Seven Favorite Eye Products

I thought it might be helpful to share my current favorite products for healthy, beautiful eyes.  Healthy being the first priority since itchy watery eyes don’t feel good or look good.  Here are my current seven favorite eye-related products from the eyecare, skincare and makeup categories in order of application.

  1. Pazeo Solution (Eye Drops) – If you’re an allergy sufferer like me, read on.  Otherwise, you can skip to number two on the list.  This prescription product comes first as you have to use it at least 15 minutes before you insert your contact lenses.  Since I can’t see well enough to do the other stuff without vision help, I’ll start the list here.  These drops really help control my allergy symptoms, but at $45 per bottle under my insurance, they are very expensive.   I use a manufacturer’s rebate at the link above to bring the cost per bottle down to a more affordable $10.
  2. Dr. Dennis Gross ferulic + retinol triple correction eye serum has really done wonders for me.  The brand says that it reduces puffiness, brightens and also smooths fine lines and wrinkles.  My number one complaint when I first purchased this product was under eye darkness.  This serum did a great reducing the darkness to the point where I can skip concealer when I’m in a rush to get out the door.  I’m on my second bottle and highly recommend the product.  You do need to give it a bit of time to work (maybe six months) though.
  3. FOREO IRIS Illuminating Eye Massager is a device that massages the eye area to reduce visible signs of crow’s feet, dark circles, and under-eye bags according to the brand.  I had already been using the serum above, so while I can’t say that the massager does all of the things claimed, I find it really relaxing and helpful for puffiness.  I prefer this over the NuFace device because I don’t need to use a gel with it.  I keep it on my nightstand for easy access before bed, although it is recommended for use twice per day.
  4. Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer continues to be my favorite under eye concealer.  I’ve written about this one a few times, and it is favored by many.  Although I have a couple of others on hand, this is my go-to product and I use it most days of the week.
  5. Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer has been a great find for me.  I’ve been on the hunt for my perfect eyeshadow base, and I think maybe I’ve finally found it.  I was introduced to this one at a recent Sephora PRO makeup class which you can read about here.  It gets the job done for me, and the bonus that I’m lovin’ is that it comes in colors so I can get a nice even base color on my lids which complements my skin tone.
  6. The Natasha Denona Sunset Palette was the runaway makeup hit product this summer.  It’s a limited edition palette that sold out rapidly, and it became my go-to eyeshadow palette of the season.  I love the warm colors and the variety of looks you can create with this.  The price tag almost scared me away, but I’m oh so glad that I was able to get my hands on this.  Following up on my love for this palette,  I was able to get the new Natasha Denona Lila Palette.  Although I’ve only used it a few times so far, I was impressed with my ability to put together a nice neutral business meeting appropriate look.  Both of these products initially sold out at Beautylish and Sephora.  At the time of this writing, they are available, but that could change at any time.  If you haven’t tried these dreamy shadows you just don’t know what you’re missing.
  7. Esqido Mink Eyelashes have been a fave of mine ever since my 30-day lash challenge.  My skills with lash application continue to grow, and I’ve experimented with a variety of lash products.  If you want to finish your eye makeup with a luxe extra then these are the lashes you’ll want to try.  My most recent purchase was a relatively new style Esqido offers called Celestial.


These seven products are favorites that I’m using on a regular basis.  In addition, I use a variety of additional products like mascara that I’ve not covered here.  Let me know what you think, and what your go-to eye products are.  While products can help with eye beauty, Audrey Hepburn had a very wise quote that I’ll close with.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others

Audrey Hepburn


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!




Young African-American woman with beautiful glowing skin

It’s Time to Clean Up for Makeup 

This post is somewhat overdue but as they say, it’s better late than never.  Many of us have considered changes to our skincare routines as we started the new year in search of a more flawless complexion.  If you wear makeup, there is one change you can make independent of your skincare routine which has the potential to improve both your complexion and the way your makeup looks.  That change is to establish a regular routine for cleaning your makeup brushes, sponges, and related tools.  Here comes a scary bit of information for you:

Only 61% of women are cleaning their makeup brushes once a month, if at all according to a recent survey. Those who do clean their brushes do not clean them as often as beauty experts recommend.

This info came from a Buzzfeed article that you can access here.

gross-thingsI have been in the habit of cleaning my brushes monthly but must confess that I now know that I need to increase my frequency.  If you’re wondering what the bad things are that happen when you don’t clean often enough, they are summarized in the Infographic here.  It covers all of the items you’d expect related to breakouts, infections, and even worse the risk of pest infestations.  The other hazard I want to mention is that when your brushes are dirty, you’re not going to get the makeup results you desire.  If your eyeshadow application is muddy for example, you can bet that your brushes aren’t clean.  I’ll share some solutions below, but if you’d like the gory details beyond the summary in my infographic, you can click here for the full article by Summer Arlexis.

The $424 Chikuhodo P-8

Proper brush cleaning doesn’t only provide skincare and makeup application benefits — it will also protect your investment in your brushes.  Proper care of your brushes means that they will last and perform their function for many years.  The investment in a single brush can be significant.  For example, on the Beautylish website prices for a single powder brush range from a low of $28 to a high of $424 for a handmade Chikuhodo Premium Line P-8 brush.  This uber expensive brush is made of the rare long hairs from blue squirrels.

So with that as background, how often should you be cleaning your brushes?  I thought monthly was good, but makeup guru Bobbi Brown in an interview with Allure magazine provided different, more specific guidance which is as follows:


For concealer and foundation brushes, at least once a week to prevent a buildup of product. And because these brushes are used on your face, the cleaner, the better. Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month, while all others can be washed once a month.

blog-image_dsc0001Now that we know all of the reasons why we should be cleaning our brushes regularly, and that regularly really varies based on where and how the brush is used, I’d like to share some of the tools and products that I use to clean and maintain my brushes.  These are the products that I use regularly and actually pay my hard earned money for.  You may find other products that you prefer, but hopefully, this will give you some ideas for building or updating your cleaning regimen.

goat-engl-lav_largeFirst off, you need some sort of cleanser or shampoo for your brushes and Beautyblender if you use one.  I have tried both liquid and solid cleansers and find that there is much less product waste with a solid.  For my brushes, I’ve been using a goat milk based shampoo which provides conditioning benefits but doesn’t leave a residue.  It also has a bit of tea tree oil as an anti-bacterial.  You simply wet your brush and swish it around in the soap to create a lather.  In the past, I’ve purchased this from Beautylish and Dermstore, although it appears that neither of them has it in stock at the moment.  Worst case it appears that you can buy it on the London Brush Company website.  One additional benefit is that it comes in several different fragrances.  I’ve tried the Lemon Zest and English Lavender and both make the brush cleaning chore more pleasant.  London Brush Company also makes a vegan version if you object to goat milk.

s1839018-main-lheroBy the way, when I regularly used a Beautyblender, I used their solid cleanser and had good results with it.  I had to use way more product with their liquid, and I did not like the dispenser.  It was difficult to keep it clean and to dispense the product.  Since purchasing my Kevyn Aucoin foundation brush I only use my Beautyblender for travel so the solid cleanser is also much more convenient.

productphotography-300dpi281of329 For the gym or when traveling, I use the Japonesque brush cleaning wipes (see image below).  These are great because they are individually packaged.  I also have the Color Switch Duo by Vera Mona (above and at right)  which is a really clever idea.  It is a dry sponge within a can that you wipe your eyeshadow brushes on when you switch colors so that the colors don’t become muddy.  When the sponge becomes dirty you insert a replacement.  The duo has a smaller sponge in the center that you dampen and use for wet shadow application.  I don’t recall where I originally purchased this, but now you can buy them from Sephora with their packaging or directly from Vera Mona.  This tool has really helped with my eyeshadow application.

One other cleansing product in my arsenal is Laura Mercier’s Brush Cleanser.  This is a spray that you spritz onto the brush and then wipe away the dirt and makeup with a paper towel.  This is a product that I put in the same category as Japonesque wipes — great for a quickie cleaning but not as thorough in my view as a full shampooing.

The Wayne Goss Anniversary Set

There are three tools that are an essential part of my brush cleaning regimen.  These are the items that assist in the cleaning process and help me prolong the life of my brushes.  This is really important to me as about a year and a half ago I replaced and expanded my collection of day to day brushes.  I started out with the Anniversary Set from Wayne Goss (thanks to Beautylish for their 3 payment plan).  I later added the Holiday or #00, the #11 Powder, and  Air brushes.  I also received the brow set in my 2015 Beautylish Lucky Box so I have quite the collection of Goss brushes now.

Some of the tools and products I use to keep my brushes and makeup clean

The first essential tool is my brush tree.  Benjabelle makes a variety of these which you can see on the Beautylish website.  They’re also available on Amazon.  This image shows exactly how I use it.  benjabelleOnce I’ve washed a brush I cover it with a brush guard (my second essential tool shown above) and hang the brush upside down to dry.  The brush guards help your brushes maintain or regain their shape after washing.  The brush tree allows you to hang the brushes with the bristles down so that you don’t end up with water in the ferrule which can ultimately compromise your brush by loosening the very part that holds all of those little hairs together and is where the brush head is connected to the handle.  I remember back in the day not being careful about this and the brush head falling off of a Bobbi Brown brush (or two).  I was so uninformed about brush care that I actually soaked my brushes in the sink — please do not do this.  61i7ynxt1vl-_sx522_The final tool in my cleaning arsenal is the Cityvivo Brushegg which you can get on Amazon for $2.99.  This is a handy tool for safely “scrubbing” your brushes.  It’s like a washboard for your brush and helps get the makeup and grime out.

Finally, you’ll notice in the image of tools and products two other items that I keep on hand.  Both are by a company called BeautySoClean and they’re also available at Beautylish.  Not only will bacteria turn up on your brushes and tools, it also ends up on the surface of your products (think about those in-store testers – it’s the same thing).  The sanitizer wipes are a quick, easy way to wipe off your makeup products like lipsticks.  I also use them to wipe down my tweezers and eyelash curler for example.  The sanitizer mist is used to clean dry products like eyeshadow without altering the product you’re using it on.  You just spray it on — it dries fast and then you’ll know that shadow or powder blush is clean and fresh.

So, now that you’ve read this post I’d love it if you would take a moment to participate in a quick one question poll about your brush cleaning habits.  Results are anonymous, and there isn’t any judging going on here.  You will see the updated results with your answers included when you finish.  I hope I’ve given you useful information to update your cleaning routine if needed.  I’d love to hear about your favorite cleaning products and what impact your brush cleaning routine has had on your skin’s overall health and appearance.

Summer School at Sephora

Sephora Beverly Hills store, photo

It’s hard to believe, but fall is upon us! We naturally think about transitioning our wardrobes and our skincare as the change of seasons takes hold. I mentioned in my prior post False Eyelashes for the Lash Challenged that I’ve been working to up my makeup game. Learning to apply false lashes and watching a lot of YouTube videos are just two of the ways I’ve worked to kick it up a notch. Another thing that I did over the summer months was to take advantage of the free classes offered by beauty store extraordinaire, Sephora. If you live in the US and belong to Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program (which is free to join BTW) you can choose from a menu of 12 free hands-on classes which cover everything from Brow Shaping to Winged Eyeliner. Classes are 45 to 90 minutes in duration and take place in your friendly neighborhood store.  These classes are a great way to prepare to transition your skincare and makeup routines for the fall and winter months ahead.

Image from

Although I have been a Beauty Insider for a number of years, I had never really taken full advantage of the program’s benefits. I became a VIB Rouge member late last year and decided I should take advantage of more of the program benefits beyond the two day free Flash Shipping and a couple of makeup application sessions. I participated in six classes during the summer months and now have quite a bit of experience that I’ll share with you here. The beauty of these classes is that you get personalized help from the instructor and coaches – the techniques and products are customized to you with consideration given to your skin type, face shape, features and preferences. While YouTube is a fantastic resource, free personalized help that is specific to YOU just can’t be beat.

From June through August I attended classes at the Santa Monica, CA location (mucho thanks to Christine and her team) which covered the makeup basics plus a few more advanced topics:

  • Flawless Foundation with Color IQ
  • Correct and Conceal
  • Contour and Highlight
  • No Makeup Makeup
  • Nighttime Smoky Eye
  • Winged Eyeliner

We typically had 12-16 attendees each session — some drove up to 100 miles because they had a specific need that wasn’t addressed in their local area that week. Despite the fact that these are group sessions, you do get personal attention, as there are typically two to four coaches on hand to assist you in addition to the instructor. The class attendees (and teaching team) were a diverse group covering all ages, skin types and ethnicities so everyone can benefit.

Photo Ricardo DeAratanha, Los Angeles Times

You can take the classes in any order and there is a monthly schedule by location on the web site. Some classes are offered on Saturday or Sunday mornings while others are on weeknights after work. The weekend morning classes start at 8:00 or 9:00 AM (varies by location). I’ll admit that while I struggled to get up for 8 AM class on Saturday morning, I recommend sucking it up and doing this instead of going to a weeknight class. Summer evenings on the Promenade in Santa Monica are always busy, and the store had a lot of foot traffic. Although we were cordoned off in a specific area, there was always a good bit of noise from shoppers, some wanting to cut through our area, or try to get one of our coaches to help them which was distracting.

Every class included a focus on skin care and skin preparation. Here is the bottom line. Great skincare and prep will always enable great results, while poor skincare makes great results difficult to either attain or maintain throughout the day. I believe the first four classes I listed cover the fundamentals and can provide you with little tips and tricks to enhance your application techniques as well as identifying the right products for you. For example I thought (I now laugh at myself) that I was doing some contouring and highlighting before attending that class, but found I was using the wrong product to highlight my under eye (not light enough) and applying it too close to my lower lash line which caused more creasing than any woman would want. Another example was how I learned how to hold and use my flat eye shadow brush to apply shadow to my lids. By making this small change, I’m able to better apply shadow as close to my lash line as possible for quicker better coverage.

If you’re looking to update your skincare or makeup routines as we transition to fall, these classes are an easy way to do it. Fear not, although the classes are free, there is no hard sell or pressure to buy anything. I did, however make a number of purchases during the summer, and was introduced to some great products for future consideration. More on those in an upcoming post later this week…

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