New Year musings and makeup

Happy New Year!

I had a subdued New Year’s Eve, just hanging around the house with my cats, Otis and Bea. We jazzed things up around midnight with peach bellinis (for me) and new catnip toys (for them), but that was about the extent of the celebrations. I’d planned to stay in on New Years’s Day — it was dreary, rainy and cold — but caved to superstition and went out for the southern tradition of collard greens and blacked-eyed peas. We believe eating collard greens on Jan. 1 brings financial security and black-eyed peas bring good luck. My 2016 was pretty miserable and I didn’t want to risk more of the same in 2017, so I ate every bite of those collard greens, even though I find them bitter to the taste.

Speaking of lousy 2016s, it appears I’m not alone. Many of my friends and relatives shared equally crummy years and are hoping for clean slates and improved fortune this year. My life is about to change, for sure. After years of doing the long-distance thing, my husband took early retirement from his job as a newspaper editor in Texas and will join me in South Carolina in February. Loneliness hit its peak in 2016, and I’m looking forward to his company and cooking. My cats Otis and Bea? Not so much, but he’ll grow on them. I hope.

I was good about sticking to my healthy-eating plan over the holidays. I treated myself a bit but didn’t go hog wild. I gained two pounds but have worked them off since I returned from Texas on Wednesday. Now it’s time to lose a little more weight (as long as it doesn’t show in my face, making me look older) and tone up before our June vacation in St. Kitts.

Did you add to your beauty arsenal over the holidays? I picked up some of the sweet peach products, which I love. The hype around them can be tiresome, but I like the sheen they give my skin — it’s just enough to make my skin look alive and healthy without exaggerating fine lines. I do think Too Faced would be wise to move to another fruit that’s suited to women with deeper skin tones, as the peach is best for fair complexions. Plum, strawberry, watermelon … they could keep things going for awhile and be more inclusive, particularly in terms of the blush. Here’s a look at my sweet peach haul (I already had the eyeshadow palette, and I like it very much):

Too Faced Sweet Peach Creamy Lip Oils and Peach Glow Highlighting Palette

Here I am wearing the bronzer, blush and highlighter from the Peach Glow Highlighting Palette, along with the Creamy Lip Oil in Poppin’ Peach:


Lastly, I wanted to share a few new makeup products, as well as two of my favorite Christmas gifts. The first gift, pictured at the far left, is a box lined in velvet that was a present from my father. He’s a woodworker, so he makes something special each year. Sometimes the gifts are big (hope chests or standing jewelry chests) and other times they’re smaller. I just love this box with the purple wood insets. The other special present  is the little sled, which is actually a gift tag made by my sister. It’s a tiny cross-stitched elf and I love it!

As for the makeup, clockwise from top right, Urban Decay’s Moondust Palette and Heavy Metal Liner in Glam Rock, Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Moonlight, Maybelline Master Contour and Dior Diorific Matte Fluid Lip & Cheek Velvet Colour in Luxury.

In closing, I want to wish you all the best in 2017 and leave you with this thought:

Advertisements

Bronze eyes and bright lips = Full holiday glam 

Bronze eyes and red lips are a classic holiday party look.

It’s the holiday season, and that means it’s time to go full glam. Today, we’re going all out with a look that’s definitely not for everyday wear: Its party time, ladies! This look has special occasion written all over it, and it’s just the thing for a festive Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve celebration. Pour yourself a glass of champagne and let’s get started … But first, my usual provisos:

  1. You don’t have to rush out to buy the exact items I used! Dig through your makeup drawers for similar products that will work just as well without causing penury.
  2. Prep your face. You want a smooth, serene canvas for perfect makeup application. That means clean, exfoliated, moisturized and primed skin.

OK, let’s get glam!

Foundation: Fiona Styles Matte Finish Foundation Concentrate. (This is a foundation I began using last week and have been pleased with. It evens out skin flaws and imperfections and is sold at Ulta. Other foundations I like include Josie Maran Vibrancy, Urban Decay All Nighter and Make Up For Ever Ultra HD.)

Undereye Concealer: Judith August Orange Masking Creme, Maybelline Age Rewind. (The Judith August Orange Masking Cream is peachy/orange and I use it to hide blue circles where my skin is thinner at the inner corners of my eyes. I apply it first and then top it off with the more moisturizing Maybelline Age Rewind.)

Undereye Powder: Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder. (Powder can be aging on older skin. I only use powder to set my concealer — and I use a light hand. The Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder adds extra lightness to the undereye area and isn’t drying.)
Eyes:

  1. I mixed Pat McGrath Labs’ Bronze Pigment with Mehron Mixing Liquid and applied two coats on the mobile lid up to the crease. The pigment and mixing liquid are sold at Sephora as part of a set. Other options include silver and gold, and they’re gorgeous!
  2. I applied a medium brown matte shadow to my crease as a transition shade. I used the medium brown from Tarte’s Poppy Picnic Palette, but any medium brown will do.
  3. Next, I used Benefit High Brow to highlight my brow bone. Any light-colored shadow will do, but just use a touch — a little goes a long way — and make sure not to use a metallic shadow.
  4. I used Dior black kohl liner in my upper and lower waterlines. Again, any long-wearing liner will suffice.
  5. No eyeliner today, but I did apply false lashes — Red Cherry Wispies. DO NOT wait until the night of a big event to apply false lashes for the first time. It takes a bit of practice. If you’ve never applied them, opt instead for extra coats of your favorite mascara. I swear by a combination of two Benefit mascaras. After curling my lashes, I first apply Roller Lash and then finish with They’re Real

Blush: Milani Baked Powder Blush in Bella Rosa.

Lipstick: I’m wearing on of my favorite  reds, MAC Red, but go with a red that suits your particular skin tone. If you have thin lips, you might want to choose a pretty rose or nude shade, as very dark or bright shades can make lips look thinner.

Bronzer: Laura Geller Moroccan Bronze, but skip this step if your cheeks have started to hollow naturally. I am older, but still have full cheeks.
Highlight: ColourPop Super Shock Cheek in Monster
That’s it! You’re ready join in the holiday fun, knowing you look your glowing best. Here’s a toast to 2017!

Shining eyes and red, red lips: The classic holiday face 

Christmas is just a few days away and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner. If you’re looking for a special look with glamour and sparkle, I have one for you. Nothing says winter celebration like shimmer, shine and dark red lips (perfect for under the mistletoe). I’ll give you the details on the products I used, but remember: You don’t have to rush out to buy the exact items! Dig through your makeup drawers for similar products that will work just as well without breaking the bank.

Before you begin to apply makeup, be sure to start with a clean, moisturized face. And don’t forget to apply a good eye cream. I’ve been using the new Bye Bye Under Eye Eye Cream from It Cosmetics under my makeup. I don’t have a serious problem with wrinkles, except for fine lines under and at the corners of my eyes that show up when I let those areas get dry. The It Cosmetics cream is very moisturizing and brightening. Also, make sure to exfoliate so your skin isn’t flaky. You want a perfectly smooth canvas for your foundation.

OK, once you’ve done your skin-prep work, start your makeup routine by applying a primer. It will help your foundation go on smoothly and stay on longer. I alternate between several, but right now I’m using a Korean primer sold at Sephora called J. One Jelly Pack. It feels sticky at first, but then dries down to feel sort of smoothing and moisturizing.   Here, in order, are the other products I used to create my holiday look:

Foundation: Fiona Styles Matte Finish Foundation Concentrate. (This is a foundation I’ve just started using. So far, so good. It seems to even out skin flaws and imperfections — and that’s important at my age. It’s sold at Ulta.)
Concealer: Judith August Orange Masking Creme, Maybelline Age Rewind. (The Judith August Orange Masking Cream is — yes — peachy/orange and it’s great for concealing  deeper blue circles where skin is thinner at the corners of the eyes. I apply it first and then top it off with the more moisturizing Maybelline Age Rewind.)

Undereye Powder: Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder. (Powder can be aging on older skin. I only use powder to set my concealer — and I use a light hand. The Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder adds extra lightness to the undereye area.)

Eyes:

  • I used the cream portion of Tom Ford’s Cream and Powder Eye Color in Naked Bronze from my mobile lid up to slightly above the crease. The darkest concentration of color should be on the mobile lid, getting gradually lighter until it fades out above the crease. Products similar to Tom Ford’s Naked Bronze are MAC’ s Paint Pot in Indianwood and Maybelline Color Tattoo in And On Bronze.
  • Next, I used my fingertip to press Urban Decay Space Cowboy glitter shadow onto only the mobile lid.
  • I used Benefit High Brow to highlight my brow bone. Any light-colored shadow will do, but just use a touch — a little goes a long way — and make sure not to use a metallic shadow.
  • I lined my upper and lower eyelids with a Urban Decay Heavy Metal Gitter Eyeliner in Midnight Cowboy. Again, don’t go ham. A light touch will suffice.
  • For my eyelashes, I swear by a combination of two Benefit mascaras. After curling my lashes, I first apply Roller Lash and then finish with They’re Real.

Blush: It Cosmetics CC+ Radiance Ombré Blush in Je ne Sais Quoi.

Lipstick: Huda Beauty Matte Liquid Lipstick in Famous. (Again, your favorite deep red or burgundy will do. If you have thin lips, you might want to choose a pretty pink shade, as very dark shades can make lips look thinner.)

Contour: Maybelline Master Contour. (If you are older and your cheeks have started to naturally hollow, skip this step.)

Bronzer: Too Faced Baked Luminous Bronzer in Sweet Tea.

Highlight: Makeup Revolution Vivid Baked Highlighter Powder in Peach Lights (sold at Ulta in the “drugstore” section).

That’s it! You’re mistletoe-ready! Here’s hoping your holidays are happy, warm and beautiful.

Sol de Janeiro adds to its sweet-smelling success

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I have a serious crush on Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Hands down, it’s the best moisturizer I’ve ever used and the best smelling too. The company describes the scent as pistachio-based and that may be true, but it’s also tropical and sexy and simply to die for. Even better, it makes your skin soft, silky, supple and touchable.

Awhile back, the company added its Samba Foot Fetish Cream to the product lineup. I was disappointed that it didn’t feature my beloved Bum Bum Cream’s to-die-for scent, but it’s still a great product and the adorable surfboard-style buffer it’s packaged with is a winner.

Fast forward to Sol de Janeiro’s latest launch: Brazilian 4-Play Moisturizing Shower Cream Gel. I’m a “smells good” kind of gal, as my son James described me when he was younger. I’m not interested in generic, run-of-the-mill soap or shower gels. Give me something that leaves my skin clean and moisturized, but leaves both me and my bathroom smelling like a garden of earthly delights.

I’m happy to report that 4-Play is a winner all the way around: Rich lather? Check. Moisturized skin? Check. Great scent? Check, check, check. It smells just like Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. Call me a  velvety-skinned, deliciously scented happy camper.

Note to the team at Sol de Janeiro: I just placed an order for your Rainforest Relief lotion, but I need more, more, more! How about adding other products with your signature scent to the lineup? Bath oil beads? Moisturizing bath bombs? A facial moisturizer? Hair care products? Seriously, it’s the best. 

Show your lips some love

Sometimes I think there are three distinct camps when it comes to lipstick:

  1. Those who never wear it.
  2. Those who stick to nudes and neutrals.
  3. Those who love it and will try just about any shade.

It pretty much goes without saying that I’m in the last category. I’ll wear anything from nude to red, but I draw the line at vampy, very dark wines and browns, as well as trendy blues, greens, grays and purples.

I haven’t always been a lipstick wearer. In fact, I rarely wore it until I reached my mid-30s, and for a couple of reasons. First, my own lips were deeply pigmented. And second, the waxy feel of lipsticks in the 70s and 80s made me uncomfortable — almost as if my lips were suffocating.  New formulations make today’s versions much more wearable.

As women age, the right lipstick can make their complexions come to life. But women who’ve never worn lipstick often initially feel foolish — almost as if a spotlight is shining on their lips and everyone’s staring. (Take my word for it, they’re not.)

For that reason, it’s best to start neutral and work your way up. Choose a shade that’s an amplified version of your natural lip color and progress from there. That way, catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror won’t be such a shock.

Remember, too, to create a smooth canvas for your lipstick. Use an exfoliating scrub several times per week. I like Tarte’s Marajuca Lip Exfoliant. I also use a lip mask each day. Because lipstick is the final step in my makeup routine, I apply a softening, moisturizing mask first and let it do its job while I’m applying other products. My favorite is the Best Damn Lip Mask. 

Remember: There’s a lipstick (or two, or 20, or two dozen) for everyone. You just have to get comfortable with a “your lips but better” shade and move forward from there.

An unexpected foundation flop 


I tried the new, affordably priced ($25 for .32 ounces) Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation today. My skin looks pretty swell in the photo above, so you probably think I loved it, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

I usually have good luck with ABH products, but the foundation is dry, patchy and nowhere near the medium-to-full coverage formula promised.  I applied two layers and my flaws were still apparent. A top-off layer of Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick saved the day. The Houglass is a nice foundation indeed, but it’s unfortunately priced at $46 for .25 ounces.

The bottom line is that my skin looks great in today’s pic — but photos can be deceiving. Three layers of foundation is really too much in everyday life. By the way, I just checked the reviews on Sephora and I’m not alone in my assessment of the ABH foundation. Try it at your own risk. Or at least keep your receipt! — Ronda

Ch-ch-ch-changes. The power of working out

Losing weight differently through exercise

If you’ve been following my journey to a healthier lifestyle, you know that I’ve made many changes this year. Here’s the basic roadmap:

  • I started watching what I ate in early February. Frankly, I was tired of feeling lumpy, uncomfortable and unattractive. At first, I simply employed portion control combined with self control. The pounds started to fall away.
  • In May, I decided it was time to start working out, something I’d avoided for many years. To be honest, I hate feeling hot and sweaty. Still, I knew it was time to get moving. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary in June and he was shocked when my gift request was a treadmill. I started slowly: 1.5 miles at 2 miles per hour. Today, I do between 3 and 4 miles at 3.2 to 3.5 miles per hour at a slight incline. For some people, that’s weak. It works for me.
  • In July, it was time to formally start tracking my exercise and healthy-eating efforts. I purchased a Misfit Shine 2 to count my steps and began using the Lose It! app to track nutrition and calories. I also started taking two adult dance classes per week: ballet/stretch and tap. For me, dance is a fun way to get exercise.
  • Last week, I decided it was time to work on my arms and core. I began using the Smart Wonder Core, a compact gadget that has two foam-covered tension bars. Depending upon how it’s positioned, it is used to create resistance for arm exercises, leg exercises, sit ups and more. I also began using the Simply Fit Board, a skateboard-type item with a rounded bottom. Basically, you balance yourself on the board and it twists back and forth as you twist from the waist. (I usually hop on the board during television commercials. I also twisted to the performances during last night’s Video Music Awards.) My goal is strengthening my abdominal muscles and whittling my waist.

I’ve dieted and lost weight before, but I always did it without exercise. This time, I realized that I would never get the ass I want while sitting on it! Two things have happened:

1. I’ve started to actually enjoy my workouts. I feel better physically and mentally when I don’t skip them.  They’ve become a habit.

2. I’m losing weight differently. I’ve always been pear-shaped and unable to wear certain styles of clothing. For example, the column dress in the photo accompanying this blog would have been disastrous on my body just a few months ago, because my top and bottom halves were disproportionate. By getting up and moving my body, I’m losing inches more uniformly.

As of this morning, I’d lost 57 pounds. My original goal was 65 pounds. However, after assessing my body and mental determination, I’ve decided to go for 23 more, for a total of 80 pounds. At that point, I’ll decide whether it’s time to switch to a maintenance plan or lose a bit more.

If you’re thinking about making a lifestyle change, go for it. If I can lose weigh with diet and exercise, you can too. I believe the key is getting yourself into a certain hell-for-leather mindset. I’ve tried and failed to lose weight before, but when I look back I realize I didn’t have the steely, determined attitude needed for the long haul. The right attitude will get you where you want to go. – Ronda

A beauty mask for baby-soft skin

When I walk into Sephora or Ulta, I’m immediately drawn to the makeup aisles. Let’s face it, color products are exciting and alluring. The products on the skin-care side, not so much. Put it this way: If beauty products were lingerie, the makeup aisles would be stocked with sexy bustiers, corsets and push-up bras. The skin-care aisles would be devoted to basics like support bras, cotton panties and shapewear.

Despite the siren call of makeup, my basket usually ends up holding more shapewear than than bustiers. That’s because shapewear provides a great foundation — both in the fashion world and the cosmetics world, where good skin is the foundation that maximizes makeup’s performance.

I always say that if your finances force you to choose between high-end makeup and skin-care products, choose the skin-care products. There are plenty of cosmetic companies that provide great-quality makeup for low prices: Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oreal, NYX and Makeup Revolution, just to name a few. And, yes, there are some good skin-care products in the drugstore aisles, but I’ve had better luck with entries from Dr. Brandt, Chantecaille, Nude Skincare and Sunday Riley, to name a few.

My latest find is perhaps the best beauty mask I’ve ever tried. Yes, it’s on the relatively expensive side at $70 per tube, but it’s worth every penny. It’s Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask and it is spectacular.

You might hear the words “clay” and “skin mask” and assume this product would be drying. Rest assured, it’s anything but. It leaves my skin feeling nourished, moisturized and baby-smooth. And although no product will eliminate pores, it tightens and minimizes them.

And then there’s the scent. There’s only one way to describe it, and that’s “heavenly.” To me, it smells like I’ve buried my nose in a bouquet of gardenias, but the product description says it contains frangipani. Either way, it smells heady and extravagant.

If you’re looking for a mask that leaves your skin glowing, smooth and clear, give Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask a try. I could get addicted to this one!

Truth or dare: Answering your questions

L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose

As I get older, I’m both more and less forthcoming. I’ve learned that some things are better left unsaid, while some that were formerly too humiliating to talk about I now share freely. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who follow me on Instagram and I thought I’d answer them here. Some are about makeup, others are about my weight loss, and still more touch on personal topics. Here we go:

Q. If you could look like any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be?

A. At one time, I would have said Grace Kelly because she was true perfection. Now I’d choose someone else — someone sultrier and sexier. That’s because I’ve never considered my appearance sexy. Everything about me screams “girl next door” and always has. And although I love makeup, I have one of those faces that looks silly in a large wing or dramatically smoked-out eyes. For these reasons, I’d choose to see what it would be like to ooze sex appeal, like Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor.

Q. If you were going out for the evening and could take only one makeup item, what would it be?

A. I used to say mascara, but I finally found a mascara that doesn’t disappear on me in Benefit’s They’re Real. I’d go with concealer because I detest dark under eyes and they always eventually peep out, no matter what I do.

Q. What was your most disappointing makeup purchase?

A. Recently it was two mascaras — the new Charlotte Tilbury and Marc Jacobs ones. They smeared and had no staying power on me, although I’m a big fan of both brands. My most expensive mistake was the Temptu Airbrush System.  You have to wear the foundation that comes in their pods and it wasn’t for me.

Q. Do you have a favorite foundation?

A. I always seem to go back to Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation. It gives me a nice, natural, realistic glow. I’m currently trying out the new Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation and the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick. So far, I prefer the better staying power of the Urban Decay. I’m always looking for the latest, greatest foundation. I can make my foundation look almost perfect, but it only lasts for a few hours. Two recent foundations that didn’t work for me? Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation and Too Faced Born This Way.

Q. What’s your favorite lipstick?

A. I have several: L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose, Marc Jacobs’ Le Marc Lip Cream in Clara and Melted Strawberry by Too Faced. They’re all fairly bright and I prefer brights with my skin tone. (My favorite non-bright is Tom Ford’s Spanish Pink.)

Q. Have you had a nose job and, if so, who was your doctor?

A. This is a surprising one that I’ve received several times. No, no nose job. It’s my original nose.

Q. How much weight have you lost? How did you do it?

A. I’ve lost 54 pounds and think I’ll switch to maintenance after another 30. I did not have weight-loss surgery, but would have if my insurance company covered it. I eat healthfully and never go over 1,200 calories per day. I walk 3-4 miles daily on a treadmill and take adult dance classes twice weekly. I also use two products by Hum Nutrition: Flatter Me, which reduces bloating, and Skinny Bird, which purports to reduce stress eating, boost metabolism, curb appetite and control blood sugar. Since losing weight, I no longer have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Q. What does your husband say about your weight loss?

A. Honestly? He doesn’t mention it often, other than to say I look nice. He’s not particularly effusive and never has been. He has mentioned several times that he’d love me at any weight, which is incredibly sweet.

Q. How is your son?

A. My son, James, was involved in a serious head-on collision a month ago. He was in a coma for awhile and there was concern about brain trauma, but we were fortunate. He does have numerous contusions and cuts, as well as broken ribs on both sides. He is healing well, but is in lots of pain. He has been a difficult patient because he suffers from severe anxiety and depression. We will get through it all together.

Q. What makeup trend do you dislike?

A. Instabrows — the large, overdone brows that have been in for awhile. This is partially because I’m a little sensitive about my own brows. I don’t have any, because they didn’t grow back after I had chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I have tattoos and it looks ridiculous if I try to draw in bigger brows on top of them. I’m also not huge on a lot of highlighter. I just don’t think it’s particularly flattering on older skin. I try to use it judiciously.

Q. Are there any new products you’d like to try?

A. The new Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation. And some of the new Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks. Her mascara and foundation didn’t work for me, but her lipsticks are spectacular, as are her eye products and blushes.

Q. You’ve added quotes and poems to your Instagram page. Do you have a favorite?

A. I’ve gotten incredibly good feedback — and a lot of new subscribers — since adding quotes and outfit of the day photos. I try to choose quotes and poems a lot of people identify with, and most of us have either been in love or been hurt in love. I also like inspirational quotes, as well as sharing the poems of talented Instagrammers. Here are a couple items that got great response, followed by my favorite. I hope they inspire you. 

Update: Morning and evening skin-care routines

I’ve been getting a large number of questions about my skin-care routine, so I thought I’d provide a visual look at my a.m. and p.m. regimens. It looks like a lot of steps, but I can complete them in five minutes or under when I’m pressed for time. When possible, though, I dawdle a bit because doing so makes me feel like I’m indulging myself.

The important thing to know is the products that work for me might not work for you. For reference, I have normal skin — neither particularly oily nor dry — that is aging. If you decide to purchase any of the products I’m using, be sure to check your store’s return policy. For example, Sephora and Ulta have generous, no-questions-asked policies.

I want to mention that I’ve been using Nerium’s Age-Defying Night Cream for about a month and am pleased with the results. For one thing, it reduced the number of tiny milia I have beneath my eyes and also shrank the small amount of sebaceous hyperplasia bumps deep beneath my skin. (Note: I don’t sell Nerium products. My friend Helen is a Nerium representative and sent me a bottle to try. I can put you in touch with her if you’re interested, but be assured there’s no financial benefit to me if you decide to try them.)

It’s also worth noting that I use a couple of cleansing tools — the Foreo Luna Mini in the morning and the Bare Minerals Skinsorials Double Cleansing Brush at night. Also, the products are pictured in the order in which I use them.