pretty and the penny: palette or pot …

December 12, 2012By stephanie 2 Comments

I cannot resist a pretty compact of pretty colours. Period. The holiday season is one of the trickiest times for me because every brand has a limited edition palette that screams “makes you pretty in an instant” … who can turn THAT claim down?

When I first started in makeup artistry, palettes offered me access to play with plenty of colours for fewer pennies PLUS they filled out my kit nicely. It started off as an easy way to build build build especially since, say, a single eyeshadow costs $18, but you can get up to 12 colours for, hhmmm, maybe $60. Yes, a single pot gives you more of one colour, but a palette gives several colours, just a bit less of each. The latter seems like the better option, right? When you’re working freelance, you save where you can.

Fast forward ten years later. While I still love a good palette, sometimes you can’t beat a full pot of a good thing. I can dust through MAC Shroom within a month of clients. Concealers and foundations – forget about it – a tube of this or a stick of that can last me less than two months during a slow period. And yes, while I can easily use up three or four colours in a palette, there is another six to eight, just hanging out, waiting to expire.

So what’s the right answer?!?! Palette or Pot?

Well, I personally think there is no right or wrong answer. Just a better way to shop and making the right choice between picking up a palette or grabbing a full pot/tube. Here are my guidelines for navigating your way through it all.

If you have a favourite anything: eyeshadow, liner, lipstick – always splurge and buy the whole, full-size, non-promotional tube/stick/whatever.

Yes, you might be tempted to get the gift set that includes three other colours of the same lipstick formulation in a smaller more portable size, but if those three other colours end up being pretty in the tube but whack with your complexion … you’ll have three non-wearable colours taking up space on your vanity and you’ll be shelling out another $20 bucks in no time to replace your favourite overused and done lippy (or shadow, or eyeliner …)

If you know in your heart, that you  practice makeup monogamy and can not, WILL not, break the habit … DO NOT BUY THE PALETTE.

As tempting as it is to think, “I’m really going to change this year and wear a  different cream eyeliner colour everyday” … but you’ve been rocking a soft shimmery brown since high school because brown is the only colour that you believe looks right on you … it’s a pass. Seriously. IT IS A PASS.

If you are completely new to makeup and looking to play and experiment, then a palette is a great way to get all the items you do need in complimentary colours for a foolproof look.

You’ll have plenty of options to test out new colours and combinations in one palette. The key here is to look for one that is well within your comfort zone (and budget too!). For example, if you’re looking to create some natural looks for the office and day to day life, you probably do not want to go with that spectacular MAC palette that has a matte bright green shadow and orange lip gloss.  Rather, you might want to try one of Urban Decay’s Naked Palettes for the eyes, or a Laura Mercier Colour to Go Portable Palette for the full face.

On the flip, if you’re comfortable with a little bit of makeup, but want to bring it and try something bolder for all your holiday parties, that’s when you can turn to some of the limited edition and holiday palettes that contain bolder colours, shimmers, and fun stuff that you will use only for special events.

Since you will be using them sparingly, buying in a palette as opposed to full-priced singles is a better ROI.  Again, stick with bold or metallic colours that are well within your comfort zone so you’re getting your bang for the buck. Think MAC Holiday Kits or the Shu-Uemura/Karl Lagerfeld collaboration and in my opinion … anything YSL. :)

If you are looking to add professional brushes to your makeup wardrobe – then yes – go with the kit or palette.

MAC always offers great brush sets in travel size every holiday season and its a great way to get access to professional brushes for half the price.

When in doubt, practice the 60/40 rule.

When looking and deciding on a palette, be sure that at least 60 percent of the products or colours in that palette are something you will use consistently – i.e., 6 of the 10 lipstick colours; 6 of the 10 shadows. In addition, compare the palette price to the price for each of the useable items at full price. You should be paying no more than 40% of what it would cost to buy that same 60% of products at full price.

So, do you know now? Palette or Pot?


pretty and the penny: keeping your mason pearson brush looking like new

October 24, 2012By stephanie 1 Comment

Okay. So I admit, I used to think that a hair brush should never cost more than a twenty-dollar bill solid. I mean, how could a brush that is almost (sometimes more depending on the one you choose) $100 be more effective than my trusty Goody hairbrush picked up at the good ‘ol big box store for $14.99? All you need to do is run it through your hair, right?

That is true. A brush (or comb) is made to run through your hair to detangle and groom.

But, I am now the converted. I repent from my past and sinful ways of p’shawing a great brush. I do own a Mason Pearson and have been a devout follower for about 3 years. And let me tell you, a really REALLY good hair brush, not necessarily Mason Pearson, but a really REALLY good one, will help to create volume, enhance shine, reduce frizz and make your hair feel like silk. Whether you have a pixie, a bob, or hair down to your ass-ets, a good brush is like a great haircut.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is hair is one of our greatest accessories. We OBSESS over it. So maybe splurging on a more expensive brush is an investment … one that leads to healthier and better hair days more often.

But let’s get real. I’m not going to splurge on a new hair brush EVERY year. But they can get slimy looking, fuzzy, and the bristles can start to splay and break. Chances are, you replace your brush when it starts to look grimy. So, if you multiply purchasing a new $14.99 bush every year for ten years, perhaps splurging and maintaining a $60+ more durable brush to last you 10 years is a better option? Maybe? So here is how you can make that unbelievably expensive hairbrush last for a lifetime and cut the investment in half. Kind of.

It’s all about keeping it clean.

Yes – you may remove your shedding hair from your brush from time to time. But do you ever really get deep deep in there and clean the pads of the brush and the bristles. You know, all those places that have trapped in years of dry scalp flakes, old product, and gosh knows what else?  You don’t? Ugh.

Yeah. I’m giving you the side-eye right now.

You’ll need the following items to clean your favourite investment brush: a fine-tooth comb, a toothbrush, some hand soap. All things you normally have on hand. You get free toothbrushes from your dentist and you should always have hand soap around the house … so you’re not really spending any extra money doing this.

Step 1: Using your comb, remove and lift hair out of the bristles of your brush.

Step 2: Fill a small bowl with some lukewarm water and a drop or two of hand soap.

Step 3: Your toothbrush is your cleaning brush – dip it in the soapy water, and holding your investment brush facing down, start to work your cleaning brush GENTLY around the bristles. Then gently scrub the pad of the brush.

Step 4: Rinse off your cleaning brush and use the now wet cleaning brush to rinse away any soap from your investment brush.

Step 5: Wipe down the handle and back of your investment brush, give it a good shake or two to remove excess water, and let dry on a towel.


An investment or splurge on anything beauty should make you feel good in addition to doing a great job. At the same time, it’s up to YOU to protect your investment by maintaining it properly. Sure you may have spent  more money than you would have liked, but if you can make it last really really long, the cost per use will amount to pennies.




pretty and the penny: how much can makeup really cost?

September 24, 2012By stephanie 1 Comment

During a time when all my friends, from my close circle to my online community, are trying to pinch pennies and stay pretty – it has proven to be … challenging. From the latest It bag/shoe/jacket, the newest gadget (screw you iPhone 5), and rising real estate costs, once you add in a severe addiction to beauty products and looking good, well, you’re toast.

I’m no stranger to budgeting. By way of background, I went from a very well-paying job in the financial district to jumping ship, and growing BlushPretty from a weekend hobby to what it is now. And it wasn’t easy … I had a mortgage, a child (and one on the way), and champagne tastes. Dropping one whole income from the mix, in many people’s eyes (namely, my mother) was cah-razy. But I survived by budgeting. And here I am today … sure, not making as much as I used to … but back on track … and while I still have champagne tastes, er, my budget is more fancy ice teas and organic juices. Gotta make it work somehow, right?

Okay, back to the point of this post. Whether you are a freelance beauty artist or a dedicated practitioner of the Church of Lipsticks, chances are you cannot resist your nearby Sephora. Beauty blogs turn you on to the next big BB cream. Magazine perfume samples have you lusting over Dot by Marc Jacobs. Yikes!

So the question is: how can you look pretty with just pennies?

(Okay, maybe more than just pennies, but you know – the least amount of dollars possible?)

The short and sweet answer is this: pick and choose your staples wisely. And I am going to help you with that. Every few posts, now and then, will have the pretty and the penny theme … starting today!

My tip today is going to focus on the face. If I were to show you my personal stash of base makeup from pre-BlushPretty days – you know, the stuff I used to pretend that I have perfect skin – you’d see a selection of different types of foundations, powders and primers. I’m pretty sure I always had the latest product from 3 to 4 different brands. If I read it in InStyle, I was buying it. I would apply it just as I heard about in the magazines, saw on What Not to Wear, or whatever … it’s just how I rolled.

Fast forward to today. I’ve learned, from trial and error, that I don’t really need to do the kajillionstepbaseproductroutine. In fact, you can skip A LOT.

For example:

For everyday makeup, applying a primer might not be necessary. If you really want your makeup to stay on, concentrate your efforts (and dollars) on proper skincare first. If you’re skin is in optimal shape, you won’t need primer. Primers (really good ones) cost anywhere from $25 and up … save it.

Now, I personally carry two types of base makeup: a tinted moisturizer when my skin doesn’t need much coverage and a heavier stick foundation when I wake up looking like death. But the truth is most people can get away with carrying ONE type of base product and use it throughout all their skin’s mood swings. If you tend to have clearer skin – then keep only a tinted moisturizer or sheer foundation and if you need heavier coverage, rely a little more on your concealer.  If you find you need plenty of coverage, but some days just want to lay off the heavy, then use a damp sponge to sheer out your heavier foundation, or mix in some moisturizer to thin it out. Foundations and Tinted Bases can run for as little as $9.99 up to $70 plus … imagine how much you’re spending by keeping 3 or 4 different formulations “just in case” …

Last but not least, powders. Setting, Blotting, Pressed, Translucent. Hmmm, there is a powder for everything isn’t there? This is where you want to spend your money if you’re the type of lady who is ALWAYS powdering their nose. I have no qualms about you laying down a few dollars for a product that, price per powder down, you’ll be making the most out of it. However, if you’re the type of lady that sets her morning makeup and never picks up the puff again for the rest of the day, then don’t bother buying yourself the cutest little compact. There is a trick passed down from the ancient makeup artists of yesteryear: it’s called baby powder.