It Ain’t Real: Social Media and the Lie of Perfection

The more I use it, the more that I accept the fact that social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has enabled me to share my story and connect with others. I’ve made amazing friends, shared jokes, seen beautiful things in the world, and learned so much, all from my phone…

And then, there’s the bullshit.

By “bullshit,” I mean the photoshopping and facetuning of bodies into unrecognizable oblivion, the photo shoots on a friend of a friend of a friend’s yacht, the flashing of likely borrowed (fake?) wads of cash, and the ridiculous curation of photos to craft a life on display that looks maddeningly perfect and completely detached from a little thing called “reality.”

Same woman. Same event. Different bodies. (Photo via @beauty.false on Instagram; click here to see OP)

Sadly, even in a world where body positivity is becoming more widely accepted, social media still has a tendency to value fantasy over fact. Just yesterday, a heavily enhanced photo of Khloe Kardashian made the rounds, leaving people equal parts amazed and appalled at how much her image was altered to fit a standard mold of perfectionism that permeates our culture to this day. While many of us are aware of the work that goes into crafting such an image, there are still others who see a photo like that and get down on themselves for not measuring up. In some cases, these same people run out to “fix” themselves to fit this ideal, needlessly altering their bodies and faces when what they had was just fine. The voices screaming at us to fit in and consume are still just a half-decibel louder than the voices cheering us on to be happy with ourselves as is, and thus the conflict continues.

Expectation vs. Reality (Photo by @celebbeforeafter on Instagram; click here to see OP)

Well, I am here to tell you once and for all: that shit is not real. Not even remotely.

For those of you who think your skin needs fixing because your pores are too “open,” I can tell you with the certainty of a professional esthetician with several years of experience under her belt: not even the healthiest of skin is poreless. Pores exist, and they are necessary. Without them, we wouldn’t sweat or expel impurities from our bodies, which would lead to certain death due to overheating and toxicity.

Julia Roberts WITHOUT the airbrushing (Photo by @celebface on Instagram; click here to see OP)

Also: even people with the most “snatched” bodies have some loose skin, dimples, and cellulite. No one’s waist is naturally that small. No one’s ass is naturally that big. It’s all a combination of lights, cameras, software, and scalpels.

Even our faves are guilty (Photo via @celebbeforeafter on Instagram; click here for OP)

Now, I am not going to say that I have *never* manipulated a photo. Sure, I’ve played around with the lighting, I know my angles, and I’ve erased an errant pimple or two. But never once have I put forth an image that was not fundamentally real. I have never changed my body or face to the point that I was unrecognizable in real life. I’m all about putting forth the best version of yourself. I will not ever advocate putting forth a false image for the sake of fitting an unhealthy beauty narrative that has decimated the self-esteem of girls and women for decades.

In my natural habitat with good lighting and a grin.

Furthermore, I am not going to knock anyone for weight loss or even plastic surgery. We are all within our rights to make improvements and enhancements to ourselves as we see fit. However, before you reduce your diet to 1200 calories a day or go under the knife, ask yourself: “Who is this for? What am I trying to accomplish? Who am I trying to impress?” If you feel for a second that you are doing such a serious operation to appease others or emulate some sort of beauty ideal in the name of mass acceptance, skip it.

As for those accounts where it seems like every night includes some glamorous excursion or expensive escapade, I’ll say this: I could bet good money that these same people are not as “rich” as you think they are. You’ll be surprised what a pretty face, a nice dress, a glass of champagne, and the right lighting can do for someone living with three roommates in a two bedroom apartment. And if they are really that rich? It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re as happy as they make themselves out to be or that your life is any worse without all the trappings of “success.”

In all, don’t let the glitz and glamour of the ‘gram make you believe that you are any less beautiful, abundant, or amazing just because you don’t look a certain way or have a certain lifestyle. If you stay present in your own life, you’ll find that you have your own brilliant, riveting stories to share. Feel free to dream bigger, reach for more, and get dressed up. Just don’t get caught up.

Back to Basics: Keep Your Neck in Check

As much emphasis as we put on anti-aging routines for the face, somehow our necks are still being left out of the conversation. Given that this is the part of our bodies closest to our face, it makes sense that we should give it just as much attention. Unfortunately that is not the case; as the skin on our faces remains bouncy and fresh, the skin on our necks and chests are hopelessly neglected and thus succumb to the effects of aging.

Not all hope is lost! There are some preventative measures and treatments that can improve the look of our necks, ensuring that our skin remains seamlessly healthy:

Take It Down: As a general rule of thumb, everything you do for your facial skin care routine should also be done to your neck. Start taking your cleansers, exfoliants, toners, serums, masks, and moisturizers to the neck and décolleté (that’s French for chest) to ensure that the rest of your visible top half gets all of the nutrients and antioxidants that your face gets to enjoy. Make sure you apply your products in upward motions to discourage sagging (more on that later).

Sun Set: Using the products for the face on the neck includes using sun protection on the neck to curtail sun and blue light damage that can cause hyperpigmentation, dehydration, and (of course) wrinkles. If you use nothing else on your neck, always ALWAYS use sun protection of at least SPF 30.

The Magic Touch: While microcurrent treatments and fillers are also options for reducing wrinkles and sagging on the neck, facial massage is an effective, less invasive approach. When done properly, facial massage increases blood flow and strengthens the muscles, which will in turn cause the skin over the muscles to firm and tighten. Incorporating a gua sha or jade roller will also help smooth things out. Below, here is one of my favorite facial massage videos, done by professional facialist Abigail James.

Mind Your Movement: With the increased use of cell phones and poor posture, we are also increasingly bending our necks forward. When we encourage gravity in this way, we also encourage wrinkles and sagging. The natural lack of collagen in this area further encourages this consequence. When using your phone, start holding it up rather than looking down. Also, consider using a blue light filter on all of your technical devices to reduce your skins’s overall exposure and help prevent damage.

Below, a product roundup perfect for nurturing your neck:

Top Row, Left to Right: BeautyBio Rose Quartz Face Roller, $60; Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic+Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion, $75; Herbivore Rose Quartz Gua Sha, $18-$32

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Sub-D/Neck Treatment, $135; PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Neck and Décolleté Firm & Repair Cream, $115

Let’s Review: Ready for my Close-Up with M2U NYC (Video Tutorial Inside!)

As video conferences and Zoom parties are becoming the norm under quarantine, we are now presented with a new beauty question: how do I look good on camera without going overboard?

Today’s video answers that question with the help of M2U NYC. M2U NYC is a brand-new vegan and cruelty-free line whose style pays homage to the Big Apple. In addition, their high-quality products start at low as $3 apiece!

Welcome to the family!

In using the BKB eye shadow palette, the Cream Blush Multi Stick in Spring Dust, and the Moisturizing Lipstick in Orange Juice alongside some of my standard products, I was able to create a vibrant look suitable for all occasions on camera and off.

The final look! Wanna see how I did it? Just press “Play” on my latest YouTube video below!

Back to Basics: The Eyes Have It

In the process of applying makeup, my absolute favorite step is enhancing the eyes. Whether it’s my own face or that of a client I love how even just a little eyeliner and a quick swipe of mascara can make one look more awake, or how a little glitter can take someone’s look from the office to cocktails with the girls. With so many primers, palettes, and products, the options for eye makeup are just about endless-and, at times, can be a little dizzying. Here’s a handy guide on what every makeup bag needs to dress up those windows to the soul:

Black, Brown, Grey, and Flesh-Tone Eyeliner: These are the holy trinity every eye makeup wardrobe needs. Black eyeliner offers the most versatility; it literally goes with everything and can be subtle or bold depending on the thickness and style of your line. Brown eyeliner is perfect for daytime where the eyes need a little subtle definition and warms up otherwise neutral shadows. Grey eyeliner, while it does not get the credit it deserves, is a phenomenal tool that can be used to fake a smoky eye or add a more demure drama that is not as stark as a black pencil. The flesh-tone pencil is perfect for lining the lower waterline to make eyes appear larger and brighter Of course, if there are any other colors you like, add them to your bag!

NYX Slim Eye Pencil, $4.50, nyxcosmetics.com

A Neutral, Multi-Texture Eye Shadow Palette: While neutral shadows are often written off as “basic,” the right palette will offer you endless ways to play up your peepers. Make sure that the palette you choose has a good mix of matte and shimmer shadows in tones that can be mixed and matched to your skin tone and desired look. With so many options at various price points, this is an item that can be had by all.

TooFaced Born This Way The Natural Nudes Eye Shadow Palette, $45, toofaced.com
e.l.f. The New Classics Eye Shadow Palette, $14, elfcosmetics.com

A “Fun” Palette: This is the other palette in your collection that has some stand-out colors for occasions where you want to go all-out. Naturally, this is open to interpretation: some may want a palette with all of the colors of the rainbow (and then some), while others may want one that contains a few shades of their favorite hue to punch things up. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, make sure that it speaks to your style. Here are a few suggestions based on eye color:

BROWN EYES look even more rich next to shades of purple, blue, deep green, and pewter.

Violet Voss Mini Sweet Violet Palette $18, shopvioletvoss.com

BLUE EYES light up with shades of coral, bronze, warm copper, and silver.

Urban Decay Naked HEAT Palette, $49, urbandecay.com

HAZEL & GREEN EYES dazzle with shades of charcoal, lavender, rich plum, and gold.

Lime Crime Venus Immortalis Eye Shadow Palette, $38, limecrime.com

A Marvelous Mascara: I know, I know, falsies are the thing right now. But as someone who frankly does not have the patience for that or for the days that you just don’t have time I find that having a reliable mascara that separates and volumizes lashes is an indispensable part of an eye makeup wardrobe. It also comes in handy on no makeup days so that an otherwise bare face looks a bot more polished.

Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreem Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara, $28, esteelauder.com

An Eyelash Curler: Whether your lashes are short or long, curling them will open the eye and make them standout even more. Use the traditional clamp before applying mascara or the heated version after so that the heat can catalyze the formula and keep the curl intact all day or night.

Tweezerman Rose Gold Classic Eyelash Curler, $16, tweezerman.com
Chella Heated Eyelash Curler, $22, chella.com

Back to Basics: Stress and Skin

With everything going on right now, I figured that now would be an ideal time to address how stress affects the quality of our skin and how we can decompress.

First, a brief science lesson: when we are under stress, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline course through our veins and affects our entire body. Normally, these hormones aid us in the “fight or flight” response, giving us the necessary energy we need to either defend ourselves against a threat or hightail it out of a dangerous situation. In an ideal setting, the effects are temporary and the response disappears when the threat is no longer present.

Even before our current crisis, however, stress has become a ubiquitous aspect of our lives in varying degrees. In any case, when the stress response becomes chronic, it becomes inconvenient to our complexions and dangerous to our overall health. Superficially, stress can be the culprit behind breakouts, dullness, dryness, wrinkles, and aggravated hyperpigmentation. On a more serious note, ongoing stress has been linked to heart disease, lowered immune defense, ulcers, weight gain, and a host of other health problems, some of which can become fatal if stress is left unaddressed.

Therefore, it is imperative that we do what we can to reduce the stress we are under. While we don’t all have the luxury of taking a long bubble bath or disconnecting from the world (but if you can, do it!), we do have other options available to us. Here are some that I myself have implemented:

LIMIT YOUR MEDIA INTAKE: I placed a complete moratorium on watching the news on TV; it’s too easy for me to get sucked in and bummed out. I only pay attention to my New York Times breaking news alerts and I’ll ask my more connected boyfriend for the high points during our evening chats-and even those check-ins are brief. I’m also weaning myself off of the mindless Instagram scrolling for the same reasons. The less attention you give to negativity, the less it can affect you. Stay aware, but first stay sane.

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT: It’s so easy for us to binge on salty snacks and sweet treats, neglecting healthy eating in exchange for “comfort.” Ironically, this is when we need to be the most mindful of what we put into our bodies. You don’t have to go vegan or swear off gluten, but staying hydrated with water and opting for fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains over processed foods and sugary drinks will give you steady energy and protect your body from the inside out. That being said, it’s cool to indulge (I love a good piece of chocolate myself), but try not to overdo it.

DON’T NEGLECT YOUR ROUTINE (BUT DO WHAT YOU CAN): Stress may have caused you to neglect your skin care routine, or you fear that you may run out of product so you skip a wash or two. At the very least you should always cleanse, moisturize, and protect your skin with SPF during the day, even if you stay inside (sunlight comes through windows and blue light from our screens can also damage our skin). If restocking on your serums and targeted treatments may be delayed due to the furlough, just stick with the basics and use them sparingly until you’re able to make the necessary purchases.

HAVE A QUIET MOMENT: Whether it’s for one minute or one hour, take time to silence your mind. A simple exercise is to get to a quiet place-be it your room, your car, the bathroom, the closet, etc. Then, after setting a timer, close your eyes and just focus on your breathing, ensuring the breaths are slow and even. Thoughts will come into your mind, but just let them pass through without getting attached. Once your quiet time is up, I guarantee you’ll feel re-centered and refreshed. If you engage in any spiritual or mindfulness practice (prayer, journaling, meditation, etc.), make sure you carve out time to engage, as this too can help reduce stress.

Brighter days are ahead, and we will get through this.

Let’s Review: Mally Beauty Circle of Light Kit

Celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal has entered the “fast face” realm with her Circle of Light Kit. With seven products (plus a bonus product if you join the quarterly membership), this kit claims to brighten your face in five minutes or less, even without foundation. Normally, I would use these kinds of products over foundation, but I wanted to challenge its claims head-on. So, with a clean and moisturized face, I gave it my best shot.

It even came with a handy face chart!

The first product I applied was the Perfect Prep Poreless Primer. Like most mattifying primers, I instantly felt the silicone-based smoothness. It did give my skin a wonderful finish and I could tell that if I were to wear foundation over it, I would be good for the day or night.

The next product I applied was the Perfect Prep Undereye Brightener. Only two shades exist (one for lighter, one for medium/deep) and I chose the latter. The yellow-tinted formula only slightly color corrected the darkness around my eyes, but it did absorb quickly. I think I’ll stick to my deep peach corrector that I normally use.

After that came the Shimmer, Shape, and Go trio. Of the three, the clear standout was the highlighting stick. The highly blendable formula gave my cheekbones a noticeable lift without being too obvious, even on bare skin.. The blush stick came in this lovely fuchsia and diffused onto my cheeks with ease, giving it a lovely wash of color. I will most likely use the build-able formula if I want an especially rosy cheek. The face chart claimed that it doubled as a lip color, but the pigment didn’t show through on my darker lips. C’est la vie. The contour stick didn’t do much for me either, as it was nearly the same shade as my skin. If anything, I could use it as a cream foundation or concealer if I’m in a rush.

The two cream eye shadows, albeit small, showed some promise with their texture and color payoff. When applied to my inner corners, the Champagne shade opened my eyes while the Burnished Bronze stick gave my eyes a surprisingly smokey finish. I would gladly use the latter of the two as a base for a copper- or chocolate-brown shimmer shadow.

Of the brow pencils I have tried recently, the one that came in this kit was my favorite. While it too sports a triangular tip, the drier formula gave me more control in building the intensity of my eyebrows and enabled me to create a sharper edge without using a clean angle brush or concealer to clean up. Lastly, the unique divots in the mascara brush caught my shorter lashes and made it clump-resistant to the point that I didn’t have to wiggle the applicator.

The very last step was applying the Evercolor Poreless Face Defender. I was a little dubious because the texture reminded me of Vaseline, but when applied with the accompanying sponge, any oil that was still on my face was obliterated. Unfortunately, it also toned down the highlight that I had applied, causing me to replace it over the finishing touch. My skin looked noticeably smoother, and the texture turned to a feather-light powder with no signs of chalkiness whatsoever. I approve!

Now, the likelihood of me wearing the Circle of Light Kit sans foundation is just about zero. I would only do so if it was my day off and I wanted to look just a step above makeup-free. With that being said, the elements of the kit are worth incorporating into my normal makeup routine, especially the highlight and bronze cream shadow sticks. If you’re looking for a product line that is bare bones and just enough to enhance an otherwise bare face, then this is for you. Mind you, the introductory offer of $39.95 gives way to full pricing with the next quarterly shipment, but you can control your pricing by editing your kit down to your favorites or add other products such as foundation, lip color, eye palettes, and more at a lesser price for being a member. Otherwise, the elements of this kit and many more products are available for a la carte purchase on Mally.com

We Need to Talk About This…

I was trying not to feed into this.

I was trying to make The Lipstick Therapist a haven from the craziness going on around us. But, after some thought, I figured that it would be irresponsible not to add my voice to the discussion.

As we all know by now, the COVID-19 viral epidemic has changed our way of life on a global scale, and not in a good way. The infection rates and death tolls continue to rise across the world. Social distancing guidelines and statewide lock-downs have rendered entire industries dormant, leaving untold millions out of work. With the exception of one essential outing, I have not left my immediate neighborhood since St. Patrick’s Day. Like many of you, I am temporarily out of work with a limited amount of income promised to me in the meantime. As time passes and the day where some normalcy returns to us seems to get further and further away, I too wonder what “normal” will be once this is over. While I am blessed to not have to worry about a roof over my head or food in my stomach (thanks Mom), I do worry about how the aftermath of this will impact my immediate and long-term future. I also worry how it will impact the future on a larger scale, especially those who will inevitably mourn the loss of loved ones to this mysterious, brutal sickness. To those who have lost anyone or who are currently suffering due to this pandemic in any way: my heart goes out to you.

Even so, in this time I have recognized the blessing that is the gift of time that this debacle has given many of us. I have seen many friends dive deeper into their creativity or finally take the leap into finally trying something new. I too danced with DJ D-Nice in my kitchen and imagined Michelle Obama doing the same. I’ve seen so much beautiful art, kindness, and generosity among the wreckage that this has caused, and it is those things that lift my spirit, reminding me that this too shall pass.

Also in that time, I launched this blog, debuted its accompanying YouTube channel, and have embarked on what I hope will become a lifelong journey in showing the world that beauty can be harnessed as a tool that goes far beyond skin-deep. While I wish the circumstances were far different and not at all perilous to anyone, I have to admit that none of this would have happened if I didn’t have this newfound time. I want to say thank you, the readers and watchers, so much for supporting my newest baby; I hope that I am helping you in my own little way by writing this blog and recording tutorials. As this blog grows, I hope that it serves as a reminder that even in these dark times, we can find beauty in ourselves and in the world around us. While lipstick may not save the world, it can at least make us smile.

I suppose all of this is to say that I am right there with you, and I hope that as time goes on and this is all over, The Lipstick Therapist continues to be a light in darker times and a place where you can escape the rigors of the day to day, even if it’s just to talk about makeup.

Stay well and stay safe always.

Let’s Review: trèStiQue Essential 8 (plus a surprise!)

Leave it to my Instagram algorithm to begin promoting more “fast face” solutions after I bought The Lip Bar’s Fast Face Kit. This time, trèStiQue tempted me with it’s Essential Eight kit. This “makeup solution” states that with eight products, you’ll simplify your routine without sacrificing quality. The whole kit comes with a Le Pak makeup bag, complete with zipper and mirror. in the new Navy Croc deluxe design.

Overall, the customization progress was easy to follow and gave me a bit more leeway to choose my preferred formulas. However, I was a little disappointed in the lack of choices when it came to foundation shades. I ended up purchasing a separate shade so that I could mix the two to get my correct tone. I also noticed that even the darkest shade would be too light for African American women of a deeper tone. The same could be said for the concealer options. I truly hope trèStiQue has plans to expand its shade ranges so that women of color can find a foundation stick that honors the nuances of their skin tones and enables them to enjoy their complexion products.

Who says you can’t have it all?

Here is a list of the formulas and shades I chose:

  • Tinted Face Stick in Tenerife Natural and Waikiki Tan (the latter purchased separately from the kit)
  • Concealer Crayon in Toffee
  • Blush Stick in Bora Bora Coral
  • Starlight Powder Stick in Galactic Gold (purchased separately from the kit)
  • Brow Pencil in Espresso
  • Eye Pencil in Santorini Black Sand
  • Shadow Crayon in Venetian Shimmer
  • Mini Shadow Crayon in Aspen Pine (freebie!)
  • Good Vibes Mascara in Icelandic Black Lacquer
  • Matte Lip Crayon in Florence Fig

Overall, I found the process of applying the Essential 8 (plus the few extras) to be simple and straightforward. Even the most novice makeup user can use the whole kit with no learning curve. To their credit, the foundation sticks blended in beautifully, and none of the stick products left any harsh lines once properly blended, which can be easily done with the blending sponges and brushes conveniently attached at the other end (with the exception of the highlight powder and the brow pencil). Furthermore, while I normally shy away from cream or stick foundations due to my combination to oily skin, the medium coverage finish on these was matte enough to control shine while hydrating enough to prevent dry patches.

As for the color cosmetics, I was especially impressed by the color payoff from the shadow crayons. The Aspen Pine mini gave me this stunning, gunmetal/hunter green hybrid that created an instant smokey eye that only needed a touch of eyeliner and mascara for maximum impact. Furthermore, the shadow held up well during the day without any primer. Although the lip color was a matte finish, the formula felt hydrating on my lips, even without the the coordinated balm. The blush gave me the warmth I’m always looking for; coupled with the powder highlight it looked as if I had spent the day on the beach.

The finished product.

I can see the trèStiQue Essential Eight Kit being another go-to for when I want a fresh-faced look in a pinch. While I completed a smoky eye with my test run, I can see myself reaching for the champagne-hued Venitian Shimmer shadow stick for daytime. While the foundation shade range needs expansion, the quality of the product is just right. trèStiQue has a fantastic concept that will be a worthwhile addition to anyone’s beauty routine.

And now, for the surprise: You can watch me review the trèStiQue Essential 8 for yourself on my new YouTube Channel! While I will still write product reviews for the blog, those of you who want to see the step-by-step process can do so on The Lipstick Therapist’s YouTube Channel! I will also be posting exclusive tutorials and content there, so please subscribe to stay up to date!

Back to Basics: Saving Your Skin

As one who has experienced skin problems run the gamut from excessive dryness to pimples the size of small planets, I know firsthand how not liking what you see in the mirror can damage one’s self-esteem. From my middle school days of slathering on Noxema hoping for a miracle to now reading the ingredients’ list to weed out known carcinogens from my vanity, I have found that having a quality skin care regimen has been my saving grace to stem the tide of breakouts, reduce my scarring, and promote my own general sense of well-being. It also enables me to infuse a bit of self-care into my daily rituals, which for me has been essential to starting my day on a good note.

2011 vs 2020. The glow-up is REAL.

Of course we’re always on the hunt for that product (or those products) that will make our skin smooth, radiant, and youthful. Before you go out and look for your skincare’s holy grail, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Assess your current routine: When you’re done with your skin care regimen, your skin should feel revived, well-hydrated, and supple. If at any point your skin feels tight, irritated, or just blah, take a look at the product you used right before that feeling. Chances are, it’s also the culprit keeping you from optimizing your skin’s health and should be tossed without a second thought. Conversely, maybe there is something missing from your routine, such as a serum, an exfoliant, or a cleanser that better suits your needs.

How is your skin behaving? Our skin type does not always lend itself to our skin’s current condition. For example, although my skin type is combination/oily, I have had periods of dryness during which time I’ve had to switch to a slightly heavier moisturizer to pick up the slack. Therefore, don’t be afraid to try something new or uncommon to your current routine; the temporary change may be what you need to bring yourself back to center.

Your products may not be the problem. I have had times when customers have come in and after talking to them, we both found that their skincare routine was perfectly suited. However, after further discussion, the client noted that increased stress, changes in diet (especially an increase in sugar), life changes,a lack of sleep, or simply not enough water factored into the unwanted change in their skin’s appearance. No serum can replace the effects that come with taking good care of yourself with a sound diet, adequate hydration, and stress management. Take stock of what may be going on in your life; upon making the necessary changes, you just might see your skin come back to life.

Protect at all costs. The one thing I will always recommend to everyone no matter your age, skin tone, or skin type is sun protection. Skin cancer is real and can affect anyone; the best way to prevent it is to use an SPF of at least 30 every day, no exceptions (yes, even when it’s cloudy and you work indoors). Also: the idea that darker skin does not need sun protection is a myth. As I say to my customers: using sun protection is the difference between looking like you’re 50 when you’re 80, or looking like you’re 80 when you’re 50.

One of these days I’ll share my own routines (yes, I have several!). Until then, here are a few favorites of mine that I use in one of my daytime routines:

Row 1 (Left to Right):
Dr. Loretta Micro-Exfoliating Cleanser, $35
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum, $65
Kate Sommerville Oil-Free Moisturizer, $65

Row 2 (Left to Right):
Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, $34
Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Firming Eye Cream, $72

Let’s Review: The Fast Face Kit by The Lip Bar

Author’s note: this review is NOT sponsored! I bought this product on my own without any encouragement from the owner or any affiliated business partners. Opinions expressed are my own.

The Lip Bar was founded by Detroit native Melissa Butler, who was inspired by her own wellness journey to create lipstick that was vegan, cruelty-free and on trend with flattering (and sometimes funky) colors. When she went on Shark Tank in 2015 to pitch her business with the hopes of gaining an investment from the sharks, she and her business partner were dismissed as nothing more than “colorful cockroaches” (Sounds out of pocket? Watch the clip if you don’t believe me). Even so, the show gave her brand exposure that took it into the stratosphere. and as of 2018, her company is worth $7 million, complete with a launch in 142 Target stores and a flagship in the Motor City itself.

I’ll bet the sharks wish they would have taken the bait, huh?

Melissa Butler, Founder and CEO of The Lip Bar.
Click the photo to watch an episode on LinkedIn’s “How I Got Here” featuring her story.
Photo via MichganRadio.Org

Now, I am always on the hunt for ways to streamline my makeup routine without sacrificing quality. I am also all for supporting independent brands, especially when they are owned by kick-ass Black women that I admire. With this in mind, I was eager to get my hands on The Lip Bar’s Fast Face Kit, a system designed to “create a great look that lasts all day” in seven minutes. For $99, the kit includes a foundation, face quad, dual-sided brow pencil & brow gel, eyeliner, mascara, and liquid lip color-the basic elements needed to create a polished look appropriate for just about any occasion. It also comes with a nifty, purse-friendly makeup bag for carrying your beat through the streets.

After matching your foundation to one of their 26 shade offerings using their matching tool, the site takes you to the kit curated for your skin tone. In my case, I was sorted into the “Boss Moves Fast Face,” which is said to be ideal for one with a caramel complexion across all undertones. The kit did come with a few options for customization: the foundation shade, the lip color, and the brow pencil/brow gel duo. I went with the Skin Serum Foundation shade recommended for me (Shade 3:02), the 2N1 Brow Gel in the dark brown shade “Arch Nemesis,” and the Liquid Lipstick in “Bawse Lady,” a beautiful shade of brick red that I can take from day to night. The other elements of the kit-namely, the 4N1 Face Palette, Lash Flash Strengthening Mascara, and Straight Line Eye Liner in a shade of black named Straight Out of Patience -are pre-selected for you by The Lip Bar.

My Fast Face Kit arrived in an adorable mailer with the message “We can’t WAIT to see you in this, BABE!” printed across the front. I didn’t even open it yet and I already felt special. Everything arrived without a single scratch, totally pristine and ready to use.

Why thank you, love!
The gang’s all here.

I also received an unexpected gift: a dual-ended face brush! The bristles are so soft with an easy-to-grip handle that lends itself to maximum control. I can already tell that this will come in handy when I apply my Fast Face 4N1 Palette. What’s more, everything fit inside the handy travel bag, brush included. Score!

Why hello there!

Now, let’s review each element of The Fast Face Kit, step by step:

I woke up like this. No, really!
  1. Foundation: The Skin Serum Foundation comes with a built-in brush attached for a no-nonsense application. The medium-to-full coverage formula boasts hyaluronic acid and Irish moss extract among its ingredients intended to keep the skin hydrated, dewy, and fresh. After going through my own simple morning routine (which I will share with you in a later post), with a couple of clicks from the bottom of the foundation brush I was ready to begin. The formula applied smoothly, but the brush was a bit dense for my tastes; I ended up using my own flat top kabuki brush to buff it out even more. With that being said, the coverage stayed true to its claim and my skin stayed hydrated throughout the day. I still used a bit of my beloved Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer in Flax for my under eye darkness, but in hindsight I could have gone without and still look pretty seamless. I was also initially shocked with the undertone of the foundation being so different from what I normally use, but as the foundation sat on my skin, it evened out beautifully.
  2. Face: My 4N1 face palette came with a golden highlighter named “Now Hiring,” a terra cotta blush named “Grinding,” a chocolate contour powder named “Making Bets,” and a flesh toned setting powder named “Cashing Checks” that complimented my chosen skin tone. Naturally, this is where the dual-ended brush proved the most handy. Like I had hoped, I was able to apply all elements of the 4N1 with ease. I love how the blush warmed up my face and the golden highlight powder gave me a perfectly sun-kissed glow. I applied the setting powder with a fluffy brush of my own and it knocked out the little bit of shine I had on my forehead without looking ashy. I’ll definitely be incorporating this palette into my everyday, even if I’m not using the kit.
  3. Brows: I don’t typically use a brow pencil or brow mascara on myself (I prefer applying powder with an angle brush), but I do love how easy these are to use on my customers. As for the 2N1 Brow Gel, the pencil tip is a retractable type with a triangular shape, which I have used on clients to create a full look with little effort. The application was pretty straightforward: I started applying color at the tail of my brows and move my short strokes forward, letting the color fade out as I reach the inner corner. After lightly topping it off with the brow mascara, I was left with a brow that was perfectly filled, but still soft. I used my own flat concealer brush to clean up the lines. While I could definitely use the pencil on its own, the brow mascara added warmth and tamed a few unruly hairs. Next time, I’ll be trying the brow mascara on its own, just to see if it can be used solo and still achieve the coverage I enjoy.
  4. Eyes: The one thing the kit does not come with is an eye shadow, but no need to panic: the highlighting powder in the face kit did double duty as a gilded, shimmery shadow with the setting powder used to define my crease. The eye liner applied like butter with a highly pigmented gel formula that was easy to manipulate. For fun, I dragged a clean skinny liner brush across the line to create a slight cat eye with no problem. The mascara, which contains green tea extract to condition lashes, was… decent. I prefer a more dramatic, lengthened look to my lashes, but this mascara is truly a natural finish. On the upside, it applied without any clumping and the brush was a good size to get to the corner lashes with no problem.
  5. Lips: And now we get to the crown jewel, the product that started it all. This lip color is a true liquid matte; the formula could be described as watery and I did slide the applicator across the rim to squeeze out extra product to prevent dripping. Even so, the color payoff was HUGE. I only applied a single coat and the color was smooth, intense, and POPPIN’ on my lips. Although it dried down to a matte finish, my lips felt nearly weightless and throughout the day, the color did not dry out or flake. I only touched up a teensy bit after I ate, but other than that it held for the entire day. I could also see me adding a little clear gloss on top to change up the finish. Color me highly impressed!

And now, the big reveal:


Not bad, huh?

Overall, I am quite pleased with this kit. Even with my own modifications I was done in about ten minutes, which cuts my get ready time in half. If I didn’t go in with my own little changes, I could see how the Fast Face Kit could take about five minutes to apply from start to finish. I’d say that The Fast Face Kit is ideal for a woman on the go who wants a fool-proof way to look polished when time is scarce. I would also recommend this for one who is a makeup novice and wants a simple routine without a steep learning curve. In all, I’ll be keeping this handy for the days where I want to get up, get glam, and go! I’ll also be adding a few more of The Lip Bar’s lipstick shades to change up the overall look. Cheers and plenty of smooches to The Lip Bar!