Jul 112012

How do you know if you’re getting a good facial on those monthly trips to the beauty parlour?

When you go for a facial, you usually find out about a week later whether it was a good one or the type that left your face looking worse than it did pre-facial. Most of the time the bad effects of a facial show up in the form of bumpy skin, more breakouts, blemishes, hyperpigmentation and scarring which all appear a few days after the facial. Unfortunately, then it’s too late because you can’t go back in time and undo the facial. When it comes to ensuring that you get a good facial, prevention is best.

After getting my face damaged by a few facials, I have learnt to watch out for signs of a bad facial or more specifically, a bad beautician. It is the person who is doing the facial for you who’s important when you are assessing a facial. The facial itself is fairly easy to choose and is hardly actually designed to ruin your skin. By definition, they are all good in some way. It is, as I said, the beautician or the one who’s doing your facial whom you have to observe and question.The best way is to rule out a bad beautician at the very start.

The advice in this post is particularly meant for women in India; I don’t know how things are elsewhere.

Tip 1: Avoid going to those tiny beauty parlours that you see mushrooming all over the place. Aim for the known names or chains in the salon business. You may think, “But my face looks so clean and smooth after the facial, she really gets all the gunk out.” A facial is not supposed to be like that. It’s not like pouring Drainex down the sink to unclog the drain. Anyone who scrapes vigorously and hard at your face is actually damaging your skin in the long run. Such scraping damages the top layer of the skin and causes your skin to defend itself by producing more skin cells to cover up the sore areas. This makes your skin dull, hyperpigmented and full of blemishes and scars.

Also, the instruments used in such places are less likely to be properly cleaned than those in the salon of a higher-priced beauty salon chain. I’m not saying that the instruments in the chain salons are 100% clean; I’m just saying that there’s a higher chance of them being cleaner than in the other kind of parlours. Pay a little more so that you avoid having unwanted bacteria entering the skin  during a facial that’s meant to heal and clean it.

Another point to consider, is that the beauticians in the salon chains usually have standard in-house  training. Those who work in the tiny miscellaneous parlours often have no formal training and if they do, it is from a motley assortment of beauty academies.

Tip 2: After choosing a clean salon in which to do your facial, you will need to pay close attention to what the beautician is doing. When the scrub is being massaged onto the face, the pressure needs to be very light or else you can get grooves or minuscule cuts in the skin. So if you find the beautician scrubbing very hard (meaning that it feels like the scrubber meant for washing utensils is being used on your skin), then immediately ask her to reduce the pressure. Do not assume that she must know what she’s doing because a scary number of these beauticians actually don’t know what they’re doing. I have recently received an account of what really goes on in beauty salon courses that has put me on my guard about such beauticians.

Tip 3: Also, scrubs must never be used over the eyes. I know that that happens as well in some beauty parlours.

Tip 4: Pay attention to how the beautician is removing the whiteheads and blackheads. Is she scraping your entire face in rough strokes with the removal instrument? Or is she carefully nudging each one out? She should be gently nudging each one out at least in the problem areas like the nose, chin and forehead. If she isn’t, immediately ask her to go slowly.
As I’ve said before, excessive and vigorous scraping does more damage than good. It is better to repeat the facial 2 or 3 times at intervals of 2 weeks to get rid of all the whiteheads and blackheads, than to try and get them all out in one go.

Tip 5: Lastly, the beautician should remove the mask applied at the end of most facials by gently rubbing the skin with a wet sponge or washcloth. She must not scrub at your face. If she does, stop her and tell her how to do it or just do it yourself. It’s better than having damaged skin.

Other tips:

  • If you do find a beautician who’s good at her job, make a note of her name and stick to her the next time around. Otherwise you’ll have to go through another session of trial and error with a new person.
  • Mention any specific problems that you have with your skin before starting a facial.
  • Also mention your skin type if you know it. I suggest that you find out your skin type before going to the salon because beauticians are not always good at determining the skin type correctly.

All the tips given above have helped me to finally start getting a good facial every single time. These tips will help you ensure that your facials actually help your skin rather than making you go back to repair damage caused by  the facial itself.

Jul 082012

I found this amazing pencil eyeliner a few months ago. The L’Oreal Contour Kohl pencil eyeliner is soft and easy to apply. I bought it in 131, Jet Black. It gives a nice, even line which stays on for about 3 to 4 hours even without applying a base primer or eyeshadow. It can be smudged and I use it on its own to create a smokey eye.

It’s great as a basic black eyeliner and gives you a line that looks almost as good as one made with a liquid liner. I love this liner and I would definitely buy it again.

L'Oreal Contour Kohl


Loreal Contour Kohl applied on upper eyelid

Price: Rs. 299/-

Even application
Intense colour
The tip does not break easily

It is not smudge-proof (However, this was plus point in my eyes, I don’t like smudge-proof liners.)
I couldn’t find it in any fun colours like blue or purple

Jul 022012

L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes - Extra Black

I bought Volume Million Lashes by L’Oreal when I was still learning how to apply mascara quickly enough so it does not dry while I’m still applying it. Being a mascara that is not waterproof, it doesn’t dry up very fast and so I have the option of doing it slowly.

I love this mascara as the wand is very good for achieving an even application even if it is your first time with mascara. The wand is like a comb and so I don’t have to wiggle the wand through my lashes as much as otherwise to separate them. It is not a very volumizing mascara so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for lashes you could sweep the floor with. Maybe it’s the wand type. However, as a basic mascara, it works just fine. I have rather sparse lashes and this mascara wand works very well for me. Also, it’s tapered so I can get to the lashes at the corners easily.

L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes mascara wand

My lashes without mascara

With 2 coats of L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes

The opening of the Volume Million Lashes mascara tube is designed in such a way that the excess on the wand is wiped off as you are pulling it out. That way you don’t have to mess up the neck of the tube by wiping off the excess. The only part that does need to wiped off is the tip of the brush.

L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes excess wiper diagram on tube

The one thing I regret is that it doesn’t seem to be available in any other colours besides black. I would have liked a blue or brown.

Good brush/wand
Separates lashes easily
Has an excess remover
Sleek tube

Not very volumizing
Comes in just one colour at least in most Indian stores

Jul 012012
  • When applying mascara, open your eye and tilt your head back so that you’re looking downwards into the mirror. This ensures that the mascara does not get onto your browbone. If it does, keep a cotton-bud ready to wipe it off immediately before it dries.
  • Hold the mascara wand at the base of the upper lashes,  wiggle it a little from side to side to get between them and pull it upwards along the lashes.
  • To apply more than one coat of mascara, DO NOT wait for the first coat to dry. Follow the first coat immediately with the second coat, third coat and so on. If the mascara is allowed to dry, it becomes difficult to apply the subsequent coats and they get clumped up.
  • If you are using mascara for the first time, buy one that is not waterproof. Waterproof mascara tends to dry quicker. If it’s your first time with mascara, chances are that you’ll be a bit slow with the application and you don’t want your mascara clumping because it is drying so quickly.

For further information on how to choose a mascara wand when buying mascara that will suit you, read http://pixiwoo.blogspot.in/2012/04/which-mascara-wand.html . It gives a simple and useful categorization of mascara wands to help you choose the right one for you.

Jun 282012

Ever wondered what kind of makeup and how much makeup to wear? Sometimes this can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re not used to wearing makeup regularly. The kind of makeup you can wear differs depending on the time of day and the occasion. I’ve given a few tips below to clarify things a bit.

For day wear, keep the makeup as natural as possible. Pale eyeshadow is better for day wear than liner. Eyeliner must be lightly applied in thin lines. Lipcolour can be in pale shades such as sand pink, coral pink, baby pink, mauve, pinkish red, beige, caramel, copper. It must be matte or creamy in finish. Avoid high gloss for day wear.

For night wear, it depends on the occasion. For office I suggest neatly lined eyes with a medium to dark shade in a matte or creamy finish. For casual evenings out, I’d say natural eye makeup using eyeshadow rather than liner to liven up the eyes. And for the lips, a medium-toned colour (dull pink, light chocolate brown, light purple, light coffee brown, a dull red applied as a stain) in a gloss or dewy finish like that which you get with liquid lipsticks. For parties or clubbing, I suggest heavy eye makeup and nude, glossy lips, or minimal eye makeup with dark, full-bodied lip colour.

General guidelines

  • Do not wear heavy makeup on both your eyes and lips.
  • If you do want to wear dark eyes and lips, do so at night. Don’t make it too heavy and see that the eyes and lips do not overpower each other.
  • Light colours are usually worn in the day and early evening while dark colours are worn at night.
  • Heavy eye makeup especially with eyeliner is best kept for the night. Keep eyeliner lines thin for day wear.
  • Mascara is best worn in just one coat for the day and 2 or 3 coats for the night.
Jun 282012

Choosing makeup for dark-skinned women can be confusing. For instance, most cosmetics that we find in Indian stores seem to be geared towards the Caucasian skin tones thus making it rather difficult for Indian women with dusky to dark skin tones to find colours that suit them. Not that it’s always easy for the ones with fair to medium skin tones to find suitable shades.

The key to finding suitable makeup for your skin tone lies in determining your undertone. Both sets of women often make the mistake of thinking that they have a warm skin undertone and have bronzers and gold or yellow-tinted shades recommended to them by store assistants. The problem is that if you wear warm colours when you have a cool undertone or if you wear cool colours when you have a warm undertone, you look tired or unnatural. So it is important to determine your undertone before choosing your makeup shades (this goes for clothes too) as you will look best when you wear colours suited to your undertone.

How to figure out what your undertone is:

First of all, let’s differentiate between skin colour/tone and undertone. Skin colour or tone is the most apparent colour of your skin: fair, medium, dark. Undertone is the underlying hue of your skin. Your skin colour can change shades through tanning or less exposure to sun but your undertone remains the same. Undertones are pink, yellow, greenish/olive and neutral which is a mix of pink and yellow.

I have read a few articles on this and finally came across the article that I have given as a reference link below. It confirmed what I had suspected after a few experiments of my own: that you instinctively know which hues suit your skin. I had so many people advising me to wear bronzer or orange-tinted red and brown lipsticks because, being a brown-skinned Indian, I must have warm undertones. All the while it just didn’t feel right. It was always the cool colours that suited me. So thank you, Musicalhouses! There are warm, cool, neutral and olive undertones. You can be between categories too. Read the reference article for the explanation.

An easy way to quickly determine your undertone:

For now I’ll tell you how I simplified it for myself: take a closer look at the colours you favour when choosing clothes. You’ll know if you are a warm-toned person if warm colours like golden yellow, orange, brick or light brown usually look good on you and you are cool-toned person if you find that cool colours like cool blues, purples and pinkish/purplish reds look good on you.

While I did write this post primarily for the benefit of dark-skinned women, I must emphasize the fact that correctly determining your undertone can be useful to women of other skin tones as well. Just because you’re fair or medium toned does not mean that you automatically fall into the cool undertone bracket.

For a detailed explanation and illustration of the complexities of Asian undertones visit: http://musicalhouses.blogspot.in/2010/01/undertones-for-asians-how-to-tell-if.html

Note: If you are one of those people who like to follow trends or at least try them out, refrain from wearing a shade just because you saw it in a magazine or on TV. Always adjust the colour to suit your skin tone.

For more suggestions on lipstick shades to suit your skin tone, do keep an eye on my blog for future posts :-).

Jun 232012

I am very fond of optimising a few makeup products to do quick makeup and create different looks. One of my hobbies is experimenting with just pencil eyeliner and lipstick. These 2 products came to my rescue at a time when I didn’t own any other makeup. I would change my look to suit the occasion just by tweaking these 2 products.

Natural day wear look

  1. Use the eyeliner pencil to draw a short thin line on the upper lid from the outer corner. Do not extend the line all the way but just about one third or halfway.
  2. Smudge the line using your finger from the outer corner inwards.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 below the lower lash line but with a thinner line.
  4. Apply a dark red or purple lipstick using your fingertip. Rub the lipstick onto your finger and spread the colour onto your lips. Make sure the colour is evenly spread. This should leave a coloured ‘stain’ on your lips. This gives your lips a ‘just kissed’ look ;-).

Office: day or evening wear look

  1. Use the eyeliner pencil to draw a line just above the upper lashes from corner to corner.
  2. Draw a thin line below your lower lashes as close to the lash line as possible. To make it easier to do this, look upwards into your mirror and tug gently at the outer corner of your eye.
  3. Line the inner rim (waterline) of your lower lash line with the eyeliner pencil.
  4. Apply a dark red or purple lipstick using your fingertip. Rub the lipstick onto your finger and spread the colour onto your lips. Make sure the colour is evenly spread. This should leave a coloured ‘stain’ on your lips.

Casual night wear look

  1. Use the eyeliner pencil to draw a short thin line on the upper lid from the outer corner. Do not extend the line all the way but just about one third or halfway.
  2. Smudge the line using your finger from the outer corner inwards.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 below the lower lash line but with a thinner line.
  4. Apply a dark lipstick in 2 coats. Blot with a tissue or spread the colour with your finger after applying the first coat.

Formal night wear look

  1. Rub the tip of your finger onto the lipstick (must be a dark one in maroon, plum, grape, purple or deep, dull pink). Take only a small spot of colour.
  2. Lightly dab onto the outer corner of the upper lid of your eye.
  3. Smudge it with your finger in one smooth stroke first along the lash line from the outer corner inwards.
  4. Then smudge it in the same way along the crease line (the groove that you feel at the top of your eyelid where the eyeball appears to end).
  5. The colour should now be darker towards the outer corner and should fade inwards. If you feel that the colour is not visible, repeat steps 1, 2, 3 and 4. Just make sure that the colour is much lighter than it appears in the lipstick.
  6. Use the eyeliner pencil to draw a line just above the upper lashes from corner to corner.
  7. Apply the same lipstick in 2 coats. Blot with a tissue or spread the colour with your finger after applying the first coat.

Clubbing or party night wear look


  1. Use the eyeliner pencil to draw a line just above the upper lashes from corner to corner.
  2. Keeping the eye closed, hold the lid taut with your finger by placing it at the outer corner of the lid and tugging gently. Tilt your chin up so that you’re kind of looking down into your mirror.
  3. Hold the pencil at an angle to the outer corner of your eye and the other end of the pencil is pointing towards your temple.
  4. Now extend the line just a little (about 1 cm) beyond the eye by lightly dragging the pencil point towards the end of your eyebrow thus creating an outward flick. If the flick is not even or dark enough, repeat this method. (Do not try to put the point of the pencil directly to the flick to fill it in.) Hint: If you draw lightly with the pencil, you get a nice wispy tip to the flick which prevents the line from looking too artificial. Don’t try to define the tip of the flick.
  5. Draw a thin line below your lower lashes as close to the lash line as possible. To make it easier to do this, look upwards into your mirror and tug gently at the outer corner of your eye.
  6. Define the inner corner by tracing its border with the liner. Keep the line thin.
  7. If drawing a line below your lower lashes seems too difficult, just line your lower waterline (inner rim) with the eyeliner pencil by rubbing the pencil point along it.
  8. Apply a nude or slightly pink lip gloss or lip balm to your lips. If you are very dark, first line your lips with purple liner if you have one, smudge the line with your finger and then apply the gloss. The liner will give more definition to nude lip colours on a very dark skin.

For darker eye makeup, look up my smokey eye makeup tutorial which uses only one more product, mascara.

Jun 212012

I am constantly on the lookout for a moisturiser to suit my oily, acne-prone skin and let me tell you that it is a tough search. There aren’t too many Indian moisturisers that are made for oily skin. When you do finally find one, you find that it leaves your skin feeling sticky. And finding one with SPF is even more difficult. So I thought that when I did finally find a suitable product, I would put up a review of it.

Which brings me to the aloe vera facial gel from Forest Essentials.

Forest Essentials Aloe Vera Facial Gel box

I stumbled across this product when I was browsing through the shop’s collection with a friend. Forest Essentials Light Moisturising Facial Gel with pure aloe vera was recommended to me by the store assistant as a moisturiser suitable for oily skin, especially in the summer season. I am very happy that I bought it. I remember thinking that it was a tad expensive at approx. Rs. 600 for a 1.7 oz jar. Now I think it was worth it.

Forest Essentials Aloe Vera Facial Gel jar

It is a transparent gel. It’s light, easy to apply and very refreshing. You do need to massage it into the skin a bit or else it leaves a slight film on the skin. My skin does not feel oily in a hurry, nor do certain parts of my face feel dry. That was always my problem with other moisturisers: either they made my skin sticky or they did not provide adequate moisture.

The packaging of the Forest Essentials gel accentuated the whole ‘natural’ tone of the product and brand. The store assistant carefully couched the box in tissue that had been spritzed with some scented water and threw in a few bits of pot pourri before placing it in the Forest Essentials bag. Very good tactic, as it sent me home feeling soooo good about the product I had invested in!

Delivers results as a moisturiser for oily skin
Very good, refreshing moisturiser for the summer
Light gel
Pretty packaging
Light, unobtrusive scent
No sticky feeling after application

Probably wouldn’t be enough for dry winters (I have yet to try it out in that season)

Note: Forest Essentials does have an aloe vera lotion with SPF which I have yet to try out.

Jun 212012

Nivea Visage Oil-Regulating Toner

This toner is supposed to be a toner for mixed to oily skin. However, I found that it made my skin feel quite sticky and my face would start looking shiny and oily in no time at all. On the positive side, the fragrance is pleasant and it does not sting. Rather than being a toner for oily skin, it would probably do very well as a toner for someone with normal to mildly dry skin as it moisturises the skin so much that you don’t need to follow it up with moisturiser.

The key ingredients as printed on the bottle are:
Aqua, SD alcohol 9.15% v/v, glycerin, aluminium chlorohydrate, carnitine, aloe barbadensis, panthenol, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil.

Nivea Oil-Regulating Toner: Ingredients and price

Pleasant fragrance
Gentle on skin, no stinging

Too moisturising for oily skin, leaves a sticky film on the skin

In short, my only issue with this product is that it is categorized wrongly as a toner for oily skin. Otherwise, it is a very gentle toner as compared to others.

Jun 212012

A good daily routine for skin care can allow you to do your makeup without foundation. There are a few basic steps that you can follow to ensure that your skin looks as good as it can without foundation.


  • Do not use regular soap on your face. Always use a facewash. These are made keeping in mind the special needs of the skin on your face which is quite different from that on the rest of your body.
  • Choose a face wash suited to your skin type. A creamy facewash or cleansing milk would be more suitable for dry skin or normal skin. A gel facewash is better for oily skin. If you have acne-prone skin, look for a facewash with salicylic acid in the list of ingredients.
  • Wet the face sufficiently; this helps the cleanser to work on your skin.
  • Be sure to spend a couple of minutes gently massaging the cleanser all over your face. Do not just slap it on, give your face a quick scrub and then wash it off. Also do not be rough on the skin of your face.
  • After massaging the cleanser onto your face, rinse it off thoroughly. Pay special attention to the grooves between the nostrils and the cheeks and the jaw-line while rinsing as these areas tend to get overlooked.
  • After you’re done, PAT your face dry; do not rub it. Rubbing with a towel will not make your skin cleaner, it will only damage it.

Proper care of your facial skin while cleansing as described above will reduce the occurrence of blemishes or pigmentation. Cleanse a maximum of 2 times a day, usually in the morning and at night before bed. According to me, the night cleansing is especially important because it removes the grime and pollution of the day which would otherwise enter the pores when they open up while you sleep. If you use any mode of transport that exposes your face to the wind, dust and pollution, make sure that you wash your face as soon as you get home. As far as possible, use a soap-free face wash.

A note on the use of Toners and Astringents:
I recommend skipping these products as they can over-dry the skin. Toners and astringents are used to remove any traces of oil or makeup after cleansing, and to tighten or close the pores that open up during cleansing. If you use a cleanser, the oil or makeup will be removed by it because that is what cleansers are meant to do. As for the pore-tightening quality of toners and astringents, I can only say this: I had a habit of using toner for a while thinking that it would help reduce the large pores on my cheeks. It didn’t help at all even though I used more than one recommended toner. Finally I cut it out of my skin-care routine and focused on using the correct facewash and moisturiser. Now I find that my pores have actually reduced in size. If you do want to tighten your pores, just rub an ice-cube over your skin or wipe your face with a cotton ball moistened with rose water. They are cheaper alternatives and are much gentler on your skin.

The skin on your face needs to be moisturised after washing. Again make sure that you choose a moisturiser suited to your skin type. There seem to be enough of highly moisturising face creams on the Indian market for normal to dry skin. However, those with oily skin may have to hunt a bit. Your skin should feel soft and supple after applying the cream. If you experience dryness or oiliness within a couple of hours of application, then you need to switch to another more suitable cream. You may need two different moisturisers for summer and winter depending on whether the climate of your state is dry or humid.
For all those with oily skin, there are two things that you need to know.

  • You too, need to wear moisturiser. Cleansing can dry out your skin a little and the moisturiser helps to replenish what is lost in that process. If you do not moisturise your face, the dryness may cause the oil glands of your face to overcompensate for it and you may end up aggravating your oily skin.
  • You don’t need heavy moisturisers. A very light, water-based lotion should do (look for ‘aqua’ or ‘water’ as one of the first ingredients). If not, pure aloe vera gel will do just as well especially if you have extremely oily skin.

There are a few advantages to having smooth, soft lips. Lipsticks glide on well and look delicious as they are supposed to. Lipstick on rough, flaky lips doesn’t look alluring at all. Smooth lips also feel more comfortable than chapped ones. I’ve seen so many women complain about their chapped lips and about being unable to find a solution. So here’s my take on caring for your lips:

  • Every once in a while (once or twice a week) gently exfoliate your lips while washing your face at night. This exfoliation can be done with a face towel or a ball of cotton. You can also use an extra soft toothbrush but some may find it too harsh while others may find it icky. Massage the lips very gently in circular motions to remove all the dead skin.
  • Pat lips dry and apply a thin coat of Vaseline. Leave it on overnight. If your lips are really bad, then apply a little Nivea Soft cream (I have a soft corner for this cream; you can use any face cream instead) before applying the Vaseline.
  • For daily care, apply Vaseline on your lips every time you wash your face. Do this while the lips are still moist.

Exfoliate your face with a gentle face scrub at least once in 2 weeks. Find one that suits your skin type. Never rub hard. Use gentle, circular motions to massage the scrub onto the face. A scrub removes the dead skin cells on your face which make it look dull. Always follow up with moisturiser.

Including these tips in your daily routine for skin care will improve the overall texture and appearance of your skin. You should start seeing results within 2 weeks of following these tips.