Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Lazy Make-up Artist

The fact that I'm truly a minimalist when it comes to my own make-up was the biggest barrier for me to see myself as a make-up artist. I'm not a morning person, as much as I've tried to force myself to become one. So when it comes to getting ready in the morning I'm lucky if I have time to blow dry my roots and do a little schrunching of the hair. Forget about stuff on the face. I never leave without sunscreen and moisturizer but anything else use to be too much for me. And so I lived with the idea that because I didn't wear make-up on my face how could I possibly be a make-up artist.

Funny thing is when you start networking with other make-up artists, you find out that they don't wear much make-up either. I wonder why that is. The two who I met recently who don't wear a lot of make-up look great with and without make-up. Maybe they don't have an interest in playing up their looks; they'd rather focus on other things, like playing up the looks of their clients. Maybe they like the natural look. Or maybe they don't have time like me.

I've just started to play with make-up on myself again, after a ten year absence. When I got to college I was introduced to the wonders of eyebrow plucking and M.A.C. make-up by my best friend Dale. I worked on my look for a couple of years, including post-college first jobs. Then I got to a job that consumed everything in my life, got a boyfriend who doesn't really care if I wear make-up or not and just fell out of the habit. But now I'm back on track because my own face is the best place to practice new looks. I struggle a bit since all my good make-up is in my kit. And as soon as I figure out something that looks cool on me, I want to throw that make-up into my kit and use it on clients.

Currently on my own make-up table I've got stacks of colorful loose eyeshadows that I collected from all my broken shadows, the glitter platte from NYX, mascara, lip gloss and two things if I'm feeling really ambitious: black pencil and blush. I also have a bunch of primers that I'm testing out for Painted Ladies, plus moisturizer, sunscreen and a combo concealer, foundation, powder that I got at the drugstore. I tend to focus on creating a nice canvas with skin care products and then do something fun with my eyes. Lips and cheeks just aren't my thing so they are always the first thing to go when time is an issue.

If you're wondering if my make-up table is always neat and organized, I decided to post before and after pictures. I try to straighten it up once every couple of weeks, which allows me to go through and get rid of the stuff that I'm not using, and take the stuff that I really love and throw it in my kit.



Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Letter to my 20-something self (yeah it's another sunscreen ad)

On NPR today, I heard about a young women named Cassie in her twenties asking her friends in their thirties and forties to write letters to their 20-something selves in order for her to be inspired/know what to do with her life/know what not to do with her life. The letters are collected here on her blog. It reminded me of that episode of Sex and the City, "Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty Something Women" At the time it aired, I was smack dab in the middle of my twenties, about to hit the quarterlife milestone of 25. I didn't identify with Carrie and her friends at all. Now, when I watch reruns of "Sex and the City" on TBS, I cringe at how much I identify with Carrie and her friends. And how little I paid attention to their warnings while I was in my twenties. Dammit.

So my dear Cassie, as much as I'd love to say that you are going to learn so much from these letters that you will never make the mistakes that we made throughout our twenties, I'm sorry. I just can't say that. Unfortunately, you need to go through the stuff in your twenties, and thirties and forties and beyond, in order to build the totally awesome woman that you are supposed to be. Plus I'm almost a little afraid that your social experiement might rip a hole in the space time continuim, so please be careful with all this knowledge. Like Marty McFly careful.

Except I'm really not kidding about the sunscreen everyday thing. That's the type of mistake that doesn't build character. It just makes you look all wrinkly in your sixties.


Dear 20-something Ilana,

Hello from your future self! Isn't the internet a miracle? Someday it will be everywhere. Take a break from it every once in a while. And no you don't need to have internet on your phone. 

First things first, you need to start wearing sunscreen every day. And I'm not talking just about on your face. Hands and decolletage. Repeat after me. Hands and decolletage. You probably don't even know what the heck decolletage is but trust me you will someday. It will have freckles and annoy you because it's a different color than your face. And this is not just because you start working as a skin therapist (WHATWHATWHAT?) in your thirties.

Second, Proactiv is awesome. Not everything that you buy off of TV is going to be as awesome (NADS, Shamwow, Magic Bullet) but sometimes things work out. It's kind of a metaphor for everything that happens to you in your twenties. Not everything, most definitely, but a couple of things are totally awesome. You are going to kiss a lot of frogs and then meet a prince. You're going to be stuck in a crappy job but meet some friends that you'll have for life. You're going to get into a car accident but end up buying your first car all by yourself.

Third, you really should start writing everyday. I know this sounds cliched but when you finally start in your thirties, it's the most wonderful fulfilling life changing thing you could ever do. And can you imagine where you will be in your forties if you start writing every day in your twenties? Pulitzer! Academy Award! Or maybe just a working writer. Which would be an amazing accomplishment because in the future, books will turn into digital disposable commodities just like music. Yeah, I said music. Don't worry about how you don't buy too many CDs since they'll be dead and gone in less than a decade. You should, however, buy at least one CD from the following bands if you really want that prince to swoon: R.E.M., Roxy Music, The Police, U2 and especially the Beatles .

Finally, I know you laugh your ass off when Scott Peterson shows you his "blog" in 2000 which basically is a boring looking website where he posts pictures of his travels around the world. Stop laughing. Start blogging. That can be your excuse to write everyday. Maybe try writing about working as a stripper. Or pick a cookbook that you like and do a recipe everyday for a year. You could even write just simple little paragraphs about all the crazy shit that your parents say. Any of those choices might land you a book/movie/TV deal.

xoxo Thirty-Five year old Ilana.

IMATS Inspiration continues!

The L.A. Weekly visited IMATS and took some amazing pics, courtesey photographer Star Foreman.

You can check out all the pics here. I've posted a couple that I really love:

Glitter Therapy: IMATS 2010

I attended my first IMATS (International Make-up Artist Trade Show) on Sunday. I've gone to hair trade shows for the past five years while working for a hair manufacturer and spa shows as a working esthetician, but this was my first time at a show purely focused on Make-up. The energy was more colorful and exciting and fun than spa shows, with people in character make-up all around the show floor.

Most of the big manufacturers were there right up front like M.A.C and Make Up For Ever. The booths were packed from the moment I entered the show to the time I left.

Other popular booths were NYX and Dinair airbrushing.

I was more surprised by the manufacturers that I didn't see or the ones that had tiny booths where they weren't selling products (Urban Decay). Although to be fair big manufacturers like Bobbi Brown and Jane Iredale decided to be part of Naimie's booth (a large beauty supply store in Studio City). Still it made me wonder if this show is seen as more of a consumer event from the manufacturer's perspective.

The interesting thing is that I don't necessarily go to shows for great deals on products. Shows are more about seeing what the latest product news is, getting inspired by looks and other beauty professionals, and picking up a couple of items that I'm missing from my kit or my spa room. It just so happens that I can get the products on sale at the show, with the real convenience coming from the fact that they are all located in one place. And if I get a great deal that's just icing on the cake!

Bright Colors
I saw bright colors (YEAH!) at both M.A.C., Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and on a model being painted at Make-up Forever. I love that color is making in-roads. I've always been a fan of wearing all black with brightly colored accent pieces and colors on your face. Right now I'm working with orange bangs and yellow that frame my face and using either purple or teal on my lids.

One manufacturer, Naked Cosmetics, was touting the fact that one pot of product could be used wet or dry, on the lids, cheeks or lips and even on nails. So I guess technically this product is a 5in1. Another manufacturer was selling "The First ever 2 in 1 oil blotting papers and bronzer".

Glitter therapy
Glitter seemed to be everywhere at the show but maybe that's just because as a glitter lover I saw it everywhere. But I did capture this sign from a manufacturer that sums up my love of Glitter: Glitter Therapy. Sparkles make me smile. Plus have you noticed that other people smile more when you've got glitter all over your face? Glitter seems to be making the move into a more controlled version as eyeliner and away from an all-over glittery mess on your lids. I did buy a glitter palette from NYX and played with it yesterday as a liner. I think I'm more into it as a shadow. I probably just need time to get used to the more subtle look, if you can call a line of glitter on your lid a more subtle look.

I went to the Make Up For Ever class on Bridal make-up. The educator showed us a vision of the bride of the future, which was very inspirational but not very practical for the make-up that I'm going to be doing on my brides. Maybe I can convince at least one bride this year to go with dark plum eyebrows, bright pink lids and a dark dramatic crease. The one tip that I thought was helpful was how the educator emphasized using waterproof make-up. Even if the bride isn't crying up a storm, she's probably sweating, especially during summer weddings. Make-up down the face due to tears or sweat doesn't make for an ideal bridal moment.

There was also a beautiful bridal fashion show that Dany Sanz from Make Up For Ever created, showing bridal make-up and fashion throughout the ages. I'd love it if women started coming to me with period bridal dresses and asking for 60's inspired bridal make-up. The Make Up For Ever educator did encourage us to think of the bride as a character, and get to know her personality to help create this bridal character. It got me thinking that it might be nice to have my brides fill out a questionnaire so I can work with them to better develop their bridal character.

My two favorite brides were from the 90s and the 70s.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hair Down There

Now that I'm an esthetician, that seems to be the number one topic of conversation, the hair down there. People love talking about it, sometimes to giggle and be embarrassed, sometimes to legitimately ask me questions about a topic that is a double taboo - hair removal and your nether region.

The biggest thing I've noticed about Brazilians is the amount of psychologizing that you need to do with people. I took a class on eyebrows and the teacher mentioned that most people will come to you with eyebrow baggage. So true! Of course I've noticed way more baggage when it comes to Brazilians. Women just aren't as comfortable with our junk as guys are. It's more than just the obvious fact that their bait and tackle is out for display and we've got to grab a mirror to get up close and personal with our lady bits.

There seem to be a thousand different ways to refer to the area down there. I've tried out: vagina, lady bits, junk, crotch, vajayjay and whoha. Lady bits usually gets a smile and then the women relax a bit. Vagina makes people tense up, like they've entered a doctor's office.  Vajayjay is too silly. And junk and crotch are just too much for women, although men are cool with me calling their junk junk.

Speaking of, I still haven't worked out my brazilian technique on guys. I know once the guys start trying it out they will really dig it. But they just need to get over the thought of trying it out. There is so much fear about the pain level that usually doesn't manifest itself. 9 time out of 10 people say "Wow that didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would!" Which is great because it shouldn't hurt too much. The skin down there is a little bit more sensitive than other areas, but I think it's mostly the vulnerability that we feel that leads to the idea that it's gonna really hurt.

In case you are trying to figure out the differences between waxing, shaving and nairing (please don't ever do that to your lady bits!), I found a great article that compares and rates the different methods of hair removal. Of course I'm a little biased... they did rate waxing the highest. But that's because it really is the best hair removal option out there, besides laser. Laser is great if you have the cash and the right skin type/hair color - it works best on fair skin and dark hair. You should also know that it doesn't permanently remove the hair. It does the same thing as waxing, that is, thin the hair so that it doesn't grow back as much. Depending on your skin type and hair color, you may be able to get the same results from regular waxing as you would from laser at a much lower cost.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Painted Ladies

I'm making more of an effort to blog every day. The first suggestion that I read about is to link to other sites. Yeah, why haven't I been cruising the internet for beauty advice and inspiration?

My first stop is Painted Ladies. It's a beauty blog that syndicates some of my posts. Probably not this one since this post is all about Painted Ladies and if you are already on the site you don't need to read about it. LOL. But for the people that are reading Beauty By Ilana, it might be nice to know more about Painted Ladies.

First things first, Painted Ladies is run by an awesome woman named Sheila. She's collected a bunch of beauty mavens from around the web and is sharing their stuff, along with being a beauty maven herself. Sheila's got a pretty cool project running on Painted Ladies where she is doing 365 days of eyeshadow looks. I love blogging projects because it's a great way to have something to inspire you to get off your butt and write. I came up with a blogging project based on Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces that I haven't quite gotten off the ground yet. So I totally applaud anyone who can actually do a blogging project on a consistent basis.

Plus, I'm pretty inspired by Sheila's 365 Days of Eyeshow. Eyes are my favorite thing to do on myself and people. Maybe it's because I'm eyebrow obsessed so I've always created a great frame for the eyes. Or maybe it's because I love my eyes (even though they are too close together) over my cheeks (what cheeks?) and lips (what lips?). Or maybe it's a deeper meaning because eyes are the window to the soul.

Check out Painted Ladies and let me know what you think. My favorite section is the Ask The Artist section where make-up artists link to blog posts and tutorials. There's even a friend of mine Norma Blaque listed on the page! And someday my blog links will be listed there too!!!

PS It's my first day of daily blogging. Just in case you are following my blog, what that is really going to mean is I'm going to shoot for blogging 5 days out of 7. That's daily to me. I need at least two days off. To veg in front of the TV mostly.

Daily writing

Writing every day was one of those habits that I tried to resist for years. Decades really. I've known since I was 9 years old and first fell in love with Stephen King that I was going to be a writer. But for some reason I didn't want to do that writing every day thing. Even though I read somewhere that's what you needed to do to be a writer. I still didn't want to do it. Procrastination. Fear of not having anything to say. Or what I would say was crap. Or I should only write when I'm inspired.

Funny thing about writing is that you aren't always inspired, meaning what you write at first isn't always inspired. Most people know this, and full-time writers who get paid to write know this down to their core. It took me creating a contract with my mom committing to sending her one chapter a week for an entire summer for me to realize that not only do I have to write every day but that every day writing might suck. Then you do a magical thing called editing. I wrote every day for 13 weeks and finished a 77,000 word first draft (about 1,000 words a day). Two years later, the final draft (at least the most final draft right now) is at about 100,000 words.

I'm getting to the point when I'm going to start quering my young adult fantasy novel. I should have done it weeks ago but I was struggling a bit. Not necessarily with the query letter but with the idea of a bunch of agents rejecting my novel based on my query letter. And not really with the idea of rejection based on a query letter but on the bigger fear of what if they request a partial (part of my novel) or a full copy and then reject it? Oh god. That just sounds awful even typing it.

So instead of sitting around and worry about rejection, I've decided to start writing again. It feels good and terrifying to start up the daily process of writing. That's 1000 words a day for 15 weeks (yeah that's right I've upped the ante) to crank out a second novel in the series. But along with my 1000 words a day goal, I'm going throw daily blogging into the mix. I've loved blogging on beauty for the last six months, which surprised me. I knew that I liked writing, but I'd had two unsuccessful blogs in the past where I couldn't sustain weekly posts. There's something to be said for writing on a topic you really care about. Apparently Trader Joe's and Inspirational Quotes wasn't enough to get the creative juices flowing.

I got lost down the rabbit hole of the internet today and stumbled upon a blog by writer Penelope Trunk that was interesting enough for me to open up and read 35 million of her past posts. One that really got me going was Penelope's Guide To Blogging. It doesn't say anything about regular blogging, but that's sort of implied. You gotta have content for people to want to visit you often. Although digging deeper down the rabbit hole I found this article on really easy instructions for how to start a blog. My two favorite are 5. Practice Practice Practice. and 6. Ignore Your Lack of Readers. So I'm going back to my daily exercise of writing every day which now is going to include a morning Beauty By Ilana post. And I'll ignore the fact that no one is reading except for my awesome cousin Allison! And sometimes my mom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Design Portfolio

Examples of my design work:

Wax ad for Frenchy's

Full Menu for Frenchy's

Wax Coupon for Frenchy's

CD cover and back cover artwork for Dialtone's debut album, "No Hang-ups"

Flyer for Dialtone

Flyer for Dialtone

EP Cover for Dialtone

T-shirt design for Dialtone

EP Cover for Dilatone

Ringtone ad for Dialtone

Read Your Labels! And Eat Your Vegetables!

Everyone has that moment when they realize they made the right decision. I agonized for months trying to figure out if I really should go back to school to get my Esthetician license. The idea of leaving a cushy (albeit annoyingly political) corporate job for the uncertainty of being my own business owner was terrifying. I kept looking for signs that my choice to become an esthetician was the right one. I was looking for signs everywhere, in encouraging comments from co-workers ("you'll make more money then all of us someday!") or friends ("what a perfect fit!") even from the internet (articles about people following their dreams during a recession).

But the clearest sign and the moment when I knew I had made the right choice was when my teacher Ms. Angela picked up a skin care product on one of the very first days of Esthetician school and said, "To be successful in this industry, you need to be a label reader." She proceeded to lecture on the science and chemical compounds behind many popular ingredients in skin care products. Now it may seem strange to many people that my ah-ha moment came courtesy of an admonition similar to "Eat Your Vegetables". But I'm a label reader at heart. I can go into CVS and spend an hour or two browsing the hair and skin care aisles scanning the products for their ingredients. I knew what cyclomethicone was years before I worked in the hair care industry (thanks Dale!). I've been obsessed with active ingridients in skin care products ever since 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide saved my life in a way that 10% Benzoyl Peroxide never did. So I knew as soon as Ms. Angela told us to start reading labels that I had found the right industry. 

How do you develop your own label reading skills? First things first, you have to have a healthy dose of skepticism to all the marketing BS on the front of the packaging. I worked for 10 years in marketing so I can call it BS. Mostly what they are calling out on the front is "New," "improved" and some made-up, focus-grouped word like "illuminactiv" that's supposed to make you think it's a new technology. But really it's just some made-up, focus-grouped word. Then you need to start looking at the top three ingridients of your favorite products. Nine times out of ten, the first ingredient is water, which I know is disheartening. But water is essential to life, so why wouldn't it be essential to your hair and skin care products? Ingredients are listed in descending order from most abundant to least abundant, so the ones that you care about, the ones that companies are spending the majority of their cost of goods on, are at the top. 

Why does this matter? I know some skin creams that advertise a magical ingredient and then when you read the ingredients on the back of the package, that magical ingredient is near the bottom of the list. It pays to be a label reader and to start to learn the key ingredients that work with your skin and hair. For example, I like cyclomethicone in small doses on my hair, but I have to be careful if it is listed near the top of the ingredient list. Or if a product has salicylic acid, it's more than likely going to break me out. The more you know about ingredients, the smarter consumer you'll be. 

Which brings me to the article that inspired this post. From the New York Times, a story about gold in skin care products.
This type of stuff makes me so annoyed. It's about combining the latest trend (luxury! anti-recession!) with some scientific mumbo-jumbo to create the new must-have product. Only if you talk to dermatologists, they'll say there's no real proof that gold does anything for your skin. I'm sure the companies that market these products can dig up some dermatologists that say how amazing gold is for your skin. But the truth is probably something closer to the quote at the end of the article, "At best, they do nothing, and at worst, they can give you irritation of the skin." So before you rush out to buy the latest and the greatest product that is marketed to change your life, make sure you read the label and do your research.

Here's a pic of a label from my favorite sunblock, Blue Lizard.

The resolution's not that great, but trust me, the first ingredient is water. The other thing I want to point out is the active ingredients at the top. The best definition that I found on active ingredients is:
"Components of a chemical product which (irrespective of their relative quantity) help directly in achieving its performance objectives."* In plain english, active ingredients give a product the ability to do what it says it's going to do. So when you are looking at skin care products, pay close attention to the active ingredients. This is especially important in Sunblocks, where they list whether the active ingredients are physical (e.g. titanium dioxide) or chemical. If you have problem skin, like acne, or sensitive skin, these active ingredients are where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. But don't always assume that the higher the active ingredients the better the product. I learned that lesson from 10% Benzoyl Peroxide which is too harsh for my skin. Look for the active ingredients and do your own testing to determine what is the right mix for your skin! 

What if your product doesn't have any active ingredients? It doesn't mean that it's not going to do anything for your hair or skin. But what it probably means is that if you looked at your favorite moisturizer, for example, found the ingredients at the top of the ingredients list and then looked for something similar, you'd probably get the same effect on your skin. This doesn't take into account other factors, like smell or texture that you might like in particular about your favorite product. I'm just talking about boiling down products to the key element, ingredients. It's a different way of looking at your products. For example, my moisturizers that I like are all pretty much water and glycerin. And my dry shampoos that I love so much? Butane and starch.

So what are your favorite active ingredients? What key ingredients do your favorite products have? It's a fun exercise if you are like me and dream of being a beauty scientist!


Glitter Tattoos

Yup they are the latest craze sweeping the nation. Well maybe not but help me start a trend by getting your *glitter tattoo* at Frenchy's today!
If you come in for prom make-up at Frenchy's, you get a complimentary *glitter tattoo*.
Plus a free *glitter tattoo* on your birthday!

A fancy glitter star next to a real tattoo. The real tattoo is jealous!

glitter zen is the perfect compliment to your ankle

glitter flaming skull makes anyone stand back and take notice!

a subtle glitter butterfly to peak out behind your glamourous updo

Friday, June 4, 2010


My friend Kelly is doing a great job of promoting through Facebook. She started at Plush Salon (featured on one of Tabitha's Salon Takeover shows) in January of this year as an esthetician. And she's been tearing up the charts with Facebook posts for Plush ever since. I love some of her promotions so I'm borrowing one - $60 for 60 minutes of waxing.

How is Facebooking/Twittering changing marketing for small businesses? A lot has been written on this subject, mostly about food trucks. I'm interested in the health and beauty biz so I'm wondering how many people out there are following/friending their beauty salon or their stylist. I asked a trainer that I'm working with the other day if she posted on Facebook, since I'd be interested to hear her thoughts on health and read any articles that she found interesting. None of my clients have asked if I post beauty articles through Facebook, so I'm not sure if the beauty biz is as technically connected. Sure people want to hear about deals, but do they really want to know about the latest skin care innovation? I know I do because beauty is one of those things that I'm really interested in. Interested enough to make a career change.

I think the Facebook/Twitter/Email list is a great way to connect with your customers on a more frequent basis. Most salon goers come in twice or three times a year. But if they sign up to be tweeted at, they are committing to once a week communication. Although I still haven't figured out the twitter thing and I just did a massive hiding of most, if not all, of the business pages that I had friended on Facebook. I'm pretty sure all the uproar in the press about Facebook lately and privacy got me thinking that I was spending too much time reading posts about too many things and spreading myself too thin. After the massive hiding campaign, I spend at most a couple of minutes a day reading my News Feed. I'm hoping to start using my lost minutes to Facebook for something productive. Like tweeting to my customers. Which I know is a massive contradiction.