Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Incorporate the Newest Trends Without Looking Like A High School Wannabe!

I'm back!!! Did you miss me??   I hope at least a few of you did.  I have returned to talk about fall trends.  There are a few fashion items that are "MUST HAVES".  And ladies, come on, we have to keep current.  We start looking dated when we refuse to incorporate any fashion trends into our wardrobe.  The classic look is only classic when it is kept current.  And there is a way to do that.  And for those of us who are a little more daring, but are "big girls" nonetheless, there is a way to look fly without looking like you are trying to be Nicki Minaj!!! 

I have a High School age daughter.  I really don't like to admit it, because it makes me feel old.  My husband and I walked into her school a week ago for a teacher conference feeling so out of place among all the colorfully clad youth.  And when I spotted my little girl, I did a double take.  She was the epitome of style and mature looking with her fire engine red skinny jeans, white off shoulder blouse set off by a slim gold belt and gold ballet flats.  I was proud and sad at the same time.  For years, I picked out her clothes, making sure to keep her very current (as current as a modest little girl could be) and put them out for her to wear.  She would have trouble matching colors and I wondered if she would ever have style.  But like magic, when she turned 14, she started caring more about her appearance--wanting her hair to look right, wanting to pick out her own clothes. Not only has my style influenced her own, she is starting to develop her own personal style, telling me "Mommy that isn't me".  Okay, I digress. 

So what about me, you say?  I am not a teenager and I don't want to look like one!!  I hear ya, as I am obviously not a teenager either.  But updating your wardrobe is EXTREMELY important.  So let's look at some recent fashion trends:

1. SNAKE SKIN PRINTS--I have heard a few of you mention this one.  It is not the same as the leopard skin print (which I love).  It is a smaller, more distinct pattern.  This is a welcome change for those of us who are not "Nicole Ritchie" thin, as the smaller print is less distracting and more slimming.

Tips: As in all prints, DO NOT GO ALL OUT.  Pick one snake skin item per ensemble. It is easier to start with denim pant or a skirt.  There are jeans out there with a muted snake skin print stamped on.  Wear these with a crisp white shirt and a slim belt.  If you choose snake skin top, go for a dark colored pant.  Or for my more classic divas, opt for a snake skin ( faux) handbag that can be your accent piece.

2. BRIGHTLY COLORED JEANS--These have popped up everywhere, from Nordstrom to Wal Mart.  The trend is the skinny jean, which is fitted from the waist to the ankle.  But, not all of us can wear a true skinny jean.  If not, there are ways to incorporate this one in without looking silly or mooning the world when you bend over. 

Tips:  Skinny jeans are not for everybody.  You should be comfortable about what you are wearing. If you do go the skinny jean route, choose a heavy weighted denim material instead of the thin "jeggings" that are sold in the junior's department.  Those kind crease at the crotch and tug at the thigh on women with curves.  Choose a bright color, but one you won't be nervous wearing.  Remember that as we go into fall and winter, the mint green and pale pink colors should be used less-unless you are in Florida, Cali, or in a very laid back area where swimming occurs year round.  I like lapis blue, berry, deep purple, and pine green for fall. And pair with a tunic that comes down to cover your bootie.

For those who don't do skinny jeans, you can find the colored jeans in a modified boot cut or straight- legged roomier jean.  Just try to avoid "Mom" jeans.  I love Not Your Daughter's Jeans.  They are super stylish, but made for a woman with curves and a few extra bulges here or there.  They make you look a size slimmer--bonus! 

3.  COLD SHOULDER or PEEK-A-BOO SHOULDER BLOUSES--I love this trend.  It allows you to be a little alluring/sexy without being indecent.  This tops are designed to leave the shoulders bare, but still have a short or long sleeve to keep you from looking like you dressed for the beach.  Some tops show just a small amount of shoulder and more of the arm.

Tips:  It is sometimes tricky to wear this with a business jacket due to the cut, so a cold shoulder sweater may be in order for the fall and winter.  If you are more endowed, try to find a more fitted blouse and not one that balloons out, as it makes you just look big all over.  For women who have a little less on top,  there are some very nice 80's style blouses with the tapered sleeves. 

Love ya,


A Few Good Grit-Free Exfoliants

Here are a few mild exfoliants that are gentle enough for you to use on your own face once or twice a week:

Eminence Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel--a great natural enzyme exfoliator.  Eminence is a great spa quality line for those who want all natural, vegan products. $42 for 2 oz. on Amazon or at Spa in the Valley in Hunt Valley Center.

Gentle Daily Peel with  2% BHA--a light peel product that uses salicylic acid to keep the top layer fresh.  Also good for those with mild breakouts, as it will purge the pores of "gunk". $13 from

AmorePacific Enzyme Treatment Peel--is a powder that become sudsy when water is added.  Shake a small amount into your hand and add a little water.  Use like a cleanser rubbing in circular motions for 1 minute and rinse.  This is expensive $65, but the 2.5 lasts forever.  And because it is in powder form and not activated until water is added, it is great for travel ( has a great "no mess" container) and it retains it's potency.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Filing your face away..,Why I'm not so fond of scrubs

Hey Sweethearts:

I've been busy this summer indeed.  It seems as if I've gone on a haitus from the blog.  In fact, I have been my deeds.  But not in my thoughts and in my spirit.  I've been pondering many beauty questions and have been trying new products with the intention of sharing all my knowledge with you.  But I've been enjoying life this summer and haven't spent much time typing out all my beauty secrets.

I keep forgetting that I've been wanting to talk to you about scrubs, and why I'm not fond of them for facial general that is.  I occasionally used scrubs as a younger lady to "give my skin a glow"!  In fact, I was one of the many young people who made their purchases based on the advertisements.  We really didn't look at ingredients.  We get sucked in by promises to make our skin "glow", "look younger", or "stay young".  Remember that advertisers are hired by cosmetic companies to make you want to buy a certain product (think Mad Men) and that they are largely not skin care experts.  They are paid to tell you what you want to hear.

Okay long story shorter, the facial skin is more delicate than body skin, especially around the eyes and lids.  And abrasives that are rubbed onto the face can cause tiny little cuts called microabrasions.  You can't see 'em, you probably can't even feel 'em, but they leave your skin exposed to damage and bacteria entering your epidermis.  The biggest offenders are the old-style, cheaper scrubs made with crushed nut particles like St. Ives, but even the luxury brand scrubs with finer particles can cause problems.  They can make acne worse, cause a breakout, cause dark blotches on darker skin tones, and worse case leave skin vulnerable to fungal infections. A family member of mine got one such infection from using a harsh exfoliant and then using equipment at the gym!

Scary part over, whew! Now I have to say that exfoliants are a big must. Maybe not so much for the 19 year olds.  But as we age, our skin loses it's ability to exfoliate as fast on it's own.  I prefer light "chemical" exfoliants to scrubs on the face, due to the delicate nature of the facial skin.  I'm not talking doctor office deep peels here.   I'm talking gels with various acids derived from natural sources to lightly "break away" the stubborn older, duller skin cells. I also like peels that use natural enzymes from various fruits to "munch off" the old layer of skin, leaving the younger, softer skin on the surface. These give me a much brighter glow than facial scrubs! I will give you the 411 on the good in a few days. Stay tuned for this.

But I know some of you love the feeling you get from a great manual scrubbing (right Mary?).  Okay, I feel you on this.  What I recommend is that you use only scrubs with spherical beads made jojoba or other gentle oils. The smooth circular surface is less likely to cause microabrasions.  Better yet, splurge on a Clarisonic brush.  It will give you a "salon" polish using your own mild cleanser every day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Help for Eczema Sufferers? Part Two to Dermatitis Entry

Hey All,

Earlier on I told you that I'd be back to offer advice for soothing inflammation on the skin caused by dermatitis.  Well, sorry guys, I have been so busy working in my garden trying to cure my hybrid tea roses of black spot fungus (problem solved by the way) that I have neglected to give you the 411.

Since my last blog, I have been also busy researching a product that claims to soothe and heal flare ups of eczema and related dermatitis.  I was inspired to look for some relief because I know two sweet little infants who recently suffered with skin ailments--a cute little boy named Caleb and my wonderful little nephew R.J.  I have suffered myself and I know the pain and irritation eczema can bring.  And I also know that the use of corticosteroids is often discouraged on baby's tender skin. So I was looking for a pure product that could be used on even young skin.

An Internet search on natural moisturizers led me to Squalene.  Squalene is a natural compound which has tremendous humectant properties. It can be found naturally in our bodies, and it helps to oxygenate and regenerate cells, and helps to synthesize cholesterol.  A big source of squalene extraction is shark oil, but it occurs naturally in plants as well, especially in olives.  The saturated form of olive squalene is called squalANE.  It's saturated state helps keep it stable longer than squalene, so squalane is most often used for cosmetic purposes.

I read that squalane was supposed to be very helpful in the treatment of dermatitis.  Online I found 100% pure squalane for a reasonable price sold by a company called Skin Beautiful.  I decided to give it a try on the patches of eczema on my fingers. I applied two drops of the very light textured oil from the dropper bottle it came in directly to my hands and rubbed it into the dried and cracked patches of skin.  After about two or three day, I can say that I noticed a difference--my dry patches were now softer and the cracks were healing.  I am continuing to use it once or twice a day with continued success, although when I became lazy and failed to use it for a day, I noticed the beginning of a flare up.
Some more good news, not only did a few drops of squalane help my eczema calm down, it also really softens skin.  I have had greater success using a few drops on my super dry heels than any thick cream or body butter.  And I also apply a tiny amount nightly to my face as a nighttime hydrator, instead of a rich night cream ( I have oily skin, but more mature than a teenager) and it is fantastic, even on my oily skin.  Although it is derived from olives, it does not have the heaviness nor the pungent scent of olive oil, so non olive oil-lovers can use it too!!!   It is definitely worth the ten bucks plus S&H, especially for those (or those who have loved ones) suffering from skin conditions. 

I found mine at skin-beautiful. com. 

P.S.- Don't forget a little goes a long way, and use sunscreen over this product during the day if your skin can tolerate it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dermatitis--An Exact Science...NOT!!!

Recently, I have seen and heard about quite a few people suffering from skin irritation.  It could be as minor as the small patch of tiny bumps on my sister's cheek that won't go away, or as pervasive as eczema which has taken over a person's entire body. Often, people ask what can be done to remedy this.  I wish I had a simple answer, but unfortunately, dermatitis is not simple.

I am a sufferer of dermatitis, in fact, I had had struggles with moderate eczema since childhood.  Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a fancy term for a type of dermatitis.  And dermatitis is an even fancier word, but it really just means inflammation with affects the epidermis (the top few layers of the skin).  It is a very broad and generalized term, and there are many reasons why people have inflammatory responses. 

The eczema I had as a small child was pretty common.  I would get patches of itchy rash on the inner knee and elbow area (not on the actual knee or elbow, but on the other side of the joints).  They would shift in appearance from moist, oozy, reddish bumps clustered together to dry, rough, and cracked patches.  As an adolescent, one of my eczema patches on my wrist even got infected, which cause a very odd-looking area of open skin in the shape of a sunburst that leaves a faint scar to this day.

My dermatitis has been linked to allergies.  I am allergic to many grasses, trees, and molds.  While I don't have the problem of sneezing and red eyes like some do (my husband sometimes sneezes 10 times in a row!), the allergic reaction has always shown up on my skin.   There is often a genetic link as well.  People with a family history of allergies and asthma can be prone to skin inflammation of different kinds. I had an allergy to milk as a little girl, when I consumed certain quantities of dairy it would make my skin angry and fire up my dermatitis.  When I was a teen, I worked in a library shelving books.  The exposure to dusty books, coupled with the use of a lotion I had been using caused chronic contact dermatitis on my fingers and hands.  Contact dermatitis means that your skin becomes inflamed when in contact with something of which you are sensitive to.  Like me, many people don't realize that their occupation or hobby may be exacerbating a case of contact dermatitis.
Jobs where people have to wash their hands alot--medical fields, food service, esthicicans, etc., cause many cases of contact dermatitis. Many people don't take into account the impact all that washing has on the skin.  And people suffer with painful rashes on the ears and abdomen for years before the realized that they were allergic to the nickel from their jewelry or belts.

Other common skin inflammatory issues include seborrhea and peri-oral dermatitis. Again, these are related to allergies and tend to run in families.  Seborrhea (or seborrheic dermatitis) is common in the very young and the very old, and often manifests itself on the scalp and in the ears, creating oily flakes of skin.  Peri-oral dermatitis is inflammation of the nasal labial folds (smile lines), and the skin surrounding the mouth.  With this one, there is a big "Catch 22" factor.  Usually people will lick their lips to try to alleviate the dry feeling, but this only serves to further dry out  and irritate the skin.  In my family, I have seen some pretty nasty cases of this one, where there is a ring of dry, darkened skin around the mouth.

Psoriasis is another big skin condition.  It is different; however, because it is an auto-immune disorder.  The skin cells attack each other, causing "plaques" of  reddish skin with silvery scales.  It can be very painful, even more so than eczema (and eczema can be bad!) and is not treated in the same manner as dermatitis.

There are many factors that cause dermal conditions to flare:
*Exposure to a certain ingedient
*Over exposure to water (as in frequent hand washing)
*Exposure to the sun
*Certain internal medications

If you or your little one is suffering from a rash this season, you are by no means alone.  There are some things I will suggest next time to treat dermatitis and help it heal.  But for the most part, these skin conditions don't get get cured.  Many times children grow out of dermatitis, but not always. When the patches are well established and moderate to severe, the only effective way to get rid of them is to have a doctor prescribe a medium-strength corticosteroid.  The good news is there are many things you van try to keep the issue at bay and prevent flare ups from occurring!

Stay tuned for part 2,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Exposing myself: Even a diva can show off her inner beauty

Dear Beautiful People,

I have been wanting to write for a while about the act of "stripping".  Please don't stop reading; this is safe for the modest, for children, and for work.  When I talking about stripping, I'm not referring to an immoral or rebellious act.  I am, in fact, referring to the exposure of inner beauty.

I think there are people who have the wrong impression of me.  Because I inherited an eye for fashion from my grandmother Gladys and I like to shop (bargain shop that is), many assume that I am superficial.   I am an artist, but instead of a flat cloth canvas, I use faces.  And instead of pastels and oil paints, I use cosmetics.  It is still very much an art, and requires raw talent, skill, and training to be good at it.  I get many odd looks from other women when I am looking my best--well groomed and dressed impeccably.  They think that I am acting in arrogance.  When in fact, I am merely enjoying that things that make me feel good about myself.  Beauty, fashion, and skin care, is my hobby, and I am merely expressing my artistic nature.

But let me set some things straight.  I am not arrogant, at least I try hard not to ever be.  I see beauty in almost all things, and I do not use my inclination  for "lotions and potions" take precedence over my role as a child of God.  I am His servant, a wife, a mom, and so much more. 

I sometimes struggle with the question "what is my purpose in life?"  I feel that we all have talents, we are all programmed to enjoy certain jobs and tasks.  But what do I really want to do with my talents, my "likes"?  I've always liked to be helpful and encouraging.  I like to make people feel good about themselves.  And being a skin care expert and make up artist allows me to do those things without much frustration (unlike in my first career--teaching middle school kids). I also like to sing--a whole lot.  But I do it for God first, and for my own satisfaction...not for the superficial praise from others.

There is something you may or may not know about me.  Inside I am stripped.  I am completely bare-souled. I have confidence most times, but I am happy to serve, to encourage, to be a witness of Christ's love.   I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I am happy to give it away when someone needs encouragement or love. 

Don't get me wrong, sometimes my love of makeup and handbags may make my mind wander into the unsafe ground of materialism. There are times that I see someone driving by me in a shiny new fancy car, while I am driving an 8 year old mini-van, and I start wishing we could swap.  But when it comes down to it, I realize how blessed I am.  I don't need to show off my outward self, what I strive to do is to expose my humble inner spirit.

My outward appearance is not always top-notch, either.  As a stay-at-home mom and gardener, I can often be found makeup-free, dark undereye circles (had them since birth) and all.  And there are those times when my hair is uncombed and bushy, my clothes are a bit ragged.  You see, I am not so shallow that I claim perfection, and none of you should either.  But when I do get dressed in my hot pink dress and heals, wear my "war paint", and yes, even sport one of my genuine LV's, don't dwell on how I look.  Keep me honest by focusing on how I act!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trend Watch--The Diva goes "green" at the nail salon!

I am a trend watcher.  I'm not what you would call a trend fanatic--someone who follows every new style or beauty trend that comes down the pike.  Just like Miley Cyrus' celebrity status, fashion trends get "hot" quickly and fade before many of us realize they've moved on to the next big thing.  And now that I am older and a bit wiser than I was in high school and college, I realize that not all style trends are made for every body, every face shape, every skin tone, every stage of life.  I chucked my parachute pants about six months after I bought them in the 90's, as their popularity rose and fell as quickly as M.C. Hammer's wealth did.

Style watchers, however, are justified in their pursuit of spying the newest trends, especially if they have anything to do with an industry involving aesthetics ( fashion, interior design etc.).  As a make up artist, I would never want to get so set in my ways that I would still apply eye shadow the way we wore it a decade or two before, or a shade that was "off the heezy" last year, but passe now (like the term "off the heezy").   Remember those jelly band bracelet thingies from two years ago? Everybody had an armful. Now they're only found at Big Lots and Ollie's Bargain Outlets if you're lucky.

Watching trends helps me to update my wardrobe, which I tweak when finances allow.  And my hair color or style.  Although as a naturally coily girl--relaxer free since 2007, I usually let my hair do its own "thang" and no longer care whether people like it or not.

Which leads me to my latest mani/pedi.  I hardly ever splurge on them in the spring and summer, as I garden and walk about the lawn barefoot.  However, I had time to kill during a recent "tag along" trip with my hubby when he went to a conference.  So I tried the latest spring/summer nail trend--shades of green!!!  They are all over the magazines--nails adorned in greens from mint to emerald, from seafoam to deep teal.  It is a new spin on the deep blues from a year or two ago.  And in my opinion, better.  It is slightly easier for us non-teenagers to look acceptable in mint or seafoam than in electric blue. 
The manicurist had me pick a color.  I looked for a muted mint color.  It took a few coats as it was a thinner, more transparent formula.  The manicurist had a tough time getting it on.  But I loved the look.  I saw it was O.P.I. brand.  I inquired about the color--Zombody to Love.  I don't think the very young Vietnamese girl understood the pun.  I wasn't sure I did either.  I am old enough to have heard my dad listen to "Don't You Want Somebody to Love...".  But it was mint, not Zombie. I guessed that this was a carry over from their Halloween collection. Those silly O.P.I. folks!! But the color was subtle and en vogue now. 

Out in the sun with my flip flops on and my wedding rings blinging, I decided that I loved this green trend.  I always loved green anyway.  But if mint is not your "cup of tea", you can always go for a deeper green.  Just keep it jewel toned, not muddy or forest-y, that's not the style.  Or you can take it to the blue side, with a deep teal that has more blue and just a hint of green. 
IMHO, the deeper or bolder you go, the more youthful you should be.  Neon and glittery colors look cute on teens going to the prom, but it makes some of us more mature divas look like we are trying too hard to appear young, or as I say, pulling a Mariah.

Try a shade of green this spring. If you are tend shy, go with a french manicure with a "shades of green" design.  Or do your toes only.   When you find the right green for you, I think you will like this trend. just don't buy a whole lot of bottles.  Next spring we may be moving along to hot pink again.

P.S.--Zombody to Love by O.P.I. had a hidden surprise.  When the lamps went out that first night in the hotel room, I noticed I was glowing.  Glow in the dark can be fun for ALL ages.  So, yes, I found my inner zombie!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Make up Artistry--Not just for Pageant Contestants Anymore

After putting it off for a while, I am jump-starting my make up artistry business again...and I am feeling quite good about it.  I feel like I'm reunited with my love after a bit of a hiatus.  But I couldn't just jump in head first.  The world of cosmetics is like the world of is always changing.  what worked for a girl going to prom five years ago may be as outdated as the original Blackberry. (And yes I do still have a Blackberry...for now).  And there are so many new brands, formulations, and techniques.  So I've had some research to do of course.  And I had to load my case with new products.  But I am going to redo my portfolio, sharpen my eyeliner pencils, and sanitize all of my pro brushes.

Getting your makeup done by a real pro is not like having your cousin do it (unless, of course, your cousin is a pro).  And it's not necessarily like going to the cosmetic counter where you will be pressured into buying products.  Pros specialize in techniques that give you the most camera-friendly looks, pay attention to detail, and use our magic to help the make up to stay fresh on your face from the time you walk down the aisle or red carpet to the very last dance!!  We use shading--contouring and highlighting to add dimension to your face.  A pro won't make a seventeen-year-old prom queen look like  "a lil' old lady", nor should we make a forty-something mom going to an interview for an law office job look like Nicki Minaj.  And some men come to pros for "man grooming",contouring, smoothing, shine control, etc. before going before a camera.

I am booking appointments for proms, weddings, photography sessions, and any other special occasion.

And since I am in the rebuilding stage I offer many discounts.  Pro artists normally charge anywhere from $40-$150 per face, depending on their training and experience, and the type of job it is.  My current rates normally begin a $40 per face; however, right now I am discounting that fee...on a sliding scale.  Just email, text, call, or FB message me for pricing.  Don't let the price scare you, I can work with anyone.

***I am not a salesperson nor do I represent a particular cosmetics brand.  However, I do use upscale and professional makeup brands including Urban Decay, Nars, Tarte, M.A.C., Dermablend and more!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Summer Sunscreen Challenge!! Will you accept it?

As I alluded to in my very first entry, the weather in the Mid-Atlantic Region is finally warming up and the sun is full effect as we move closer to the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere.  Which begs the question; has the Diva convinced you of the importance of sun protection yet?  It's not that we need to arm ourselves only during the summer months or while at the beach.  We need to do so even on a cloudy day.  However, now is the time to start a healthy habit of guarding your largest organ from powerful ultra violet rays.

How many of us brush our teeth morning and night?  Probably a whole bunch of us do.  And why do we so?  I think the main reason is that it was instilled in us at an early age.  It is a healthy habit we learned not long after we cut our first baby teeth.

Well, applying sunscreen should be like that.  It is a very healthy habit.  Especially for those whose melanocytes (color producing cells) are less active.  This means that if your skin is lighter than the color of a butterscotch candy, you are more vulnerable to photo aging and even skin cancer.  And the lighter you are, the less active your cells are.  If you have ivory skin, you are much more likely to burn, to get skin cancer, and to wind up with deeper and more numerous wrinkles early.  No fun, huh?  Well, this is why I am so passionate about people using sunscreen daily.

On to the challenge--will you agree to apply sunscreen every morning to exposed areas between May 20th and September 9th?  Can you commit yourself to placing that bottle or spray or wipe next to your toothbrush and using it before you go outside?  If you are already used to doing this, then this will be a snap.   If not, you should at least commit to trying your very best.

Here is the Summer Sunscreen Challenge:  
I commit to applying a sunscreen product of SPF 15* or higher to all exposed skin at least once each day (preferably in the morning) between May 20th and September 9th, 2012.

And I will get you started, if you're quick with your keyboards.  The first 5 people to write " I accept the challenge"in the comment area below will receive a 1 oz. starter tube of Banana Boat Sport SPF30.
So there is really not much of an excuse to get on board.  At least to commit to try.  Your skin will thank you.


*I recommend SPF 30 or up UVA/UVB, but some of you just won't go for that...I know.

If you are informed that you are a prize winner, check my profile for an email address and email me so that we can discuss delivery.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dry, Fried, Overly Dyed Hair? Here's the 411 for some 911!

We have all been there.  At least the majority of us have been.  Those who color our hair, who blow dry constantly, who use a flat iron more than we do our clothing iron--we know we've gone down this path a time or two. And there are many other ways we can get there.  Double processing (two different chemical processes on the same head of hair), bleaching, and chemical hair straightening  or curling products all lead us to the point of dry, lifeless, frizzy, hard, or breaking strands.

There are also some of us who have naturally dry hair, mainly curly girls and guys.  And the tighter the curl pattern, the drier the hair tends to be.  We all have natural oils that are produced on the scalp, just like on the skin.  And those of us who know simple geometry know that it is quicker and easier to get from point A to point B when you're travelling in a straight line.  Well think of the oil as the traveller, and the hair strand the line.  Oil flows much more easily down from the root (point A) to the ends (point B) on straight hair.  However, the more "windey" and twisted the strand is, the more difficult it is for that oil to travel to it's destination. 

Those with wavy and large curls may suffer from a bit of dryness from time to time.  Those with corkscrew curls have more of an issue with dryness.  And those with tight curls, especially those of us like the Diva with some afro heritage, know that we always have the tendency to have dry hair and that we need to add moisture to keep it healthy.

Here are some deep conditioning treatments I like for overprocessed hair of any texture. Remember that the curlier the hair, the more product your hair can tolerate.

For moisturizing treatments: Straight,wavy, and large curls--use sparingly once or twice per month as directed.  Corkscrew curly, use more product as needed up to once per week.  Coily, kinky, and Afro relaxed hair, use more as needed up to twice a week.

Moisture for quenching parched strands( dry, frizzy strands):

Queen Helene Cholesterol Conditioning Cream-$3.50 at drug stores
It's A Ten Miracle Hair Mask--$18 at Beauty Supply Stores (BSS) or select salons
Kerastate Nutritive Masquintense Hair Mask- $44 at BSS or select salons

For protein treatments: Every type should use as dierected.  Some may find it useful to follow up with a regular rinse out conditioner, because protein can make hair feel hard.

Protein for strength (brittle or breaking strands):

Nutress Hair Protein Pak- $3.99 for a 4 oz. tube at BSS
Nexxus Emergencee--$10 at Rite Aid or at BSS
Sebastian Penetraitt Deep Strengthening Treatment--starting at $15 at BSS

 FYI for my "Non Bronzed Readers" ;-) About 80% of black American women today (way less than in the '90's) regularly undergo a chemical process called relaxing to break the bond of the coil pattern and make it straight.  The rest are naturally kinky, coily, curly, wavy, and a small percentage are even completely naturally straight--as we all have degrees of mixed ethnicity and a wide range of hair textures. And of course, some ladies use heat to flatten the coils out, or wear hair pieces and weaves.  If you are a reader who is not too familiar with black American hair types, just know that if the hair is always worn straight, it is likely to be chemically treated.  And if you hear a black lady talk about "going natural", she means stopping the relaxer treatments, cutting off the processed hair and rocking her God-given texture of  hair, whatever that might be! 

We'll chat again soon. Next time, I'll give you some natural, and home made conditoners!!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learning from Yolanda-- the lady that taught me a lot about hair and also about life

Hello Beautiful People,

I have been wanting to take some time to talk about hair care.  Now I am not a licensed professional hairstylist; in fact, estheticians are licensed only to remove hair in addition to skin treatments...BUT, I know a thing or two about what healthy hair should look and feel like.  Before I do so, I would like to tell you a story about how my knowledge of hair care went from fair to fabulous!  And about a lady who had a lot to do with it.

For about a year, I worked at a salon called Le Salon De Beaute in Pikesville, Maryland. I was fresh out of Von Lee School of Esthetics, a top-notch school for facialists, and I had gotten word that a woman I knew from high school was looking to expand her new hair salon to include skin care.  That salon owner, after giving me one of the toughest interviews I've had, became my boss.  And she was a bonafide hair diva.  Yolanda Carr was a young women who despite her youth ran her business the way she ran her life, very regimented and with precision. I had known her and her sister growing up at Franklin Middle and Franklin High School, but I was a quiet, shy and conservative girl, while I always remembered Yolanda as being fun-loving, rebellious, and outgoing.  So naturally we never crossed paths much as kids.  Now thrust into the world of professional esthetics in a new salon that never before offered skin care services, I knew I had a lot of knowledge and raw talent.  But I sometimes doubted how good I really was; however, Yolanda never did.  We wouldn't always agree on how things should be done, but she respected my knowledge and enthusiastically encouraged her hair clients to see me for skin care treatments.  And I respected the way she ran her business and how she could cut, color, and style any texture of hair like magic, no matter the race or ethnicity of the client.

Not having established a "book" of clients on my own yet, I spent many hours around the salon watching Yolanda interact with her clients.  She always greeted them with a lovely smile and engaged them in many interesting conversations.  I watched as she tousled her client's wet hair during the cutting process, to see how the style would "hang".  I watched her color and highlight hair, doing full highlights as quickly as she did a "zipper"(highlighting only the top of the crown and sectioning it to have the effect of a zipper).  I observed her as she wielded her blow dryer, creating fluffy blowouts that I have learned to copy, but not nearly as well.   I also watched her mentor others, including the talented young stylist Jenah who grew by leaps and bounds as a stylist within the time I was there.  I learned about various hair products, techniques, and even how to highlight my own hair by copying what she and Jenah did. Yolanda used to say that the brand of shampoo wasn't nearly as important as the conditioner and other styling products, because "they are all suds in a bottle".  Above all I learned that you have to work hard to become an expert if you want people to listen and to trust you.  Her diligence paid off indeed, as she and the salon were soon featured in Baltimore Magazine as one of the top salons in the area,

I left the salon in the early summer of 2008 to pursue a job with a medi-spa.  I was impatient, not wanting to wait to build up my book as I was working on commission.  I was lured away by the better-than-decent hourly wage and the chance to work in a clinical setting alongside medical professionals.  I had made many friends at Le Salon De Beaute, and hated leaving them.  But the hardest thing I had to do was personally resign to my boss.  I waited around in my car after my shift was over until the shop closed, the last client walked out the door followed by the staff.  With a knot in my throat, I hurried across the lot and up the steps to the door.  Yolanda was straightening up after a long day.  I gave her my two weeks notice and explained my reasons for wishing to move on.   I didn't think she would be all that concerned, as hair was the main business there and other estheticians would come.  She was graceful, but she did say " I believed in you, and I wish I had known you needed more money, because I would have worked with you".  It was then I realized I shouldn't have doubted my worth, because Yolanda could see a diamond in the rough better than anyone could.

I told her that I respected her and applauded her success in such a short period of time as a salon owner.  After my two weeks were over, I left Le Salon De Beaute behind and pursued my medi-spa job.  Although I stayed there much longer and made much more money, I learned that the "clinical setting" I'd hoped for was more of a money-grabbing operation where dishonesty and pressure sales was encouraged and my knowledge, talent, and compassion for clients took a back seat to the act of removing thousands of dollars from people's pocketbooks by sweet looking but deceptive twenty-somethings promising results that often did not come. Yes, the grass always looks greener, but many times it is not.

One night in March last year, a friend from high school called to tell me if I'd heard the news.  There had been a freak accident behind the salon after work.  Yolanda Carr was gone.  Just like that, she had left behind a husband, two boys, loving family, and a multitude of friends and clients.  The show still goes on, as her family and friends keep Le Salon open.  But I will not forget Yolanda nor the lessons I learned by observing how she handled hair, and juggled her business, family, and her life.

The Bronzediva

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Men and Skin Care Products--Do Men REALLY Need Their Own Stuff?

I don't think my husband minds me saying that he doesn't care much about skin care products and regimens.  He rinses his face with water during his shower and shaves every now and then, and he is good to go.  And he has clear and basically flawless skin.  I am a bit jealous of this fact. I wonder why I have to struggle to keep my face clear of blemishes and shine-free, while he doesn't have a routine and his skin is great.  I am the esthectician in the family, and still I struggle. Yes, it has alot to do with genes/ hormones.  On my mother's side of the family, most have clear and youthful looking skin.  On my dad's it's a mixed bag, but I think I inherited the oily, acne prone skin from him.

Not all men are as lucky as my man is, but whether they have stellar skin or less-than-perfect skin, many men prefer their own products to place on their side of the bathroom sink.  They prefer the more woodsy fragrance which permeates many skin  and hair care products marketed to men.  And of course, there is the shaving lubricant.  Back in the day, my dad and grandfather used Barbisol or Colgate shaving cream out of the can.  I liked to watch the foamy "clouds" puff up as they were released from the can, and wished that I could eat them.  Nowadays, however, there are so many options available to help ease the shaving process, be they creams, gels, lotions, or foams.

Some men prefer their own body wash.  Instead of the entire family using the same bottle of Dove, they prefer using their own products with a distinct "manly" scent.  And now, there are shampoos and conditioners marketed for men.  I guess to help them feel more like a "stud" when they are in the check out line at Wal Mart.  A friend I know even resorted to "re-labeling" her bottle of Pantene to "Mantene" with a sharpie, just so her hubby would tolerate it.

Let's look at one of the most popular higher end facial care lines devoted to men--Clinique Skin Supplies For Men.  Clinique Skin Supplies for Men goes WAY beyond the garden variety men's cleanser and after shave, including products such as Age Defense Eye Cream.  All of the products are usually highly rated on skin care sites, yet Clinque's main line (women's) scores much lower.  Why is this?  Does Clinique add better ingredients to the men's line?  No, that's not it.  In fact, many of the ingredients are the same in both the main line and the men's line. The reason is because in general, male skin is thicker and slightly oiler than females', due to hormonal differences.  So most men can handle a stronger astringent with some SD-alcohol in it, and it usually benefits from the drying, mattifying ingredients that Clinique is famous for.  IMHO, the main Clinique skin care line is just too drying for anybody (male or female) who doesn't have oily or combination-oily skin types. ESPECIALLY the toners!  But since many men are thicker skinned and oily, these products work fairly well for them.  And the Skin Supplies for Men bottles are a dark steel grey, and the products smell way less girlie.

As far as I am concerned, men and women can use the same basic skin care.  It is more about the marketing, the packaging, and the scent.  If a women is using Olay Regenerist (which I like as a drug store line), her man might balk at the notion of having to share.  It's a pride thing.  But really men and women have the same basic skin care needs (with the exception of major makeup wearers like the Diva):

Cleansing/Removal of Dirt and Environmental Toxins (yes, this can be done with a clean washcloth and plain water on normal skin.)

Moisturizing-  For a lot of men, using a lubricating lotion shave aid like Alba Botanica, serves to prep the hair for a closer shave as well as leave a moisture barrier on the skin after a light rinse.

Sun Protection- Yes, men of color should be using this too.  The sun's rays age skin rapidly and can lead to skin cancer.   Neutrogena has some very nice products that everyone in the family should use.

So, basically, men do not have to use products specifically "made" for men.  Just as women don't need to use products called "Bliss" or  "Jurlique".  As long as the basic needs are being met, it doesn't really matter what color of the jar is or which font or writing style is on the label!

So what about problems with razor bumps and burn?  Well, next time we will look at products and tips that will help men deal with shaving and how to deal with folliculitis, ect.  Hope you'll stay tuned!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bruises, Bumps, Bugs, and More Part TWO!!!

Finally I have gotten around to writing Part TWO of Bruises, Bumps, Bugs and More.  Hope these tips are worth the wait. I'll bet they will come in handy.

Bee Stings:  The sight of bees and wasps has always brought my kids running indoors.  Their stings hurt and can be life threatening to some. We can't prevent the occasional bee sting, but the pain can be relieved with essential oils such as LAVENDER and THYME. Essential oils are not your average oil like vegetable and canola.  They can be very expensive and some of these oils aren’t easy to find.   Instead of having you spend the extra money mixing extracts, I suggest trying Burt's Bees Outdoor Bug Bite Relief ($5 in the natural care aisle).  It contains these ingredients and more in a lip balm sized treatment.  If you want to try something you may have in your pantry, soothe that sting with plain HONEY.  It seems ironic that the natural sweetener produced by those pesky bees can also help to heal them.   HONEY is a natural astringent and it helps draw toxins from the skin.  Also, if you happen to have one on hand (as many Caribbean natives do), a PAPAYA can provide relief as well.  An unripe one has the highest enzyme concentration and provides the most sting relief, but a ripe one is okay to try too. Before you attempt any remedy, please make sure that make sure that neither you nor your “patient” is not allergic or any ingredients.  Perform a patch test BEFORE a problem occurs, so that you are prepared if and when you need it.*  Also, if applicable, make sure the stinger is carefully removed before any application.

Repelling Mosquitoes and More: NEEM is the word!  NEEM oil is pressed from a mahogany tree native to India and has many uses.  One use is as a bug repellent.  You can buy pure neem oil online or from a local Indian grocer, or use a ready-made spray like NeemAura Naturals ($9 online).  Or keep a bowl of the oil on your picnic table to keep those buggers at bay.  Did you know--NEEM is used in many Natural Insecticide Products for plants?

Cold Sores, Athlete's Foot, and Ringworm:  Cold sores can come at any time.  Although winter is often thought of as “cold sore season”, this is not necessarily so.   It can be a spring/summer issue, due to the sun’s rays causing the virus that causes them to “act up”.  Early intervention is the key to maximum relief. LEMON BALM is great for healing cold sores when caught early.  It is an anti fungal cousin to mint.  Try LEMON BALM salve as soon as you feel the tingle of a sore beginning.  Use early and often!  Wiseways Herbal Lemon Balm salve( Whole Foods $6-$8) is also good for curing Athlete’s Foot and Ringworm.  Keep the small jar in your gym bag and apply to the feet after drying them from a shower to keep the flares away.

Important--I want to stress that while these natural cures can be effective, by no means should you hesitate to call your health care practitioner if you feel it is warranted. 

*Also, perform a patch test before using products, especially if you are prone to food allergies.  Apply a small amount to a nondescript area where it won’t wash off.  The best place is behind the ear.  Cover the area with a bandage strip and wait about 24 hours.  If irritation develops, rinse off immediately.  If you can’t use it, you can bless a friend or family member and pass the product along if you used it in a sanitary mannerJ



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bumps, Bruises, Bugs, and More: Natural Remedies--PART ONE

Springtime is here! And summer is around the corner!  Beautiful days ahead.  Days when we spend more time outside--gardening, grilling, exercising, and enjoying our lunch breaks in the fresh open air. And when kids look forward to staying outdoors all day, often until the last of the sunshine finally slips away.  And with the warmer weather and outdoor play, also comes the not-so-fun events, like falls, scrapes, bruises, and stings.  Fortunately there are some natural remedies for the stings and bruises, as well as for some other pesky skin problems.

ALERT: We can possibly have an allergy to any product, even natural ones. I would do a patch test before an incident occurs and of course, DO NOT USE if you have a known allergy to an ingredient.

Minor Abrasions:  After assessing the cut or scrape to ensure that the damage to the tissues does not necessitate a trip to the hospital or medical clinic, the next step when one receives a cut or scrape is to stop bleeding with pressure, clean the area by flushing with water, and treat to prevent infections.  My favorite natural antiseptic is TEA TREE OIL.  It is one of the few essential oils that can be used straight from the bottle without a carrier oil (like almond oil or coconut oil), and it is now easily purchased at the local drug store.  Apply tea tree oil to the abrasion with a clean cotton pad (or pour into a small sterile spray bottle and spray the wound) to kill germs and prevent infection from setting in.  And it does sting a bit, so be prepared to apply a sterile ointment afterward, like the great salve I will talk about next time OR if you are not going "all-natural" a triple antibiotic cream with pain relief such as Neosporin.  The cream is not greasy, so bandages may stick better as long as you apply only to the wound.

TEA TREE OIL is a natural extract of the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca) leaf, and is also an effective anti fungal.  I have used it successfully to get rid of a fungal infection behind my fingernail that I got from a not-so-sterile manicure.  It needs to be applied to the affected area three times a day until infection clears.  Another trick, add a half of a teaspoon to a quarter cup of shampoo when you wash your hair to dismiss dandruff and to give itchy scalps some relief.

Bruises:  Abate bruises quickly with ARNICA, also called Melissa.  ARNICA comes in gel form as well as in a homeopathic pill form (tiny edible beads).  I like to get the Arnicare combo pack from The Vitamin Shoppe.  When a bruise forms, or even before it forms, apply the gel to the area and take the beads as directed.  You will see the bruise change color and "break up" faster than normal, often within one-three days.  You can also just buy the gel. ARNICA gel has helped many an accident victim get incredible relief from inflammation and bad bruising. And it works great for minor bruises too.

COMING SOON...Treatments for bee stings, a natural bug repellent, and more.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What exactly do you do, Bronzediva?

I've been asked this question again and again.  Many people don't know that I was a Middle School teacher for a brief period of time, director of a youth enrichment program for a little while, and a stay-at-home mom for most of my adult life.  Sorry to say, but I quickly realized that teaching Social Studies to other's people's misbehaved kids was just not for me.  I love my own kids, but I am not one to put up with a lot of nonsense from overly emotional and often bratty pre-teens and teens.  I thank God for those who do so, but I am convinced that it is not my passion in life.

I have always been fascinated with color.  And mixing colors together to create other colors.  I used to be obsessed with drawing, especially girls and women's faces.  I am artistic, though not as much so as my daughter Lena.  But I have always seen the face as a canvas upon which to build a unique and special piece of art.

Years of trial and error have taught me how to apply makeup, first to myself , and then to others.  And I've always been curious about the function of the skin, and how keep it healthy.   So in 2007, I decided that I would go to school to become an esthetician.

An esthetician is a person who is a "face"expert.  We know the anatomy of human skin, the body's largest organ, and have been trained to perform facials, chemical peels, deep exfoliation, body treatments, and hair removal.  We are the ones who work in spas as "facialists" who massage and pamper the face, perform body wraps and exfoliation, waxing, and if we have a clincial background we may perform microdermabrasion treatments (using a diamond tipped wand to "sandblast" the top layers of the epidermis), deep chemical peels, and more.

A facial is not merely a pampering session, although it feels like bliss when you receive it.  We deep cleanse, exfoliate, steam, massage, and apply treatments customized to enhance your own skin and abate issues.  May clients have fallen asleep during my face, neck, hand, and arm treatments as they enjoy they enjoy soft music in the background.  I also am able to extract comedones (pimples) with a special tool, which is much safer than you "popping" your own pimples.  I have been trained in microdermabrasions and chemical peels, but I won't do a deep peel unless I'm working with a doctor in a medical clinic.  May people who have monthly, or even seasonal facials have benefited tremendously by obtaining clearer, balanced ,evenly toned and more youthful skin.

In addition, I am a professional makeup artist.  I have provided makeup artisty services for weddings, proms, and clients perparing for professional portraits.  I enjoy makeup artistry the most; transforming faces is so much fun.

Currently I am a freelance artist, I do not work for a particular salon or company.  I do not sell products from direct marketing cosmetic lines, I like to pick and choose, and pass on my knowledge with all of you! 

So now you know what I am trained and licensed to do. I still consider myself a teacher; what I enjoy most is to educate others in how to beautify themselves, and gain appreciation for the way they look and feel!!!!

Love and blessings,

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quicky Post--Cleansers I'm Feeling Good About!

I should have been a journalist.  I used to create my own beauty magazines with notebook paper and markers and "sell" subscriptions to my classsmates for 5 cents apiece.  Alas, I studied History and Education in college, and supressed my desire to be a real version of "Whilemena Slater", a fashion Editor-In -Chief.  I know you guys don't always want a long let me give you some facial cleansing favorites to try.  This goes along with my last entry, so toners not required, but cleanse away!!

GOOD, but CHEAP-- At the drugstore, an all purpose favorite I've been recommending for years is Purpose Cleansing Wash by Johnson and Johnson.  It is a clear, sudsing liquid that is mild and gets the job done.  It is perfect to use for sensitive, oily, combination, or even drier skins( in moderation). 
***Hint- If you can find Clean and Clear's Sensitive Cleanser, it's the same forumation, but a little cheaper.  The color has got to be the same (a very pale yellowish hue).  Clean and Clear's other products I find are a bit too harsh for any skin. Not sure if the C and C Sensitive is still around,  but Purpose is also a good deal at $6.50 for about 6 oz.

MODERATE, AND EFFECTIVE--Also at your drugstore, is Cera Ve Moisturizing Cleanser.  This is a lotion based cleanser for dry skin types.  It can applied and "tissued off" or rinsed off.  Very dry skin can do without the foaming detergents.  As long as the cleanser is sweeping away, dirt, makeup, and grime of the day, no water is needed. Cera Ve protects the delicate acid mantle and allows the oils not to be stripped. $12 for 12 full oz.

DHC has good amazing products.   It is a mail order skin care line that originated in Japan and now is distributed world wide.  Their Deep Cleansing Oil is very gentle and effective for dry, mature, and sensitive skin.  It can used the same ways as the Cera Ve Cleanser can.  If you are really on a budget or are out of cleanser, you can use cooking olive oil.  It has a stronger odor and is heavier, but it will remove makeup well and coat and sooth dry skin.  There is a sale now on the large size DHC Deep Cleansing Oil --$22 ($4 off) for the large 6.7 oz bottle.  Smaller bottles available too at

If you are a purist, or prefer organic products, go for John Master's Cleansers.  I am currently loving their Jojoba and Ginseng Cleanser.  It has micro-beads of jojoba, and though I am NOT A FAN OF SCRUBS, these  round beads do not cause damage. This one is best for combination or oily skin, but there are other JM cleansers that work for drier skin.  It has a citrusy smell too, a plus in my book. $28 for 4 oz.

Love you all!  Bronzediva

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Is Toner Really a Necessity?

Every beauty counter sales person will tell you that there are at least three solid steps in daily skin care: Cleansing, Toning, and Moisturizing.  Okay, cleansing is a given, especially for those of us who wear makeup daily. DO NOT SLEEP IN MAKEUP!!! And even if we are naturalists and use little to no makeup, it is good to remove the oil, dust, pollen, andother environmental deposits that collect on the skin each day.  And moisturization makes a lot of sense, it is essential for those with very dry skin as well as those with combination and even oily skin. Moisturizer helps the skin to replenish the oils that are stripped during the cleansing process.  And there are moisturizers with ingredients that help firm, tighten, smooth, plump, provide sun protection, and even mattify oily spots.  But do we really need toner?  What does it do?  And is it pertinent that we include this step twice a day?

I have pondered over this for years.  As a girl, I would go to the Estee Lauder counter at Hecht's with my mother and watch them talk her into $100 worth of products, including the tall bottle of colored liquid that looked like pink Kool-Aid.  It intrigued me, what could this pastel colored water actually do for the skin. "It is essential for closing the pores and preparing the skin for moisturizer", said the overly made-up sales lady.  I would read the label (yes, I read the ingredient lists well before I was taught how important it was in Esthetics School) and see that water was the first ingredient on the list.  That was a no-brainer!  Also high on the list was alcohol.  Okay, so if alcohol is so good for the face, why don't we just get a 50 cent bottle of rubbing alcohol instead?  And doesn't alcohol burn and sting? 

As I came into my teenage years and actually began using more than a warm moist washcloth to clean my face (which by the way is perfectly fine for non makeup wearers with non problematic skin), I was introduced to Sea Breeze Astringent.  The ads were all over Seventeen magazine, so it had to be what the models used.  You needed cotton balls to apply the strong scented concoction to the face, and, oh man, the tingling.  It felt refreshing! Like many teens, I equated that stinging with clean pores and clear, acne free skin. This is the other reason so many of my teenage peers also smeared their faces with Noxema cream, which I now know can clog pores and is very greasy---but that minty fresh tingle was addictive.  And oh man, that Sea Breeze was strong!  It could clear the sinuses.  And it always left my skin feeling tight.  But I still got hormonal acne every month.  Still, I just knew that with a name like "Sea Breeze" that I was doing something good for my skin. 

As a young adult, I came to a crossroads.  I now had a job and I was no longer able to put things in the cart for my parents to pay for.  I needed to economize.  But I still wanted fresh, clean pores, and I wanted to prevent comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). And I loved my makeup!!!  So I still bought cleanser (dumped the Noxema thank God) and Ialso bought a light moisturizer. Though in my 20's I rarely used moisturizer, I knew that in time the plump young skin would evade me and that I would need to replace moisture lost and add lipids to prevents dry lines. Clinique's Dramatically Different moisturizer in the iconic yellow bottle was and still is a staple for girls in their 20's.  And still the sales lady kept pushing the 3-Step Process--it was the hard press sales technique, sure to up her commision.  Cleanse, TONE, and moisturize.  After a while, the tingly feeling that the strong astringent brought was not as impressive as it once was.  The novelty wore off. And I hated to keep buying cotton balls.  I occasionally used witch hazel (which was essentially what Clinique's toners were) trying to wipe the "grease" off my oily skin.  But it still stayed shiny anyway.

Not all toners are made like Sea Breeze though.  Toners are called Astringents when they have a moderately high alcohol content to them.  Non-stingy toners, often contain glycerine, rosewater, comfrey, aloe, or some soothing ingredients.  That's not bad.  In fact all of those ingredients are good for your skin.  No harm there.  But does a toner really close pores like the sales people claim?

The answer is no.  Your pores are pathways for our body's natural oils  and perspiration to get onto the surface of the skin.  They need to stay as is..they can be softened up during a steaming to allow debris to come out easily, but they shouldn't and don't close.  But they can look small or large--due to genetics and the amount of debris build up inside them.  And once they are stretched out, they stay that way, even after the debris has long gone. ( That is why someone who had horrible acne in their teens, can still have huge pores in their 50's, many years after the acne occured). There are ways to help them appear tighter and/or smaller, but a toner is not the real solution to closing pores.

So the answer to the question--is a TONER needed?  I say it depends on what you use it for.  I don't use toner.  I use a good cleanser (not soap), and a Clarisonic brush to deep clean, lightly exfoliate, and remove makeup.  Sometimes a second scrub is in order if you have a face full of makeup.  Do a circular motion hand cleanse once, rinse, and then again with fingers or with the Carisonic.  Dab skin a bit with a towel, but before your skin is bone dry, moisturize. It is good to moisturize while the skin is still hydrated. This will lock in the moisture/water.  We will talk another time about my pics for these products:)

I have oily skin, and I have learned that strong astringents actually work against oily skin.  Oil is your skin's natural defense.  If you strip it away too much too fast, your oil glands will get scared and mad and produce even more to keep you safe.  So that is why my skin still looked "greasy" even after all that Sea Breeze.

If you want to use an alcohol-free toner, to sweep residual makeup from the skin and to soothe or cool down skin, this is perfectly fine.  Some people are just used to it, and can't skip this step.  I say go for it, just make sure that no matter your skin type, the toner is either alcohol-free or has a low concentration of alcohol and that is does not sting. 

But if you want to simplify and only have two steps in your twice daily facial care routine, skip the toning, and go straight from cleansing to moisturizer.  And tell the Clinique lady the Bronzediva told you it's okay to do so.    
Talk to you again soon, 
The Diva

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

EYEBROWS PART TWO: It's in the Details

Okay, so now that we've talked about types of brows and having that initial professional shaping, lets talk enhancements.  Well first of all, what is the color of an ideal brow?  That depends on the color of your hair at the time.  Dark haired beauties can pull off dark eyebrows.  Ideally, the color of the brow should be a shade or two lighter than the hair if you have ebony, or super dark brown hair.  Sometimes black brows with fair skin and raven colored hair looks shockingly beautiful, expecially in the winter.  But it is a VERY hard look to pull off, the eyebrow shape and thickness must be perfect(not bushy and in no way too thin or drawn on, and the makeup must be light and neutral or cool toned.  And the hair should be impecably styled and the overall look (meaning clothing) hip and fashion-forward. My young friend Ali pulls this look off perfectly, but then again, she is ,like, nineteen. 

If you have those very full or thick brows I wish I had, you may not need to use enhancements at all after that good professional shaping.  As I mentioned in Part one, most thick, full brows only need to be shaped to make them look super!  For sparse brows or brows that are a bit short, gentle strokes with a angeled eye liner brush dipped in a colored brow powder or cream make everything look even and lovely.  I prefer an angeled brush to a pencil for novices (and if you feel comfortable with pencils, keep the point SHARP.  Unless you are an artist, please practice drawing realistic eyebrow hairs with a pencil on paper until you reach a natural look.  The color should fill in and extend and look like it is a part of the actual brow.  Again USE MULTIPLE STROKES--not one solid line.  I've seen the one line look and it is horrid!  It can look like a brown rainbow was painted over someone's eyes:(

For most of us dark haired folks, applying a chestnut brown brow powder or pencil will still make our eyes "pop" without drawing all the attention to themselves. We want our eyes to be saying "hello", but we don't want our brows to be stealing the show.  The rule of thumb, one to two shades lighter than our actual hair color. For very dark brown hair or black hair, a chestnut color is best. No need to lighten the natural color of the brows themselves, just enchance and brighten with the makeup.  If you want jet black brows, you should have black hair. Also, being darker skinned helps keep the contrast and "fakeness" to a minimum. (Unless you are super fair-skinned, younger, and going for the cutting-edge model look like Ali). Have them tinted jet black, and use an off-black brow color very, very  l i g h t l y!

For blond haired chicks, a good rule of thumb is no more than three shades darker than your hair color, but at least a shade darker than your hair.  True blondies who have platinum gold hair and truly pale brows, those brows often dissapear into your skin color and don't get a chance to truly present those bright eyes.  So a bit darker works.  Have pale brows tinted to a cool light brown.
Never pair dark brows with blonde hair, if you dye your hair, have the brows brought up a shade or two.  Try to fill in and enhance with a light brown color.

Redheads and auburns are pretty lucky!  They can match their brows to their hair or go up to two shades deeper for strawberry blondes or even dark brown for deep reds, but as long as they keep the color in the warm family(golden, reddish browns, not cool browns), they are good to go!

About maintenence, once the initial shaping is done, if you want you can keep the new growth away with a good pair of needlenosed or slanted tweezers--I only recommend Tweezerman's(see below).  But I would leave the waxing and threading to the pros. Especially because wax products marketed to the public are subpar and may have you looking a hot mess.

For dark brown or black brows--Anatasia Brow Duo in Ebony($22)at Ulta OR Ardell Brow Defining Powder in Mink ($10--throw away the free brush) Get this at a drugstore or  OR M.A.C Power point eyeliner in Stubborn Brownat M.A.C. stores or counters ($15-it's smearproof-use to line eyes and define brows)

For Blonde or very light brown--try M.A.C.'s own Brow Set gel in BoyGirl or Beguile ($15) or Maybelline Expert Eyes in Blonde ($3 for a pack of two pencils) at the drugstore.

Red brows--Anastasia Brow Duo in Strawburn ($22) or NYX Brow cake powder ($6) Both available at Ulta.

Tweezerman's Tweezers--($15-22 and worth every penny--they even sharpen for free)
M.A.C.'s Brush #208 Angle Brow Brush is best!($19.50)
Any makeup sharpener will do.

NOW, rock those brows with PRIDE, and I promise you, this little change will make a BIG difference in the way you look and feel!         


P.S.-I will try to get a pic of Ali so you can see what i mean about the dark brown, light skin look!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

EYEBROWS PART ONE--The Shape Of Things

Hey again.  I’ve had some people ask me questions lately about eyebrows.  Is it that important to groom them?  Which method of maintenance is best?  Well, brows are such a small part of you, but when they are trimmed and shaped well, they can make a BIG difference in the way you look.  Just frown and furrow your brow.  The shape and position of it will change.  Not something you can or should help, but some folks have brows that naturally grow into a shape that makes them look sullen and melancholy.  And some have big fuzzy caterpillars that need to be trimmed a bit…or a LOT!  Further still, some people have skimpy, wimpy, or short brows, which may be naturally that way or a result of years of over tweezing. Okay, so let’s determine what type of brows you have.

FULL BROWS--As a general rule, if your hair is thick and plentiful on your head and body, then you will have full brows.  Those from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Native American and many Latin American countries are blessed ( or as some have told me cursed) with lots of hair.  Full brows are great because they can be shaped into a great arch and there is enough there that cosmetic enhancements need not be done.

THIN/SPARSE BROWS—these usually start off fairly sparse and then really “peter out” toward the ends. There are many reasons why brows are thin.  Genetics and/or certain conditions or medications can cause them.  Over tweezing, over waxing, or over shaving can damage the hair at the root so that it refuses to grow anymore.  If you have thin, wispy or cottony hair that doesn’t grow either long or thick (or neither) on your head, usually you will have thin or sparse brows.

INTERESTINGLY”SHAPED BROWS—are genetically determined.   Some have very straight ones without a natural arch (usually they have flat foreheads and deep set eyes), or short ones or brows with minds of their own.  Remember actress Raven-Symone when she was a child actress on the Cosby show.  Her brows were actually bi-level or S shaped.  (She has since had them shaped up). People of African or Caribbean descent may have curly brow hairs and lashes.

The best way to get started on the journey the better brows is to have a professional shaping.  Go somewhere where they take time to shape them correctly and teach you how to maintain them.  Have an actual esthetician wax them, or get them threaded (ancient eastern technique of catching hairs between cotton threads) by a reputable salon tech. Or you can have them professionally tweezed.  Anastasia Soare, queen of celebrity brows, has brow bars nationwide with a line of care products and trained professionals to tweeze those brows into perfection (try Nordstrom, and Ulta stores).  Professional shaping should run between $8 and $15 not including tip.


1. Tell your tech not to go too thin, and to be conservative the first time.  Some estheticians are wax happy. Look at their brows, if they look jacked up, RUN DON'T opt for waxing if you have used major exfoliator creams like Retin-A or Renova.  DON'T attempt yourself if you haven't been trained or you may end up with 1/4 of an eyebrow. Bring a mini mirror and watch as they work.  (Except when threading- you will have to help by pulling skin taut.) Expect that one brow may be slightly shorter…that is how we are made.  A brow pencil or powder can fix that.

2.  GET that SPACE between those brows, por favor!  Unibrows make us look angry.  If your man has one, I suggest dragging him along too.  As a rule of thumb, if you drew an imaginary line from the inside corner of your eye straight up, that is where your brow should start.  A tad further out makes close set eyes look farther apart, but brows that sit TOO FAR APART look “cartoonesque”.

3.  NO TADPOLES! The shape should gradually thin to an arch.  Don’t over thin the ends or your brows will look like they belong in a pond.  If you have straight brows, do not have them attempt a big arch!!

4 To trim or not to trim?  Some pros do not like to use scissors to trim because they can make coarse (especially Asian) brows stick up.  But if done subtly on long or unruly hairs, it can make them look uniform.  If you are over 35, you may get some super long coarse, or curly whisker-like white hairs.  Have those removed please! Going grey is a matter of choice, but just because you are a silver shining star doesn’t mean you need white brows.

You should be pleasantly surprised that such a small change can make a big difference in your appearance.  Neat brows frame the face and don’t draw attention away from those shining eyes or the attractive smile.  If you want suggestions as to where to go or not to go, or you want to maintain them yourself after that initial professional shaping, contact me first so I can give you tips.  IN PART TWO WE WILL TALK COLOR AND HOME MAINTAINENCE.

 Love, Bronzediva

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Need A Little LEMON-AID in your life?

I absolutely LOVE the scent of citrus.  It is a fresh, crisp scent that reminds me of my mom's mother's clean house, and of the sunny lemon and orange trees that lined the back yard of my dad's mother's California home.  Ever since I took my first sniff of "Love's Lemon Fresh" body spray years ago, I was hooked on citrus.  I think I love the smell of a ripe juicy orange more than I do the taste of one.

As we quickly approach spring, I'm reminded of how refreshing the smell of citrus can really be.  Honey tangerines, tart grapefruit, zesty limes--it all stimilates the scenses and provides a "wake up call" to the spirit and mind.  This is why many of the aromatherapy products aimed at invigoration smell of citrus. 

Now that I'm a grown up diva, I have gotten a little pickier about getting my citrus fix.  "Love's Lemon Fresh" is a little to artificial for me, as are some of the other lemon-scented skin care products.  I can really leave them, they are not real enough to titilate my scenses and get me going.  So I am going to share with you my latest favorite citrusy finds that include real fruit extracts and that are mostly natural:

Lush Cosmetics Happy Hippy and The Olive Branch Shower Gels: 
I love Lush's (local locations in Towson and Columbia Malls) products as they're made with mostly natural ingredients and they do a good amount of fair trade with other countries. And the stuff smells yummy.  Happy Hippy is a zesty grapefruit scented gel that will get you going during that a.m shower and one of the main ingredients is, guess it, grapefruit juice. 
The Olive Branch is a much more mellow scented wash, it is much thinner and has a moisturizing component (olive oil).  You need to shake the bottle to mix the good stuff together, but you know it's natural when you have use some elbow grease of your own.  It has a gentle mandarine orange aroma, mixed with olive oil and vine leaves that makes you think you're showing in Tuscany! Both start at $5.99.

Soothing Touch Herbal Therapy Tangerine Herbal Salt Scrub:
I found this gem on sale at Whole Foods grocery. I needed to sloff off some dry skin that had been accumulating all winter long and the sale price-$8.99- made it right.  It is filled with great natural goodness, including healing Dead Sea salt, sweet almond oil, ginko, and avocado oil, but it is the natural tangerine and sweet orange essential oils that make this a heavenly scrub. (Just be careful on broken skin as salt+cuts=ouch!)

Pacifica Blood Orange Perfume:
Now that my tastes have matured, and "Love's Lemon Fresh" just doesn't cut it any longer, I longed for a true natural smelling citrusy perfume to replace it that would linger for a while. I think my sister gave me the body lotion version as a gift one Christmas, and I was hooked.  Not only is it a crisp clean scent that others will compliment, but it is Vegan/all natural.  So no artificial chemicals to have you smelling like Pledge.  The roll-on version is $12, the smaller size on-the-go body wash and body butter is $5.  The full size spray perfume is only $22.  Available at Sephora and Wegman's. Try it!

As a disclaimer, I do not represent or recieve any compensation from the products I recommend, either from this entry or any entry.  I only want to share with you the wonderful stuff I discover, as well as warn you when something isn't what it should be.  Enjoy citrus season!!!!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Forward to Healthier Skin

3/8/12--Hello, it's me! Let's Spring Forward to Healthier Skin

The Weather is Warmer, so now is NOT the time for leather(y faces).
No one really likes to hear me say it.  I have often angered people with my pleas regarding the matter.  I wonder why this is—is it because young people don’t realize that beauty fades and can be helped along?  Is it because of a society which for years has equated summer beauty with a deep golden glow?  Could it be, among my peeps of color, that our internal protection is all we need to get by?

I am referring to protecting ourselves folks, not from some communicable disease or from some attacker entering our homes, but from THE SUN.  Yes, I said it.  We need to put some extra distance between our skin cells and the UV rays of the sun.  Now, before you suntan lovers get yourself in a huff and leave the page in anger, I implore you to look at some very BASIC facts (no I won’t get super scientific on you… that’s just not me)

1.       Exposure to the sun is the #1 cause of skin aging.  (It’s not even smoking- although I don’t advocate it if you want to stay alive and keep those horrid pucker lines away from your lips)

2.       UV rays can pass through tinted glass, most clothing, and even so called SPF foundation. (*More on that later)

3.       Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the USA. ( according to the CDC)

4.       A tan is an S.O.S. from your skin cells that damage has occurred! Sound healthy to you?

5.       People of color (Afro, Latino, Indian etc.) can get skin cancer too, even with our added melanin.

You see Ultra Violet rays that come from the sun are really damaging.  The shorter rays, UVB, cause you to burn and turn into a lobster fresh from the pot.  But those sneaky UVA rays reach further and cause photo aging (i.e. wrinkles, poor texture and dark spots).  So a sunscreen that doesn’t offer UVB and UVA protection is leaving you…well exposed.  Broad spectrum is best….chemical sunscreens are more effective IMO because they absorb those mean rays instead of just shielding you and don’t leave a pasty cast on darker skin, but if you are allergic to most screens, a physical screen is way better than naked skin.

Put you best face forward. Let’s talk proper sun care for the face today--This includes men too.  Here’s some products I like:
For Combination skin to Oil Refineries like me (LOL): CHEAPIE- Neutrogena  Ultra Sheer Liquid in SPF 70 $12.50.  It is a super thin liquid that glides on and protects without feeling like it’s coating your skin. LUXURY- Peter Thomas Roth’s UberDry SPF30.  Dries to a matte finish and can be used all over. $26

For Normal to Dry skin: CHEAPIE-Neutrogena Age Shield Face $11.  Nice texture, not too thick.  LUXURY-The Roche-Posay  Antethelios X15 Moisturizing Cream$32 .  Great combination moisturizer and screen for drier or more mature faces.
Sensitive/Allergenic (and Babies)- Remember, these physical screens make darker skins look a bit “ashy”. CHEAPIE-Burt’s Bees Chemical Free SPF 15 $12.  Burt’s Bees is the “go to” natural choice.  LUXURY- SunscreenCosMedix Reflect SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen $44 Titanium Dioxide blocks rays.  

*A skin care diva’s warning, as much as I LOVE a great foundation, I urge you to NOT rely solely on it for UV protection.  This is the #1 excuse I’ve heard over the years from clients.  Only trouble is, in order to get the amount of protection that it lists on the label, you’d need WAY more than we normally apply.  Even mineral foundations, which are physical blockers, can’t provide enough in a normal application.  Think of SPF in foundation as added security, not first line of defense.
Okay, so I’ve been on the soapbox long enough.  And hey, if I see you coming out of Sunless Hawaiian Tanning Salon one day, don’t fear I won’t bite.  But if in ten years my twenty something friends look older and more dried up than I do, I may say “I told you so”.     Love, Bronzediva