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.

Won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise? 

Well, hello, my friends. I’ve just returned from a relaxing, fun-filled cruise to the Bahamas — a girls’ trip with my mother, sister and daughter. We had a super time: We swam with dolphins, sat in the sun and made some great memories.

As usual, I overpacked. I wore about two-thirds of the clothes I took along and less than half of the makeup products. That’s OK, though, because my husband and I are headed for Jamaica in a few weeks. I’ll wear the apparel that went unworn on the cruise and pare down my makeup bag to include just what I used in Nassau and Freeport. Since many of you are planning fun-in-the-sun getaways, I thought I’d share what made the cut:

  • SunBum products: I always burn, never tan so I must be very cautious about protecting my skin. I’m a big fan of SunBum products and my faith was rewarded on the cruise. I burned only on my back, and that was my fault because I neglected to reapply my sunscreen as I should have. I use SunBum’s SPF 50 spray and keep my lips protected with the company’s pomegranate lip balm in SPF 30. I once burned my lips on a trip to Myrtle Beach and it was excruciating. My friends Kelly and Nikki swear that burning your lips can cause cold sores, even if you’ve never had one before.  I’ve still never had a cold sore, so I don’t know if they’re right or not!
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen: I use the SPF 70 version on my face. My cheeks and nose didn’t burn during the cruise and my face didn’t break out, so I’ll use it again.
  • Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum: I serendipitously found a generously sized sample of this light-coverage foundation with SPF 30 in my sample drawer while packing. The minimal coverage was just the thing for a cruise.
  • Effaclar BB Blur: I find this BB cream that blurs imperfections perfect for “no-makeup makeup” days. Bonus: It contains SPF 20.
  • MAC Eyeshadow Palette in Cool Neutral: This 15-shadow palette featuring cool tones was all I needed for a variety of makeup looks. For those who love warm tones, there’s a warm-tone palette also.
  • Too Faced Love Flush Long-Lasting 16-Hour Blush Wardrobe: Six pretty blush shades that stay put? Enough said.
  • Benefit They’re Real Mascara: This is my ride-or-die mascara because it lengthens, volumizes and stays put until I take it off.
  • Best Damn Beauty Best Damn Lip Mask: My lips love this quenching, moisturizing, softening mask with its pale pink tint. It doesn’t purport to plump, but I swear it does make my lips look fuller.
  • Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder: This just-add-water cleansing powder is perfectly portable and great for brightening and exfoliating.
  • Hand sanitizer: There are hand-sanitizer stations located throughout cruise ships. If you’re out at sea, chase away germs by availing yourself of them and take a small bottle of your own. In this case, more is more: Germs spread to cruise passengers and crew members at the speed of light. My sister and I would have spent more time at our ship’s casino if we hadn’t learned there was an onboard epidemic of strep throat. We decided handling chips and cards wasn’t worth the risk. That’s probably a good thing — I finished a winner, up $12!

A note about a previous blog: Thanks to all of you who contacted me here and through Instagram in response to a recent message about handling the end of a relationship. I heard from people who were estranged from friends, boyfriends, sisters-in-law, parents and adult children, and did my best to thoughtfully respond. I deleted the column because upon reflection I want to limit Makeup Plus 50 to more upbeat topics such as product reviews, recommendations and ideas. To the many who identified with that particular blog, know this: Your memories will someday be more sweet than bitter. In time, you’ll look back on the person and be glad they were a part of your life, no matter how briefly. I’ll leave you with this French proverb: “Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.” – Ronda

Banish brassy hair in two easy steps

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From platinum to auburn to golden 

Brass is great if you’re listening to a band. But the last thing those of us with blonde or gray hair like to see is garish brass tones.

I recently went from platinum to deep red to golden blonde. I’d initially planned to go all the way back to platinum, but an old friend convinced me to try golden hair because she’d liked it on me years ago. Verdict: I tried it, I liked it, I’m keeping it. The problem is that despite several bleachings, the remnants of dark red dye want to seep through after a few washings. Plus, I have a tendency toward red because it runs in the family. Both of my children are natural redheads. My daughter has golden red locks, while my son’s tresses are deep auburn — legacies, I suppose, of our Irish heritage.

I’ve found that combatting brassiness requires a two-step approach. First, I must wash my hair in cool-verging-on-cold water. Second, I regularly use a purple-toned shampoo. I have two in my shower right now, one that works and one that doesn’t.

The product I won’t repurchase is Dumb Blond Purple Toning Shampoo, which fails on two key fronts (or three if you count its name). It doesn’t completely keep my hair from turning brassy and it’s pretty drying — not a good thing when hair has been bleached.

The the product that works well is Sterling Silver Colour Care Toning Shampoo from AG Hair Care. It’s formulated to eliminate brassy, yellow tones from blonde and silver hair.  I use it three or four times per week to keep breakthrough brassiness at bay.

AG Hair Care Sterling Silver Colour Care Toning Shampoo, $18 for 10 ounces, $45 for 33.8 ounces at Ulta.




Falling in love with autumn beauty trends

fall-makeup (2)Sorry for the delay between posts: I’m just recovering from a terrible, lingering end-of-summer cold. Don’t you hate those? Anyway, now that my nasal passages are clearing and I can begin to breathe (and think) more clearly, let’s talk about my favorite beauty season: fall.

I live in Columbia, S.C., a city in the southeastern United States that’s famously hot. Seriously, “famously hot” is the city’s official motto. It remains sultry here until mid-October or later: It’s not unusual for trick or treaters to head out on Halloween without jackets.

When it comes to fall beauty, sometimes you just have to ignore the temperature and go by the date. Mid-September means college football is underway (though let’s not dwell on that because my beloved USC Gamecocks are having yet another rebuilding year). It also means it’s time to shake off the pastels and tropical shades of summer in favor of the deeper, darker — and, in my view, sexier — colors of fall. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the beauty trends in store for autumn.

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Colorful liner along the lower lashline gives eyes a boost.

Bold eyes: There’s good news and bad news for those with shaky hands — dramatic eyes are the thing for fall. Intense, geometric eyeliner is one of the season’s most popular trends, and we all know getting sharp, even wings is one of the trickiest makeup tasks. (Tip: If you just can’t seem to pull off a respectable wing, try using clear tape, angled from oustide of your lower lid to the end of your eyebrow, as a guideline. Better yet, use a stencil like the one from Beth Blender Beauty.)

If wings are just not going to happen for you, another option is the smokey, smudgy, kohl-lined look. The key is imprecision. Pick up a soft, malleable kohl liner in black, brown — or even dark blue or purple — and smudge away. Kohl-rimmed eyes look better as the night goes on, because they become even smudgier and sexier as the minutes tick by.

While dark, kohl-rimmed eyes probably aren’t the best choice for work, another fall look most certainly is: a pop of color along the lower lash line. Amethysts, blues, golds … almost any shade will work.

Lip service: It’s time to put away the Barbie pinks and sweet-girl peaches in favor of  darker hues. One of the hottest trends is vampy lips, or lips so dark they’re verging on black. I may be showing my age, but I think those extreme shades are best left to the young ‘uns. Women, and especially working women, would be better off sticking with deep berry and plum shades (and, of course, classic reds that never go out of style).  On the other end of the spectrum are the nudes: Heavily lined or kohled eyes combined with intense lips can be too much. When that’s the case, opt for a classic nude or one of the “new nudes” — gray-beige lip shades, such as Truffle by Dose of Colors and Bow and Arrow by Kat von D, are making a stand.


Give yourself a lit from within look by brushing luminizer on the cheekbones, chin, nose and browbone.

Strobe light: Heavy contouring a la Kim and the other Kardashians has take the nation by storm, but the message for fall is, “Go toward the light.” Heavy contouring is being replaced by strobing, which involves using liquid, cream or powder luminizers to brighten the high planes of the face, such as cheekbones, browbones and noses. The goal is to create an angelic, lit-from-within glow. I most often reach for Kevin Aucoin’s Celestial Powder or Champagne Pop, which is a collaboration between Becca Beauty and Jaclyn Hill, a YouTuber who’s deservedly made it big. By the way, Champagne Pop is a limited edition luminizer, so don’t wait too long if you want to add it to your makeup bag.

Getting cheeky: The key for fall is flushed cheeks that look like you’ve just returned from a brisk walk in the chilly autumn air. Plums are a great choice and one of my favorites is Marc Jacobs’ Shameless Bold Blush in Tantalizing, which is a deep magenta. Another nice pick is Cabana Boy by the Balm. Other great options for fall — especially if you are fond of the earthy bronze, gold and orange eye shades that are all the rage — are Warm Soul and Love Joy from MAC Cosmetics.

As fall rushes in and ushers in cooler temperatures, don’t forget that no makeup looks its best without the foundation of good skin. Remember to exfoliate, tone, correct and moisturize every day, morning and night, to give your color products the right palette to work from.

Finally, if the weather has already turned chillier where you live, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of fall. If not, light a Pumpkin Apple, Fall Leaves or Sweater Weather candle and pretend!

Gimme some lip: Five top lipstick shades

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Back row, left to right: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, MAC, Smashbox Front: NYX

I was a rather late arrival to the lipstick game. When I was in high school and college, the natural look was in and — thanks to the hereditary benefit of a naturally pink pout — I rarely wore lip products at all. I never got into lip glosses (too thick and gooey) and lipstick required touch-ups throughout the day, which was something I just couldn’t be bothered with.

As I got older, however, two things happened: First, I discovered that the right lip shade can work wonders, particularly in terms of brightening an aging face. Second, lipstick formulas changed. Today’s lippies don’t feel nearly as heavy and waxy as the old formulas that made my lips feel like they were suffocating beneath a heavy, uncomfortable film. What’s more, the latest formulations are longer-lasting, reducing the frequency of touch-ups.

Today, I have a rather large collection of lipsticks, ranging from nuder-than-nude to fiery reds. Here are a few of my current favorites:

  • Tom Ford Lip Color in Spanish Pink: This is my favorite pink nude. It’s also my most spendy lipstick, purchased at the crazy price of $50 for the tube. It’s a good thing this was a “Sorry, not sorry” selection. It’s creamy, has the perfect amount of sheen and is a lovely beige-pink shade worthy of a classic Hitchcock blonde.
  • Marc Jacobs Le Marc in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: First, let’s talk about the case: It’s sleek, curved, sexy and magnetized. The lipstick inside is sexy too — it’s a deep rosy shade with beige undertones that promises 10 hours of velvety, hydrating wear. Ten hour is stretching it (in my experience, no lipstick holds on for that long), but I love the way it makes my lips look smooth and full with a slight sheen.
  • MAC Red — MAC makes a wide array of gorgeous reds. While Russian Red and Ruby Woo get the lion’s share of raves, I’m partial to the simply named “MAC Red.” It’s a vivid, bright, blue-red with a satin finish that makes my teeth look several shades whiter. Simply named … simply gorgeous.
  • Smashbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer in Fuchsia — Generally, the glossier the lipstick the shorter the wear. The Smashbox Be Legendary formula is different in that it goes on like a lacquer but turns into a glossy, long-lasting stain. When I think of fuchsia, I think of a punchy, in-your-face reddish pink. This is a kinder, gentler, muted fuchsia — a shade so pretty that strangers stop me to ask what I’m wearing on my lips.
  • NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick — Anyone who knows me knows that I’m partial to matte, liquid lipsticks because they’re so long-wearing and never need a lip liner. My favorite from among the new, very affordable NYX entry into long-wearing matte brigade is Tea & Cookies. Pinky browns are all the rage, but sometimes they’re too brown on me. This shade has just the right combination of pink and brown and the color doesn’t budge, even during a meal.