Growing Up Pretty : Jennifer Van Son

March 4, 2020By stephanie

Photo by Frances Beatty

Meet Jennifer Van Son – a GTA-based photographer!  Jen and I met briefly long ago, sharing a few brides early on in my mobile beauty career; but as you know, wedding days are hectic and crazy … and you meet a lot of vendors, but don’t really get to spend much time with them. We’re all busy on a bride’s big day!

It had been a few years since I had worked with her, but fast forward to late summer 2019 and another photographer friend, Jo-Anne Haley, had mentioned that the cute little Whitby studio she shared with another photographer was looking for a third tenant. I saw that as the universe speaking to me as I was making the move to Whitby myself and wanted to move my in-home studio … well … basically, out of my home. I quickly answered the posting Jo-Anne had sent me and lo’ and behold … the person on the other end of the email was THE Jen Van Son!

So, I’ve never said this to Jen personally (hi Jen!) but I think she’s the epitome of cool. I remember meeting her at the studio to go over details before I signed the lease and when we started chatting, I thought to myself that she totally nails the whole “cool girl chic” image. I remain jealous.

Her instagram feed – like any photographer – is filled with beautifully curated content, but also gives a hint into her personal life (kids, dogs, vacations – more checks on the cool list!) and behind the scenes inspiration on her professional life. I’m really honoured that I can to share a creative space with Jen … but also, super honoured that she agreed to this interview!

What did beauty mean to you growing up, and what or whom were your major influences?

My mom never wore much makeup (she’s beautiful on her own) but I was always very intrigued by the way you could look so different in so many ways by using it.  I had a couple of aunts who wore amazing bright blue ’80’s mascara/eyeliner and I just wanted to be like them.  I’d say as a small kid the women I knew were my biggest influences and to me beauty just meant being comfortable in your skin but also bold when it came to trying new looks.

What role does beauty play in your life at this moment? How has it changed over the years? What do you focus on to feel like your most beautiful self? (e.g. skincare, makeup, hair, mental well-being, physical well-being?

Beauty (meaning skincare, makeup, etc) is and always probably will be a bit of a creative outlet for me.  I’m super busy so I don’t have a lot of time daily to indulge but focusing on having healthy skin, hair, and a strong body always makes me feel my best.  My look now is much more low key & natural with a little help from lash extensions ;).

What are your thoughts on beauty in social media and what do you wish for or hope to see as beauty evolves each year? (e.g. inspirational, aspirational, overdone, attainable, unattainable?)

There’s a LOT out there but this isn’t new, it’s just a new format.  We used to rely on magazines & tv for information, now it’s online.  I think social media is a great place to go for inspiration if you can remember that people usually only put out their very best online.

Describe your journey with beauty as each birthday or decade passes.

As I get older I care less about what people think.  I try to keep my routine simple and efficient but I still have a drawer full of fun makeup for when I go out.  I’m more concerned about how my skin looks now vs trying crazy eyeshadow colours, but that’s a normal part of aging (I think).  Having said that as I get older I have more confidence to rock a bold lip or try something new!

Explain your current beauty routine, and please feel free to provide examples of looks you want to learn, procedures you want to try, or treatments you are curious about!)

I have very sensitive skin (currently in a flare up of redness & dryness… ugh) so I start with my skin routine in the morning. I have lash extensions so most days I fill in my brows and maybe use some tinted moisturizer (NARS is my favourite) to even out my skin, then a touch of blush or bronzer.  I’d love to try Microneedling to improve skin texture, although I’m scared it would be too much for my sensitive skin, I may need to go for a consultation to get some help there ;).

Give us your fast five …

Beauty Muse : Margot Robbie
Favourite Product : NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer & Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade
Your Splurge Item : Monat Hair & Skincare
Best Beauty Skill : I can wing an eyeliner like a boss
Worst Beauty Skill : I’ve never NOT failed at self tanner

Photo by Frances Beatty

Better than Diamonds: Rodial’s Pink Diamond Cleansing Balm

March 1, 2020By stephanie

I am religious about my skin. I have expectations. I have a routine. I have standards. And we all know the cardinal rule : always wash your face at night. It’s key to keeping the skin bright, to regulating breakouts, to having a healthy complexion.

Yet … we do not always follow the rules.

Sometimes it’s a lazy night. Sometimes it’s a late night. Sometimes, it’s because our cleanser leaves our skin feeling tight and dry and more irritated than fresh and clean. That’s me : dedicated to cleansing my skin, yet sometimes hesitant to do so because my skin already feels stripped and in distress after consistent daily washing. When this happens, I find myself splashing my face with water when the night ends … but not really cleaning it.

That all changed when I was gifted Rodial’s Pink Diamond Cleansing Balm.

I’ve tried and enjoyed cleansing balms and creams before. They are especially effective when removing the days makeup – it breaks up product quickly and easily. But some cleansing balms and creams tend to leave a “film” after rinsing the skin. Many would suggest a “double cleanse” and follow a cleansing balm with micellar water or cleanser wash. But again, that just leads to overdoing and over-processing the complexion. I found over the winter months that this had been happening to me : overworked skin!

Rodial’s Pink Diamond Cleansing Balm is a totally different beauty beast. A little bit warmed up on the finger tips smoothes easily over the skin and breaks up makeup product almost instantly. Instead of sinking quickly into the skin like its a moisturizer, it feels like its actively sitting on the skin working to remove dirt and grime. I take a good two minutes massaging it all over the skin until I see my day’s face falling away.

To remove and finish cleaning the skin, you have two options. I choose the simple route : rinse away the balm and reveal clean skin that’s soft, free of irritation, and free of redness. The second option is to gently remove with a cloth : the tube comes with a muslin cloth which helps you to wipe away the balm from the face but also offers a gentle exfoliation. After wiping the balm away, you can rinse with warm water to finish.

Since discovering this product, I have been alternating it with my current cleanser of choice. The result is skin that is softer, less flaky and dry, and always properly cleaned and cared for every night. I’ve experience less irritation within two days of use.

Rodial products are available at your local Shoppers Drug Mart!

Growing up Pretty : Rachel M.

February 26, 2020By stephanie

Meet Rachel! I met Rachel way WAY back … early 2000’s I think. We met when she was dating my younger brother and I instantly took a liking to her – which if you were to ask any of my brothers/brothers-in-law – didn’t happen all that frequently. But I adored (still do!) Rachel and I remember countless family parties with her “taste-testing” desserts with my husband, and also, making her try on and take all the clothes I purchased at sales, but didn’t want (she was still a student while I was already adulting hard core.)

Now Rachel is a teacher in Toronto. She’s the middle sister in a pack of three, an auntie, and both my husband‘s and son’s favourite person to “taste test” things with … i.e., eat food in general.

This post marks the first in a series of posts that focus on beauty as we age. Every Wednesday, I’ll be featuring a beauty and her story behind growing up pretty! I thought Rachel was a great person to start with because she knew me before I was a mom, before I was a makeup artist, and before the me that I am now. After almost 20 years of friendship … we’ve definitely grown up …

What did beauty mean to you growing up, and what or whom were your major influences?

I think when I was in my early teens, external beauty was something I wanted to have, but it wasn’t something I was willing to showcase. I didn’t want to be “just pretty”; I think I worried a lot about not being viewed as smart or funny or athletic or musical … so beauty took a backseat. I really envied girls my age who didn’t wear any makeup (or who at least appeared to not be wearing any), and they were beautiful anyway. I didn’t want to look as though I was trying to be beautiful, and I looked up to girls who I saw as having natural beauty. 90’s Mariah Carey was a big influencer – I loved her natural curly hair and fresh-faced look. TLC’s Chili – another natural beauty. As I grew older, I became more comfortable with my own brand of natural beauty, and started believing that I could make more of an effort to look beautiful and still be noticed for other parts of who I was.

What role does beauty play in your life at this moment? How has it changed over the years? What do you focus on to feel like your most beautiful self? (e.g. skincare, makeup, hair, mental well-being, physical well-being?

Right now, I’ve been focusing on keeping a better skin care regimen. I had bad acne as a late teen and into my early 20s, and since then I’ve always been self-conscious about my acne scars and skin. I tried different makeup to cover it up, but that didn’t feel right to me. Nowadays, I think I feel like my most beautiful self when I have a fresh, clean face that feels soft and healthy. I focus on drinking a lot more water, and I’ve been working on improving my diet so that the things going into my body help to make me feel healthier, cleaner, and more natural. I’ve always been pretty active, but recent sports injuries have meant that I can’t exercise the way that I’m used to. I’ve really noticed the effect it’s had on my overall well-being, which includes the way I look and feel. So I’m trying to find ways to remain active so that I still feel strong, health and beautiful.

Explain your current beauty routine, and please feel free to provide examples of looks you want to learn, procedures you want to try, or treatments you are curious about!)

I use Arbonne’s products exclusively for my skin care:

  • Calm Gentle Daily Cleanser (morning and night)
  • Intelligence Genius Nightly Resurfacing Pads (night only)
  • RE9 Advanced Intensive Renewal Serum (morning and night)
  • Calm Gentle Daily Moisturizer (morning only)
  • RE9 Advanced Night Repair Cream (night only)

I also use Skin Ceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. I would love to learn about makeup application – I have such uneven skin tone, as well as scars from teenage acne. I want to learn how to choose and apply overall coverage that is right for my skin, which doesn’t leave my skin feeling too covered.

And to finish off, answer these five questions …

Beauty Muse : Penelope Cruz
Favourite Product : Arbonne’s Calm Gentle Daily Cleanser
Your Splurge Item : Skin Ceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
Best Beauty Skill : I honestly don’t think I have one
Worst Beauty Skill : Applying lipstick/gloss/liner

Growing up pretty beauty secrets

Tips and Tricks : Getting your Best Hair on your Big Day …

February 18, 2020By stephanie

Just like a trip to the hair salon for a new cut and colour can make you anxious and leave you feeling stressed, so can getting your hair styled for your wedding day by a mobile hair artist. When you’re day to day life is filled with ponytails and topknots, trying to imagine yourself in the prettiest and most perfect updo can be overwhelming.

It’s important for a bride-to-be to understand that your hair trial run is exactly that – a trial run – a preview of what can be achieved. It’s the opportunity to go over your inspiration photos and ideas, and for you to communicate with your artist what you’re looking for. A great artist will also help you manage your expectations : she or he will let you know what will work and not work with your hair type and face shape and also provide suggestions on how to tweak your chosen hairstyle to flatter your unique self. The key to a successful trial run is to understand that the end result is never set in stone. It can be adjusted and tweaked and changed up right up until the wedding day itself.

And the best way to get there : knowing how to communicate!

One of the biggest obstacles to being happy with a trial run is not knowing how to describe what you want. Here’s a glossary of some of the “hair words” that when used correctly WILL achieve the hair you really want :

Volume : In an updo, volume means the fullness and height you want to achieve in your overall look; if you have straight, fine or flat hair you are most likely looking for lots of volume, and usually you’re looking for this around the crown and the perimeter of the face. Be careful when using this term as “volume” is a scale … it can go from very subtle to beehive proportions. When it comes to trying to figure how much is too much – pictures are better than words. So bring photos to describe your desired fullness.

Body : This can be used interchangeably with volume, but most artists will usually use it more when referring to hair that’s left long and loose. How much movement, bounce and fullness do you want with your hair and curls? It’s the difference between wearing your hair smoother and sleeker (think Kim Kardashian straight) or bold and big (think lush supermodel blowouts of the 90’s)

Smooth/Sleek : These two words are usually used together as “I want it smooth and sleek”. To a hair artist, we understand this to mean clean, polished and very classic. This request is often paired with photos of classic french twists and very structured updos. We will be more likely to use plenty of freeze hairspray for an updo, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up with helmet head. Smooth and sleek in an updo might mean less movement in the hair, and with hair left loose, it may mean straight with minimal body or volume. That said, curls can still be “smooth” – your hair artist might leave the curls or waves intact instead of breaking them up or brushing them out (for example, Hollywood glam waves can be smooth and sleek)

Tousled : This is the word every bride who wants perfectly imperfect hair needs to learn. Tousled means you want the hair to have movement, to look windblown, or to be effortlessly swept back. It can be both romantic and bohemian. Tousled and volume usually go hand in hand. Your artist will usually incorporate some teasing and the breaking up or brushing out of curls to achieve this look. Keep in mind, when you ask for tousled, you should expect to see strands of hair that are left loose, or hair that you might think are “flyaways” but are actually part of the “tousled” aesthetic.

Texture : When you ask us for texture, you’re asking us to add to or change your hair type. We might add curls, waves, or crimping to the hair to give it more oomph for a tousled style. We might run a flat iron through it so we can give you that smooth classic french twist. Texture overall refers more to your existing hair type (straight, wavy, kinky) and what texture you actually want.

Knowing how to use the above words will affect how much teasing, curling, straightening and pinning your artist will need to do. It will also help guide them with the products they will use on your hair, and also help them provide you with the right hair prep instructions.

Remember : communication is key! Why not start communicating with us and see if we can help you get the hair you always dreamed of?

When it comes to skincare, the right order matters …

January 16, 2020By stephanie

Skincare can go two ways : minimal … or monumental. Between celebrities’ 38-step skincare routine (looking at you Madelaine Petsch) and Elizabeth Warren’s revelation that she doesn’t wash her face … it’s hard to figure out which method is best for you, especially since everyone seems to have amazing skin regardless of how much or how little they do.

The regimen to you choose for yourself is up to you – you know what works best for your skin type, your budget and your schedule; but what we can tell you is that order of application matters. This point is best emphasized when it comes to treating, hydrating and protecting your skin.

I believe every individual should have at least a serum, a moisturizer and an SPF in their vanity. As long as you’re doing these three steps with these three products in your mega or mini routine – great complexions will follow. After you’ve cleansed … or maybe double cleansed … follow these next steps!

SERUM : Serums contain active ingredients formulated to treat the skin and any problems we are concerned about; whether that’s dark spots, wrinkles, fine lines, etcetera. A thin layer goes a long way, and be sure to get your serum on within 60 seconds of cleansing the skin. It should be the first thing that touches your clean, bare skin.

MOISTURIZER : To keep skin soft, supple and glowing, moisturizers coat the skin cells, which is why your active serums must be applied before moisturizer; once moisturizers have created its barrier around your skin cells, not much else can get through. After giving your serum a moment to do its thing, apply your moisturizer over the whole face in an upward movement. BONUS TIP : If you’re oily, try a lighter lotion formula to keep shine at bay. If you’re dry, a heavier cream will do the trick.

SUNSCREEN : Here’s the tricky part – so pay attention! Is your sunscreen chemical or physical? If your sunscreen is chemical based, then apply BEFORE your moisturizer … and in some cases, before your serum too. A chemical based sunscreen needs to touch clean skin first before your moisturizer or face oil which create those barriers I spoke about above. If your sunscreen is physical (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) it can be applied AFTER you’ve applied your serum and moisturizer. Sunscreen is THE key in keeping the complexion healthy, so its the one step that should never be skipped!

So there’s your cheat sheet beauties! Whatever route you take with your skincare – the long way or the shortcut – be sure to optimize your skincare to get the best results. Order of application DOES matter!