Archive for April, 2011

A Ramble on Makeup, MAC, Laura Mercier, & Sephora

I love shopping, but hate shopping for anything in particular. Shopping for something in particular is worthy of the 9th ring of hell in my opinion, the pressure to find the right thing at the right price at the right time is more than I can bear. Shopping in a pressured situation like this takes the la de da fun out of shopping, so I avoid it at all costs. Of course there are times when you are just forced into shopping for a particular something, and in those moments I find myself wondering “whatever happened to customer service?” Bad customer service is a constant pet peeve of mine. I WILL write to the company if I get bad service, but I also write when I get great customer service, yes, I have issues…;)

The funny thing is I never knew there was a difference in levels of customer service until I traveled to the third world. Yeah, yeah I know it isn’t PC to call the third world the third world, but the third world is a different world…not a Cosby Show spin-off. In the third world when you visit with tourist dollars that might seem like nothing to you, all of a sudden you are treated like a rock star. Shopping means sales assistants fawning over you, store owners and managers running to get you bottled water, and stores extending their hours to make sure you don’t feel rushed in your decision to buy a traditional outfit which you will never wear once you get home. I don’t envy celebrities much, but I sure envy that! By comparison shopping in a cookie cutter mall in Southern California that is slowly being overtaken by cheapo stripper shoe stores and Footlocker type knock-off stores, you don’t feel like a rock star at all, you find yourself asking again and again “whatever happened to customer service?!” This was exactly what I felt when I was again in search of the perfect concealer when the new one I purchased a few days earlier broke.

Starting at Nordstrom, the supposed bastion of good customer service before you leave the stores us mere mortals can afford, I knew what I wanted and I was going to get the right color matched to my skin and get out of there. Walking up to the Laura Mercier, which I hereby dub the Laura Bitchier counter, I told the associate which concealer I wanted and asked for a color match. This elicited a rundown of the concealer and an explanation that it wasn’t made for under the eyes even though the company website said it was great “for getting rid of dark circles”. Insisting I wanted the product the sales associate soon shucked me off to another associate so she could go help someone else. I was starting to lose it, the little imaginary thermometer over my head was heating up fast, I just got ditched and had to explain everything again to another associate and listen to her explanation of why this concealer wasn’t right for under my eyes. Finally, after again insisting I wanted to get color matched she started trying something on under my eyes the whole while saying despite what I read on the website or was told by a representative of the company on the phone this concealer was not meant for under the eyes. A couple of mind numbing minutes later I was handed the mirror, and was shocked. Why would any sighted person have applied makeup to someone’s under eyes like this?! I mean really?! The first color she tried on me was so light it was almost blinding, the second color was so awkwardly pink completely ignoring the yellow undertones in my skin, I really had to wonder if she was color blind. Clearly she hadn’t been parted of the sighted world for long. Saying thank you after wiping off the horrendous clown makeup I took the associates advice and headed over to MAC.

Foregoing the MAC area of Nordstrom is usually part of my silent non-violent protest against MAC’s attempts to be more than they are. They are a makeup brand, nothing more, nothing less. Yet they routinely have some of the bitchiest men and women employed to work that counter. The air of superiority with which their associates swan around their counter combined with the annoyingly loud music makes them seem like the are trying so hard to be cool, they have somehow overshot the mark in a big way.  Back in the old days wealthy patrons would support artists and put up with their crap so they could in someway be part of the history this artist was creating. Well the wealthy patrons of the MAC makeup artists is Estee Lauder, and their patroness is pimping out her artists, making them work their corner and hawk her products. So why MAC makeup artists act like they are doing you a favor when you need help finding a product I have no clue. But after having my concealer done by a guy with perfect makeup I again found myself wondering if he too had just joined the sighted world, and if his patroness would be mad that he just botched a sale. When I expressed my doubt over the splotchy mismatched concealer and asked if he thought it was a good match he said “yes, let me know if you need any more help” before walking off. Now you, gentle reader, know that is some CRAP. Here I am asking if this horrible effort he made on behalf of my under eye circles was correct and his stuck up self just walked away, WHAT IN THE WORLD?! I was getting really irritated, and before I did something stupid, ala Aldo Shoes screaming match with a sales associate I was walking off I needed to cool down, I just shouldn’t have tried to do it in another makeup store.

Heading to MAC, the store, it was more of the same. Wait around to be helped and then when you finally get some help, the information is so bad, so inaccurate you almost wonder if they are for real. According to the MAC store associate what seems like a variety of different concealers perched on their display was simply one single type of concealer with different delivery methods…WTF?! So essentially what this makeup artists was telling me was that MAC/Estee Lauder in their infinite wisdom and wish to waste money packaged the same concealer in different pots, pencils, tubes, etc. just for the fun of wasting money?! Aside from the disbelief over this obviously wrong information, my under eyes were aching. They literally hurt for all the “stippling” and “smoothing” and “tapping on” of product. Worse I found myself wanting to salute those sneaky bastards at the makeup companies. Not only have they created products that cost $22 for a quarter of an ounce, they have now split the concealer category into eye and face. Not one of the people I asked from the time I stepped into Nordstrom to that moment in MAC agreed or even understood my request for a single product for my under eyes and face. Every single time I requested an eye and face concealer in one I was met with blank looks and explanations about color canceling, etc. etc. I never remember hearing this eye/face concealer distinction until just recently…sneaky, sneaky!

Under eyes weary, I left the MAC store without a product in hand and went to Sephora. Hopefully the color I needed for the next day was in stock even though I had called earlier and knew that wasn’t the case. Walking into the store I was immediately asked if I needed help! It was amazing things were going my way, finally! Taking me over to the the CoverFX display after I told her my concealer was out of stock from Makeup Forever, Sephora is Makeup Forever’s pimp, the associate moved towards me with the concealer, and I could hear my under eye skin screaming “OH THE HUMANITY”…lol. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, I just asked her if I could apply the concealer instead of her because my eyes were getting irritated from all the trying on, but I wasn’t to worry she was going to try the concealer on my neck. I thought this was a good idea so try she did, and a fail it was, I could see a patch of concealer on my neck, it was darker than my skin tone, how was I supposed to cover dark circles with a concealer darker than my skin?! This definitely wasn’t going to work. Expressing my doubt again, the sales associate said “concealer doesn’t always have to be lighter than your skin.” What?! How the hell am I going to conceal dark circles with concealer darker than the circles?! What in hell?! I had walked into Sephora and apparently stepped into an alternate reality, I was in opposite world. With excuses of just wanting to browse some more I separated from the sales associate and left the store no concealer in hand.

Leaving the mall I reflected on all my bad makeup advice and makeup trying on experience of late and tried to come up with a reason for it. There had to be a reason. Maybe I was giving off a bitch vibe, that definitely could be it, but I wasn’t in a bad mood at the first counter I was at and still got shoddy service. It could be that I was only looking for one product not a regimen, but they never really tried to sell me anything more or asked me if I wanted anything more, so how would they know?  Then finally it came to me, I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I walked up to these makeup counters in nothing but my good old trusty Oil of Olay moisturizer. My hair was pulled back into a not cute ponytail and I looked comfortable in my jeans and washed too many times hoodie. There were times I had received great customer service from MAC and as I reflected back on those moments it was when I walked up to the counter with makeup on. For some strange reason I really think that I got worse customer service at the makeup stores and counters when I didn’t have makeup on.  Instead of taking one look at my face that was was clearly devoid of products and seeing a huge commission on sales, they thought it wasn’t worth their time to try to convince me to buy what they were selling. It made me think back to an article I read about gender differences in the workplace and how women who didn’t wear makeup were perceived as not caring and that they weren’t as “good” at what they did as their female colleagues that wore makeup. Adding insult to injury they were also paid less. I only wish the article talked about men who wore makeup, now that would have been an interesting article.

Sometime soon I am going to have to get all dolled up and go back to those same stores and the same makeup counters and see if I can get help from the same people. I bet you a MAC eye shadow that I suddenly get treated much better, not as well as you get treated when shopping in the third world, but definitely better!

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Humiliations Galore!

There is a reason I list The Princess Bride as one of my favorite movies, there are sooo many great lines in that movie! A particular favorite of mine is during the scene where Inigo Montoya is trying to convince the Miracle Max to bring the Man in Black back from the dead at a cut rate price. Inigo Montoya convinces Miracle Max to bring the Man in Black back from the “mostly dead” so Prince Humperdinck would suffer “humiliations galore”, as Inigo Montoya puts it, when the Man in Black stops Prince Humperdinck’s wedding to Buttercup. I have been through some humiliating experiences in my life, like the time I fell down the stairs at someone’s house, and spilled food on their white carpet…THREE times in one night. But that was like 10 years ago, I have time and space, and an international border crossing to separate me from that humiliation. Yesterday I got measured for a bridesmaid dress I have to have made for my cousin’s wedding, and the only thought I could think at the end of the process was HUMILIATIONS GALORE.

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From Sephora to Nordstrom and Back Again

A couple of months ago I ran out of concealer and I realized my foundation made my skin look like an oil slick. Since I came to my realization the foundation has been a permanent resident of makeup drawer waiting for its notice to vacate to the trashcan once it was replaced. Unfortunately the replacement process has been slow and steady, a complete novelty for me in the makeup buying process. Usually I am the first person to read about a new product or be convinced by the person at the makeup counter that this amazing product from the company they work for is totally the product “I HAVE TO HAVE”. Well this year, after last year’s Smashbox’s tinted moisturizer debacle, I refused to end up with yet another product that never got used. Time and experience had taught me to be cautious in my “complexion” makeup purchases, no more buying products I don’t use, AKA making donation to corporate giants. Heading to the makeup Mecca, Sephora, I started the process armed with recommendations from “experts”, actual users, and my pocketbook.

First of all walk into a Sephora store with a face devoid of any product except moisturizer and you might as well have the word “patsy” written on your head in Urban Decay eyeliner. The sales associates take one look at you and think you are going to listen to every wild suggestion they might have for a new “makeup routine”. All the talk of primers, color correctors, concealers, eye shadow bases, setting powders, pigmented powders, mineral powder, cream shadows, etc. etc. forever and ever, will make anyone’s head spin. But this time I wasn’t going to be swayed I wasn’t walking out of the damn beauty store which might either be a girlie heaven or hell with something I didn’t go in there intending to buy. I was buying tinted moisturizer, concealer, and color corrector for my panda eyes, period.

Of course, my resolve was soon tested. It is practically impossible to go in that store and not act like a kid in a candy store!!! All of a sudden my eyes got bright and shiny when I looked at all the pretty colored eye shadows and eyeliners and nail polishes…I wanted EVERYTHING! My head was swimming! I started trying out blue eye shadows, then greens, but I forced myself back on track, I was going to spend at least $100 on the other stuff on my list, I couldn’t add more unnecessary eye shadow to my collection. So then, focusing on the goal I did the unthinkable…I asked one of the “Product Consultants” for help. I have a theory about advice from makeup stores and makeup counters, its kind of something we forget when we are listening to all these makeup “experts”…trust your own judgment…after all it’s going to be on your face. So when the Sephora Product Consultant recommended the Makeup Forever (MUFE) #4 concealer palette with five different concealer shades that can be blended to create the perfect shade…I dismissed her recommendation immediately and stopped listening to her advice shortly thereafter.

I am sure she had great stuff to say and good advice on something, but when you recommend I buy a $36 concealer palette in which the lightest color is more than a couple shades darker than my skin tone, we are not on the same wavelength or maybe you are just clueless, either way I channeled my inner Cher and gave her a mental “AS IF”! Seeing my disinterest I was soon passed off to the Stila guy who was there shilling for his brand. He had his hair done up, looking very 50’s, very Grease with a 21st century spin, and I thought, oh yeah, this dude is gonna give me some great product advice etc. Ten minutes and a lot of blinking later due to his attempts to apply concealer way too close to my lash line instead of just having me do it myself when he saw me tearing up, I was horrified. One eye was done in concealer and I looked like a tired panda, and the other eye that was done in some sort of base looked like a panda that didn’t know their colors yet. I was definitely NOT falling for the Stila makeup. Realizing he wasn’t going to make a sale for Stila he passed me off to the lady who was there shilling for Cover FX.

Let me start this out by, I hate to be mean…but…I didn’t want the Cover FX lady making any sort of recommendations for anything. When I walk up to a makeup counter, I want the person with the best looking makeup to ask me if I need help. Not the person whose makeup is just a total and utter tragedy. In the makeup-selling world, I really think it is all about the look of the makeup that counts! Seeing absolutely no tactful way to get out of it, and hoping maybe she did other’s makeup better than her own I let her get started. She first picked out the darkest concealer color she could find, and soon realized there was no way that was going to work. Another trial and error session later she finally landed on the best color when she tried the third tube. Taking a look at her work a couple minutes later colorblind panda and tired panda were definitely gone…I now looked like dry flaky, gross under eye skin panda. My eyes were looking bloodshot from all the irritation of people apply concealer under my eyes, and I was getting really frustrated with this whole process.

Instead of standing around and getting more frustrated I walked to the Bobbi Brown counter at Nordstrom. I have heard great things about Bobbi Brown concealers in the past, so I was definitely going to see if the sales people at the counter could do better than Sephora. As I walked up to the counter, there was a girl with impeccable makeup, yay!!! There was also an assortment of concealers covering every surface of the counter, double yay!!! Five minutes later, double boo. Some other sales associate, not the one with the impeccable makeup, but someone with questionable makeup, had applied color corrector under my eyes and by applied I mean there were literally chunks of color corrector glopped under my eyes and then there were chunks of concealer glopped around the color corrector. With a satisfied look, and a lot of self congratulating the sales associate told me the prices, making some quick excuse about wanting to walk around the mall for a bit and seeing how the concealer looked after I had it on for awhile I hightailed it out of there swearing never to go back as long as she worked at the counter.

My hightailing meant that I retraced my route back to Sephora. Back in the store, the pretty colors and shiny objects all around the store did not completely not enthrall me as they had before, no, I was on a mission and I was going to complete it. Plus I was getting hungry, I was tired of walking around, and I have to be in a wedding in two months and Mrs. Fields was looking better and better every single time I walked by it! Twenty minutes, lots of indecision, and lots of consulting my own council later I had a color corrector, concealer, tinted moisturizer, and no mas! Now after a weekend of wear and very close inspection I can officially recommend the following three products:

– Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer; it feels great and light on your skin.
– Makeup Forever HD Concealer, spendy, but it does conceal!
– Makeup Forever lipstick #40 used as an under eye color corrector, weird, never would have thought of it on my own, but strangely it works! (Thank you for the recommendation Sephora Rancho Cucamonga Product Consultant…you were awesome!)

So yes my process of research, trying, waiting, researching some more, and not going with the first thing someone said looked “good” on me was frustrating and in the end was expensive. But I have learned the hard way the most expensive makeup is the stuff you buy and never use.

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Does This T-Shirt Make Me Look Hippy?!

So it’s that special time of year, that time when the sun coming out actually indicates warm weather, and not just those teasingly warm winter days that Southern California is known for which are often followed by a 50 degree weather that feels as brutal after the balmy weather of the day before. As great as this change in weather is, it also means a change in wardrobe, which is welcome in the shoe department, and not so welcome in the shirt department.

I am generally a person that avoids t-shirts. I don’t know when exactly this t-shirt avoidance policy started, I just know that when I look through my summer clothes, there aren’t too many t-shirts amongst them. My “wardrobe” if one can call my collection of clothes that look suspiciously like the sales racks of seasons past of Banana Republic and GAP is full of other fun summer tops, but definitely not full of t-shirts. But recently I have ventured away from the no t-shirt rule. Why?! I was seduced by the low prices and fancy designs of two t-shirts I saw on sale. As a result, $11 dollars and the expiration of two return policies later, I was the proud owner of two new t-shirts. Okay, so I am talking like I am a person that doesn’t have or has never really worn a t-shirt before, totally not the case…I have, I just realized somewhere along the way, maybe t-shirts should be on my “What Not To Wear List”.

So this morning, fresh out of bed, and realizing that the it felt like it was going to be a warm day, I decided…this is going to be new t-shirt day! I was brimming with optimism, after all I have been all healthy lately, working out, eating smart, etc. so I don’t look like a moo-moo at my cousin’s upcoming wedding, so I decided to put on one of the new t-shirts. The shirt I chose was a rather blah blue, but the drab blue looks spectacular with a bright orange design silk screened over one half of the t-shirt. Throwing on my clothes I made my way out of the house for the day, confident that I was looking cute in my t-shirt!

First, living in the Inland Empire region of Southern California is not at all like living in funky trendy LA or spendy OC. No, the Inland Empire, The IE, is different…to put it kindly. Lifted trucks, tattoos as far as the eye didn’t want to see, and makeup that makes my club makeup look tame abounds here. I am not saying that I have any particular “style” of note, but at least I can put on makeup and tell the difference between everyday makeup and looking like a MAC counter threw up on me. But you know what, not today, today I was all IE baby.

Thinking I looked rather cute in my t-shirt I walked into my casual workplace and was doing my usual work routine. Wandering around getting a beverage, doing some work, running around with papers…and unconsciously constantly pulling my t-shirt down. I didn’t realize it as of yet, but it was a case of me against the t-shirt!   Stupid me didn’t realize how horrific the situation was until I headed out to the store and then to lunch.

Hopping into my car and racing to the store I quickly ran in to pick up a couple of items, and the whole time I was in a tug of war with my stupid t-shirt. The t-shirt wasn’t oversize, but it was in no way tight, and still the stupid thing kept riding up my hips before ending its hasty retreat from the waistband of my jeans once it reached my natural waist. This was a disaster! Here I am trying to walk around the store, quickly, and I am simultaneously trying to hold onto items in my hands, keep my shirt down so I don’t flash anyone with untoned hips, and try to keep my pants from sagging (I forgot my stupid belt). Five minutes of fast walking and items/pants/t-shirt juggling later, I knew I couldn’t make it to the next store without somehow fixing this situation.

Making a pit stop at my car in between stores I pulled out the only jacket I had, a thick winter weather hoody with a fur lined hood. Looking at it with irritation, I slipped my arms into the sun-warmed cotton and started cursing myself for this t-shirt choice. I don’t care what the temperature really was it felt like 95 and here I was wandering around in a fur lined hoodie while other people where in shorts and tank tops. Sweating like a little piglet, holding up my pants to avoid any unsightly pant sagging, the only good thing was this whole situation made me get in and out of that store like The Flash!

Let me tell you nothing makes you work up a sweat like having to get in and out of a car on a warm day wearing a thick, heavy hoodie. Cursing my choice of ordering lunch from a place that didn’t have a drive-thru window I parked and ran into the restaurant. A nice guy behind me called, “let me get the door for you!” How sweet of him I thought, while he was following up the door opening with a questioning look at my attire and a “wow, aren’t you hot in that jacket?!” My inner child that was dying of heat exhaustion and was screaming out to this stranger for help “YES…YESSSS…I am so hot and this bitch is suffocating me…HELP…HELPP…HELLPPP!!!!!” When I finally made it back to work, it felt like bliss to walk into my empty office, take off that stupid hoodie, and wipe the sweat off my forehead.

Unfortunately while I was in the bathroom dabbing away sweat, and debating whether it was worthwhile to fashion a belt mainly using #1 size paperclips, I looked in the mirror. T-shirt disaster numero dos. Somehow I didn’t notice how the cut of the sleeves of this particular t-shirt made my arms look like particularly undelightful. Throwing my arms out to the side, I was horrified, this was not good, not good at all, the t-shirt was obviously getting relegated to the “never wear again except in dire emergency” section of the closet, but my arms were another matter. After working out for months and suffering through two bouts of the flu, I was expecting more of my arms than this horribleness! What a betrayal! My arms are traitors…! I have walked way too many miles and climbed way too many steps and suffered through way too many free weight sessions for my arms to betray me like this! This t-shirt was causing too much strife in my well ordered world. But it wasn’t the biggest culprit in what was turning out to be a miserable day, my hips, and I should add me too, were still the biggest offenders, both my hips and I worked together to start this downward spiral with the once so promising t-shirt.

Let’s be real, I know I have hips. First I am a woman, so that is kinda part of the deal, but hips aren’t user friendly things. But it is sooo irritating when your t-shirt is riding up your back with every step you take, in a damn Target at lunch time. If my hips can’t even keep the stupid t-shirt in place, what good are they for?! To have kids?! Well I don’t have any of those, so that’s not a benefit so far!  Seriously that saying “a moment of the lips, a lifetime on the hips” my t-shirt situation was testament to the truth of that statement.  Why are hips hard?  In the first place we grow up not having them, then we reach puberty and we have them, and then we have to deal with them…the whole while there are t-shirts and jeans out there that are “boy cut”, and as the biggest joke on me ever, I LOVE THAT LOOK. I love the “boy cut” jeans and t-shirts, but apparently they don’t love me back, and I blame my hips for this lack of love! No matter how hard I try, the boyfriend jean and t-shirt look is not for me, and my hips are to blame for this inability to wear the style I want…and look good in it!

Hips are great for resting your hands on, hip checking half closed car doors because you are too lazy to unlock, open, and re-close it, and lowering your center of gravity. But they are terrible at helping keep traitorous t-shirts in constant contact with the waistband of your pants on hot days!

Someone really needs to write a book called, Hips: An Owner’s Manual! …Soon thereafter future New York Times Bestseller, T-Shirts: They’re Not For Everyone, needs to be written!

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