I believe I have 14 or 15 Colour Tattoos, which really tells you everything you need to know. Some are better than others (the coloured ones tend to be a bit gritty/patchy/hard to blend), but the majority of them are fantastic. Gorgeous colours, easy to apply (I always apply them with my finger!), great staying power. I do tend to have creasing problems (a result of having hooded, oily eyelids – SO unfair when the rest of my skin is dry as a bone), but these always stay really well. I never use a primer underneath them and I have no issues. They’re a great base to add pigment or dimension to powder shadows, but they’re also gorgeous on their own.

By now probably everybody knows how great these are since they’re so affordable, but they deserve a shoutout since they’re definitely in my top 5 favourite products of all time.

Rimmel Lasting Perfection by Kate Moss Lipsticks

Again, most people are probably aware of Rimmel’s Kate Moss line of lipstick since they’re very inexpensive and so talked about. The regular and matte lines are both excellent – great formula that stays put and feels comfortable on the lips, and a really nice variety of colours, from nudes to bright corals to deep berry reds. I have five from the regular line and one of the mattes, and I usually pick up a new one when they go on sale.

My only complaint is that they could definitely expand the range of colours. While there are a lot of nice ones, I’m at the point where I pretty much have all the colours that suit me and that I like – and I want more! (I’m a lipstick hoarder, by the way.)

What do you guys think of these products? And what products are totally worth the hype to you?

On being bare-faced

Posted on November 21, 2014 under Thoughts

There has been a lot of proverbial ink spilled over women wearing makeup to hide who they really are or to trick men. I hope it’s no surprise that I think this is utter bullshit, for multiple reasons.

  1. I regularly wear dark purple lipstick or colourful eyeshadow. That is the opposite of hiding. That is saying, “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME LIPSTICK I BOUGHT.”
  2. Makeup, for me and many people, is self-expression, not self-repression.
  3. I sure as shit don’t wear makeup for men. Men can’t even tell when you’re wearing makeup. Once one of my male friends told another friend that she didn’t need makeup to be beautiful, and used me as an example of someone who looked good without makeup. I had on concealer, shimmery eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. There are stories all over the internet of men saying they like Kim Kardashian’s “natural” look. Yeah, nobody naturally has a smokey eye, dude.

But I think in our feminist outrage about self-expression and wearing what we want, we often forget that some people do wear makeup because they want to hide perceived “flaws”, or just because it makes them feel better. For every woman with thick winged liner and bright lips who even those “Kim K wears no makeup!” men can tell are wearing makeup, there are plenty who don’t want it to be noticeable, who wear it because if they’re not worrying about the things they think are wrong with their faces they can focus on everything else.

In a world that is so obsessed with women’s appearances to the point where Renée Zellweger only has to step outside of her house with her face looking a certain way to be the subject of headlines across the internet, can we really blame women for doing what they can to neutralize their appearances? If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be able to get things done without worrying that everyone is noticing your zits or acne scarring or undereye circles, how can we act as though it’s not a valid choice for women to use makeup to eliminate these concerns? Men don’t have to make these choices; they don’t have to worry about not being taken seriously professionally or personally because of how their faces look.

Just look at this recent thread in r/makeupaddiction, “Why do you wear makeup?” The responses vary, but a lot of them definitely fall into the “It just makes me feel better about myself” camp, with no speak of self-expression or empowerment or any of that jazz.

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In some of these examples, there is a bit (or a lot) of insecurity expressed, or sense of obligation (not being taken seriously as a professional). In some of them, posters eloquently explain how they use makeup to feel a bit better about themselves, but that liking how you look with makeup doesn’t mean you hate your bare face. This isn’t a black and white situation. There’s a lot of nuance in any discussion of why an individual woman might choose to use cosmetics, or how she feels about her face.

Obviously, obviously, I hate to see women saying they hate their faces and that’s why they use makeup. I hate to see the negative side of something I love, that has been so positive for me, and that I have used to make others happy. I hate that the cosmetics industry has weaponized a woman’s own face to be used against her.

But that’s just it, assholes who want to judge women for “hiding”: nobody’s trying to “trick” you. If women want to hide their faces, it’s because we are told from birth that merely by existing we are doing something wrong. The way our facial features naturally settle when we’re not smiling? Resting Bitch Face. The way our bodies look if we’re not wearing undergarments and shapewear? Unsightly. And let’s not talk about our faces with no makeup. Haggard, ugly, tired, sick. If you want women to stop “hiding”, don’t attack them. Attack the industry that makes them feel like they have to hide in the first place. Or just stop being so obsessed with what women do.

Because here’s the thing: nobody calls men fake for presenting their physical selves in a way that makes them feel powerful, or cool, or just like themselves. Men buy $300 sneakers to look cool, but you don’t see anyone calling them fake, or superficial, or acting as if it’s any of their fucking business what someone else puts on their own body.

Unless you’re doing some extreme Kontouring, you do not look like a fundamentally different person without makeup on. Hell, I’m sure even the Kardashians are recognizable when they wash it all off. Sure, with a full face of makeup my skin is smoother, I have no under-eye circles, and my eyelashes are thicker, longer, and darker – but I’m still me. Makeup does not fundamentally change my face into something unrecognizable, nor does it change who I am as a person.

I don’t mean to downplay the difference makeup makes. Most pictures of me are not how I look when I first roll out of bed. For one thing, I’m not frowning at the fact that I’m conscious. But get past the zits and eyebags and realize that my face looks pretty much the same. I’m not lying to anyone. And if you think there’s anything wrong with my face with no makeup on, that’s on you for thinking there’s something inherently wrong with a woman’s natural face. We are raised to notice flaws in women and ignore flaws in men, which is why nobody thinks men need to wear makeup or that men just naturally age better than women. No – you’re just more critical of women.

That’s why you’re shocked when you see someone’s face underneath their foundation and mascara and eyeshadow and lipstick and a million other products. It’s not because they look so different. It’s not because they’re ugly. It’s because you’re looking for flaws. And, frankly, it’s insulting to say a woman is “hiding” her face when she wears makeup, because the implication is that there’s something wrong with her bare face, that when she takes her makeup off she goes from the pretty girl you fell for to an ugly beast that you wouldn’t have looked at twice if you’d known.

And I guess part two to this post is that I don’t want my blog to be a contribution to this idea that makeup makes you worthy as a person. Makeup, for me, is an art form, a way that I express myself, and just an interest of mine that I want to share. I have friends who love makeup just as much as I do, I have friends who wear just a bit of makeup every day, and I have friends who wear no makeup, ever. I love them all. I don’t judge any of them. I never think any of them are fake, or ugly, or that that they should wear more or less makeup. In the end, it’s just smearing shit on your face. If you’re into that, cool. If not, also cool.

So let’s de-weaponize our own faces. I know it’s easier said than done, but let’s do that cliché fake-it-till-ya-make-it thing of looking in the mirror first thing in the morning and saying, “You’re beautiful,” or, even better, “Your face does not determine your self-worth. But it’s still pretty rad.” Let’s look at pictures of ourselves with no makeup on and think about the positives instead of fixating on the parts of our faces that we don’t like.

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On this day, I was hanging out with a bunch of my favourite people. I don’t know who said what, but clearly I was enjoying it. After this photo was taken I put on a full face of makeup, had my friend curl my hair, and went out for sushi. Best day ever.

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This was a beach day with three people who I love (and miss). We splashed around, played Twenty Questions in the sun, and had lunch at a touristy café.

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Who has time to worry about eyeliner when there are small children to chase around?

So men (and women) who act like women are “fake” or “hiding” who they are for wearing makeup: wake up and realize that not everything is about you. There are so many of us out there who do it for reasons entirely unrelated to insecurity – but there are women who wear makeup because they’re insecure, and they shouldn’t be blamed for that. If you really care, target the heads of cosmetics companies. (You don’t care. You just want another reason to control women.)

Bare faces are just as good as made-up faces, and vice versa. I hope that one day we will live in a world where we all embrace our makeupless faces, and where we only wear makeup because we truly want to and not because we feel obligated to. Until then, I’ll keep rolling my eyes at people who disparage women for putting makeup on, as if it isn’t our right to do what we want and feel how we want about our own faces.