My Make-Up Shake-Up

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Fall seems like the perfect time to shake up one’s wardrobe. And one’s make-up routine, I always think. In the fall, I lose the very minimal tan I’ve gained over a summer of biking, walking, camping, and fishing. Even with SPF 45 sunscreen, I do get some tan and a few more freckles. Plus the darker colours and heavier fabrics of fall and winter clothing, seem to require a different make-up palette than summer.

Every year at this time, I long for a pale, clear-skin look with bold brows and a bold lip. Like these lovely ladies. Or a close facsimile. Even a somewhat close facsimile would do. To be more realistic, I scrunch up my eyes and try to imagine these girls in… say… thirty-five years.

And every year, at this time, I visit the Bobbi Brown counter at Holt Renfrew for some ideas to freshen up my fall make-up. Except this year. Holts in Ottawa closed last winter. Sob. I was verclempt, until I discovered Nordstrom. To be honest, the only reason I visited Nordstrom last spring was because my buddy Liz, who used to be the personal shopper at Holts, was now working in that capacity at Nordstrom. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll have heard of Liz. And you’ll also know that I’ve become a “Nordy” fan. I don’t shop exclusively at Nordstrom but, over the last few months, they have become my first port of call in any shopping adventure. And why should shopping for make-up be any different, eh?
Now, let me make this clear before we go on. I am much more loyal to a specific salesperson than I am to a specific brand, or store. And I’m at least as interested in service, as I am in the product. I won’t buy a crappy product even with good service….but I have walked away from a product that I would otherwise have bought if the service is snooty, or disdainful, or non-existent. Like at the J Crew store in the Rideau Centre. I wrote about that experience in an earlier post about jeans shopping.
But… let’s get back to make-up. This summer I met the lovely Katie… see below… while shopping for mascara at Nordstrom. Katie manages the Laura Mercier counter there. She was so friendly and knowledgeable and helpful, that I decided to visit her counter for my fall freshen-up.
I had a few goals when I set off for Nordstrom in late August.
Goal #1… I had been searching for months for a better eye liner. One that was easy to use and which worked for my new more casual lifestyle. Not to mention aging, wrinkly lids. I had tried using a brush and a gel liner, too difficult to make an even line. Sometimes after trying to make both eyes the same I ended up with an (almost) inch wide smear across my lid. And I had tossed out numerous pencils which were too soft and gloppy and messy, or too hard…ouch.
Goal #2… I wanted to see if I could achieve that clear-skin, no make-up look…with bold brows and lips. You know… me…but better.
Goal #3… I wanted a fresh look for fall.
Goal #4… And a  week or so before I went to see Katie, I received an invitation from blogger D.A. Wolf at Daily Plate of Crazy to participate in her Midlife Makeover series. I’d have to try something new in my make-up routine, and take before and after pictures. Ok-ay. That sounded like fun.
Here’s my ‘before’ picture. Before make-up. And obviously before I left the house. Hence the bathrobe.
I spent almost two hours with Katie that day. She stripped off all of my make-up, and talked me through the whole routine. From skin care to final lipstick application. And I learned lots.
Here are my ‘after’ pictures. We took the shot on the left in the store. And the one on the right, I took when I came home. I wanted to try to replicate the same light as my ‘before’ shot. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much difference lighting makes. See how much blonder my hair looks in the left one?
I love how Katie did my eyes. So my next step was to master the new skills I had been taught.
This is me below, trying to practice what I’d learned. First I used a Laura Mercier eyelid primer in a colour called cotton, which I dabbed on and then blended with my fingertips. I love this product. I generally like a soft colour on my lids, so I applied a petal pink shadow next, and with the primer I could actually see the colour of the shadow.The primer, a soft vanilla shade, can also be worn on its own when I’m in a hurry. I learned that I have been applying my darker contour shadow incorrectly all these years. Katie says to apply it with my eyes open, and to NOT extend it to the corner of my eyes, to use a brush aligned with the end of my eyebrow to give me guidance. I used a kind of bronzy brown colour.
I am now a convert to the Laura Mercier eye-lining technique called “tight-lining.” I moistened my brush, swished it in the black ebony “cake eye liner” to make a paste, then dabbed it on at the root of my eyelashes. First under the lashes. Then on top. Dab, dab, dab all the way across my lid. No drawing squiggly, increasingly wider and wider lines. The brush is perfectly flat at the end and the liquefied powder actually sticks to your lid in amongst the lashes. It really does. I know…. sounds weird. When Katie described it to me, I thought, I’d never be able to do that. But I did. This was only the second time I tried.
This is me, below, with the rest of my make-up done. I took Katie’s advice and only applied foundation where I needed it, to even out my complexion. Mostly across my cheeks and my forehead, where I have roscea. (I eventually plan to switch from my Bobbi Brown foundation to the Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser that Katie applied instead of foundation.) I also used a bit of bronzing powder under my cheekbones, and a swish of desert rose blush on the apples of my cheeks. I tried for a somewhat bolder lip than I usually wear. To be truthful, I’m not sold on a very bold lip for me. I feel as if it’s a bit aging. Maybe for an evening look…. which I don’t do very often… well, hardly ever, actually.
And speaking of lighting. The halogen lights in my bathroom make this shot look like it’s in soft focus. Cue the dreamy muzak.
This one was taken in my sun room in more natural light. I love that tight-lining.
And this is the final look in natural light. Okay. Okay. Enough with the pictures. Eye roll.
So let’s sum up….
Goal #1…Check. Totally love the new “tight-lining.”
Goal #2… Maybe I’ll modify my goal to achieve that clear-skin look. Hard to achieve without a heavy foundation. I’ll settle for just matching the colour of my face to my neck. Which the Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser, that Katie used, achieved a lot better than my Bobbi Brown foundation. Bolder brow…I liked. Bold lip…not so much.
Goal #3… Hmmm. I feel like my look is fresher. And my new method of applying eye-liner and contour shadow really opens up my eyes. Which is great for my increasingly droopy lids, for which I have gravity and age to thank. And I may invest in a new lipstick. In just a teensy bit bolder colour.
Goal #4… Done and dusted. You can read D.A. Wolf’s post called “Shake Up Your Make-up” here. Besides my make-over and Barbara’s from Sixty Days in Paris, D.A. has lots of great expert advice on make-up for us middle-agers.
Now about that comment I made earlier with respect to good service. As I said, Katie spent almost two hours with me. And here’s what I bought. The eye shadow primer, the cake eye-liner, and the little flat application brush needed to apply it. C’est tout.
Throughout our session, Katie was perfectly professional, as well as charming and personable. We discussed everything from skin care, to Laura Mercier make-up, to our experiences in high school…. hers as a student and mine as a teacher. And in the end there was no awkward hard-sell moment when I felt pressured to buy more than I had intended. And you know what? As much as the Laura Mercier products, which I really like but not any more than Bobbi Brown’s, it’s that service which will take me back to visit Katie. I intend to buy the tinted moisturiser and the brow definer, in the short term. And for the long term, I’ve found a sales person who is knowledgeable and whose opinion I can trust. And I’m very loyal to people like that.
I certainly hope that Laura Mercier, and Nordstom, appreciate what they have in Katie.
Yep, my fall 2015 make-up shake-up was definitely a success. I had fun and I learned some new stuff. And I’m getting faster and more adept at that “tight-lining” thing.
And so I remain….at least in the make-up department….all shook up!
Hit it Elvis…
How about you. Any shaking (a whole lot or otherwise) going on in your make-up routine this fall?

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32 thoughts on “My Make-Up Shake-Up”

  1. You look great. Very fresh and contemporary. As for shaking up my fall routine, I'm doing so only if you consider near abandonment a shake-up. I'm maintaining my skin care regime, but am down to bare skin with a touch of blush and a brush of mascara most days. Always lipstick, though. I'm taking advantage of the time away from home to extend summer's relaxed approach and use the long break from my pre-retirement routine to think what I want for this third age, as the French term it. Once I'm ready to step it up again, if ever, I'd love someone like Katie to guide me.

    1. Thanks, Frances. I know what you mean about abandonment. I love the freedom of not having to do anything…at all. Especially in summer. That's why I love camping. But at home, I've been experimenting with how few products I can use when i just want to run into town to the library or the grocery store. Mascara, a tiny swish of under-eye concealer, a bit of blush, and lip balm. Less than minute. It's the hair that takes the time, for me. Sometimes I wish I had long hair that could just be tied up in a ponytail. P. S. I see on Instagram that you are having a wonderful time in France:)

  2. Thanks for Elvis , he was my first crush . Gorgeous when he was young …. Oh yes , make up . I do like the professional treatment you had , very polished & sophisticated but agree about the lips – just a bit harsh ? I like a proper red lipstick on lots of people but it makes me feel like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard . A red lip gloss is as far as I go . I use the Mercier tinted moisturizer & brush on a little Loreal Glam Bronzer – powder . Liner is a soft pencil close to the lashes which I then smudge with a spongy thing on a stick . I need a little liner on the bottom edge too but that has to be waterproof (age again) so use YSL . The one store make over I had was dreadful , the young girl couldn't cope with someone of my age & I looked really silly afterwards – Had to rush home . You make me want to try again .
    Wendy in York

    1. Definitely the dark lip is too harsh. Hubby hated it. But that Norma Desmond comment cracked me up. I wonder if you ever saw the American TV show "Carol Burnett"…she used to do a wonderful spoof on Sunset Boulevard. She would swan down a curved staircase in a drooping sequinned gown, all black beauty spot and red, red lips… saying "Max…I'm ready for my close-up." The announcer would say…"Nora Desmond…living legend in a dying body." It was hilarious. I dressed as her one Halloween at school when all the teachers wore costumes. If you haven't seen it I'll bet there's a Youtube video of the skit. I may even go look that up myself:)

  3. I love the way you talk about the people who help you with your style – Liz, Ruth, and now Katie. The new make up look is great. Like Mater, my summer make up style has been 'abandonment'. I get too sweaty from the heat, not a lovely look. Last year I got into the Nars tinted moisturiser, so I will probably start wearing that again soon. But the eyes – I have never been able to get the eyes right. Maybe I need to visit Katie ….

    1. Thanks, Patricia. Katie is really great. She's worked for Laura Mercier for nine years….I know…she looks like she's twelve. I really like her philosophy…that no one should say "I love your make-up. Just that you look great." The make-up should not be THE thing one sees.

    2. Judging by the results, Katie achieved that goal with you. I think you look absolutely wonderful, lipstick color and all!

  4. Sue – such a lovely, soft look – still you but totally polished. At nearly 60, I think I've finally turned into my aunts – most days I wear nothing but lipstick – usually a neutral pink from YSL but sometimes a new red Guerlain. I've never mastered the art of tending to my eyebrows – I always seems to end up looking like one of the Angry Birds. I had my first visit to Nordstrom (with my sister) at the Rideau Centre in June and was totally impressed – never made it to the Bay at all.

    1. Thanks, Kim. I love Nordstom. Hate shopping at the Bay. At least the one on Rideau. I can never find anything and I seem to just go in circles, before I just go home:)

  5. You look very pretty and fresh! It's always a good sign when the sales associate's makeup is also pretty and fresh. Katie's look was just right and not over-done as so many are that are representing make-up lines. It seems that good, strong brows make us look a bit younger. I'm grateful to have my dad's brows for that reason! Thanks for the details of your make-up lesson–so fun and helpful!

    1. Thanks, Kim. Some of the girls I see working in cosmetics have scary looks. To heavy and stagey. Not sure how they expect customers to trust their ability. They should be their own best advertisement for their talent…I think.

  6. I'm so with you on service making all the difference. I learned how to do my eyebrows better at my makeover too. Was shocked at how prominent they were when Kelly (my excellent Nodstrom sales person) applied makeup to them – but they have made such a difference in opening up my eyes. Loved the eyeliner technique you shared – laughed in recognition at your prior attempts. You look gorgeous. Natural and healthy – and that's so inviting. My favorite thing about the makeover experience was working with DA again and meeting you. Here's to makeovers and shake-ups!

  7. I've been tight lining for a couple of years and I think it makes me look much younger. I do not think your lip was too bold, but you are the one who has to like it. I like your make up; Katie did a good job. Clerks who are so young that they wouldn't know a wrinkle if it bit them on the butt are of no use to me whatsoever. And btw? Your hair might take a long time but it's sure worth it. I love the style of it.

    1. I forgot to add that I do the tight lining by lifting the eyelid and placing the liner on the under side of the lashes (near the waterline rather than near the eyelid itself). Some call it push lining. It's such a good technique when drooping eyelids begin to obscure the lower portion of the lids.

    2. Thanks for the hair compliment. I'm so hair obsessed…I know it's a character flaw:) I "tight-line" on the underside as well. Just doing that alone makes a difference, doesn't it?

  8. Love your 'new' look. Very polished but at the same time relaxed and appropriate for a more casual lifestyle. Now to try the tight lining! I love Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer and have been using it for several years. I had a recent foray with another make and found it too heavy so I am back with LM.

    1. Thanks, Christy. Good to hear about the LM tinted moisturiser. I also have tried other brands and found them cakey. And BB cream feels like a mask. Thanks for the info.

  9. Sue, You are so chic to start with, and this new makeup look is anazing on you. You look stunning. I love seeing and reading the step- by-step process. So instructive!

    I must say I love that hail smooth skin look as well. I don't think I have ever achieved it at any age or stage in my life but I do find it elegant when I see it in fashion editorial.

    Thank you so much for doing this a few weeks ago and allowing me to include you in the makeover series. You are a sweetheart! (And Part Deux – a few more lovely women – on Monday!)

  10. Like you, I find the Bobbi Brown products really good … I use her tinted moisturising balm daily but may be tempted by the LM one sometime. I'm also going to try tight lining and hope I have some success! I m usually hopeless when it comes to applying eye liner!! Your "makeover" looks great. I think you really suited the lipstick shade although I can understand why your hubby hated it …. My husband was less than complementary when I had my make up professionally applied!!! I think when it comes to make up it's definitely a case of less is more! Hope that makes sense!

  11. Loved finding out about tightlining. Eye liner never looked right on me, so I'm trying this method. Thanks for this interesting post and I think you look great!

    1. Thanks Becky. I've been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I love how natural it looks…but still defines and opens my eyes. Good luck with it! I've just remembered that Katie mentioned that there was a youtube video explaining how to do it.

  12. Tight-lining is very effective. You look great. Don't you love when you can recreate the look at home. A very successful makeover. You're lucky to have found Katie. Iris

  13. An interesting array of videos and how to articles on tightlining when I googled it. Who knew? Liked the sound of "how to tightline without blinding yourself"! Definitely requires some more research before I try it Iris

    1. I know…after I wrote that "reply" I looked for myself…there are scads of "tight-lining" videos… some of them demonstrating looks that would make me run a mile. Must look for the one the one you mention. Even better to get someone to do it in person, I think.

    1. I try that every so often and then start layering stuff back on. But I find that I've been doing really minimal make-up to run into the village to the library etc. Can't go with a totally bare face…except to ski or walk or cycle. I always find it funny when women put make-up on to exercise. Guess we all decide that the line needs to be drawn in different places, eh?

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