Summer School @ Sephora: 2017 Update

Last year when I started this blog I wrote two posts regarding the free classes for Beauty Insiders at Sephora. Part I of the two remains relevant and provides a good overview of the Sephora curriculum and my summer of beauty learning.  For a list of the standard 13 classes offered, click here.  The two noteworthy additions to the standard class list this year are Age-Defying Skincare and Classes for Confidence: Brave Beauty in the Face of Cancer.  I give kudos to Sephora for adding a class for the special needs of cancer patients. I’ve seen first hand the devastating impact cancer treatment can have on a woman’s confidence, as my mother fought a long battle with the disease and I remember several specific conversations with her on the topic.  If you know a woman who is fighting this fight, please share the information on this class with her.  I went back to school this summer to repeat a class from last year, and to take two new classes that were offered at the new location in Century City. More on those in just a moment.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Sephora store lineup here in the Los Angeles area, the Westfield Century City shopping center has been undergoing a major renovation project for over a year and a half now.  While the work isn’t fully complete, the early results are quite nice.  One of the first stores to close as a result of the renovation was my favorite Sephora location in Century City.  As one of the first to close, they were also one of the first to reopen in their new mall location this past May.  As a VIB Rouge member, I was invited to the grand opening.  My wallet is thankful, however, that I was out of town that week.

FullSizeRender 5
This is the new Sephora TIP table at the Century City store

ICYMI, Sephora is actively experimenting with technology as a way to draw you into the store and to enhance your in-store experience.  They have an active innovation lab in their North America (San Franciso) headquarters that has been busy testing and playing with new retail technologies.  One result of their innovation efforts is the introduction of the “TIP” table.  TIP is short for Teach, Inspire and Play, and the first of these tables was installed in San Francisco in late 2015.  Century City is now the second U.S. location to have one of these, and I had the chance to experience all of the TIP elements during my recent classes.  If you’re interested in learning more about Sephora’s innovation lab, click here.

These classes are truly beneficial as they will give you plenty of tips and techniques, as well as assistance finding the right tools and products for your needs.  According to Australian makeup artist Rae Morris:

Makeup is my world, and I know that little things . . . the right technique, colour or brush . . . can make all the difference.

The first class I took at the newly reopened store was the new Age-Defying Skincare class.  I am genetically blessed with “good” skin, but I do have to work at keeping it in good condition.  Like every other woman, I do have skin care concerns.  Mine include patchy dry spots, enlarged pores, under-eye circles and puffiness, and the start of fine expression lines around my mouth.  This skin care class focuses on the basic steps which should be part of your daily routine:  makeup removal, cleansing, serum application and moisturizing (including an eye cream).  There is also discussion about the key ingredients to look for in your products such as exfoliants (i.e. AHA, BHA) and brighteners like vitamin C.  Cleansing tools like the Foreo Luna and Clarisonic brushes were also discussed.  In addition, we had the opportunity to apply a treatment mask just as we would at home a few times a week, although we weren’t able to leave it on for very long.

My favorite double cleanse products
My favorite double cleanse products

Key takeaways from the class for me were a good discussion of the double cleansing method with a “makeup melter” followed by a cleanser.  My current makeup melters of choice are either Bioderma’s Sensibio H2O or Tatcha’s Pure One-Step Camellia oil for the really stubborn stuff.     Also important were the proper techniques and sequences for applying serums, facial oils, moisturizers and eye cream.  I learned that I was using my facial oil at the wrong point in my routine.

Nightstand image with Sunday Riley Good Genes and Luna Sleeping Night Oil
Sunday Riley’s Power Couple — I use Good Genes and Luna a few nights each week

My skin care buys connected with the class were a re-purchase of Sunday Riley Good Genes and a new purchase of the Peter Thomas Roth Hydra-Gel eye patches.  I have been using the Good Genes treatment along with the Luna Sleeping Night Oil a couple of nights each week and that combo has been working well for me for about a year and a half.  I originally purchased these as a set (a great way to try this), but I ran out of the treatment product.  Although the bottle of oil is old, it seems to still be potent and effective.  A little bit goes a long way and I still have half the bottle left.  [Note after I started writing this post, Sephora had a sale for VIB Rouge clients so I bought another bottle of Luna as sales on Sunday Riley products don’t happen.]  After cleansing my skin, I apply a few drops of the oil followed by a pump or two of Good Genes and wake up to really nice looking skin without any flakey stuff going on.

I decided to try the Hydra-Gel eye patches as a quick and mess free way to work on under eye puffiness.  I have been sporadically using the Patchology Energizing Eye Patches, and while I like them, I found I wasn’t great about using them as there is a bit of mess involved.  Honestly, I think this is just an aspect of skin care I need to focus more on as I haven’t been using the Hydra-Gel patches as frequently as I should either, although they’re effective and easy to use.  I’ve had much better success using my eye serum on a regular basis but I’ll save that for a future post.

The second class that I attended was a special Sephora PRO team class.  If you’re not familiar with the PRO team, fear not, I’ll explain as I wasn’t either.  There is actually a separate Instagram account for the PRO team which you can find here.  According to our class handout:

The Sephora PRO team is an inspirational and approachable team of leading makeup artists who are committed to elevating the artistry expertise of our cast, clients, and the entire Sephora organization, and who represent Sephora’s voice in the beauty industry.

This is an elite group of beauty industry leaders as there are only ten in the United States.  In fact, two of them are now based here in Los Angeles.  The PRO team is offering these exclusive classes in only two other cities — New York and San Francisco.  As a result, you won’t typically find these classes on the regular schedule and they are fully booked affairs.  The two PROs who led the class were Myiesha and Jeffrey, and our topic was Trending Looks:  Monochromatic.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve really had to work at expanding my makeup comfort zone so you can imagine that a class in trending looks was a bit scary for me.   The fear was totally unwarranted!

Photo of beautifully made-up curly haired model
Although the makeup look here is monochromatic, it doesn’t strike me as trendy

The class format was a bit different from the usual approach.  Our two PROs each had a class participant as their model and each did one side of the model’s face.  Each PRO had a different creative vision based on discussion with their model and their individual creativity.  It was great to see the two work side by side creating different looks based on the same monochromatic theme.  They would, for example, do the eyes, and then the class participants had the chance to play and do their own eyes using both the virtual try-on at the TIP table and actual makeup.  We would then move on to another part of the face, see the PRO demonstrate and then do that portion of our face.  One thing that was really helpful was that the PROs came by regularly to offer advice and encouragement as well as to answer our questions.  In addition, there were a number of store employees available to fetch products and assist with technique.  One of the employees who assisted really helped me improve upon my eye shadow blending technique.

The keys I think for the monochromatic look were color selection, incorporating neutrals, and using a variety of finishes.  Myiesha’s advice on color was to start with one that looks good on your cheeks and work from there.  For example using multiple eye shadows where some are matte and others have a shimmery finish.  Incorporating neutrals is also important to balance the overall look.  This class reinforced some of the ideas and looks that I’ve been experimenting with using the new limited edition Natasha Denona Sunset Palette.  I tried to capture some of these for you but my selfie photo taking needs work.  I’ll plan to share some examples at a future date.

Finally, I decided to retake the Winged Eyeliner class as this is an area where I still struggle.  I was the only person who signed up that day so I had a private one-on-one session.  The cast member who helped me had the patience of Job, but this is an area that I still struggle with.  I need to bring back the 30-day challenge approach that I used for false lashes to become competent here.

If you’re looking to up your game as the fall season approaches, I highly recommend working some of the classes at Sephora into your schedule.  Let me know which classes you plan to take and how they work for you!





How to Expand Your Makeup Comfort Zone

In a previous series of posts titled Summer School @ Sephora and False Lashes for the Lash Challenged I mentioned that I have been on a mission this past year to step up my makeup game and expand or increase my comfort zone as well as my confidence. I think it is important to periodically examine what we are doing when it comes to hair, makeup skincare, and fashion to keep our look fresh, up to date, and appropriate as we …ahem… mature.

Let’s take a minute to be sure we’re on the same page.  According to Webster’s comfort zone is defined as a place, situation, or level where someone feels confident and comfortable.  If we translate this definition to the world of makeup, it really means what is the “look” (or what are the looks) that you can create with makeup where you are at your most confident?   Where you can go into a given situation without worrying about how you look   and confident that your look is appropriate for the situation.  Whether it is a job interview, a first date, or meeting someone new where you want to make a good impression.  These are just a few examples, I’m sure you can come up with more.  We can stretch or expand our comfort zones by trying new things that we may not be comfortable to start with, and this my friends is how we grow and evolve over time.  Learning and growth are important to us in every aspect of our lives.

One other thought I’d like to make clear — I am not looking to be judgemental or to over-emphasize the importance of physical appearance.  We all need to decide for ourselves as individuals what we are most comfortable with, but with the recognition that we do make an impression through our appearance.  We just want that impression to be a positive one.

My original idea for this post was to write about my favorite red lipsticks and the reasons for its popularity.  For the sake of this discussion, I am not including lip glosses, but I did include liquid lipsticks and lip stains. In order to write the post, I needed to inventory my collection of red lipsticks. The findings were enlightening – like cleaning out your closet and wondering why did I buy this [insert garment description of your choice here]? Or how did I end up with ten pairs of black pumps?

Image from Dior website

What I really discovered was that although I like red, I didn’t really have many reds (and how many do I really need anyway?).  In fact, I only had four in my lipstick wardrobe – four out of 39 total or roughly 10%.   There are a number of lipsticks that I own two tubes of as a matter of convenience, but the largest number of colors were in the wine or burgundy family. nmc23qd_buAnd oh, by the way, I did not own a single matte red until this last month when I fell in love with Dior’s signature red known as 999 (second from the top in the Dior image) which was recently released in a matte formula known as Dior Rouge Extreme. If you’re interested, here is a nice review from By Georgia Grace. As I thought about it, I realized that two of the four reds pictured were purchased in the last few months. Writing about my favorite reds as originally conceived really didn’t make sense because although I like the color I didn’t have many, nor did I wear it on a regular basis.

Before I get to the point about my comfort zone, let me digress and explain why I was thinking about red lipsticks in the first place.  I came across several interesting articles which referenced an eye-opening data point.  An article from Huffington Post cites a 2013 study in France which found waitresses who wore red lipstick on the job received tips from male customers more frequently — 50% of the time for the red lipstick wearers versus 30% for all other colors.  In my mind this clearly means these women had increased income since in France “service compris”  which means “tip included” is the norm.  Said another way, the tip is already included in your bill, but these men chose to pay an additional tip.  This confirms what we’ve intuitively known — red lipstick does get you noticed by the opposite sex.

Red lipstick is classic — it is always in style and studies show that it tends to make the wearer feel more confident.  It is also a way to “fake it till you make it”.  Indeed, according to Gwyneth Paltrow “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”  Having a selection of reds to choose from is also key.  Per Poppy King, founder of Lipstick Queen, “Versatility is what makes red lipstick so endlessly alluring.”

So, what is the point of all this, and how does it relate to expanding our comfort zone with makeup? I would say that until embarking on my “up my game” adventure I was stuck in a makeup rut – only wearing colors and formulas that I was already comfortable with. As it turns out, red wasn’t really one of them.  It did take me a while to come to this realization, but this exercise provided additional proof. To my credit, I did begin to branch out and try new formulas and colors this past year which is a good thing.  I also went out and bought a few new reds.  My three biggest lipstick related changes which stretched my lipstick comfort zone were:

  • Experimenting with matte lipsticks – in addition to the Dior 999 I have bought several of Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution lipsticks.  I have also picked up a more diverse range of colors in the matte formula. I like her matte formula and my Tilbury faves are Birkin Brown, Hel’s Bells, and Salma’s Secret. These have become a regular part of my lipstick wardrobe.  By the way, before pushing the publish button on this post I bought one more matte lipstick.  I picked up the By Terry Rouge-Expert Click Stick in 14 which is a matte orange.  I wanted to try these but wasn’t able to find the testers until last week.  I like this formula as it feels very moisturizing and I ordered a second stick during the Beautylish sale.
  • Expanding my horizons with liquid lipsticks. Until this year my only “liquid lipsticks” were the Dior Addict type which according to The Violet Files Beauty Lessons: A Lesson on Lips are really a lip stain. I hadn’t thought about more opaque liquid lipsticks until recently, and I really hadn’t thought about matte liquid lippies until I tried the Anastasia Beverly Hills liquid lipstick in Vintage.
  • Finally finding my perfect nude — I have always wanted to wear a nude lipstick but could never find one that really worked for me. That is until I found Kevyn Aucoin’s The Expert Lip Color in Dantrice which is the perfect nude for me. My practice of buying two paid off with this one since it was recently discontinued. At some point, I will need to find another, but for now, Dantrice is my favored nude.  Milani’s Teddy Bare is my second choice for a nude.


So you know the saying that the first step to solving a problem is to see and acknowledge it.  I think to do that, a thoughtful assessment of where you are is a good first step. The red lipstick post idea was the trigger for me to think about this, but of course, lipstick is just one makeup element. If you’ve been following on my blog, you’ll know about some of the other steps I’ve taken….if not, you can catch up at the links provided above.

I will say that thinking your current makeup habits through, assessing where you are and where you’d like to make changes, and getting trusted feedback will help prevent trips to the makeup counter where you buy a bunch of products but don’t really achieve the results you would like so take some time on this.  If you’re stuck, think about what is holding you back? How can you let whatever that is go?  This is the perfect time to give it some thought – the new year will be upon us shortly and with this work already done you can implement the changes you’ve decided on and get off to a fast start!

If you’re in a bit of a makeup rut (or any other rut that impacts your self-confidence or self-image) and thinking about where to make changes, I’d love to hear what you’d like to change, and how you plan to go about it. What support or resources do you need, and how will you get them?  If you’ve made changes this past year, what were they and how are they working out for you?