Voices: On Beauty
Welcome back to Voices, a monthly series/discussion of topics, ranging from periods to professional advice, featuring my best girlfriends! For this third post, I picked their brains on beauty. Can you believe it's already the last Monday of March?
When did you start wearing makeup?
Why did you start? How did you learn?
B: I started wearing makeup sometime in high school, mainly because I found it fun to use and by that age it became a popular topic with friends. It was not easy for me to learn since my mom was never interested in makeup and preferred that I didn’t wear any. I mainly learned by testing out makeup with my friends, and I’d honestly say that I’m still learning new techniques even now.
L: I started wearing eyeliner on my lower line the summer going into the 6th grade. I went away to show choir camp for a couple of weeks and one of my friends showed me how to use eyeliner and plucked my eyebrows for the first time. I felt so guilty because my mother specifically told me that I wasn't allowed to wear makeup or dye my hair or pluck my eyebrows, but I don't regret it. Plucking my eyebrows and wearing eyeliner was just the beginning! I started wearing makeup on a regular basis shortly thereafter. Back then, YouTube vloggers were not a big thing so I learned most of my makeup tips from a family friend or my mom. You can imagine how disastrous this was, not having a Sephora sales associate help you get the perfect match for your foundation and having an Asian mother who gave directions like "You just draw it on!" or "Just wipe it all over your face with this thing!"
K: I probably started my freshman or sophomore year of college and it was only because of things/events/occurrences that I had to look polished/more presentable for such as career fairs, banquets/dances, etc. I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and I still do—only to no avail.
G: I starting wearing makeup when I was 10 years old. I was self-conscious about my large eyes so I started wearing eyeliner to hide my large eyelids. I was into art from a very young age and drawing on my face came naturally to me.
What was your first beauty product (if you remember)?
Do you still use it?
B: Well, other than lipgloss (which I’m not sure counts) the first beauty product I really enjoyed was eyeliner. It still remains my number one makeup necessity. I always had the issue of oily eyelids, so many beauty products including eyeliners wouldn’t stay on throughout the day. They would smudge and cause the opposite effect of what I was looking for. I’ve tried so many different types of eyeliners over the years and changed brands many times before I settled on my current one. I now sometimes use primer or makeup setting spray if I’m doing any dramatic eye makeup, but I still need my smudge-free liner for my daily use.
L: My first beauty product was a pencil eyeliner from Target. I also had a Shiseido compact powder foundation that was way too light on my skin. My mother and I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to drive 1.5 hours to go to the Shiseido warehouse sale and this was one of the items she grabbed. It made me look ghostly in pictures taken with a flash. I no longer use this product not because it wasn't any good, but because I've moved on to other foundations.
K: If I had to guess, it was probably eyeliner, and yes, on occasion.
G: It was probably a drugstore brand eyeliner.
What is your favorite beauty product?
B: If we’re talking about all beauty products, I might have to go with my hair treatment. I’ve become a fanatic for Moroccanoil and don’t use anything else on my hair anymore, which is a surprise for everyone, since I was an avid Redken promoter for the past 10 years. I have to say that Moroccanoil is the only treatment that prevents my hair from frizzing up on the daily, which also means less need for daily hairstyling products and frizz control sprays.
L: My favorite beauty product would be eyeliner, simply because it makes a huge difference to how my face looks whenever I wear it. I prefer either a gel or liquid liner for the lid, and a pencil liner for the lower waterline.
K: Eyeliner. I love eye makeup in general and am amazed by people's skills of playing up the eyes and using different colors and styles. Eyeshadow, liner, and mascara can be used in so many ways and I love seeing the creativity.
G: Eyeliner is still my go-to product but I use gel eyeliner now. I've learned to love my large eyes since childhood and eyeliner has become a part of my identity for me.
What are your top five products of all time?
L: My favorite products vary over time, but I can say the five that have consistently been on my top list would be: 1. Fresh face wash because it also removes my face makeup. 2. e.l.f. thin angled brush to apply my eyebrows. 3. Beauty Blender knock-off because it's fun to use and can apply foundation or concealer in hard-to-reach places. 4. Not sure if this is a beauty product, but nothing beats a good old Burt's Bees chapstick. 5. Crest Whitestrips—I use a pack at least 4 times a year because I am obsessed with keeping my teeth white.
K: This is such a hard question for a very "non-makeup person." I honestly love skincare more. But I have to say liquid eyeliner, mascara, moisturizer, sunscreen, and chapstick. I know, I don't even think I should be answering any of the questions on this particular topic.
What is your current beauty routine?
B: I try to take my makeup off as soon as I get home at the end of my day. I don’t like keeping it on my face longer than I need. I use Simple makeup remover, which is great for my sensitive skin. Then I wash with Cetaphil, it’s light and does the job without making my skin more irritated or oily to compensate. Afterwards, I use Aveeno facial cream. Depending on how my skin is (i.e., breakouts or blemishes), I’ll use a toner or spot treatment before I go to bed. In the morning, I only rinse and wipe my face off. This is the lowest maintenance and least expensive routine that still gives me the results I want. For my hair, I’ve recently tried to use shampoo less frequently. I try to only shampoo every other day, which actually makes my hair look so much healthier. It’s so hard not to wash though, so sometimes I’ll only use water and conditioner at night, skipping the shampoo. It’s done wonders for my dry and split ends.
L: In recent months, I have started to spend very little time on my makeup routine and invested more time in my skincare routine. In the morning, I wash my face with just warm water or the Bliss micro magic face wash once a week, and then moisturize with Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre. If I do apply makeup, I wear Lancome liquid foundation, use the e.l.f. contour brush that looks like a brick to apply bronzer on my face sockets (I know this is totally wrong but it works for me...I think), apply a little bit of blush to my cheeks, and use the pencil/powder/brush trio to apply my eyebrows. Then, I use NYC liquid liner to do a winged liner and voila! I will sometimes spray Caudalie Beauty Elixir before I walk out the door. In the evening, right when I come home from work, I will remove my makeup with Beautycounter cleansing balm. If I don't wear makeup and just need a simple face wash at night, I use Shiseido Ibuki gentle cleanser. I alternate between the Tatcha luminous night concentrate and Chanel Hydra Beauty creme moisturizers before bed. I also like to do the Tony Moly snail slime mask or Nature Republic snail solution about once every other week.
K: Moisturizer and good to go.
G: Being a full-time backpacker, I learned to be as low maintenance as possible. Dove bar soap for my face at night, Eucerin body lotion for my face and body, no makeup, and plenty of exposure to the sun. This is the clearest my skin has been in a very long time. Before my backpacking days, I would use my face wash twice a day (before and after bed), followed by Eucerin lotion, retinol cream, and sunscreen. That would be followed by foundation, eyeliner, and mascara.
How has your beauty routine remained the same
and/or evolved over time?
B: I think the biggest change is that I’ve stopped using harsh face washes and treatments. Whenever I’d have any blemishes or breakouts, I’d try more dramatic products. After speaking to a dermatologist, I realized that using gentle daily cleansers and products is so much better for my skin. I’ve seen quite an improvement in overall skin issues. I also make sure to use a daily facial moisturizer! I used to think it was a waste of time when I was younger, but now I’ve learned how essential it really is.
L: As I get older, I start to realize that my Asian genes won't always be on my side. Time will catch up and it will be too late before I realize I look like an old lady, so in the past year or two, I have started to invest more time and money on skincare products rather than makeup.
K: My routine has largely remained the same, but I do have to say that my more makeup savvy friends have taught me a few tricks over the years. One of my best friends actually gifted me a great eyeshadow palette (Naked) and actually educated me on base colors, transition colors, and how to create understated soft glam looks. I remember the lessons but I'm horrid at the execution.
G: Living and working in the city took a toll on my skin. Makeup and pollution and the daily stresses of life would constantly make me break out and keep my skin dull. I had a very healthy diet too, but I had to rely on prescription pills to keep my acne from taking over my face. After I started backpacking, my lifestyle completely changed. I stopped wearing makeup altogether, didn't have the same pressures of life as before, and tried to be as gentle as possible with my skin. I've stopped taking my acne medication as well and my skin is doing very well.
What’s typically in your travel makeup bag?
B: I’ve learned to travel light since I’ve done many oversea adventures over the years. My typical travel makeup bag includes eyeliner and concealer for daily use, lip color, a cream foundation, and blush if I’m planning nights out. I also bring 3 makeup brushes for those products. That gets me through almost every day/night scenario that I’ve encountered.
L: Literally EVERYTHING mentioned above. I don't have separate travel products, rather I carry my original products with me.
G: Eyeliner, mascara, foundation, foundation brush, moisturizer, eyelash curler.
If you could only use one brand, which would it be?
If you could only use one product, what would it be?
B: This is a really tough question for me because I use different brands for almost every beauty product I own. I guess I’d have to say Laura Mercier, since I’ve found several different products within the brand that I’ve used and liked over the years. If I had to choose only one product, it’d probably be eyeliner. That is the one makeup product that I could survive almost any situation with.
L: Neutrogena sunblock because everyone keeps telling me to.
K: Honestly, I don't care enough to be a loyalist of one brand or product.
G: If I could use only one brand for everything then it would be NARS. I love how they are inclusive of a large range of darker skin shades and their makeup doesn't make me break out like other brands. If I could only use one product, then it would be Eucerin Intensive Repair lotion. It's a body lotion but I also use it as a moisturizer. I find that body moisturizers don't make my face break out, but moisturizers specifically for the face do.
Have you had/do you have any beauty treatments or services done? Which and how often? Which do you do yourself?
B: The only beauty service I’ve had done professionally is laser hair removal. It was honestly the best investment I’ve made, especially since I travel a lot. Now it’s very low-maintenance for summer since I don’t need to worry about shaving or packing a razor when I go on a trip. I personally do my own eyebrows regularly. I’ve learned and perfected my eyebrow shaping and cleaning skills since I was in high school, and now I don’t trust anyone else to do them for me.
L: I got a facial with my mom in Chinatown, NYC when I was 16 and it was so traumatizing I refuse to get a facial ever again. The lady was like Dr. Pimple Popper but on crack. She literally spent 3 hours poking the life out of every pore my face had to offer. To this day, I have scars on my face and the pores around my cheeks are massive. THANKS A LOT, LADY! But I do get my eyebrows threaded once every 8-12 weeks. I know, that's a long time to go without maintaining my eyebrows...I let them grow out until they're so long you could braid them.
K: I usually get my eyebrows threaded every couple of weeks. Other than that, my only focus is to keep my skin blemish-free these days.
G: Before I became a full-time backpacker, I had laser hair removal done on my whole face. It got rid of all my baby hairs (I'm Indian and hairy af) and it did WONDERS for my cystic acne. While my skin has never been better, I also don't have a job to go to every day which would require me to have additional stress in my life and to wear makeup. Once I am working again, I may need to adopt a new regimen.
What is a beauty trend you’ve adopted/are interested in?
What’s one you’ll pass on?
B: I most recently changed my hairstyle and went with beachy waves. I was obsessed with keeping my hair straight for so long, I feel like I’m late to the party on this one. But I took a leap of faith with my hairdresser and I’m so glad that I did because it’s added so much texture and volume into my life. The one that I will absolutely pass on is pastel or grey hair colors. I think they look great when I see them on other people, but I’m too scared to try it for myself! I think I’m most hesitant in general to try new hair trends and styles since they are so much more permanent than just your daily makeup style.
L: I am interested in microblading and eyelash extensions but can't find myself to invest so much money into either.
K: I would love to be able to wing my eyeliner. I'll pass on contouring; seems like a lot of effort and a lot of makeup to transform into somebody else.
G: I really want to try cushion foundations, but unfortunately, most companies don't cater to darker skintones like mine.
How has your idea and/or perception of beauty remained the same and/or evolved over time?
B: I think I’ve always appreciated simplicity when it comes to beauty. I think that natural is the best look, and those who are comfortable in their own skin are always beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely appreciate the ability to accentuate certain features, just as long as your unique features are showing through.
L: When I was younger, I always thought beauty was on the outside and thought that the more attractive you were (thin, tall, tan, long hair, pretty face) the better life you would have. Of course over time, I've grown up and realized this isn't true. Attractive people are not automatically happier or wealthier. Rather if you find yourself to be beautiful, this leads to confidence, which then leads to an unwavering drive to crush your goals.
K: My perception of beauty has remained the same...at least for myself. I don't believe in doing a lot; au naturale is the way to be. I do respect and have a lot of admiration for makeup enthusiasts/artists because they can do some phenomenal things. Additionally, I love the openness that the beauty industry has shown for men and transgender persons to be able to express themselves through makeup.
G: I think growing up, most girls are introduced to beauty as a superficial concept. Before today's 'woke' movements, beauty to me was defined by the predominantly caucasian neighborhoods I grew up in. I was very different looking and very self-conscious of my features like my large eyes, dark body hair that stood out against my skin, thick eyebrows, and weird hairline which I hid with bangs. I envied everyone else's beauty and ignored my own appearance. Makeup became a security cape for me back then, a way to blend in. Today, I've grown into myself. Beauty is about self expression. At some point in high school or college, I realized that I don't need to blend in. Part of that is definitely due to more diversity in the media and women's movements to be recognized for who we are and not what we look like. I rock my hairy arms and large eyes, and it just so happens that thick eyebrows are all the rage. I still have my weird hairline which makes me look like I'm balding in one spot and I rock that too. In the past year, I've put on a lot of weight. I rock all the rolls on my belly and I sure as heck rock the hell out of my double chin.
What beauty advice would you give yourself, in retrospect?
What beauty advice would you give to a younger generation?
B: Looking at younger me, I’d tell myself less is more. I used to wear eyeshadow on a daily basis and even seeing my old pictures make me want to yell at myself. I would say the same to the younger generations. I have a little sister who’s about to enter high school, and I just don’t want her to become too enthralled by and dependent on makeup. I want her to know that she is beautiful just the way she is and that just emphasizing her already gorgeous features is the only thing she should focus on. I don’t want her to use makeup to hide her face, which sometimes ends up happening and I see it with her friends all the time. They are all beautiful young ladies and should be proud of that.
L: To my younger self: Stop spending so much money on expensive brands. You don't need to have the best brand of eyeliner, eyeshadow palettes, blush, foundation, concealer, mascara, etc. because you're not going to use all of it. To the younger generation(s): Have fun when it comes to experimenting with makeup as a form of expression, but don't let it define who you are. Understand and believe that you do not need makeup to feel beautiful. Beauty lies within and some of the most attractive and powerful women I know are ones who are naturally beautiful.
K: In retrospect, I'd tell myself what my mother continues to tell me now—take a beauty course. To the younger generation—do what makes you happy, whether that's a full face of makeup or nothing at all. Don't let anybody else dictate your aesthetic.
G: I wouldn't give myself any advice in retrospect. I feel strongly that I needed to go through my phases of insecurities and experimentation to get to where I am today. I would tell the younger generation that it's okay to be insecure and that it's a process of expressing your identity to the outside world. Beauty should highlight your unique personality. If you wanna be a glamazon, do it! If you wanna go natural, do it! If you want to look different every single day then do that. If you just don't gaf, keep doing that too. It's important to experiment and figure out what makes you feel like YOU.
What makes you feel beautiful?
B: A clean and fresh face always makes me feel beautiful. I still wear makeup to work or when I'm going out, but I try to go makeup-free (with the exception of my eyeliner of course) with a clean face at least once a week. It feels so refreshing for me and it reminds me not to be too dependent on makeup products.
L: I love this question! I feel most beautiful with a bare face without any makeup, preferably after I've done a face mask when my face is glowy, wearing my jammies and pink fluffy robe. No hiding behind false lashes and layers of makeup.
K: When I'm feeling accomplished with a goal or looking forward to something.
G: This is going to sound weird, but I love the color of my skin. Like really really love it. My warm caramel complexion reminds me of the beach and beautiful sunny days. It also makes me feel powerful. I come from a family where all the women have fair skin, and in India, being light-skinned is the beauty standard. This opened me up to constantly being told to stay out of the sun. Constantly! My melanin is a symbol of my defiance. I make a point to get extra tan in the summer so I can hold onto it in the winter. And any time I get a negative comment about my skin from family, I make it a point to tell them how in love I am with my darker skin and that they can just stfu (in the most tactful, polite, and educational way possible, of course).
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