Rant: Pushing ~Natural~ Skincare – Can You Please Just Not.

It’s time we had a talk, guys. It’s about “natural skincare”. Wayne Goss, whom I usually LOVE SO MUCH, recently posted this on his blog and I was devastated. He also recommended putting Milk of Magnesia, straight, on your face on the reg (it is ok in very small doses, very irregularly – thanks Chanelle). Sure, it makes your skin look a little better (debatable) in the short term, but with long term, frequent use it can cause major bacterial proliferation. Jaclyn Hill recommends using sugar to scrub your face. Come ON guys! I don’t want to go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep this short (spoiler alert: I failed). I also don’t want to tell people to stop doing what works for them. But this is a dangerous trend that I want to put in my US$0.02 about.

Look, everyone wants to be closer to nature, right? Everyone wants to save some money, everyone wants to seek out multi-use items. I get it. I really do. But some things can be as natural as hell, but still not great for your skin. In fact, some people can react really badly to natural ingredients. Sure, they can also react badly to synthetic ingredients, but those are often formulated to be less likely to make people’s skin fall off.

The bottom line is, not everything that is natural is good for your skin. Take oft-touted lemon juice for example. Your skin’s natural pH is somewhere between 4 and 5. It already HAS a natural acid mantle and this acid mantle is INCREDIBLY important. Lemon juice is extremely acidic – it has a pH of 2 (approx. 6% citric acid) – and can burn your skin. Some people manage to use it JUST fine. But I would suggest that those people are in the minority, and most people’s delicate facial skin will be irritated by this. Irritation can show up in a myriad of ways – it can be redness, small whitehead bumps, cystic pimples, dryness and even sores/blisters or burns. Same goes for baking soda. Baking soda + vinegar (also acidic, pH 2.4ish) is the kind of thing you clean stubborn stains from pans, sinks, drains and cooktops with. Do you really think you should put that on your face!? No. Stop it.

Sugar is jagged crystals. Same goes for anything like those awful apricot scrubs that are literally crushed apricot seeds.What! They’re sharp as hell. Sure, they’ll exfoliate the SHIT out of your face, but they’ll also create microtears around your pores and aggravate any problem areas you already have. Don’t do it. I’m a huge proponent for NEVER scrubbing your face with anything more abrasive than a muslin cloth. If you want to exfoliate, use something gentle that won’t mess around with your skin’s pH level. I personally use the Paula’s Choice AHA gel, because I find it works well for me, but if you are oily you might prefer the BHA. Dr Dennis Gross also does a wonderful exfoliant line. Don’t scrub your face! Microbeads, though smooth, are still not great for your skin, or necessary, and they’re REALLY bad for the environment (some States in the US are about to ban them). Body skin is different – it’s much tougher and thicker. Scrubs on the body are fine but I would still recommend doing this only once a week at MOST.

Things like bee pollen can also cause a huge allergic reaction. That’s a LOT of concentrated bee product to be putting on your face. Honey is much less concentrated in allergens but there isn’t very much health benefit in it – so eat it instead of wasting it by putting it on your face. It’s delicious.

Another common one is tea tree oil.  TTO does contain antiseptic, antibacterial properties, for sure. But please dilute it in another carrier oil like almond oil or another neutral oil before you dot it on your spots (DOT, people, don’t slather!). It’s REALLY strong!

Which brings me to the current wonder-product: coconut oil. I CONSTANTLY hear people say that this is all they use to remove makeup, wash their face or moisturize or whatever, any number of things. And it works brilliantly for them! Which is wonderful. Those people are probably not prone to acne though, because let me tell you something that is a scientific fact and not at all an opinion: coconut oil is EXTREMELY comedogenic (meaning that it blocks pores like a mofo). On a scale of 1 to 5, it is a 4. That’s basically just below … what is the most? Beef tallow? Engine oil? So please don’t put it on your face unless you have never had a pimple in your life. Or, by all means give it a red-hot go, but if you break out, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Put it in your food, use it for lube (seriously it’s great for that in my experience *eyebrow waggle*), but please be really careful using it on your face.

If you are still dead-set on using natural products, remember that science often loses to marketing. I dug up this great article on WebMD about things that actually probably/maybe do work, but note that even the “active soy” in one of the products mentioned has been altered in a lab to be more effective. Please also note “industry sponsored study” as a phrase to indicate taking results with a grain of salt.

Natural skincare doesn’t even necessarily save you money. Be very careful of expensive products containing cheap ingredients. It might be important to you that the ingredients in your skincare are sourced ethically, locally or organically, which is of course going to bump the price up. There is incredible, simple, cheap skincare available at the drugstore/pharmacy (Cetaphil, CeraVe etc) that works great for a lot of people. No need to spend an arm and a leg.

Finally: please remember that everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Lemon juice is a chemical. Salt is a chemical. Stop talking about things being chemical-free. You are made up of chemicals. If you don’t want to put chemicals on your skin then enjoy never bathing, touching food, dressing or leaving the house ever again. Hooray!

To me, this is a bit like the great Tim Minchin line from his excellent anti-alternative medicine animation, Storm, “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.” I feel the same way about skincare. Technology is so incredible these days, and skincare / beauty etc is at the forefront (because $). Why shouldn’t we take advantage of the benefits? It can even help the environment. Synthesized ingredients stop the destruction of habitats by mass farming, for example.

Really, I don’t care what people do in their own homes that works for them. The thing that upsets me is when people, particularly people in positions of authority like WG and JH, make dangerous, bad recommendations to their friends or followers that could be disastrous.

Be safe, be careful, do your unbiased research, but mostly – do you boo.

Love,
F&V

 

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Review / How To: Urban Decay Naked Smoky Palette (+ a Word on Photography Apps)

So wow, hasn’t the internet been blowing up about this palette!? As a smoky eye lover, I was pretty excited when Urban Decay announced it.

However, I really wanted to be sensible about this rather large purchase ($54 at Sephora) so I thought about it carefully. I also wanted to swatch all the colors to see if there were any duds (I have found some UD shades to be really chalky and chunky in the past).

Last Friday I was in Burlington, VT and woke up in my hotel room with a sense of excitement. I knew today was the day. UD Naked Smoky day! I was going to see it in real life and maybe, if we were compatible, it would come home with me. Ahhhh!

Aaanyway, I looked it up online that morning and it looked like the Burlington Sephora didn’t have any in stock which was kind of horrifying but I decided to check it out anyway because I wanted to pick up some of the TooFaced Hangover Primer (which incidentally was NOT in stock). Wouldn’t you know it, when I walked in to the Sephora inside JCPenney the first thing I saw was a beautiful display piled high with light grey, beautiful boxes full of joy and happiness AHHH! Ok calm down Fran *deep breaths*

The SA asked if she could help and I said YES and asked to see the insides of the palette. She presented an open one to me like the precious treasure that it was – with reverence and deference and respectfully downcast eyes. As I swatched the shadows, I got more and more excited. They were gorgeous. Pigmented, smooth, buttery.. you know, I really never understood what that adjective meant with regards to makeup until that moment. But now I do.

Natch, I bought it. And it owns. Allow me to explain.

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So I don’t need to tell you guys about the Urban Decay Naked palette history. Everyone knows they’re the most popular “neutrals” palettes on the planet. This is actually my first one though! I had Naked Basics 2 but I never used it, I wasn’t a huge fan. But this one, I really love. Maybe that’s because I always gravitate towards a more dramatic eye look? Who knows. But anyway, let’s get to the swatchin’.

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Top to bottom: Thirteen, Combust [these are hard to see, they’re both very light], Whiskey, Password, Smolder, Black Market, Dagger, Slanted, Armor, Radar, Dirtysweet, High.

There’s a good mix of matte and shimmer shades here. Black Market is ALMOST matte, it’s got a very very light sheen to it that’s barely there. Password, Whiskey, Combust and Thirteen are all matte. The rest are shimmery. The only one that doesn’t really do it for me is High, it’s a little on the chunky side and therefore needs to be carefully worked with which isn’t really ideal for the inner corner (where I think High would be best used). The rest are just glorious and I love them all.

I have done three looks with this palette so far, I’ll talk them through one by one.

Look 1:

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For this one I laid down a base of Combust over the entire lid up to the browbone using the RT 200 brush (or any large shadow brush), then using the brush that came with the palette (the pointy end – from now on this brush will be called the NS brush) I added some of Armor to the inner corner, leaving the center of the lid bare, then with the other end of the NS brush I added Armor to the outer corner as well. I did this in a couple of layers, building up the color til I had as much pigmentation as I wanted. I also used the pointy end to wrap a little of Armor around under the lower lashline and smudged it out. I then used the blending brush end to blend Armor into Combust, but taking care not to blend too far into the center part of the lid. I then used a flat eyeshadow brush to add Dirtysweet to the center section, really laying down a decent amount of color. Back to the blending brush to blend those two colors at the edges, not completely, just so there were no harsh lines. I made sure that all the colors were nicely blended upwards and out at the outer corner. I added a little bit of Password to the outer corner, as a bit of a transition shade to make sure that Armor blended out smoothly. Then I carefully lined my upper lashline and lower lashline (leaving the center bare again) with the UD Perversion eyeliner but any black eyeliner will do just fine for this – it happens to be my favorite so that’s what I used. I again grabbed the pointy end and smudged that out, added mascara (IT Cosmetics Tightline) then I was done.

The advantage of doing this is that the center of your lid is lighter, meaning that your eyes stay more open looking especially if like me you have small, deep-set eyes. Plus it’s just a really cool effect!

Look 2:

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This one’s obviously a lot darker, and you can already see that it makes my eyes look more closed and small. I don’t really mind, it’s just something to note compared to the first look.

For this I laid down a base of black cream shadow – Maybelline Color Tattoo in Dramatic Black using my fingers and blending out with a MAC 217 just to make sure the colors really stood out and had something to stick to. I then used Password all over the lid fairly lightly then added Smolder over the top, both with the NS blending end, which is a really cool purpleish color. I then picked up some Black Market and blended that in little circles on the outer corner again with the blending end of the NS brush. I used Black Market to wrap around the lower outer lashline as well with the pointy end. I added a little bit of Slanted on the inner corner using the pointy end of the NS brush just to add some reflection and light. I again picked up the UD Perversion liner and lined my upper lashline and lower lashline/waterline, and then used the pointy end to smudge this out and pull a little out for a wing on the outer corner. I used a q-tip to clean up the outside corner,  giving the wing area a little more sharpness. Again with the same mascara and I was done.

Look 3:

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My husband was making me laugh with this – he wouldn’t get out of the background of my selfies! :3

So I toned it down a little for this one, just a little, there’s still some smoke there. I used the RT 200 brush again to do a base of Whiskey over the mobile lid, then used Radar over the whole lid with the blender end. Radar is a really cool reflective warm brown shade, I really like it. I picked up some Armor (probably my favorite shade, it’s a gorgeous cool greyish brown shimmer) for the outer corner to add some more depth then used the same shade to wrap under my outer corner lashline using the pointy end of the NS brush. I added some of Slanted in the inner corner, but it wasn’t really light enough so I also added some High. I own the UD 24/7 liner in Whiskey to match the eyeshadow shade so I used that to lightly line my upper and lower lashline and dragged it out again to form a bit of a wing – though now that I see the close-up pictures on my computer I could have done a better job of that! To finish off I added Thirteen on the browbone just to make sure that was looking all nice and bright.

I tried a new mascara with this look, the fancy one I got with this month’s boxycharm (MDMflow Greater Than Mascara) and lemme tell you, it is garbage. As you can see in the picture it basically does nothing. Not impressed at all. It’s expensive too! Glad I didn’t pay for it because it truly sucks. Boxycharm actually had to send out an email with a set of instructions on how to “prime” it (shake it and pump the wand a lot) but even with doing that, it’s bad. Bad bad bad!

So those are my three looks. The possibilities really are endless with this palette. It’s super versatile. I’m so happy I bought it. I can really see myself getting a lot of use out of this palette!

Now onto another thing I wanted to discuss. I was watching a beauty youtuber the other day as she talked through how she takes her selfies and how she edits them. She said that she relied a lot on an app called FaceTune to make her skin look flawless and get rid of imperfections, and to change the shape of her nose a little bit. This kinda surprised me and I knew I needed to check out this app myself, she was raving about it!

So I checked it out and let me tell you something: this app is evil. This app is the One Ring. It has the potential to be used for good but the point is that most of us don’t have the will to use it that way. I made an example for you guys.

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HOLY SHIT I LOOK AMAZING I NEED THIS APP FOR REAL LIFE

Pretty big difference and about 15 seconds of work. EVIL APP! My husband and I discussed whether it was even ethical to use it for blog pictures. I also talked it through with my dollies (friends on a forum where there’s a makeup/beauty thread) and the same conclusion was reached: that if the product being reviewed is being altered by an app like this, that’s bad and wrong. For example, if I’m reviewing a foundation and I use this app to blend out some imperfections then that’s really dishonest. A few people said that they like my blog BECAUSE I don’t do any of that stuff, I don’t over-edit my images (or really edit them at all tbh but that’s partly because I have no idea how) and they can see how these products look on a real person rather than someone who has ‘shopped their pictures to infinity. Is that to say that I won’t ever use it? No. I might use it to blur out an imperfection that’s unrelated to the product I’m discussing. For example if I do an eye look and have a pimple that is distractingly huge, or if my melasma is really dark, or if I have red marks or little baby hairs around my lip area (because I’m human) and I feel they detract from the lip product I’m reviewing, then I might minimally use this app or a similar one to bring those down a notch or two.

It would be so easy to use this app for every photo I take. My self-esteem is begging me to use it. I wish I could use it for everything and feel “right” about it, but I just don’t.

That is my promise to you, dear readers. I’ll never use an app like this to lie to you or stretch the truth. I’ll never give you unrealistic impressions or expectations about how a product will perform or look. My skin will never be perfect and the better work for me to do is to a) become more okay with that; b) improve my photography skills and c) improve my makeup application skills! I hope we can all learn and grow together.

Don’t judge those makeup bloggers for using apps like FaceTune. It’s so easy to understand why they do it. I get it, and I am sending them all a lot of love in the hope they can one day apply it to themselves, from themselves.

Until next time!

Love++
F&V

The Freedom & Vanity Beauty Philosophy: Because You’re Worth It

Lately I’ve been thinking about the form I want this blog to take. I’ve been thinking about what I want it to be, and what I don’t want it to be. I want to make a post today to talk about those things, even if only for my own benefit so I can refer back to this post if I start dropping the ball.

First, I want to share some thoughts about beauty specifically. I hope I can keep these short but to try to limit the rambling, I will put these under numbered headings.

1. It is okay to never wear makeup, ever.

Here’s a secret that you don’t get told enough: you are beautiful. You are beautiful without makeup. You are beautiful with makeup. You are beautiful when you sleep and when you make stupid faces at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful when you do heavy squats and have that look on your face where the corners of your mouth are trying to touch your shoulders (no? just me? ok). It should not be a secret but for some reason it is. It’s a secret that most of us either refuse to acknowledge, or keep to ourselves even when we’re really feeling it. I want to stop doing that! I want that for all of us. I still have a long way to go, but I’m trying really hard.

So if you don’t want to wear makeup, you absolutely shouldn’t. Every time I hear about people shedding the shackles of makeup wearing and high fashion with such glee, I feel sad. I feel sad that they were made to feel like that in the first place. Tracey Spicer is a great example. On face value, I loved what she was saying. But looking deeper, after it was pointed out by some online friends, it made me sad that she felt that way about makeup due to her place in the world (in television). Makeup and beauty routines aren’t meant to be prisons. They’re not meant to be pain and suffering. We’re not meant to resent them. They’re meant to be creative expressions, and to make us feel like a million bucks.

I said I wouldn’t ramble so I’ll try to wrap this up but look, you just don’t have to wear it. My mother has not worn makeup a day in her life (well, not since I’ve known her anyway!) and she’s one of the most beautiful women I have ever known. Her inner beauty shines from the inside (and between you and I, her skin is bloody fabulous, she was a Clarins devotee for most of her life but now shops around a bit more as I understand it).

2. It’s okay to not wear makeup every day. I don’t.

I would go crazy if I had to wear makeup every day, personally. Some people wear it every day and it’s not a chore, it’s their choice, and they love it. Or it’s not their choice but they love it anyway – whatever! But personally I don’t. Wearing makeup is a day by day choice for me. Sometimes I think “ooh, I haven’t worn [product] in awhile, might crack that one out today” or sometimes it’s the fact that I have a new product and I can’t wait til a “special occasion” to try it. Sometimes my skin looks like garbage and I’m tired, and I know a bit of makeup will boost my confidence, but that is FOR SURE the least common reason. The only time I wear makeup during the day because I “have to” is for things like special visits at work (important people etc) or if I have a job interview and that’s mostly because of the confidence boost which we all need for those dreaded interviews!

If you don’t feel like wearing makeup to work, and your job doesn’t demand that you do, then don’t. Free yourself!

3. It is okay to break the rules of makeup. Screw the rules!

Want to wear a bold eye look and a bold lip as well? Do it! Don’t like the colours that are meant to be worn by people of your eye colour? Don’t wear them! Wear whatever you like, own it, and rock it. This goes for things that are too old or young for you – apparently – as well. Just wear things you like, you know? Wear what makes you happy, confident, and like your best self. Case in point, a very special day in my life last year. I had my makeup done by Chanel and they did a fabulous job. For the daytime section, we did a nude lip.

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Dawwwwwwwwwww but srsly dat makeups~

For the night time event, I threw caution to the wind and put on my favourite pink lipstick (MAC’s “Impassioned”) and darkened up my eyes a little. Because I wanted to!

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BAM

Now, did I get feedback that I should have kept the lip nude? Yep. Did I have feelings like that myself? Yep. But that was more of a “should have” because “they” say so thing. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and bolded up my look. I hate to say it, but #YOLO.

4. I do not have perfect skin. I will never have perfect skin. This is okay.

I had pretty darn bad acne as a teenager, and to be honest it continues even now. It’s much less aggressive and cystic now. But it still exists. I get pimples, hormonal ones mostly but also when I forget to drink heaps of water, or when I drink coke (I think, this is a thing I’m still testing / confirming, may in fact be related to replacing adequate water with coke rather than the substance itself), or when I forget to change my pillowcase every night. Or because Aries is crossing the orbit of Saturn. I don’t know how skin works! Or how astronomy works either apparently but anyway… I still get breakouts. I am nearly 31 years old. I have learned to manage it (more on this in another post) but it still bothers me.

But you know what, that’s okay. We all have skin issues. Dryness, sensitivity, breakouts, psoriasis, melasma (I get this one too, thanks oestrogen!), there’s really no end to the types or combinations of things that can go wrong with our skin. Sure, there are those total jerks who never have any problems with their skin and whose skincare regime is something like “oh I give it a bit of a wipe in the shower when I remember” but they don’t count, they’re the anomalies, not us, dammit. Ahem. Bottom line: problematic skin is more common than not. Don’t sweat it. You still deserve to wear non-cakey, fun and cute makeup if you want to! And, as always, if you don’t want to wear makeup then you definitely should not feel the need to hide your skin away. Letting it breathe may even improve its condition – who knows? My amazing friend “hanko” (code name) has a spectacular blog centred (currently) on skincare that I urge you guys to check out. Linky!

Look. The point is, dis face makes its own rules. All I can do is weather the storms alongside it.

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Shameless flex insertion. Story of my liiiiiiiife~

5. Makeup is a never-ending learning experience for us all. 

I’m a super, super, super beginner at makeup. Lots of people have made amazing comments to me about how I seem to know a lot but here’s the thing. Owning a lot of makeup =/= knowing a lot about makeup! Ha ha ha… 🙂 I’m really just an amateur. Tomorrow, for the first time, some sucker is going to let me put makeup on them. Thanks Lauren! Then on Sunday my bestie Chantal is going to teach me the finer points of it, she used to be a beauty therapist so she is pretty good at the art of touching the faces of others and applying things to faces without gouging their eyes out etc. Should these things be the other way around? MAYBE. But it just didn’t work out that way. Anyway I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Point is, I’m fairly sure even the Lisa Eldriges, Pixiwoos and vintageortackys (probably my top three for tutorials) of the world would tell you that they are continually learning every single day, even though they are all experts in their fields.

Everyone starts somewhere, with a couple of key pieces (another blog post about that will be forthcoming). In this day and age we are SO LUCKY to have access to things like youtube tutorials from The Greats. We don’t have to rely on books that are static and flat. We have amazing videos of people doing makeup and showing very clearly some amazing techniques. How good is that!

6. You DO NOT have to spend a lot of money on makeup to have a good quality “kit”.

I really feel that drugstore makeup (ie, makeup that can be bought from places like Priceline and other pharmacy type places – popular brands include L’Oreal, Maybelline, Maxfactor, Bourjois, Revlon, Rimmel etc) has come SUCH a long way in the last few years. I think this is the result of the conglomeration of a lot of companies into being made under the same umbrella, then sold under different brands. For example, Bourjois is made by the same company that makes Chanel, and yeah of course it’s not AS GOOD as Chanel but for a quarter of the price it’s MUCH more than a quarter as good if that makes sense.. not sure I worded that too well but for real. It’s so good. NYX has some of the best products I’ve bought for the cheapest prices. L’Oreal’s 24 Hour Infallible eyeshadow is absolutely spectacular and I only wish it had more of a colour range, because it’s apparently an excellent dupe (“duplicate” ie a good cheaper version of) the Armani “Eyes to Kill” eyeshadows. The MAC Paint Pots we all love? You can get the Maybelline Colour Tattoo cream shadows and if you find a colour you like, they’re basically the same thing. The Tom Ford Cream Colour for Eyes is the exact same as MaxFactor’s Excess Shimmer shadows which are cheap as chips.You can see in my liquid lipstick post that my favourite was a $10 drugstore (Australia only) product. Honestly, I could go on but I won’t, you get the picture.

So that’s all I have to say for right now. I just really want to impress upon you guys that all this stuff is totally optional. You should wear as little or as much makeup as you want, whenever you want.

As long as you wash it off at night. Promise?

Love+++