Monday, November 17, 2008
Welcome to Devi-Beauty-Week! Enough about the economy, forget doom and gloom, to hell with Proust. This week we are going to focus on putting our best faces forward, and working with what we have--namely ourselves, and our make-up bags. Who among us can't afford to look a little bit more put together? And how many times have you come back from Macy's or Walgreens, amped about a new lipstick or eyeshadow, images of the vixen/sexpot/angel version of yourself dancing in your head--only to try on said product and see that the color, consistency or over-all effect is completely wrong for you? Make-up can be transformative. It can be a passport to wonderful lands such as Faked-High-Cheekbones-stan and the island of Perfect-Complexion. It can make you stand up taller and feel more confident. But it can also be a huge question mark, especially when the vast majority of the products we see on tv, in magazines, and in the aisles of Sephora just don't suit Devi needs. So here, part one of Devi Week-o-Style: Let's pay some lip-service to our lips.
Like everything make-up related, a well-executed lip begins with a clean, smooth canvas. We forget our lips are skin and, just like our knees an elbows, they need to be exfoliated in order to get rid of the dead skin cells that tend to build-up over time. Many brown women have problems with "black" lips, or lips that tend to go from a natural pinkish color to a deeper, brown color. This "blackness" is often the result of built-up dead skin, so exfoliation can ameliorate the problem. (You can also try putting a thin layer of foundation over your lips, before putting any color on them, to lessen the darkness). Now, please, please: Don't go using the exfoliating products you use on your body on your lips--they are way too abrasive for the sensitive skin. Instead, twice a week, use a toothbrush (dipped in either water or water and a little bit of sugar) to gently brush over your lips, starting at the lip line and moving towards the center. If you aren't seeing softer, pinker lips, try this at-home treatment once a week: Put Vaseline or Aquaphor on your lips and massage gently with a nubby washcloth for 2 minutes. Afterwards, put another layer of Vaseline on before you to go sleep.
BEGINNER: LIP BALM, LIP GLOSS, and SHEER LIPSTICK
We're moms and we're busy. This is our mantra and I am sure some of us have it emblazoned on t-shirts. We don't have time for a 12 step makeup ritual in the morning. That's why many of us are Chapstick addicts. Well--that's why, in part. Some of us may ACTUALLY be addicted to lip balm, and it's not our fault. Many many lip products contain "phenol" an antiseptic that actually strips the upper layer of skin off of the lips. With this layer gone, you constantly feel like you "need" more of the lip treatment in question to get that supple feeling on your lips. The biggest perpetrator of this heinous crime is Carmex--a fact that truly breaks my heart, since I am never without at least 9 tubes of the stuff. Check the active ingredient: phenol. I am currently trying to wean myself off Carmex. It is not easy, and I feel like I am losing a best friend (or 9), but I have found some solace in this Nivea lip balm with SPF. I'm also doing a trial-run of this product from Tarte, which seems genius--a moisturizer and an exfoliator in one. I have only been using it for a week, but if I fall in love I will report back. Make sure your lip balm is phenol-free Devis!
I get the Chapstick brigade I really do--but tell me you haven't looked at photos of yourself with some lip color, versus without, and realized how much more polished you look. Sheer lipsticks are just as low-maintenance as chapstick but make it seem like you actually have a "look." The key is finding the right sheer for us Devis, because we tend to have darker lips and many sheers have so little pigment that they are essentially just Chapstick in fancy tubes. The hands-down best sheers I have found are from a little cult brand called "Lipstick Queen," created by Poppy Montgomery. This woman loves lipstick and understands women--which is why she has two lines of products: Sinners, with rich, 90% opaque coverage, and Saints, which are sheer with 10% color saturation. Both lines are luxuriously moisturizing in addition to being beautiful (thus helping me with my Carmex problems. Damn you Carmex.) "Berry" and "Wine" are my favorites of the bunch...and if you are my family, don't worry about buying these, you will be getting them for Christmas...!
Ah the full-on lipsticked mouth. The shellacked pout that greets us from glossy magazines and billboards alike. The close-up images of deep, lush tubes of magic pigmented bullets in jewel-box-like packaging. There is a reason Ben Stiller said that men have girlie mags and women have lipstick porn. We love the stuff, don't we? I've already given you my picks on the best reds for Devis (and update: I would now like to add Lipstick Queen Saint in Rouge to that list), but, Mad-Men fantasies aside, even I know that red lips, especially on a Devi, are not for every occasion. The best general advice I can give is to go to any department store and try on a bunch of lipsticks. Brands I have found that work well on our skin include: Bobbi Brown, Nars, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Every brand will have accompanying lip liner pencils, and they are worth the investment, mostly because they (1) define your lips; and (2) lock and load your lipstick, so that you aren't worrying all night whether it is running amok on your face. If the buiyng of coordinated lip liners for lipsticks is too much trouble, try a clear lip liner--it will prevent your color from bleeding and it works with every single lipstick you have.
One of the many lip products not worth our money? Lipstick brushes. I have heard every possible attempt to sell me these (and I have buckled before) but all the hooks and lines ("they ensure a smoother application," "they will make the shade last longer") have amounted to, ahem, lip service in my case. Save the $30 and buy another lipstick.
In terms of general color palette, obviously there is a cornucopia of shades available so let's focus on the no-nos: We should stay away from nudes, beiges, overly matte browns. Devi skin tends to get a little "ashy", which just means that when dead skin builds up on people with more pigment in their skin, the over-all skin tone becomes less bright. So-called "natural" lip colors have the effect of washing out our skin even more and, honestly, are not "natural" on Devis unless you consider cadavors "natural."
Like I said, you have to experiment with lipsticks. Plums, wines and deep reds work well on most Devis but, obviously, these are just labels which each contain an entire spectrum of shades. Ten thousand disclaimers aside, here are my top 3 current favorite lipsticks, which have been tried and tested on Devis of all shades:
Nars Vitamin-E Rich Lipstick in Tamango
YSL in Legendary Mocha
None of these lipsticks is overly shiny or overly matte. I find the overly matte look too severe for many Devi features, and shine I keep for special occasions. But those occasions do of course arise and, for extra shine, I turn to one of my favorite wonder-products. This lip gloss duo from Cargo can work like the Poppy Montgomery sheer lipsticks for daily use, but can also be layered on top of almost any more-pigmented lipstick you wear (including all of the three above), to give you glossiness without that my-lips-are-a-candy-cane effect (MAC lipglass anyone? I'm sorry, I know many people love it but doesn't your hair constantly get stuck in it? Death to MAC lipglass...). Apply a little bit of these glosses in the middle of your lips, either alone or over a lipstick, smack your lips and shine away Devis.
Any favorite lipsticks, lip glosses, or lip treatments you would like to share, Devis? Our favorite recommendation wins one of these Cargo lip gloss duos in "Santa Anna"! Leave your recommendation in the comment section and we will announce the winner on Friday. Have a BEAUTIFUL week...
Next Up: The Eyes Take All...