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Building Attractive with Everyday Beauty: 6 Secret Ways To Make Makeup Your Best Friend

I find it ironic that only now, at 55, am I comfortable with my makeup choices. It was scarcely two years ago that I was having my eyelids brutalized by Eastern European makeup artists. I have you all to thank for my newfound courage. Had I found it in my pretty days who knows what might have happened. So,  for all of you working towards the confidence and sense of humor that builds Attractive, I give you Zuzu’s Petals, the author of Everyday Beauty. She wears blue-toned, natural makeup, her Beauty Spotlight team addresses the broader spectrum. Oh, and she’s not a teenager. This is a good thing.

I am not a professional makeup artist, but I have spent a lifetime experimenting with products and colors, perhaps trying to reconcile the tomboy-preppy side of me with my inner tutu. I love beauty in all its forms, and there’s no quicker way to transform a plain canvas into a thing of beauty than with a little lipstick.

1. Tell us the story of the moment you first realized you could make makeup work for you.

It began at a very young age, as I watched my mother get ready for the day. Instead of a complicated makeup routine, she preferred a good haircut, pearl studs or simple gold hoops, and layered fragrance. But she never left the house without lipstick. Even today, she continues to wear her signature color (Revlon Blasé Apricot), and such a little thing, a sheer layer of bright color, immediately brightens her appearance

2. Tell us about your three favorite secret, i.e. non-mainstream, products, and why you love them.

  • Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel. Yes, it does its intended job on sticky-hot summer days for those of us whose upper thighs touch, but it also makes an excellent facial primer when smoother, sparingly, over pores. You can spend four times as much on a facial primer by Laura Mercier and the like, but you don’t need to. If you regularly use silicone-based products on your face, you’ll want to use a salicylic-acid product (BHA) at least once a week to decongest your pores.
  • Lemons. To whiten nail beds from nail polish discoloration, I soak my fingertips nails in a small bowl of lemon juice for a few minutes, dry, buff, and moisturize. For toenails, I make a paste of baking powder and lemon juice and apply with a Q-tip, poking the paste under the nail. While my toes are bleaching, I stick my elbows into the squeezed lemon halves, which helps lighten dark elbow discolorations.
  • Lipstick as concealer. A semi-matte, pinkish-beige lipstick (like Dior Incognito) can blend into the skin better than some concealers, which can often be too yellow.
  • Eyeliner on lips. To give lips the appearance of fullness, I use a skin-toned eye pencil (NARS Eyeliner in Rue Bonaparte). I lightly trace the vermilion border just outside the Cupid’s bow, center of top lip only, and then extended the line up both raised ridges of the philtrum, toward the nostrils. I them lightly blend the color into the surrounding skin but not so much as to erase it completely. Then I apply my lipstick, as usual.

3. What do you think is the single most important piece of knowledge to have in mind when buying makeup?

I would actually suggest two, which are related.

  • Coloring. Ideally, you already have a good sense of your skin’s undertones. Are you warm toned (yellow/orange) cool (pink/blue)? This knowledge can help prevent numerous makeup mistakes, such as purchasing products that don’t harmonize with your natural coloring. Pay close attention to what looks good on you and keep a discerning eye on trends so you don’t fall into the “lemming” trap. Just because magazines are advertising bronzer and coral lipstick does not mean those colors suit you. The result might look pretty good, but why look good when you can look great? There is no universal color; there is only your right color.
  • Lighting. Department store lighting is the worst place to buy makeup: dark and shadowy, interspersed with pools of sickly or harsh light. Try on a product and then ask for a hand mirror. Tip your head back so you are looking at the ceiling, hold the mirror over your face and look up into it, to eliminates shadows. If your upward glance doesn’t make you run for the nearest facial wipe, take the hand mirror to am external door and look at your skin in natural light. If you are still unsure, swatch the product on plain white paper and write the product name under the dot. When you get outside, you will be able to see that color in its most pure form, without skin undertones getting in the way. If you are planning to test nail polish colors, apply some pieces of tape to the envelope and paint on top of the tape. You can later peel off the tape and press it on your fingernails to see if the polish color suits your skin tone.

4. Do you have a favorite insider technique to putting the stuff on? Brushes? Sponges? Finger?

I use them all, but I prefer my fingers for the best control. Having a small collection of makeup brushes can be quite useful, but it depends on your needs and goals. If you enjoy detailed, gradient eye makeup, you’ll need a good brush or two. If you wear a single color all over, a sponge or single brush will suffice. My favorite foundation tool is the fuchsia, egg-shaped Beautyblender sponge. Wet it, wring it out so it is barely damp, and then bounce the foundation onto the skin. It provides an airbrushed finish that keeps frankenpores at bay all day.

5. What is your makeup philosophy, i.e., what you do feel is the point, the goal of makeup, for you?

My philosophy is quite simple—to enhance, not hide. If you love makeup—dramatic or subtle—then have fun wearing it. If you prefer going without, then there’s no reason you should feel pressured to start now. I have always loved wearing makeup, but I apply it so it’s almost invisible, to extend my natural coloring and to even out my skin tone. I do it for me and no one else. It’s so easy to experiment because, at the end of the day, it all washes off.

Now go read the blog. You’ll also find reviews of previously-unknown-at-least-to-me makeup brands like Rouge Bunny Rouge, Edward Bess and Besame. I find browsing Zuzu’s swatches as satisfying as a Saturday at Neiman’s makeup counter. A veritable bargain.

39 Responses

  1. One of my favorite recent discoveries is the use of a makeup brush to apply liquid foundation. Far more subtle and… dare I say “airbrushed?… than fingertip application. My 7X makeup mirror verifies this. I apply Dior Forever foundation (1 or 2 pumps, at most) with my beloved Sigma F82 round kabuki brush. I am often complimented on my skin. My 54-year-old self appreciates that.

  2. Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel ingredients are all silicones, with some vitamin E. I plan to try this for my hair, as I’ve found silicones very effective for taming my curls and frizz.

  3. Great ideas! I’ve been using the monistat chafing gel trick for years, and it works like a charm. A very inexpensive charm! I’ve always loved playing with makeup. However, since letting my hair go gray, I need to look at changing some strategies -or maybe just try some new shades. This advice helps. Thanks.

    1. I don’t know what your coloring is, but as we grey (or go white/silver, for the lucky ones), we can often get away with wearing cooler-toned makeup.

  4. Thanks for mentioning the Monistat anti-chafing product. I’m going to try it in my bike shorts on the next road ride. It could be promising, I really don’t like chamois butter; too goopy. Great photos.

    1. Allison, I have used the Monistat gel on a 4-day through hike in the mountains, and it was much appreciated.

      TMI alert: Buckets of sweat and no shower the whole time, besides splashing at girlie bits in frigid rivers. I stayed chafe free the whole time, and the unscented gel was very useful, considering you can’t carry scented products (e.g., powder) unless you want a bear poking his head in the tent.

  5. One of my first make up memories was also watching my mother put on her “face” in the morning, right down to the specific shade of “vermillion plum” Amway lipstick. I loved how specific she was on that.

  6. Cool! Will definitely pop over to visit the blog. LOVE the lemon/baking powder tips.

    I’ve never shopped department store make-up counters, but I chuckled when reading the bit about “know your coloring”. This has always posed an issue for me because I’m olive-skinned (yellow), but I have rosacea-like capillaries and flushing (the kind that shows in your eyes) with oily/combination outbreak-prone skin. So I kind of have a “red-over-yellow” complexion challenge. At some a-ha point, I realized to give up on foundation and blush. My solution was to find a high-quality, gentle, low-ingredient cleanser and moisturizer which naturally calm and even out my redness without obscuring my natural olive coloring (my brand is Keys-soap). Their Luminos doubles as a primer/foundation, and often that’s all I wear on my skin (along with their sunscreen which requires some fingertip blending). Then I try to take focus off my skin with a bit of eye and/or lip color. If I’m feeling very oily or broken-out (hormones, etc) I will apply a bit of powder from Larenim with a fluffy brush. I’ll tell anyone who suffers with rosacea and inflamed skin, their therapeutic Dusk til Dawn Recovery is worth a look. It works magic for me, only 3 ingredients (if memory serves).

    1. Claire, I will take a look at the Dusk til Dawn Recoverym thanks for the tip. I have rosacea, but I can almost completely control it with diet (lowish carb, no sugar, NO WINE *whine*). My skin responds really well to fewer ingredients.

      About ocular rosacea, have you ever done the Johnson’s Baby Shampoo eye bath?

    2. Yeah, it does suck about the wine thing, but I totally agree, diet makes a big difference! Along with using fewer, low-ingredient products. My face cream doubles as hair styler, my conditioner as shave cream, etc. And I multi-purpose baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, that sort of thing. So much easier and I feel better knowing exactly what ingredients my skin is absorbing.

      Thanks for the additional tip about ocular rosacea – I have not tried it yet but my eyes seem more inflamed lately since we moved to the desert and could use some extra TLC. Would love to know how the D2D Recovery works for ya! It’s the best thing I ever found for my big oily pores too. :)

  7. Loved your very useful lemon tips and the highly descriptive “Frankenpores”! So true. I’ve been smoothing a light veil or concealer in the /\creases on the sides of my nose and mouth, and the )( between my eyebrows to lighten the shadows. I enjoyed all of you great tips Zulu – Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Candace. My absolute favorite product for shadowy, creased areas around my nose and mouth is a light-reflective “concealer,” such as YSL Touche Eclat, Estee Lauder Ideal Light Brush-on Illuminator, Jane Iredale Active Light, or Clinique Airbrush Concealer. All bring a glowy light to the area without sparkles!

      As I get older, I find I can wear traditional concealer less and less, which is no great shakes since I didn’t even start wearing it until my early 40s. I find it looks obvious on my skin, which is thinning, becoming more dry, and slowly taking on the appearance of crumpled tissue paper.

  8. Update the face, and keep the hair current also. Use a light color wash to cut the scary granny gray. Not harsh just subtle shading. This keeps a woman fresh in looks.

    1. I am at a crossroads with my hair. I have a grey stripe coming in at the hairline where my part is and not much diffuse grey anywhere else. I keep thinking I should wash the grey away, but I dread getting trapped into that monthly trip to the salon. I’m also surprised that I kind of like the way the light silver looks against the ash base, so I’m going to let it go for a while. Having grey hair in my industry is not a career killer so I have the luxury of experimenting a while longer.

      As for cut, I totally agree! Although I can’t say my cut is updated, as I have been wearing the same basic style (jaw-length bob) since I was 24. I manage to convince myself that it’s a cut that never goes out of style, but more honestly, I have such crappy hair, it’s the only cut that looks halfway decent, and it allows me to wash and go.

  9. My favorite secret product is Mattifying Powder FC5 by Arbonne. Believe it or not, it is green (v. pale green) but covers the red nose beautifully and, needless to say, does not leave me looking like the Wicked Witch of the West. Those of you who are artists will understand how green powder on a red nose does the trick. It’s all Greek to me. P.S. Arbonne is a mineral based, all natural, Swiss product available on line and through sales people. No animal testing.

    1. Out in the beauty-blogging realm I have read great things about Arbonne skincare, and I have always been interested in trying it, so thank you for the reminder.

      I know exactly what you mean about green! Some, oddly, make my face look more red, but I have a mineral-based powder by Alima Pure, in the color Pistachio, which I can wear on its own and not look like the Incredible Hulk.

  10. Hi Zuzu! I was delighted to read your guest post here. I love your artistic photographs and creative makeup tips, especially the eyeliner on lips. My thin top lip needs all the help it can get, and I refuse to subject myself to lip injections.

    1. @Highland Fashionista, Mouse, and Preppy Princess, thank you!

      @Silver Bunny, thanks so much. I love your name.

      @EP, thank you. I uploaded a slightly illustrative photo to today’s post, showing my liner technique. It’s not illustrated on me, but it should work in a pinch, as I don’t dare do the webcam thing at work!

  11. I love to browse through makeup counters at department stores, just wish they’d let me do it in peace without so many sales people wanting to “do” my makeup. I’m a painter, and have my own sense of color, shading, highlighting, etc., so I like to be left alone while perusing.
    I’d like to add that I think the most neglected area of a woman’s face is often her eyebrows, especially after a certain age. Curious about your feelings, suggestions on that?

    1. Absolutely yes. My mother’s eyebrows have all but disappeared, and even mine are thinning and lightening.

      As an artist I am sure you can appreciate how brows beautifully frame the face. It can be tricky to find the right color as we age; we often need to make slight adjustments from what we had been using. I have blogged about the importance of maintaining brows and how good brow shape can actually be youth enhancing.

      One recommendation I find to be true is to use a brow color that’s 1-2 shades lighter than your natural brow hairs. Whether you choose powder, gel, or pencil is a matter of preference, but always apply with light, feathery strokes so the color goes down as thin as a hair. I start at the peak and work toward the tail. Then I re-dip and work very lightly from the bottom/front (at bridge of nose) inward. I do not fill in the thick part of my brows closest to my nose–I think it looks more natural to let a little skin show through, but I realize completely filled-out brows is a “look,” and if a look is what someone is after, go for it.

      Another thing about application is to do a little bit and then lean back and look at your whole face. While tweezing with a magnifying mirror is helpful, magnification is not the time to apply brow powder or you could Groucho yourself.

      If brows are thick and/or fine but full, a bit of grooming is all that’s needed, and a tinted or clear gel, such as those by Anastasia is perfect. I previously used Max Factor’s clear mascara, but that’s been discontinued, so now I I use elf’s clear mascara over my powder to keep things set. It costs around $2, is double sided, and works great. Just like with hair gel, go easy or you could end up with flakes.

      For powder, the possibilities are endless, and here’s where you can find your perfect match. I have used just about every neutral eyeshadow I own on my brows. Bobbi Brown’s Grey is a good color for many people, as is MAC’S Coquette. My favorite is Clinqiue’s Brow Shaper in Shaping Charcoaled, which is really a medium ash brown, not charcoal at all, but it’s starting to feel a little dark on my fading color.

      Laura Mercier sells a tiny pot called Brow Definer, and it’s excellent, looks natural, and stays put all day. The texture is slightly waxy, and it lasts forever. The color options are limited, but most women could probably get by with Soft (which is warm) and Warm, which isn’t warm at all. It’s a medium, cool-neutral brown with no red or yellow undertones.

      You can’t beat brow pencils for ease, since there’s no brush needed. Most come with a little spoolie on the end so you can smooth everything out. Pencils are not my favorite, only because I can’t find the right color. Prescriptives Clove comes close, but it’s slightly too dark. They also do not have many color options, now that their makeup is sold online only.

      Make friends with the tweezer, but that often means getting up close and personal with a x10 mirror (bah). Many women like to get their brows waxed, but if you use Retin-A and its ilk, beware! Your thinned skin could get ripped off, too. Instead consider threading, which pulls individual hairs, leaving the skin alone.

      As for browsing counters, I find that that if I say, “just looking,” SAs often still hover, but if I say, “I am just browsing; I’ll let you know if I need anything,” it sends a polite dismissal. If they insist on pestering me, I will be blunt and say, “I prefer to look at product on my own. Please give me some space, and if I want to make a purchase I will be sure to let you know.” No has ever taken offense (at least not visibly), and if they suspect they might not get a sale, they definitely leave me in peace! And if they decide to snub me, I have no problem asking a SA at another counter to help me, if she isn’t with a customer.

    2. One other observation: As we age and our hormones become slightly unbalanced, many of us develop an underactive thyroid. One sign of hypothyroidism is when the outer third of the brows thins appreciably or disappears altogether. This is when a pencil comes in handy. Extend the line of the brow with the finest-tip pencil, and no one but you will notice.

    3. After a certain age taking the wings of the eyebrows too low drags the face down,I like the tip I was given to keep brows shorter at the tips,much more youthful looking.Ida

    4. I do go to Anastasia salon where I have my brows tinted and shaped every 3 weeks. It’s an instant facelift! I agree with all your recommendations. I too leave my brows slightly more see through at the “nose end” as it looks much more natural.
      I think brows are a really neglected area of a lot of women, and that if they’re looking good – so much less other makeup is needed, so I’d strongly encourage everyone to look into that. It’s crucial for framing your eyes and whole face. Thanks Zuzu!

  12. Thanks for such a fun and useful post. Why do I have a feeling my new favorite beauty product will be from Monistat? Never would have seen that one coming!

  13. Great post and I would agree that it’s only now that I think I know what I am doing with make up applications etc. and what suits me….! I love Bobbi Brown’s philosophy of make up to enhance and bring out the best in each of us and I often check out her YouTube videos… Have a great weekend – sorry haven’t been around to visit much recently – away from the blogosphere a bit… X

  14. Such lovely comments from everyone. Much appreciated.

    @LPC, thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful opportunity and for sending new readers to my blog. I love my blog, but if no one were reading, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.

  15. @Flo, what a great article, thanks for the link. Clinique is already a little self service, but that takes things to a whole new level.

    I find it good news that they are taking such a low key approach to sales, when in years past it was ALL about the average unit sale. As far as I can tell, other Estee Lauder-owned brands are still going for the hard sell (Origins, Bobbi Brown, etc.). Anyway, the Experience Bar sounds like a cool idea, though I could do without “ta da” music dispensed along with the goo and imagine the Clinique consultants will be feeling as homicidal as they do during the Muzack-piped-in Christmas/holiday season, which now starts before Halloween.

    As for Burberry,I find it both amusing and a little naive that management assume they need to educate their customers. Women today are so much more informed and well researched than we could have been in the days before the Internet, and it’s rare that someone approaches a counter without a clue, without having first read reviews on Makeup Alley or checked swatches at

  16. @Ida, I agree completely with your comment on extending the brow, much the same way I no longer would apply eyeliner *only* under my eyes and not on the top lids (it’s both or none). I should have written that if I extend the line (and I don’t often because I still have my original “tail,” though thinner), I would extend out, not down, but each woman has to honestly asses the little bits of smoke & mirrors she employs. As for “universal” and rules, if there’s a makeup rule, you can be sure I am going to try to break it. I mean, who wears lipstick on their skin?? ;)

  17. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

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