It’s the bomb! Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer

Mini review: If you’re in the market for one — just one — do-it-all lip product for fall, do yourself a favor and make it the Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer from Rihanna’s new makeup line, Fenty Beauty.

It is such a pretty shade, designed to compliment all skin tones and types. It’s glossy but not at all sticky. (If a lip product feels sticky, I will not wear it, no matter how pretty it is.) Gloss Bomb has a beautiful sheen that makes your pout look plump and pretty. I’m wearing it in this picture with the Milani Lip Pencil in Spice. OK, that’s two products, but you get my drift!

Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer is available at Sephora for $18.

Milani Color Statement Lip Pencil in Spice is available at Ulta — online only — for $4.99.

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Top lipsticks for September 

I post my lipstick of the day over on my Instagram account (makeup_plus_50). It’s a good way to keep track of my favorites while also maintaining a tally of what other Instagrammers like and don’t like.

September was a month for reds, but the most-liked shade was not crimson and — News Flash! — at $12 it was one of the least expensive lipsticks in my drawer. One of my followers even guessed that it was a super-high-end Yves St. Laurent lippie. It just goes to show that makeup doesn’t have to be expensive to deliver good results.

Without further ado, here are the most-liked lipsticks of September. They’re pictured clockwise from left in the accompanying photo:

1. NYX Ombré Lip Duo in Peaches & Cream, $12 at Ulta.

2. NARS  Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl, $26 at Sephora.

3. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Dashing (Very Cherry), $30 at Sephora.

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.

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.

Curls, curls, curls: A step-by-step guide

From short and straight to longer and curly

Hair is a peculiar thing. We’re never happy with what we have. It’s too thin or too thick, too straight or too curly. Too wavy or not wavy enough. Some of us never come to terms with our hair, while others find workable solutions. It took me almost 50 years — half a century — to realize that I actually love my natural hair, which I’d describe as on the curly side of wavy.

My issues with hair started with my mother. She was forever fussing with my hair and I was the unlucky recipient of several misbegotten home perms. In fact, Mom administered one on the eve of second-grade school photo day. Let’s just say that very few of the resulting pictures survived and I refused to participate in the annual rite of photo-swapping with my classmates. Even in second grade, I was appalled.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I’m hard-headed. Instead of trying and failing once,  I’ll try something six or seven times just to make sure it doesn’t work. This led to a frizzy mess my freshman year of high school and a disastrous attempt at bouncy curls in college. After that, perming techniques improved and I spent part of the 80s with a half-perm many of my friends copied but that in retrospect was absolutely hideous.

Here’s the way my hair works: When it’s short, I can train it to dry straight with the help of a vented brush and a blow dryer. Let it grow just a bit, though, and the waves start to take over. I kept my hair short for years because I just couldn’t cope with the unkempt, unpolished growing-out stage. Then, a first: A new hairstylist asked if I’d ever tried “scrunching.” And lo, a miracle transpired. Those perms? Not needed. All that was required to take my hair from annoyingly wavy to cutely curly was a can of mousse, some styling products and hands to perform the scrunch. How does the scrunch work? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • First, wash your hair with products specially designed to enhance curls, not weigh them down. I sometimes use Bumble & Bumble’s “Surf” products, but when I want curlier curls I stick to products by DevaCurl. In particular, I use the company’s “Decadence” line, which includes a no-poo shampoo and weightless conditioner.
  • When you step out of the shower and grab a towel, make sure you don’t break up the curls or create frizz by rubbing the towel through your hair. Instead, blot and squeeze your hair through the towel to remove the bulk of the moisture.
  • Never comb through your hair, either with a comb or your fingers. Doing so will separate the natural waves or ringlets that have started to form. Instead, spray your damp hair with Frizz Ease Beyond Smooth Primer, then use your hands to “scrunch” sections of hair up toward your scalp.
  • It’s time for mousse. Any brand will do but I prefer either Aussie Sprunch Mousse or DevaCurl’s Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam. Again, scrunch your hair with your hands, pushing it up toward your scalp.
  • If your hair needs coaxing to curl, there are quite a few styling products you can add to damp hair before drying. I sometimes use DevaCurl’s Coconut Curl Styler or Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Defining Cream.
  • At this point, you have a choice, and you should try all three to see what works best for you: Either dry your hair immediately with a scrunching motion and a diffuser, let it dry naturally, or let it get almost dry before using the scrunching-with-diffuser method. I prefer the latter because my curls seem to set better while drying naturally, while finishing up with the blow dryer gives them bounce and life. I use the Curly Pop dryer/diffuser that’s made by Bed Head. Again, don’t brush or comb your hair: Doing so will either pull out the curl or leave your hair frizzy.

Voila! Easy, sexy, bouncy curls that last all day and through the night.

A little random: Beauty finds and a flop

What do the items in the photo above have in common? They’re impulse buys — products I just happened upon when out shopping and decided to give a try. For the most part, these purchases were serendipitous and I’d actually buy them again. Mixed among them, though, are one bust and a fence-sitter. Let’s sort the wheat from the chaff, going clockwise from the candle:

  • I always find the neatest little items when I pop into Nadeau’s, which is a very cool store featuring (mostly) hand-crafted wooden furniture at great prices. I have several large pieces from Nadeau in my home and each has a cool, quirky vibe. In addition to furniture, Nadeau has interesting little decorative items, like the candleholder pictured. I love the contrast of its white lattice exterior with its vibrant orange interior. Inside is a deliciously scented candle I purchased at Marshalls. It smells like pomegranate and sweet pea and is very relaxing. I picked up several scents at $2.99 each, including honey, which is my favorite.
  • The tall, hot-pink cylinder is an Oggi stainless steel water bottle I discovered at Marshalls. I love the fact that its contents stay cold for 24 hours without refrigeration. That’s really helpful when you’re committed to drinking a lot of water and you don’t like it lukewarm.
  • I’d never tried the Hempz brand until I picked up the Sweet Pineapple and Honey Melon cream body wash. I love having clean, moisturized skin and also want to smell lovely. When he was about 8, my son told me I always smelled like a “delicious dessert.” High praise from a third-grader!
  • Here’s the surprising bust: Pacifica Coconut Micellar Water Cleansing Tonic. It smells coconutty and Pacifica’s products are usually nice, but here’s the problem: It doesn’t perform. I double wash nightly, first using a micellar water to remove surface makeup and dirt, including my eye makeup, and next with a moisturizing cleansing balm.  I usually use Bioderma’s micellar water, which takes off my mascara and liner with no problem. Not so with Pacifica’s version.
  • Sjal Energy Tonic is a refreshing spray that provides moisture as needed and can also be used to set or refresh makeup. I use it as part of my skin care routine, after acid toning and before applying my serum. This lovely, rose-scented spray is infused with minerals: gold, silver and rose quartz.
  • Skyn Iceland Glacial Face Wash is a staple of my morning shower routine. It has done wonders by eliminating the tiny, under-the-skin whiteheads that plagued my chin when I was stressed. It’s choc-a-block full of good stuff. According to the Sjal website, it “removes impurities from your skin with oat and amino acid-based surfactants. White willow bark purifies pores and soothes irritation to prevent breakouts while revitalizing Icelandic kelp detoxifies and cools inflammation. Cylindrica seed oil repairs the lipid barrier to prevent dryness and neutralizes free radicals.”
  • Here’s the product I’m on the fence about: Korres Golden Crocus Ageless Saffron Elixer Serum.  It purports to use”the antioxidant power of one-day fresh Greek saffron to universally correct all visible signs of aging.” Well, OK. But at nearly $100, I was expecting more transformational results. May Coop’s Raw Sauce is similar in performance, but it uses maple tree sap to impart a healthy glow. It’s just $48.
  • As I’ve mentioned, I love bath and skin products that make my skin beautiful to touch and smell. I love Lush bath bombs, but they’re pricey and there’s no Lush store nearby. I’ve used a few bath fizzies by Fizz and Bubble from Ulta. They come in a variety of scents for $6 each. I plan to try the rainbow sherbet tomorrow.

Shh! Just kiss me

img_4440

Let’s talk about lips. Why? Because over on Instagram, where I post daily makeup and lipstick looks, I get a lot of questions about my lips. I’d say questions about my skin-care routine come first, followed by questions about my pucker.

I never thought much about my lips, at least until about 8th grade. I was at a slumber party when Cindy Astin suddenly blurted, “Don’t you think Ronda has perfect lips?” Therein followed a lengthy discussion of what constitutes good lips, with the general consensus that mine, indeed, were high on the shapely scale. (Notable abstainers were Lucia Cimarusti and Laura LoCicero, the mean girls of Evelyn Carr Elementary, who believed if anything was perfect, it surely belonged to them.)

My first real boyfriend — the first boy I ever kissed — thought I was comely in general, but had a special affection for my lips. Nearly 40 years later, he said my lips remained the prettiest he’d kissed. This may or may not be true: It comes from a man who’s locked lips with well over his share of women. I suspect it’s  a line he uses with all the ladies.

But what do the people who really know lips, and by that I mean professionals who plump lips for a living, have to say? Well, they uniformly tell me never to inject anything into my upper lip, because I apparently have desirable natural projection and a nice Cupid’s bow. My bottom lip is naturally plump, but flawed. The left side is slightly fuller and larger than the right, which drives me nuts when I wear dark or bright lipstick. To avoid the aggravation of using lip liner to underdraw the left side or overdraw the right, I have a small amount of filler injected on the right side once or twice per year. And because I like to look pleasant in repose, I have a tiny amount (very, very tiny) injected right at the corners of my lips to keep them from turning down.

Speaking of lip liner, I rarely use it. Frankly, I have a hard time getting the lines exactly straight. Also, I don’t like the effect of lip liner that doesn’t precisely match my lipstick itself, so when I do line my lips, I use matching liner and lipstick. I know some women like to overdraw their lips to make them look larger. I don’t. I think my lip size is just fine; when I overdraw them they look unnatural and bizarrely large — at least to me.

So, for those who ask me how I do my lips: It’s pretty basic. I apply cream and satin lipsticks straight from the tube. To get the edges straight when I go awry, I put a bit of concealer on a tiny brush or Q-Tip and carefully run it around the lip rim. I use a lot of liquid lipsticks because the wand gives me greater placement control. I also am a huge fan of lipstick crayons. Again, I run concealer around the edges to hide any bobbles.

Finally, when it comes to lipstick, I’m a big fan of brights — corals, pinks and reds. I will wear a deep plum or wine on occasion, but I don’t think they’re the most flattering on me. At my age, I stay away from trendy colors, such as the blues, greens, browns, grays and black-reds the younger set is wearing. In general, though, I encourage women to (1) try lots of different lipstick shades and don’t get stuck in a rut and (2) to take good care of their lips by exfoliating and moisturizing them every day. A few more tips to remember:

  • If you have very thin lips, dark shades can make them appear thinner.
  • Shiny lips appear larger. Although matte shades are in, thinner-lipped women (and men) should choose formulas with a bit of sheen or finish with lip gloss.
  • Check your lips throughout the day to make sure your lipstick is intact. Lipstick that’s worn off in the center, leaving a dark outer ring, is distracting. And not in a good way.
  • Remember that shades with orange casts can make teeth look yellow. Pinks and reds with blue undertones make them appear whiter.
  • Wearing a great shade? Smile. A lot. Put your lips to work for you!

Quick and easy hair options 

My hair is naturally wavy, something I battled with for years. When I was young, I actually liked the texture. I’m a child of the 70s, so I let it grow long and when I used hot rollers, the curl would last forever. The problem came as I grew older. I tried so many hairstyles — even, regrettably, the Dorothy Hamill bob. My hair would look great at the salon, but I could never recreate the look. I’d end up with a wavy mess. (Obviously, I was not adept with hair tools.)

My 70s hair

It took me years to discover that I actually have perfect hair for the scrunch-and-go style. I just take any type of hair mousse, scrunch it into my towel-dried hair and either blow dry or air dry. That’s it. Easy-peasy. (Photo at top left below).

Still, there are times when I want a smoother, straighter look. (Photo at bottom left above.) After years of trial and error, I stumbled across an easy way to get it. I comb Nios Shield Leave-In Conditioner and Marc Anthony Perfect Smoothing Cream through towel-dried hair, then let it sit for awhile, usually while I apply my makeup. Then I finish up with a blow dryer and vented brush. My hair ends up shiny and straight!

If you have wavy or curly hair that leaves you frustrated, try one or both of these easy styling methods!