Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Joyeux Quatorze!!!

Joyeux Quatorze!!

Happy Bastille Day to my family in France and all my French friends wherever they are.

On this date in 1789, an angry mob (is there any other kind?) of Parisians stormed the Bastille prison in the mistaken notion that the Bastille had a stockpile of arms and wheat. It had neither.

When they arrived at this hated symbol of oppression, its only occupants were six well heeled prisoners enjoying a sumptuous, not so petit, petit déjeuner with the Bastille’s commander, the Marquis de Launay.

The mildly surprised Marquis politely invited the mob leaders to join them for breakfast, which they did.

Unfortunately, their fellow citoyens et citoyennes waiting outside grew restless and impatient waiting for their leaders to finish breakfast and decided to take matters into their own hands. As a result, the head of the very gentlemanly Marquis de Launay was paraded through the streets of Paris on a pike. And the rest, as they say, is Histoire.

And so, the next time you are tempted to do the polite thing and invite the leaders of an angry mob to join you for breakfast, may I suggest that you keep your head about you and recommend they try the local diner down the street? Tell them you’ve heard that the brioche is just brilliant.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Give Your Make-up the Brush!

My Grandfather, George, started out as a stage actor. To all appearances, George had everything going for him. He was tall and slender, had matinee idol good looks, a mellifluous voice, and he moved with grace and self assurance on stage. There was just one teeny, weeny problem. He could never remember his lines. Worse yet, instead of just waiting for the prompter in the wings to throw him the line, he would make one up to the annoyance of the Director and the exasperation of his fellow actors.

Eventually, however, George found his true calling in the theater. He became a very successful make-up artist.

There were five huge steamer trunks in our basement, most of which held my grandparents’ theatrical costumes and my mother’s evening gowns. But one trunk held everything George needed to turn an ordinary actress into a ravishing Desdemona or a handsome young actor into a wizened Richard III.

On hot summer days, my brother and I would sneak down to the basement, delighting in the cool flagstone floor on our bare feet, and open my Grandfather’s magical trunk. The musty odor of spirit gum and Stein’s grease paint would almost knock us over, but we loved it. This was how the theater smelled.

I was very young when George died, but my memories of him are still vivid. When my grandparents went out for a special evening, George always did Marie’s make-up. She wore only Max Factor off stage. I would watch as he chose a particular brush. Some of her brushes he had fashioned himself, trimming here, reshaping there. “You need the right tool for the right job,” he would say. “It’s all in the brush and the stroke.”

My Grandfather would have been delighted at the amazing array of make-up brushes available today on and off the stage, although I have no doubt he would have snipped a bit here and there to suit himself. Still, it’s pretty clear that, like make-up itself, make-up brushes have come a long way, Baby.

So, how do you select the right tool (i.e., brush) for the right job? Well, here are a few things you need to know before you buy a make-up brush.

There are basically three types of make-up brushes:

1) Natural bristle;
2) Synthetic bristle; and
3) A combination of natural and synthetic bristles.

Did I lose you yet? Hope not. Here’s where it all gets demystified.

1) Natural bristle brushes work best with powdered make-up (face powders and blushes and eye shadows);

2) Synthetic bristle brushes work best with creamy make-up (concealers, cream blushes, and cream eye shadows); and

3) Combination bristles work best with liquid make-up (foundation).

Have I lost you yet? Good. Here’s where it all gets useful. These are the make-up brushes you need for your face. (We’ll talk about lips and eyes next time.)

If you wear liquid or cream foundation, this synthetic brush with graduated bristles and an arched top from Sephora works beautifully. The arched top makes it easier to get into all those little nooks and crannies around your eyes, nose and mouth.

Because synthetic bristles do not absorb as much product as natural bristles, you will find that you waste less product than using sponges or fingers and it will go on evenly and without streaking.

And clean up is a breeze.

Smaller versions of this brush are perfect for applying your concealer.

This natural bristle brush with graduated bristles and a rounded top from Laura Mercier is perfect for applying translucent loose powder. If you are wearing foundation or tinted moisturizer, powder is essential for setting your make-up.

Natural bristles are perfect for loose or compact face powder. I dip my brush in the powder, tap on the side and press the powder into my face. Then, I take the clean side and lightly brush it over my face to remove any excess. Voilà! A sheer, light finish.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know. Moisture is added to loose powder to turn it into pressed compact powder. So, if you have dry skin, you might prefer using pressed powder rather than loose powder. It doesn’t have quite the staying power, but it may look less dry and more dewy on your skin and it’s much easier to carry around for touch ups.

This brush or a smaller version of it also works beautifully for powdered blush.

This Kabuki brush from Sephora, a natural bristle brush, is the perfect way to apply your bronzer for an overall sun-kissed effect.

It also can be used to apply powdered blush.
The denseness of its graduated bristles allows it to pick up a fair amount of color and distribute it over a wide area.

Apply your bronzer with a light touch on areas that would naturally be touched by the sun – forehead, bridge of nose, chin – building color for effect.

A word of caution to those of us with fair skin: too much bronzer can look like dirty smudges on your face. Apply with great care, if at all. Although I love the look on others, I never wear it for that reason.

And so, Ladies, I hope I have helped to shed a little light on the subject of how to choose the right tool for the right job -- the all important job of creating your perfect face.

As my Grandfather George would say, “It’s all in the brush and the stroke.”

Next time – eyes and lips. Stay tuned.