#MakeupMonday – Kit Sanitation

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The Clean Team

A couple of weeks ago here on Makeup to Go Blog, I posted an article regarding knowing when it was time to say “Goodbye” to your old makeup (click to read “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: When to Toss Makeup). In that article I made mention of the fact that some rules can be bent or even broken. The trick? Kit Sanitation.

Makeup artists refer to their makeup product & tools as their “Kit”. If you have a lipstick, an eyeliner, a mascara and a few brushes, that is your Kit. Makeup artists obviously have a lot more in their Kits (not to mention an artist that does Airbrush or an artist that does FX), but the point of the story is whether your Kit contains 5 items or 500, proper care, maintenance and storage will enable you to keep and use your products longer. I debated doing this post as a “Makeup Monday” or as a “Biz Talk” post but as I was writing the makeup purge post I realized this is relevant info for pros and non-pro makeup lovers alike πŸ™‚

Humans are bundles of bacteria, as are most things in the world. It is this constant contact with a barrage of bacteria why we cannot just keep makeup indefinitely. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out this LiveStrong article on the different types of bacteria found on cosmetics, transmitted through human contact.

– Staphylococcus epidermidis
– Staphylococcus warneri
– Pseudomonas aeruginosa
– Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

So we’re talking 3 different forms of Staph infection, and one other infectious bacteria that is even worse. No bueno.

Short version: Keep your stuff clean!!!!!

As a semi-germaphobe I just cannot believe the condition in which I’ve see some people’s makeup and tools. Sad to say, I include non-pros AND pros in this statement 😐 Keeping your products and tools clean will not only lessen (not eliminate, lessen) the risk of catching some of the afore mentioned nasties BUT it will enable you to keep makeup longer. No makeup artist is buying a limited edition NARS palette and then tossing it after a year, that’s laughable. I owned my beloved “Skin Deep”, “Emotional Rescue”, and “Rapture” palettes for about 6 years or so (from when they came out until this past Labour Day weekend when I did my purge) and they were in steady rotation in good working use for about 5 of those 6 years. That final year was me being in denial and not ready to let go, even though the lipsticks were giving me that telltale smell πŸ™


Ask a number of makeup artists and you’ll likely get a number of different answers, but in 15+ years I’ve never had a sanitation complaint or had talent have a negative reaction (that I am aware of) from my Kit. Here’s how I keep it clean;

Cream Products
(Foundations, Blushes, Eyeshadows, Lipsticks, etc):

In my professional life I use a (preferably metal) spatula to take product out of its container so I can use it on my talent/client. On myself, of course, I just use the product directly on my face. In either case, I give a quick spray with alcohol after use (yes, even when using a spatula because the product has been open and hence exposed to air). Let the alcohol sit on the product for at least 30 seconds. I just give my product a good spray down and let it air-dry and by the time its fully dry it is good to go.

Powder Products
(Eyeshadows, Blushes, Bronzers, Pressed Powder, Powder Foundations, etc.)
SPRAY WITH ALCOHOL AFTER USING. Wipe top layer periodically.

Powders should last you a while because they do not carry bacteria the way creams and liquids do. That said, unlike creams and liquids you have to use them right out of the pan. With creams and liquids you can decant as needed and not have to “double dip” into your product. Since using powder products is a constant “double dip” you’ll want to keep that top surface clean. Spraying with alcohol will NOT compromise your product, just be sure not to over saturate your product, and let the alcohol evaporate completely. You can – and should periodically – use alcohol wipes on your powder product so that you are actually removing the top layer of product revealing a fresh, new layer underneath. Some people recommend scraping the top layer of powder products, but one time of accidentally crushing your favorite eyeshadow, blush, or bronzer and you’ll see why I’m not a fan of that method.

Liquid Products
(Foundations, Liquid Highlighters, Illuminators, Lotions, etc.)

These are tricky because they generally need to be shaken and then most people pour the product out into their hand, often touching their hand. Once bacteria is in there, there is no way to get it out. My solution: Use liquids that come in a pump bottle. That way you only dispense what you need and the rest stays safe and isn’t exposed to air, your hand, etc. If your favorite product doesn’t come in a pump bottle or a tube, move it to one. Places like The Container Store or my beloved MUJI that I wrote about have empty pumps and tubes available. NOTE: Glass is better than plastic in terms of longer term storage. If you get a plastic container, don’t try to reuse as plastic is porous. Just toss it when the product is empty and get a new one. Extra Germaphobe Points: Wipe the opening of your pump bottle/tube with alcohol periodically πŸ™‚

Makeup to go makeup to go blog kit sanitation

Cut the wand OFF. Maybelline Great Lash comes like this now (click to see larger)

CUT THAT WAND OFF!!! Use Disposable Wands Instead

Mascara just does not live long so your first order of sanitation business is just to accept the reality of that reality. However, you can make your mascara last longer by ditching the wand that comes with it and using disposable wands the way professionals do. And by ditching the wand I do not just mean not using it, I mean cutting it off. Why? Because every time you take the wand in and out of the tube, you are pumping air into the product. This not only increases the likelihood of introducing bacteria, it also dries the mascara out faster so you have to replace it sooner. By cutting the wand off you can stretch your mascara’s life from 3 months to as many as 6 or maybe more*. NOW – a lot of the hype with many mascaras on the market IS the brush itself and how it applies product or separates lashes or what have you. IF you want to use the wand that comes with the mascara you certainly can (on YOURSELF, not using it on multiple people), just know that you’ll have to replace your mascara more frequently.


Pencils can actually last a while if well cared for. I do an alcohol > sharpen > alcohol routine for all of my pencils in my kit. For yourself, if you just sharpen your pencils** right after using it and keep your pencils covered (don’t lose those lids!) you’ll be removing that outer layer where the bacteria lives and your pencils will stay happy longer. Extra Germaphobe points if you sharpen your pencil AND spray with alcohol after each use.

Gel / Liquid Liners

With Gel liners, which is what I primarily use, I scrape a small amount of product out with a spatula and I spray the gel liner with alcohol after each use. As we all know, gel liners tend to dry out quickly anyway, and alcohol hastens the process. Therefore like mascara, this is just a category of product that does not last very long.

Liquid liner is great for personal use but tricky for pro use because the brush/applicator sits in the product in the tube. Therefore to use the product you are constantly double dipping. For professional use if I decide I’m going to use a liquid liner for whatever reason it’s a case of one and done for me. I use it and I give it to the person I used it on and just keep it moving. For personal use, you can wipe off the brush/applicator tip with alcohol before re-inserting it into the tube. This may help a bit but again, this type of product by its nature just doesn’t last long.

(Brushes, eyelash curlers, pencil sharpeners, etc.)

I said this in a previous Makeup to Go post and I’ll say it again: Everything I just wrote is completely moot if you do not keep your TOOLS clean. Your TOOLS are the items making direct contact to the skin and hence they are the carriers of the bacteria.

– WIPE BRUSHES AFTER EVERY USE. Its not hard, in fact it only takes a few minutes. Wiping your brushes with a specifically designed quick brush cleaner will remove surface oils, skin cells, etc. that get on your brushes. Hence you won’t transfer that back to your product, hence your product will live longer. There are many brands, just make sure they disinfect as well as clean pigment. And always let the brush dry completely before using again, you do not want brush cleaner on your product or on your face! In a pinch you can always use good ole alcohol (just be forewarned, over use of alcohol will dry your bristles and cause your brushes to age prematurely). My brush cleaner of choice: Parian Spirit

– DEEP SHAMPOO your brushes at least once a week. If you’re doing makeup on other people, please do this as close to daily as possible. Again, there are a number of good brands, and in a pinch you can use either a shampoo/conditioner all-in-one like Pert, or any baby shampoo. My brush shampoo of choice: Clean Brush

– WIPE METAL TOOLS such as tweezers, eyelash curlers, pencil sharpeners and spatulas with alcohol after every use. And when they start looking raggedy, just replace them.

– WASH YOUR HANDS before doing anything. Our hands are our most important “tool” in our “kits”. Before handling anything and certainly before touching your face, wash your hands with soap and hot water. At very least wipe with a sanitizing cloth and use hand sanitizer. It makes a huge difference.


Preferably NOT 99% alcohol, it evaporates too quickly. I use either 70% or 91% alcohol, both of which are readily available at any drugstore. 70% is my favorite. The water content helps the alcohol evaporate more slowly so it disinfects more thoroughly but it is not so much water that it will ruin your product (I wouldn’t recommend a 50% alcohol, too much water).

Beauty So Clean
I’ve not personally tried it but I know many pros who swear by it. The main active ingredient in BSC is alcohol. The difference with BSC is the addition of emollient agents. They claim that straight alcohol can dry out and alter your cosmetics (not in my experience) and that BSC is formulated with a balance of disinfectants and emollients to prevent that from happening. Again, I’ve never had a problem with straight alcohol, but Beauty So Clean works and it smells good. If you’d prefer to use something other than straight alcohol, Beauty So Clean is there for you.

– Parian Spirit Brush Cleaner
(NOTE: Parian Spirit has lower alcohol content than most pro brush cleaners and uses citrus spirit as its main cleaning/disinfectant agent. Therefore it does not dry as quickly as other “quick clean” brush cleaners and the smell is very citrus-y. I love it, some folks hate it lol)

Clean Brush Shampoo
Solid brush shampoo to deep clean your brushes.

This shouldn’t need to be said but I’ll say it just in case: DO NOT USE BLEACH ON YOUR COSMETICS PRODUCTS. It’ll ruin them. However I do use a small amount of bleach on a q-tip to clean my pencil sharpeners periodically. Wipe, let sit for a bit, then RINSE with water and dry thoroughly. Do not try to soak your sharpener in bleach, it will rust all the metal bits (ask me how I know that 😐 ).

STORAGE makes a big difference as well in the longevity of your products but speaking of long, this post already is. Look for a post on storing your cosmetics in an upcoming Makeup Monday.

Breaking Up is Hard To Do: When to Toss Makeup

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You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em… (Lyrics Β© D. Schlitz)

I am sure for many of you the above photograph is highly depressing if not devastating.

Yes, that is a trash bag filled with makeup. That bag contains everything from NYX cream blushes (which I loved back in the day) to NARS Artists Palettes. Yes, you read correctly: NARS Artists Palettes. Discontinued ones that have not been available in years and years. Why would I commit such an atrocity? Because it was time. Sadly, all good things come to an end and for a lot of the makeup now residing in that trash bag, their end actually came and went a while ago yet I was still holding on. Today’s musing: When to Toss Makeup.

Students and others have heard me talk about my makeup room. It actually stores more than just makeup but obviously as a makeup artist, the makeup is amongst the more important things I store in there. Anyone who’s heard me talk about this room has also heard me talk about how I get new makeup quite often. It is the blessing of being a working artist however I recently had to confront the reality of the truth; I had way too much old makeup taking up too much space. So much so that my new makeup wasn’t making it into the storage room and instead the new makeup was living in my dining room. I would show you a picture of how that was, but it’s embarrassing so, no.

Why To Toss
There are a myriad reasons why makeup might need to be tossed. The real question is why we do we hold onto makeup in the first place. My theory is that memory is a powerful thing. And memory leads to nostalgia and nostalgia leads to holding onto items well past their due date. As I was doing my purge I realized that EVERY single piece of makeup I own is attached to a memory of my life and career. Be it a career milestone or a personal treat of some kind, every piece of makeup I picked up sent me back in time to some recollection of yesteryear. Thus, it made it very difficult to purge the old makeup, but purge I did and purge you must. There comes a time when you have to let go of sentiment and face reality head-on. In deciding what to keep and what to toss I gave myself 3 criteria:

– Is it still in good condition?

– Do I still use it? Does it serve any purpose?

– Can someone else use it or is it just DONE.

The first one is a no brainer. It is dangerous to use makeup that has expired be it on yourself or on others. If it has a funky smell or the colors have started to change, that’s an automatic trip to the trash. The second criteria helped me assess where I am now. I am not in the same place in my career that I was 5 years ago, and certain products – while I may really like them – just never get used anymore. They’ve either been replaced by new fabulosity or I have found my Holy Grail Staple of that item type. If it is not being used, it is taking up valuable real estate and it needs to go. Lastly, just because I cannot/do not use it does not mean someone else cannot. Whenever possible I prefer to recycle makeup either to friends or what-have-you (women’s shelters and other charities can only accept new and unused product).

When To Toss

Generally speaking there are broad guidelines that can be followed to know when to toss a given cosmetics. To paraphrase Morpheus, some rules can be bent, some can be broken. There are some rules, however, that MUST be followed strictly (MASCARA!!) in order to maintain makeup health. These are broad (i.e. not absolute) guidelines for once a cosmetic is opened and in use. We will get into how to bend/break the rules next week…

makeup to go blog makeuptogo blog when to toss makeup

(Click to see larger)

Powders – 2 – 4 years
Powder eyeshadows, powder blushes, pressed powder, loose setting powder, etc. Powder FOUNDATIONS are a little different due to the pigmentation and other ingredients that may be added. I would keep powder foundations the same length of time as cream/liquid foundations.

Creams – 12 – 18 months
Cream blushes, cream eyeshadows, foundations, concealers, etc. Liquid foundations last about a year.

Lipsticks – 12 months

Pencil Liners – 2 years
With good care, pencil liners can (CAN) last up to two years. Regular sharpening removes the used layer of product and keeps the product clean/sanitized so that it lasts longer**.

Gel / Liquid Liners – 2 months

Mascara – 3 – 6 months
Please do not try to play games with gel and liquid liners and mascaras. Not only are these products creams/liquids which transfer bacteria more readily than powders do, but these items are used in one of the most sensitive and infection prone areas of your body.

The other more specific way to see when to toss makeup is to look and see what your makeup is telling you;

makeup to go blog makeuptogo blog tarte cosmetics amazonian waterproof matte bronzer compact park avenue princess

(Click to see larger)

Nowadays, most cosmetics products feature this icon of an open cosmetics jar with a number next to it. That symbol is telling you once this product has been opened, you have X number of months to use it. So in the case of this Tarte Cosmetics Park Ave Princess compact, once I open it up it should be good for about 12 months.

Now mind you like I said before the reason I threw these items away was because they were not in condition to be given away. Hence they were not in condition to be used, hence they were just taking up space. Most of the time, however, I do give my overflow makeup away either to homeless/domestic abuse shelters (which is my first choice), or to students as prizes, or to my friends etc. etc. The point of the story is this: one way or another you’ve got to know when to let it go. The benefits since my purge has been faster kit organization and packing for the jobs I’ve had since the purge and just an overall sense of calm whenever I walk into that room. And getting my dining room back! Further, since throwing out the old and writing this article (which took me about a week to do) I’ve actually received two more packages of makeup. As Nicey Nash used to say when she was the host of The TV show “Clean House”:

When your hands are open to give, they are open to receive…- old proverb

**Only if you sharpen after each use and keep your sharpening tools clean, however.

#MakeupMonday – AJ Crimson Beauty

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AJ Crimson in demonstration for AJ Crimson Beauty at Frends Beauty Supply 5.22.14

On May 22 I was able to attend a demonstration of the AJ Crimson Beauty line. The event was hosted by Frends Beauty Supply (who I recently discussed in a previous post) complete with champagne and nibbles* and the demonstration was performed by AJ Crimson himself.

This was actually NOT my first intro to the line. The line made its Los Angeles debut at The Makeup Show Los Angeles 2013. At that time there was a little mini palette of the cream foundations and I remember that my makeup cohort and fab artist Renee Loiz got one and for reasons unknown, I did not. More on that later…

If you are not familiar with AJ Crimson’s name, you likely know his work. Having cut his teeth largely with musical entertainers, AJ Crimson has painted the lovely faces of Missy Elliot, Estelle, Fergie, Brandy and many others. Behind the “industry scenes” he is also the CEO of BLACKBOARDGROUP Management and he is a well-regarded beauty and lifestyle expert.

The AJ Crimson Beauty line is devoted at this time solely to foundations, BB creams and powders. Like myself, he is all about the skinwork as a priority, in fact he stated several times during his demonstration that he often does not use color cosmetics (eyeshadows, blushes, etc.) at all and instead he uses various shades of foundation products to achieve his looks. This technique is particularly effective on women of color where the color of the clients skin and the natural variations within add to the color palette available to the artist. Both foundation products come in a wide array of colors, going into deeper skin tones that most cosmetics lines do not. This is particularly great in the BB Creams because for the longest time there really weren’t any BB Creams suitable to women with dark complexions. Here’s the 411 on his product line:

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Dual Skin Creme Foundation –

This is an oil and wax based formulation that is water resistant, gives sheer to full coverage and is described as being “HD Approved” (So as with any pro foundation, the onus is on the artist to do a clean application. Applied properly it can look great in any photographic setting). This product is currently available in 8 shades and he said that more shades are being added in the very near future. The texture of the foundation was creamy without being overly oily and once set it feels smooth and velvety on the skin. Due to the formulation, there is some natural sheen once applied, so if a more matte finish is desired, you can simply powder it as needed. Interestingly, AJ applied the foundations using a natural hair brush that might typically be used for Blush. This allowed him to apply his product in sheer veils, building up to the desired amount of coverage instead of one, thick, cakey layer. He actually finished quite opaque – he even demonstrated using it for tattoo coverage – but it still looks like flawless skin and not a bizarre mask of product. This product was created with the intention of professional use, although a consumer who wanted fuller coverage could also wear this foundation comfortably. Even after the finished application, the model said the foundation felt pretty much weightless. Now here’s the unfortunate thing: Remember when I said my friend Renee bought the foundation mini palette at the Makeup Show LA last year and I did not? Yeah, well, that item is no longer available. πŸ™ Turns out it was only a limited edition item. The packaging is the one ding I would say about this product from a professional kit stand point (although clearly, you could just de-pot it into a Vueset or the like). AJ informed us that a new click-stack packaging was coming in the near future to address this concern. If I understood him correctly, it sounds like it’s going to be similar to the mini-palettes Yaby introduced last year, which I wrote about in last year’s PHAMExpo wrap-up.

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AJ Crimson in demonstration at Frends Beauty in Los Angeles

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BB+D Cream –

For the consumer market, AJ Crimson Beauty offers the BB+D Cream, the name being a cheeky take on the whole “alphabet products” craze. Basically “+D” is that this cream gives fuller coverage than the average BB cream (so really, it’s a CC cream, but who can keep up). One other significant change from most BB creams is that he opted to leave out SPF. The SPF is left out so that on consumers there wouldn’t be that white cast that SPFs can so often give off, and also so that if an artist did want to use this for photography – either alone or as a base for the Dual Skin Creme foundation – it would work well and not give a TD Reaction. Since this is intended as a product for the consumer market, I don’t know about leaving out the SPF. I am an avid BB cream user, and like most of us I’m lazy. I want one thing that is going to get everything done at once, easy peasy. So we shall see how that plays out in the market. Otherwise, this formulation is full of “good for you” skin ingredients such as sodium hyaluronate, vitamins A, C, and E, jojoba oil, almond oil, shea butter, etc. Super oily skins may find the oil content to be a bit much, but my skin – which is oily – liked the way it felt and I did not experience any excessive breakdown due to oiliness. As we all know, however, I am a huge user of face oils to begin with, so take that as you will. This product is currently available in 11 shades that should suit everyone from the very fair to the very deep.

I will add that – while I did not personally experience this – I have been told by a fellow makeup artist that she has experienced significant Oxidation with this product. Oxidation is when a product reacts with the skin’s PH and changes colors, oftentimes becoming too dark or too orange. This usually occurs in products with good ole Oxides in the formulation (Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides, and Zinc oxides). You remember we spoke about those recently in the Powder Malfunction article. Needless to say this is something to be concerned about and as I use the product more on various talent with various skin tones and skin types, I will be keeping an eye on this.

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Universal Finishing Loose Powder –

AJ mentioned several times that he is not a fan of powder cosmetics and he tries to avoid using them. By “powder cosmetics” we’re talking eyeshadows, blushes, face powder, etc. Like most makeup artists, if AJ does use a face powder it is going to be a loose powder due to its superior setting and finishing properties. The Universal Finishing Powder is currently available in 3 colors, although we were informed that the Butternut/Warm Cocoa color is soon to be discontinued. The neutral is a colorless, oil absorbing powder good for general usage and the Bamboo is his version of a “Banana Yellow”-type powder. Bamboo is less matte than the Neutral, and it is good for setting with some skin tones and also very good for highlighting. The powders are finely milled with a silky finish. They are very lightweight so they do not just sit on the skin creating unwanted additional texture. AND they Do Not change the color of the foundation work you’ve just applied. This is when I knew AJ was a man after my own heart and an artist of like-mind. Once I’ve done all this work to get the skin to where I want it, I hate thick, overly colored powders that change all the work I’ve done. GAH! So needless to say I liked the AJ Crimson Beauty powders very much.

If by this point you are wondering how you can be down, have no fear, the AJ Crimson Beauty line is expanding its availability throughout the country. Frends Beauty is the exclusive stockist in California. If you are outside of California, check the website to see where it is available in your area. Also keep your eyes out; AJ Crimson is werkin it right now, conducting various workshops and demonstrations throughout the nation to introduce artists and consumers alike to his brand. You can also get AJ Crimson Beauty directly via their website – and don’t forget – he will be both a speaker and an exhibitor at the upcoming PHAMExpo.

Lastly, let me finish by saying what a delightful person I found AJ Crimson himself to be. While he was definitely on point and about his business, he was not at all snooty or pretentious. He was very approachable, very generous with his knowledge and he respected his audience (most at that particular demo were working artists for Film and TV – and by working I mean one of the artists in attendance is Kerry Washington’s artist for “Scandal”). It was a pleasure to have an audience with an accomplished artist with such a positive attitude. These are the types of businesses I get excited to see grow and that I am proud to support.

* Be sure to follow Frends Beauty Supply on their various social media streams to find out about various events for pros and non-pros alike πŸ™‚

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AJ Crimson Beauty demo at Frends Beauty Supply

#MakeupMonday – Powder and the Makeup Malfunction

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When Powder Attacks (taken from various AP sources. If images are used in error please let us know…)

Face powder and the Makeup Malfunction. Such a simple product, yet such controversy. Use of face powder goes back to the time of Cleopatra, so it is hardly something “new” in cosmetics. In fact in my previous article on face powder, I described it as a wonder product and one of the most important products in my kit. And it is. So if powder is such a “cannot live without wonder product” I am sure non-pros reading about all of these makeup disasters are wondering the same thing;

What is really going on with all of these celebrity makeup malfunctions?

Well, the issue is not the product so much as the product usage. This is why it is prudent, albeit admittedly difficult, to not jump on every product trend but to learn HOW product works and get what works best for you from there. Let’s delve into why Powder and the Makeup Malfunction occurs. WARNING: Science Ahead!

How is it Used?
Face Powders have been used throughout cosmetics history to even skintone, brighten complexions and give the skin a smooth surface feel. As cream and liquid foundation came into being, powders became accompanying partners in the makeup routine to help keep skin matte and to help make the liquid/cream foundations last longer. Historically it has been applied with a puff or a brush and buffed into the skin, pretty much the same as it is now. As a makeup artist, I can also use it to subtly adjust foundation colors, blend edges, mute overly-bright color cosmetics, etc. Powders are wonderful and versatile cosmetics.

What Is Face Powder?

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Generally speaking, face powders these days are comprised of Talc and/or grain starches (rice, corn, etc.), preservatives and possibly colorants and scents. Some brands may also add moisturizing or other treatments agents. So called “mineral” powders are generally comprised of Mica, Silica, Zinc and Titanium Oxide and then Iron Oxide pigments that provide the color. Let’s take a look at the labels on some of these products.

Ben Nye is one of the original, old-school powders ever available in the marketplace and its ingredients list is fairly typical* of a loose face powder. These are the ingredients for the Ben Nye Neutral Set Colorless Powder;

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Talc – Talc used to be deemed a dangerous ingredient because INDUSTRIAL GRADE talc had Asbestos which is obviously not a good thing. Cosmetics grade Talc which has been purified and is what is in use in health and beauty products poses little to no adverse health risks. Talc is all natural (unlike a lot of “mineral” makeup ingredients which are actually synthesized) and is the softest of all of the minerals. Therefore talc is used when a silky soft finish is desired.

Aluminum Hydroxide – Skin protectant, adds opacity, may also add color in some formulas.

Methylparaben / Propylparaben / Butylparaben – Preservatives

Sorbic Acid – Not to be confused with Ascorbic Acid which is Vitamin C, Sorbic Acid is another preservative.

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Powder was the first HD powder I ever became aware of. It is extremely finely milled and goes on nearly weightlessly and invisibly. Its ingredients list is as follows;

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Zinc Myristate – Is a mineral salt and is used as an anti-caking agent.

Silk Powder – An inorganic pigment powder and filler, Silk Powder is used to give product and the skin a “silky” soft finish, and to give added oil absorption to a formulation.

Sodium Hyaluronate – Salt form of Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid is a “skin-identical” ingredient used in health and beauty formulations as a moisturizing agent. (Hyaluronic Acid occurs naturally in the human body, primarily in eye fluids and in the joints. HA for cosmetics use is laboratory generated generally from bacteria).

Iron Oxides – Iron compounds used for coloring cosmetics products.

So as you can see, the Koh Gen Do powder – which if I did not say before is LE AMAZING – incorporates elements of straight stage powder like Ben Nye, but also some modern formulations found in today’s cosmetics as well as some ingredients found in products marketed as “mineral” makeup powders.

Talc, rice starch and corn starch all share in common the fact that they are very matte and they contain no reflective materials. Therefore when used, they leave a soft, matte overall finish to the skin. The “oxide” family are widely used in the mineral makeup product category and in color cosmetics (eyeshadows, blushes, etc.). Most have reflective properties to them to varying degrees (some low lustre, some sheeny, some high sparkle, etc.). You may be familiar with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as physical sunscreens which work by deflecting the sun’s rays away from your skin. Makeup Artists will also recognize Titanium Dioxide as a product to be used with caution for professional photography because the reflective nature of TD can cause a “TD reaction”: That appearance you see in some photographs where the face looks whiter than the body. This is the lighting reflecting off the titanium dioxide back into the camera. This is also common in selfies, snap-shots, etc. where flash photography is common. Cosmetics companies like Oxides in powders, foundations, etc. because the keep formulas from looking too “matte” and they give varying degrees of sheen/shimmer to products which gives a “glow” when applied.

Now. In May 2008 Make Up For Ever introduced a brand new concept into the world of Face Powders when they introduced their High Definition Micro Finish Powder into the marketplace. The HD Micro Finish loose powder contains but one ingredient; silica. Silica’s full name is Silicon Dioxide.

Uh oh. Didn’t you just say that Oxides have reflective properties?

Yes I did. Read on my friends…

What Goes Wrong?

MUFE’s HD Micro Finish Powder is 100% Silica (in the loose powder form. The pressed powder has other ingredients, but the primary ingredient is still Silica). Silica is also well known to most as the little packet that comes in packaging – including some food packaging – to absorb moisture keep products dry. Therefore as a powder it is very mattifying but in a less “cake-y” way than talc or starches can be. Texture-wise, the MUFE HD powder is very very light and very very dry. A light dusting is all that’s needed to mattify the face and provide a flawless finish.

So What’s The Problem?

A 100% silica powder is a 100% reflective powder, so it is not a wise choice for FLASH photography. It’s great for TV, it’s great for film, it can be great for print, it’s great for walking down the street. It is great anywhere there is going to be stationary, set lighting. To the naked eye, it is matte in appearance. However – and this is where the danger starts – when the flashes go off, that OXIDE is going to react and flash that light back at the camera. The second danger element is the fact that it is so dry. As I mentioned in my previous powder article, silica based powders need the moisture of freshly applied makeup to hold onto. The dryness makes silica powder a fabulous SETTING powder because it adheres like crazy and really sets the makeup. However, once the makeup is set and dry there is no moisture for it to cling to, so it just builds up. As you can see, common culprit areas are around the nose and underneath the eyes which are frequent touch-up areas (under the eyes due to concealer slip and around the nose due to natural skin oils). The final danger element is the “micro finish”. The particles of the MUFE powder are teeny tiny. They are not as readily visible as talc and starch based powders. MUFE themselves tout the “invisibility” factor of their HD powder as one of the benefits of the powder and it is a good thing. Normally. However when you have a makeup error such as too much powder building up in one place but you cannot see that too much powder has built up in one place, you are en route to a Makeup Malfunction situation. That is how all these celebs are getting caught out there. The people involved are neither crazy nor blind. Had they been able to SEE that the powder was going to go buckwild and do them wrong, they would have fixed the situation before it happened. However;

Oxide reaction + dry powder buildup + fine particles that are not easily seen = Makeup Malfunction.

I really, really want to stress that MUFE HD powder is a fantastic product and when used correctly looks absolutely gorgeous. This article is not intended to bash any given product. Also, a lot of brands are now making their own knock-off versions of the MUFE HD powder, surely of varying ingredients and varying overall quality. In all likelihood none of us were there when these makeup malfunctions took place, so we do not even know for sure what product was used. Lastly, I also want to shout-out all the makeup artists who have had clients appear in the “What Were They Thinking” columns the day after an event. Any artist who works in these situations knows that you do not know what the client is going to do once they leave you to go to their events. We’ve all read plenty of stories of celebs getting their awards show fast food fix on (this article says “after” but trust me I know of several “on the way there” stories). Therefore I am not going to speculate who did what, when or why. I am merely writing this article to educate artists and consumers on how this particular phenomenon happens.

Bottom line – I, Tania Russell, makeup artist, would just not risk using silica based face powders at all for these types of events. If you want to make sure that you look your best in your snap shots at parties, etc. or that your client looks their best at any type of live event, stick to the tried and true of talc/starch based powders. If you are worried about the “cake” factor, apply with a skilled hand and you will not have that problem. I used Ben Nye powder on at least 90% of the photos on my website. If you DO choose to use a silica based powder, please know what you’re doing. Knowing how to use the product and, first and foremost, knowing the conditions under which the powder is going to be seen makes all the difference between a makeup malfunction and a makeup masterpiece.

Sources: Temptalia.com, Ponte Vedra Soap Shop, MakingCosmetics.com, Paula’s Choice, Skinacea.com, Environmental Working Group, WebMD, American Cancer Society, Human Touch of Chemistry.com, Wikipedia.org,

* there are countless cosmetics formulations in existence, this is just provided as an example.

Flower Beauty and Cosmetics by Drew Barrymore

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I generally like to take my time with reviews and see how products act over time and in different situations, therefore I do not necessarily review things right as they come out. When I first read about Flower Beauty and Cosmetics by Drew Barrymore in an Allure magazine cover story on Drew Barrymore, I was immediately intrigued. This is a woman whose own face has been tended to by some of the best makeup artists in the world and who has access to the finest products in the world. In short, this is someone who should know a lot about how makeup should feel, act, wear and respond. Indeed according to that Allure cover story Drew Barrymore was very hands-on in the creation of Flower Beauty. Like the Target-stores exclusive Sonia Kashuk Cosmetics – which I overall love – the aim with Flower Beauty is to bring high-quality cosmetics to the mass-market. As someone who is a bit of a snob with regards to mass market cosmetics, here’s what I found from my investigations.


– Has a full cosmetics range from foundations, concealer and powder to mascara to cream blushes and cream eye shadows.

– Has a good color range in the foundations/concealers for a wide array of skin tones and complexions.

– Attractive packaging.


– It’s at Walmart (more on that to follow)

– Products need to be shrink-wrapped

– Not all items available at all Walmart stores

There is a saying amongst makeup artists that you should spend on your skin and save on your color cosmetics. This axiom holds true as I was definitely least impressed with the foundations/concealer/powder elements of the line. Currently Flower offers a liquid foundation, a stick cream foundation, a full coverage cream foundation, a tinted moisturizer, a BB cream and a powder foundation as well as an illuminating concealer and a regular concealer. In my opinion they would be well served to pare-down and make a few GREAT face products instead of going the “something for everyone” route. I was impressed with the fact that, in the liquid foundation and stick cream foundation formulations, they have a good color range that incorporates all skin tones.

Belle of the Ball: “Skincognito” stick cream foundation. Not too much coverage, not too little, allows skin to show through and to breathe. Comfortable to wear. Good “everyday” foundation. I would not, however, recommend this for photographic use.

Amongst the better offerings in general are the Flower lip products. Here Flower offers two different formulations of lipstick called “Kiss Sticks” (Velvet and High Shine), “Lip Service” lip butter, “Shine On” lip gloss, “Sheer Up” & “Lip Suede” lip crayons and the “Kiss Me Twice” lip and cheek stain sticks. First of all, the packaging of the lipsticks and lip glosses is very attractive and looks high-end. The color payoff on all of these products is excellent, the colors are rich and true. Most of the products – except really for the “Sheer Up” lip crayon – lasted a reasonably long time with the “Kiss Me Twice” lasting quite a long time. And in fairness given the formulation, I would not really expect the “Sheer Up” crayon to last a long time. I found the “Kiss Sticks” (both formulas), the “Lip Suede” lip crayons and the “Kiss Me Twice” lip/cheek stain felt a bit dry on myself and when I used them on talent they all did seem to dry out the lips a bit. This can obviously be rectified with the use of a lip moisturizer before applying the color, but if you’re like me you like your lips feeling soft, so that is a consideration.

Belle of the Ball: “Lip Service” lip butter. This “more than a balm, not quite a lipstick” formula is smooth and creamy, has a nice shine and rich color, and wears well without feeling drying. 2nd Place: “Kiss Me Twice”. I saw some folks comparing Kiss Me Twice to NARS Multiples. I don’t know about all that! LOL! But it is a bendable and smooth formula with great color payoff.

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Flower Beauty “Kiss Sticks”

The eye products are all fairly standard issue with the collection consisting of a selection of mascaras, pencil liners, liquid liners, powder eyeshadow, eyeshadow “chubby stick” pencils, and cream eyeshadows. Alas, many of the colors will not work on deeper skin tones because they just are not pigmented enough. Texture-wise, I found the “Shadow Play” powder eyeshadows a bit dry as less-expensive eyeshadows often can be, however they did blend reasonably well. I would think a primer would be necessary for long wear on the powder eyeshadows. The “Eyes on the Prize” eyeshadow chubby is more like a cream-to-powder formulation so in my opinion they have better blend ability and staying power. The colors are also a bit more “true”, so they are more usable on a wider array of skin-tones. I was very impressed with the texture, finish, build ability and long wear of the “Color Play” cream eyeshadows. If you search the web you’ll see numerous reviews of people successfully wearing these colors for eight hours and more with no creasing or slippage without the use of a eyeshadow primer, and that was my experience as well when I used them on a photoshoot. I hope they increase the color range and pigmentation of this product, they’d have a real winner on their hands if they do.

Belle of the Ball: “Color Play” cream eyeshadows

The blush products were the most just OK (aside from the “Kiss Me Twice”) of the color cosmetics products. Most of the products were too shimmery, and the color selection too narrow and not pigmented enough. I was most interested in the cream blushes but I could not actually try them for reasons I go into below (see: Con – It’s at Walmart).

Belle of the Ball: “Glisten Up!” Highlighting chubby pencil. A sheer, pretty highlighter in a pencil form which makes application easy-peasy.

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Lastly I feel I should offer a word about Flower Beauty being exclusive to Walmart. Note to Flower: PLEASE hire some Flower reps to go to stores and maintain the product displays. The caliber of the product and the quality of the packaging of the product, etc., is definitely undermined by the shabby presentation I found at most of the Walmart stores I visited.

The first Walmart I visited the display was so disgusting (opened product, smeared product all over the display, etc.) I was scared and I left, period. I went to a different Walmart and the display was much cleaner however you can tell that the product has been tempered with. I wanted to try some of the cream blushes & cream eyeshadows however there were clearly finger marks and swipes on the product.

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swiped product for sale at Walmart. #ewww

I was concerned about trying anything that was not shrink-wrapped which left me with few options of what I could try. The store nearest me in Los Angeles was actually the cleanest and had the nicest visual display but they had the least amount of selection (likely due to the color palette not really working for the demographic of that store). I ultimately did my purchasing via Walmart.com and that would be my suggestion for those interested in trying items from this line. I would suggest going to LOOK at the colors in the store but then order from Walmart.com so as to ensure the product is fresh and unopened plus you’d have access to the entire line at once instead of searching for items at individual stores.

Overall I think Flower Beauty and Cosmetics by Drew Barrymore is a fun new consumer cosmetics line. There is not much I would work into a professional makeup kit, but for a woman who wants an inexpensive commitment to some quality cosmetics and/or to try “trend” colors without spending a lot, I would definitely say Flower is worth a look.