One of the most common myths in the beauty industry is that women should be loyal to a single skin care line because the products are “designed to work together.” This myth is perpetuated by ridiculously beautiful, young saleswomen with flawless skin, who claim that “Bullwinkle’s Anti-Aging Serum works best if you use it in combination with Bullwinkle’s moisturizer and cleanser.” You enter the Brand Zone whenever you go into a department store cosmetics department, where each salesperson wears a jacket displaying their particular sales platform, and is charged with the specific task of upselling you to purchase as many products are possible.
“Need a moisturizer? It will work so much better with its matching serum. And btw, what cleanser are you using? Oh, and you’ll just adore Bullwinkle’s new once-weekly face masque. And good thing you’re here today because we’re selling the basic skincare set for $230, which is way cheaper than buying them individually. Plus, it’s better for your skin to use the products together. Shall I ring you up?” I know the spiel, because I’ve taught it to hundreds of cosmetics salespeople, and I’ve used it myself for years.
The thing is that it’s not true.
Products can’t read each other’s labels, so they have no way of knowing whose product you’re lathering up or slapping on top of them. They don’t know that you’re cheating on them with products from another brand. I won’t tell if you don’t.
The fact is that it’s highly unlikely that any one brand has the best formulation of every product in the common daily routine of cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen, much less more specific items such as serums and masques. One line may make a sweet moisturizer, but their sunscreen is a little greasy. Or they make a killer night cream that you love, but their cleanser is absurdly expensive and doesn’t work any better than Dove soap.
So what does this mean to you? It means you can have a cleanser by L’Oréal, a moisturizer by Neutrogena, and a sunscreen by Cover Girl, then throw in a fabulous, but stupidly expensive serum for those fine lines creeping down your cheeks. The serum people would like you to believe that the serum won’t work as well if you don’t also use their overpriced cleanser and sunscreen products. Horse pucky. Buy what you like. Mix and match. I’ve chosen products simply because I love their packaging. If your favorite cleanser is Dove soap, it’s okay to put a Lancôme moisturizer on after. If they tell you the Lancôme moisturizer needs a Lancôme cleanser to work, keep walking.
Now, your questions!
Q. I’m liking the eyeshadow palettes that are being sold everywhere. The ones in the department stores are gorgeous, but they’re like three times the price of the ones from Maybelline. Are they worth it?
A. It depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you like a simple one-color sweep of a neutral color across the eyelid, it probably doesn’t matter. If you like to wear eye shadows to create specific “looks,” using two or more shades that you want to blend together, you’ll need to step it up a notch.
I bought my granddaughter (a little fashion diva) a nude palette of eyeshadows from Maybelline. She was thrilled, and her parents never had to worry that she might go outside looking like a future employee-of-the-month at Mrs. Bagbottoms House of Yippy.
Cheap eyeshadows lay down minimal color and can be difficult to blend. If you buy the shimmery ones, the drugstore versions often look more like Little Betsy’s glitter project from pre-K. Sparkle isn’t the same thing as shimmer. Cheap shadows also tend to fade during the day or travel into crepey eyelids. Better quality eyeshadows lay their color down easily and beautifully. They’re easy to blend, and you can apply as little or as much as you like (especially in the nude shades). They last all day, and the colors stay true.
I love Urban Decay’s new nude palette #3. It’s gorgeous, and you can’t screw up the colors because they all look fabulous in any combination. It retails for $54, but I’m cheap, so I got mine from eBay for $35, NIB, free shipping.
Q. Thanks to a 31-year smoking habit, I have deep vertical lines around my mouth. Is there a way to make those go away?
A. You can’t. Not with traditional retail cosmetic products. The salespeople or the labels will tell you that their product will “eliminate vertical lines around the mouth,” but that’s not exactly true. Any good moisturizer will slightly diminish their visibility, for a short period of time. But if you’re look for a more permanent solution, talk to a skincare professional. A licensed nurse or esthetician can recommend procedures that will truly help you get the look you want.
Q. I have a lip gloss that I love, but it doesn’t last. Help!
A. I love lip gloss too, but you’re right. It tends to wear off really quickly. Try applying a matte lipstick first. Get one in a close shade to your lip gloss, apply a one-sweep stroke of the matte (not too much), then wait a second and lightly apply your gloss over the top. Revlon Colorstay is great for this. It has a matte color at one end and a clear lip gloss on the other. You can use the clear gloss or any other one you like. I like my gloss with shimmer, so I apply the Revlon stain, let it set, then one sweep of my L’Oréal gloss.
Q. I don’t have dark undereye circles or puffiness, but sometimes people say I look tired. I’d love something that would brighten the eye area up a little and make me look more awake. Any suggestions?
A. Absolutely. Try L’Oréal’s Magic Lumi Skin Perfecting Primer underneath your foundation. Normally, we apply concealer over foundation, but this isn’t a concealer. It’s a wonderful shimmery eye brightener. It comes in a pump bottle, and takes very little to work. Pump a tiny bit onto your fingertip, then blend lightly under the eyes. You can also dab a little around the lip lines. Let dry for a second, then apply your foundation or other products. You’ll look like you had 8 hours of blissful sleep. It’ll be your secret.