Sunday, August 16, 2015

a cure for the Dark Eye Circle Blues, and a brown girl's purple binge


For many a brown girl growing up in Canada, it's easy to feel like you are born with a beauty problem. Namely, you are not white. I spent a large part of my adolescence and too much of my adult life wandering through Canadian makeup displays trying to ignore the message my brain keeps getting: there is nothing here for you.

As a teenager, I experimented with all the makeup I could get my hands on. I was also the beauty beneficiary of a Mom who only bought her high-end moisturizer when there was a gift with purchase that was all mine, and an Auntie whose small store carried a modest selection of cosmetics, and was my first 'products fairy godmother', passing on items with missing labels or torn packaging, whole boxes of mini-samples and the like; I'd almost faint when I'd get one of those boxes, to me it was just about better than Christmas!

During those youthful years of learning about makeup, I never had access to products that matched my skin colour. The darkest 'Medium' is too light for me and makes me look ghostly grey where I'm darkest, and chalky-pallid everywhere else. Even though several drugstore brands are expanding their colour selections to include darker shades, the options are usually limited and woefully unnuanced (no distinction between undertones like olive, golden or cool, which is critical to shade-matching dark skin). Shopping for bronzer and contouring products is a singular challenge that remains unmet.

Of late, more and better colour-matching products for dark skin can be found but often not cheaply, and definitely not conveniently. I used to grit my teeth and shell out upwards of $50 on a product that might work well for a time. The problem with buying something that matches my face in July is that I will invariably need something in a lighter shade but more moisturizing a few months hence, when I am many shades lighter with different dry skin issues. Buying beauty products abroad is well and good, but is impossible to sustain in a reliable beauty regimen.

Thus, I am determined to find the top affordable products that work with my dark olive complexion and very dry skin, in Canada. Because I am 400% done with spending wads of my money on cosmetics that don't work with my skin tone, with the futility of trying to order foundation online, or with piling up products that I don't need or use, and I want to share what I learn with you.


Putting your best face forward every day for many women of colour, involves grappling with a common foe: dark, discoloured under-eye circles. No matter what kind of concealer you use, any flesh-toned product, even though well-matched to your skin, will sit on top of the blue/purple colouration and make it more pronounced and ashy - apply powder and you can add wrinkly and crepey dryness to the description - yuck! Time to try something new: time to try ORANGE.

Orange corrector applied to well-moisturized skin (don't skimp on this step or your products will emphasize the look of dry skin & will crease) positioned directly on top of your dark undereye circles, before any complexion product (like foundation, BB/CC cream, pressed powder, concealer, contouring, etc) will cause your products to even out your skin tone effectively, and makeup colours will show more even and true.

A perfectly chosen orange tone for you will virtually disappear into your face when applied to dark blue/purple areas. All those crazy YouTube video tutorials that instruct you to use red lipstick or bright deep orange powder eyeshadows or anything of the sort, are exaggerating the point, and require heaps of extra makeup to cover. The whole idea of a correcting is to create a more even canvas as a base for your regular complexion products and colours to glide smoothly onto, and then disappear for being such a seamless match. The key is to pay close attention to depth of colour, saturation and placement.

Depth of colour means that the shade of orange you use must match your natural skin's colouring. If I use a peachy-toned corrector that is too light, it will look white and chalky on my skin. Similarly, if I use dark red or deep orange, it's almost impossible to cover the visible streaks of colour as the dark hues will show through products like foundation and concealer; the correct orange hue will match your skin tone. Regarding placement, orange/peach corrector is to cancel blue/purple tones only - it should absolutely not be used as concealer anywhere else, or it will 'over-correct' and be obvious.

London Drugs has a massive NYX Cosmetics display, by far the best I've seen anywhere, and they carry many of the hard-to-find items that are commonly missing from smaller NYX displays in grocery stores and the like. However, the consistently high quality, innovative products and low cost of this line mean that their displays are sometimes picked bare by the time you get there. Fortunately, they re-stock often, so I was able to find a few items I've been wanting for weeks.

The product I found below, picked in a darker shade than I expected, is the perfect shade of orange, with an ideal amount of pigment to cover and blends beautifully without looking heavy and thick. I was amazed the first time I put it on, I hardly needed to apply any face product overtop as it seems to disappear under my eyes, leaving them looking bright and well-rested, creating a perfect canvas for makeup to look vibrant and fresh, I've never seen anything like it.

NYX's Dark Circle Corrector in 04 Deep is a true orange pigment cream concealer designed specifically to cancel out dark circles under the eyes. This product works like a charm; now I understand why it's always sold out. As I mentioned before, inadequately moisturized skin under your eyes makes concealer and foundation look pasty, causes product to settle into creases and emphasizes wrinkles and dryness. This clever formula is rich and creamy without being greasy; coconut oil hydrates delicate eye skin while china clay particles reflect light to counteract dullness. I've never used a multi-purpose product that so effortlessly replaces what used to take me several steps and a bunch of products and tools. This little pot of goodness is a game-changer for me, and I can no longer imagine getting my face ready without it.

At the risk of being treated unnecessarily for hypothermia, I am diving head-first into the violet lip craze. We live in a time of nearly unlimited choice, so I hoped to find exactly the colour I wanted with a specific texture in mind. NYX delivers again, with the buttery but opaque finish I wanted in their High Voltage Lipstick in Twisted. For darker women who want to rock the equivalent of a fun lavender lip, this is the colour to try. It's a beautiful bright purple that leans more towards mauve than grape, with high pigmentation. I shied away from seeking this colour in gloss format - I wanted this lip shade to be strong and true with no glitter. The creamy texture of this lipstick feels hydrating for a long time and it wears off nicely, with no flaking or bare spots that require desperate touch-ups. (This is why I didn't want this colour as a super-long-lasting liquid lipstick either, a formulation I often find too drying and patchy). The satin finish and rich pigment of this lipstick prevent it from looking Halloweenish or 'greige', and the tone is just deep enough to impart a fresh, new pop of colour, without looking pastel-chalky against dark skin or raising eyebrows at the office for being 'weird'. Fairer skin tones will find this to be a deep, true violet purple and will benefit from the precision of application with a lip brush, invisible lip-lining and/or tidying up lip edges with concealer and a fine detailing brush for maximum effect. Be prepared to hunt for this lippie, as it's sold out in many locations and I only scored mine by asking the lovely sales assistant when they would get more delivered, at which point she went to the back and bestowed upon me the last one in they had, which naturally made my evening (and life) complete.

In other terrifically exciting makeup news, I found a nearly perfect dupe for an eyeliner that I've wanted for weeks now. One of my general rules of makeupping is that for creams, liquids, gels, anything that can "spoil" and for single-purpose items, I try to buy drugstore, and generally save my high-end splurges for powders, cakes, pencils, etc., items that stand a better chance of getting well-used before they expire. Like all good rules, this one is broken when I find a high-end product I want has no drugstore stand-in. Lise Waitier's 24HRS Glam Eyeliner in Prune is a GORGEOUS multi-chromatic lavender liquid liner; when I tested it on my hand, it remained intact through several hand washings, proving its serious staying power. But at $24 CAD, I kept passing it up in favour of spending my beauty budget on several more affordable items instead. While this glitter liner captured my imagination, it did not motivate my pocketbook to suspend good reason.


And so my lust for a hyper-sparkly, waterproof, unmistakably light purple liner continued unrequited until I swatched Prestige's Total Intensity Liquid Eyeliner in the shade Around the Clock. Primarily drawn to the display because all Prestige Cosmetics were 20% off, the test line on my hand would not smudge once it set and didn't release glittery particles either, so I doubled back and added it to my basket. The packaging does not do this little gem justice. Inside this tube with a somewhat firm felt-type wand applicator is virtually the identical sparkly, iridescent, multi-hued chromatic liner I was pining for, at less than half the cost! This version is very easy to apply, dries quickly and doesn't flake or budge until you take it off with eye makeup remover. As it dries, it sets into what I can only describe as a 'flexible' line, definitely less flaky and more comfortable than other liquid liners. For someone like me who is still likes to play with sparkle from time to time, this liner is a quick and simple way to bust out of the matte neutral zone. The mess and extra fuss involved with most loose glitter products (brushes/applicators, adhesive/base, messy fallout and packaging, can you tell I'm not a fan...?) make them a nuisance for travel. This vivid liquid liner is portable, easy and dramatic, perfect for taking with you. For a makeup product that one doesn't intend to wear daily, this gem of a bargain eyeliner is my inadvertent super-dupe du jour!

sparkly purple eyeliner on the left, creamy violet lipstick on the right


Closing out tonight's purple binge, a darling little bottle of Essie nail polish in All Access Pass kept winking at me until I picked it up and bought it. It's the perfect shade of 'blurple' and will be the type of colour I want on my nails as summer turns to autumn. On sale for $6.99 CAD, it was too good a deal to pass up on a premium brand of top quality nail polish. Now that a high-end bottle of luxury polish can cost more than a professional manicure, I scour flyers, wait for gifts with purchase and shop for deals online to buy nail products I want at a fraction of their regular price.


Although I like to mix things up with drugstore finds, I still enjoy high-end beauty products too, so here again I compromise; I'm happy to splurge on higher-end basecoats and topcoats (especially fast-drying), and I like to layer and mix ultra-affordable drugstore polishes to achieve the colours and finishes I want. Adding a bit of loose glitter to an older nail polish you don't care for can result in a stunning new custom shade all your own; now that's beauty upcycling on fleek!