Seeing in Color: Foundation Match Like an Artist

Every day, millions of women around the world suffer from a condition known as Ghost Face Syndrome (GFS). Anyone, even celebrities, can suffer from this syndrome which is caused by mismatched foundation, unblended contour and/or lack of appropriate lighting during the makeup application process. As a beauty professional, every day I work to heal individuals of this syndrome. There is enough information and resources out there to help eradicate this epidemic one face at a time. Like any other illness, there is a sad pathology behind it. Most of the time, the victim is suffering due to lack of self awareness. He or she is not willing to see themselves as they really are, but instead choose to see themselves as another shade (usually lighter).

All jokes aside, I wanted to write this piece because I deal with many people who are so enamoured with the concept of lightness/whiteness, that they would rather walk around with an ashy face than perfectly matched foundation. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who genuinely don’t understand the depth of color in their skin and get intimidated by the process of selecting makeup. To overcome these things, you must first understand the concept of color. As human beings, we are not simply one shade, we are composed of layers of colors which include undertones. For example, you may find that your under eye area or the middle of your face is a bit lighter than the rest of your face. There are so many charts on the internet with confusing ways to figure out your perfect undertones. I won’t clutter your life with those.

Instead, I’m going to show you some art. Meet Toyin Ojih Odutola; an African artist who is transforming the way people of color are seen in art. In her latest exhibition at the Whitney Museum she uses oil pastels, charcoal and graphite to give texture and nuance to strong faces with traditional African features. I stood in awe of her uses of light and attention to detail. I think that taking a look at Odutola’s work could help get a better understanding of what to look for in your own face just to simplify the color selection process. If you look closely at the skin tones of the portraits, you will see undertones of yellows, reds and neutrals.

This portrait of a husband (yellow undertones) and wife (neutral undertones). Imagine when the artist worked on the piece, that the first layer of paint for the husband was yellow while the first layer of the wife’s skin was brown. 
This is a close up shot of my favorite piece in the exhibition called The Wall of Ambassadors and featured this striking woman with red undertones. 

Now imagine that you were asked to paint a self portrait. Consider what color you would use as a base.

Are you rosey in the cheek area? Then it is likely you have pink undertones.

Do you have a deep earthy tone to your skin? Then you, my dear, have red undertones.

Do you find your skin is sallow and looks better under natural lighting? Then like me, you have yellow undertones.

Do you feel as if you don’t fit into any particular category and having a pretty reasonable, even skin tone? Welcome to the neutral club.

Figuring out your undertone is half the battle when it comes to finding the correct foundation. For brown and black skin tones, it is important to pick foundation lines that have a wider selection of brown tones. I’ve heard great things about Fenty, Black Opal and NARS when it comes to darker skin tone selections. For lighter shades, it is typically more important that the formulas look natural on the skin and not drying. This can mean going for more hydrating serum or liquid foundation formulas. A common mistake for lighter shades is choosing yellow undertones instead of pink or neutral so try to avoid that! Also, keep in mind that makeup formulas do oxidize on the skin and that may cause them to change color throughout the day. It is best to go in person, with a clean face and try out your prospective foundation to see how it will react with your skin.

 

What’s your favorite foundation brand? Why?

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Glow Therapy: Candid Conversations With A Skin Specialist

So I’m having an event in NYC! Think of it as a TEDtalk for all things beauty and wellness related. I’ll be breaking down the functions of the skin, how you can get the most out of your seasonal skin care routines & much more. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask me any questions you might have about beauty (even professional questions). The best part is you will receive a free skin consultation from me as well! I hope to see all your beautiful faces there ❤ I’m so excited to meet you!

Here’s the link!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/glow-therapy-candid-conversations-with-a-skin-specialist-tickets-42162783019

The Pu**y Peel

As you may or may not know, vaginal care is important to me. Why? Because myself and some of my favorite people have vaginas. They’re pretty awesome but having one is like having a part-time job you never applied for but keep just because you need to make ends meet. Between GYN appointments, waxing, shaving (yuck!), periods and child birthing… it’s like WTF?! When does it end? Not today.

I did some extra shit to my vagina earlier that was amazing and you need to hear about and/or experience! I got a chemical peel on my vag to help with ingrowns, exfoliation and brightening. I have tried a few different brands of peels on my face. All of them were busts. I did not like the tingling/burning sensations or the weeks of dehydrated skin that ensued. The reason I was willing to try again with my vagina was because my ingrowns have gotten worse due to the cold season and the fact that my waxing schedule has changed.

Fortunately for me, one of my very best esthetician friends referred me to Baire in Hell’s Kitchen. They use PCA chemical peels, which have been around for over 20 years. PCA is a science based brand complete with pH balanced products for every day and professional use. They are very education oriented. I love the company philosophy mainly because they offer so many options in peels that otherwise can be very harsh and intimidating.

My appointment was with a lovely woman named Marina. She was pleasant and gentle. We chatted about our shared reservations regarding other brands of peels and direct acids. Because I am completely comfortable busting it open on medical tables, my service was quick and easy (about 25 minutes). Although I did not experience any discomfort, burning or stinging, it is a possibility with others. Luckily for me, Marina was nice enough to check in and make sure I was okay.

So far, my bikini area feels smoother and softer. My ingrowns are a bit more apparent and I am trying my best to not pick them out just yet. The bikini peel service is priced at $75 and recommended to do every 4-6 weeks. I will most likely be doing 6 sessions so that I will see desired results. I want my skin to be completely recovered from all those years of shaving!

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

SAY NO! Protect Your Glow

If you’ve followed me for a while, you are absolutely aware that my approach to skin care (and overall wellness) is being gentle with the skin. This means not doing anything that would disrupt the acid mantle of my skin. The acid mantle is the outermost layer of the skin that protects it from any bacterias and potential invaders. Moral of the mantle is, it keeps the dirties out. Being that it is so important to skin health, I want to do everything within my power to keep it intact. So here’s a list of things to avoid that could disrupt and/or destroy your acid mantle.

  • Drying Alcohols– drying alcohols wear away at the acid mantle and make the skin vulnerable to infection and overproduction of oil
  • Peel-off masks– masks that dry hard and peel from the face not only hurt like hell to take off but they can make the pores appear larger
  • Nair– it falls under the category of chemical depilatory which means which means it is highly alkaline (unlike the natural state of the skin) so… NOPE!
  • Shaving– call it dermaplaning or whatever you want… it is shaving. Those little vellus hairs (yes, they have a name) are the equivalent of a wire fence for your acid mantle
  • Microneedling- poking holes in my face with needles? Blood? Need I saw more?
  • Mineral Oil– check all your products and if they have mineral oil in them, burn them. Or just throw them in the garbage. Although it softens the skin, it does clog the pores and increase water loss in the skin. Water loss speeds up aging
  • Face Scrubs– anything with granules on the skin that is meant to exfoliate usually does not. Instead, it scratches at the acid mantle and makes the skin raw. Step away from the St.Ives ladies!
  • Lemon Instagram hobbyists will lead you to believe that lemon juice on the face is a great lightener and exfoliator. It is actually too acidic for the face.
  • Vaseline– Its derived from petroleum… like the stuff we put in cars. Also, uses paraffin wax which is bad for your skin in the exact same way as mineral oil. It is also horrible for the environment
  • Facial Brushes Similar to face scrubs, they can wear away at the acid mantle. Aside from that, they hold bacteria and makeup.

The Abnormal Beauty Story

I have been keeping a secret. For the past three months, I have been a brand ambassador for a company called Deciem (also known as The Abnormal Beauty Company). You might’ve heard of the brand by way of The Ordinary which is now carried at retailers like Sephora and Ricky’s. The company is an umbrella brand, which means it owns and formulates multiple brands. As of now, there are more than 100 products under the Deciem umbrella. This means it took me a lot of research and trying out to know for sure if I loved the brand. Since it is against my personal code of ethics to promote some shit I don’t use or love, I kept my new role under wraps.

But now, I am here and ready to share with you!

Deciem offers lines for hair, skin and body but for the purpose of simplicity, we are just going to focus on the skin care lines for now. There’s The Ordinary, Hylamide and NIOD (pronounced KNEE-odd).

The Ordinary: This line is so simple that it’s complicated for most people. It’s where you go to figure out what kind of ingredients your skin likes. Also, it helps you to get real about your skin concerns and goals. It has everything from exfoliating acids, retinoids, vitamin C, cold-pressed organic oils and other molecules for various concerns. The best part about the line is, all of the products are priced under $15. The only thing that I am not fond of about the line is that it does not have a cleanser.

Some of my fav products from The Ordinary include EUK 134, Azelaic Acid, Marula Oil.

HylamideThis would be considered the next step up. The formulations are a little more advanced and target more signs of aging. Also, the serums are a lot lighter in texture compared to The Ordinary because they’ll penetrate the skin a lot better. This line has a face cleaner, face mists and uses targeted “boosters” for skin care concerns like sensitivity and congested pores.

Some of my fav products from Hylamide include the High Efficiency Face Cleaner, SuQ Anti-Age serum, Photography Foundation

NIODOkay so NIOD is probably the best thing to come into my life in 2017. Most advanced skincare technology I’ve ever used. The line focusing on preserving the skin health for as long as possible. This explains why it is absent of things like direct acids and retinoids. It is also very special because it not only supplements what your skin is missing but it also trains your skin (via these crazy delivery systems called precursors) to create more of whatever your skin is lacking. Naturally, it is the most expensive line, but not so expensive that you feel horrible about purchasing it. It ranges from $25-$90.

Honestly I love everything I’ve tried from NIOD. It has become a staple in my daily routine (both day and night). I use the Copper Amino Isolate Serum, Fractionated Eye Concentrate, Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Acid, Non-Acid Acid Precursor, Voicemail Masque, Flavanone Mud and Mastic Must.


I know that the website can be a bit overwhelming but if you are ever in need of product recommendations or have any questions, feel free to hit me up and ask!

How To: Age Like Angela

 

Ask any black woman with good sense and a bottle of Essentia water in her hand how she wants to age and her answer will be Angela Bassett. She is always slaying roles and serving body. Always glowing… even in the most unflattering of lights and minimal makeup. Imagine being this gorgeous (and virtually ageless) at 59 years old! The woman can’t sit through an interview without being asked about her workout, lifestyle choices and skin care routine. Spoiler alert: she eats a vegan diet… lots of raw foods… and works out enough to make us all feel like lazy pieces of sh*t 🙂

For the past few years, Ms. Angela has been working with a very experienced and well-known dermatologist by the name of Barbara Sturm to formulate a range of products For Darker Skin. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I do know that the products are extremely overpriced! Seriously, the cheapest product in the line will run you $70 and the most expensive one is a whole $300. The range focuses on brightening, hydration, anti-aging and reducing the appearance of oily skin. While these are common skin concerns among black/brown people, I feel as though they are pretty common in most people. But what isn’t common is having four hundred extra dollars laying around to age like Angela.

This is why you have me, Essence. Your friendly neighborhood Esthetician to read through all the ingredients on the products and find comparable, affordable alternatives that will pretty much do the same thing for your skin. When it comes to anti-aging, it is never too early to start. In fact, the sooner you start focusing on it, the better. The goal is to focus on hydration, avoid inflammation and look for ingredients that will maintain a healthy pH balance in the skin (ideally 5-5.5). So basically, dry skin is aging skin.

There are a number of anti-inflammatory agents out there but in Dr. Barbara Sturm & Angela Bassett luxury line for skin of color, there are plant-based ingredients such as Purslane, African Whitewood and Magnolia. For hydration, the line uses Hyaluronic Acid and lots of rich natural oils. Hyaluronic acid is a special ingredient because it is found naturally in the human body. It is responsible for maintaining moisture in the body/skin and lubrication of our joints. When used in skin care products, it pulls water from the air into the skin to increase plumpness. This may be part of the reason the big ticket, $300 item in Sturm & Bassett’s line is Hyaluronic Acid Serum. Now let me show you why there is absolutely no need to drop that much on HA.

 

Skin of Color

Foam Cleanser ($70) – foam cleansers are typically better suited for oily/acne prone skin. They are gentle, yet tend to strip the skin of excess oils. Sturm’s formula does use Hyaluronic Acid in it to help counteract stripping the skin of necessary oils and Salicylic Acid to break up any congestion within the pores. There is also Purslane for anti-inflammation.

The AlternativeP:rem Safe Relief Cleansing Foam ($20) – same foam texture, hydrating qualities and anti-inflammatory properties. Although it does have some exfoliating acid, it does not contain the Salicylic. So it will get rid of dead surface skin, but not congestion in pores. If you need Salicylic, here is a great affordable option to include in your routine from The Ordinary for only $5.30.

Enzyme Cleanser ($77) – described as a “foam & gentle peel in one” that can be used 2-3 times a week, this granular (scrub-like) texture turns me all the way off. Anyone who knows me knows I am not here for applying anything srubby/gritty on the face. The great thing I did notice about this product is that it has loads of brightening agents via Vitamin C.

The AlternativeDr. G Brightening Peeling Gel ($28) – uses very anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe, honey and willowbark alongside Vitamin C and natural hydrators like castor oil and glycerin to treat and brighten skin. Doing so without that nasty, abrasive grittiness.

Face Cream ($215) and Face Cream Rich ($230) – I decided to lump these two face creams together because they are both very similar formula wise. The only difference in the two is that the Rich one has a heavier texture due to the use of heavier oils in the formula. Things like macadamia oil, grapeseed oil, vitamin E, sweet almond oil, shea butter, avocado oil and of course, hyaluronic acid contribute to hydration of the skin.

The Alternative: J. One Hana Cream ($50) – probably one of the richest face creams I have ever. In my top 10 arsenal of hydrators to combate winter skin. It uses most of the same oils as Sturm & Bassett’s line PLUS niacinamide, vitamin C and biotin to contribute to healthy oil production and brightness in the skin. And the little jar goes a long way because the moisturizer is already in the shape of a ball. That means you’ll no longer have to worry about overusing product! If you should find yourself feeling as though your skin needs more moisture (which I doubt would happen), you could always add in a few drops of Rose Hip Seed Oil available for $9.80 at The Ordinary.

Hyaluronic Serum ($300) – hyaluronic acid for hydration and lumicol for complexion brightening. It is unclear on the website how advanced the hyaluronic acid formula is, but no hyaluronic should EVER cost $300 unless it’s going so deep into your skin that it hits bone!

The AlternativeMulti Molecular Hyaluronic Complex 2 (MMHC2) ($35) – water-thin formula instead of the conventional, heavier serum texture because it penetrates the skin extra deep for hydration. Advanced technology that helps your body to produce more hyaluronic acid. This slows down aging by way of hydration and preserves the integrity of skin. I have been using it for a little over a month and it has truly changed my skin for the better.


So while the luxury skin care line by Dr. Barbara Sturm & Angela Bassett could run you about $670, these alternative products would target all the same skin concerns for approximately $540 less! A lot of the time, we equate luxury with price when in fact, cost and worth are two completely different topics. This is when reading and understanding ingredients come in hand! I know what you’re thinking: “Thank goodness I have Essence to sort all this out!”

You are welcome, beautiful 😉