Is it Brown? Is it Blue?

I was recently reading customer reviews on other MUAs (you never do that, right?) and came across an interesting comment:

…….“I told her I wanted brown eyeshadow. When she finished, it was blue. I am a woman of color and I did not want a blue eye! When I complained, the MUA told me that I was wrong! She even pointed to the shadow and said, “Look! It is BROWN.” I think I know blue when I see it. Never use this MUA!!!”…….

For this client, the MUA received a one star rating (the customer said it was a one star because ‘no’ star was not an option). For all the other client reviews for this MUA, they had received 5 stars! 5!!! What happened???? Well, color theory is what happened!

Color theory is the guidance to color mixing and the resulting effects of specific color combinations. 


The first color theory was that the spectrum of color was linear, with red at the halfway point between white and black. Yellow was closer to white on the spectrum and blue was closer to black.  Sir Issac Newton challenged this ancient theory when he discovered the waves of light through a prism (much like a rainbow). Instead of a linear conception of color, Newton developed a closed circle of color, which is the first “color wheel.” And, what I thought was interesting is that the white at the center of the wheel was put there by Newton to represent all the colors into white light. Anyway, because of the color wheel, we as artists are able to better understand the relationships of color to one another.

So, what is brown? Brown is the result of a mixture of the three primary colors –red, yellow and blue. As such, depending on the ratio of the individual base colors, we can get an infinite number of visual tones, depths and ranges of “brown”. In the example above, it is very likely that the brown the MUA chose had a strong base of blue. The blue would have dominated, and especially if a primer was not used, meaning the shadow could in fact appear – blue! In addition, some shadows change hues over time. Even when the brown initially appears brown, as the day goes on, the blue, red or yellow base can become dominant. This is especially true for people with oily skin. Think of adding water to dry sand.

So, what to do? First, use a primer. This is the best way to bring out the true tone of the brown.  Second, try adding some extremely warm tones (the red/yellow side of the wheel) to balance the blue. Third, take some time to test your pallets. If you swipe the color on and wait an hour, the underlying dominant pigment may reveal itself. Third, if you do not have time to test all of your browns (I admittedly have not), at least consider the customer’s opinion when she tells you it looks blue. Customer relations rule #101 – the customer is always right!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if there is any subject you would like me to research!




Edwards, Betty. Color: A course in mastering that art of mixing color. 2004.


Code Red: Chapped Lips


As the holidays are approaching, I have been trying out some classic red lip shades, from bright red-orange to deep burgundy. There is nothing more festive than the perfect red lip. As I have been experimenting with these, I’ve noticed that my lips are so dry, especially at the corners. Don’t you hate that?  Well, I have some bad news…. it turns out that the beloved holiday red lip can actually be causing our chapped lips!  And there is nothing like a coarse, rugged lip terrain to wreak havoc on your otherwise flawless masterpiece. So, I decided to educate myself on the issue and find out if this can be avoided, and if not – determine if there is a fix.

As it turns out, there should be a master’s degree in lip management! To be truthful, there’s already an expert source – they’re called dermatologists! So, to avoid putting you through 7 years of postgrad education, I will tell you what I found!

As we know, as winter approaches, the outside temperature goes down, and the heat inside turns up. The dry air destroys the moisture in our lips and cracking and peeling starts. Many products have been developed to remedy the situation, from Chapstick to the higher end lip balms. Most of these have some type of petroleum jelly ingredient, which is super effective as it traps in around 99% of moisture. Keeping the lips covered in these types of products as long as possible will provide relief. Increasing fluid intake is also helpful (and, by the way, despite the old belief, water is not the only fluid, so coffee, tea and juices count).


Of course, dry air is not the only culprit. All makeup artists see these ragged lips year round. Some of our clients have this issue in the dead of summer.  There are two different types of reactions of the lip “skin” that result in peeling: irritant and allergic. “Irritant contact dermatitis” is the most common type and happens when there is a direct trauma to the lip surface or chemical reaction to products, damaging the lip's outer protective layer. Loss of moisture (dry air) is a type of irritant. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical found in some acne medications, as well as certain soaps and shampoos is a common cause. Some people react to these strong irritants after a single exposure. Others may develop peeling and cracking after repeated exposures to even mild irritants.

The other type of reaction is “allergic contact dermatitis”. Lipsticks and other lip care products are major causes of this type of reaction – mostly at the border where the skin and lip meet. Sometimes the reaction involves the corners of the mouth (THIS IS MY PROBLEM!). Typically it begins within hours of contact and may last for days. Over the years, numerous chemicals and elements in our lip products have been identified as causing this type of reaction:

Ricinoleic acid, the main constituent of castor oil, has been identified the commonest current cause of allergic reactions to lip cosmetics. Others include Nickel – from the metal lipstick casing, Perfumes and flavorings, balsam of Peru, citral, cinnamaldehyde, peppermint oil, vanilla, geraniol, lanolin, castor oil, olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil,  glyceryl diisostearate, diisostearyl malate, glyceryl monoisostearate monomyristate, propylene glycol, oleyl alcohol, 12-hydroxystearic acid, isopalmityl diglyceryl sebacate (DGS), solvent for dyes, colors – D&C Yellow #11, D&C Red #7, 17, 21, 36, 40 Lithol Rubine BCA, quinazoline yellow, preservatives/anti-oxidants, sunscreens, gloss, propolis, and other products used as an emulsifier and thickening agens, water-resistant film, polyvinylpyrrolidone / hexadecene copolymer (also used to improve stick integrity, give a rich feel and disperse the pigment), as well as an ‘Anti-irritant agent’ – bisabolol (main active ingredient in chamomile).


Read that again… RED 7, 17, 21, 36, 40! That’s our red lip colors!!! And not just red, but also other colors that contain red, like purple and orange. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine exactly which element is causing the product. Think about it…. in addition to lip products, you use soaps, lotions, hair dyes, shampoos, moisturizers, and foundations.  And, I’m certain you don’t use just one product in each category. Some of the reactions take time to develop. So, was it the new red lipstick you started today? Or was it the coral from yesterday? Or the mulberry from two days ago? Or the new shampoo? Or the lotion? You get my point. In fact, dermatologists will tell you – good luck figuring it out. You may never know. What can help determine the cause is to eliminate use of all products for several days, then add one back every few days to see if you have a reaction. I will tell you—good luck going without. 

As for me, I’ll deal with the flaking lips. I’ll buy my white washcloths and exfoliate before bed – then plaster on the lip balm.

Let me know if you have any questions I can look into, and what your favorite lip balm is! I hope you enjoyed the post!


Savina Aneja, MD. Irritant Contact Dermatitis.  Medscape. Updated: Jul 26, 2017.

Dr Delwyn Dyall-Smith FACD. Contact reactions to lipsticks and other lipcare products. DermNet New Zealand, 2010.

Destination Inspiration: Chicago

   I am not originally from Chicago, but it has become my home over the past eight years. So, this post is about being inspired to enjoy your own city as if you were on vacation in another (read: staycaction). One of the biggest events of the Chicago summer season is Lollapollaza, a huge music festival held in downtown Chicago. I haven't been a few years, because honestly, it is a huge mess. It's muddy, sweaty, and crowded. I am going this year, so I am reminding myself that amongst the muck, there is beauty. Music festivals have taken on a life of their own over decades, spawning trends like flower crowns. Another popular look is painting designs on the face. Lip and eye pencils are probably what most people have on hand to draw with, but if you really want to get creative, get the Makeup Forever Flash Palette. Endless possibilities. 


Makeup Forever Flash Palette,

The Do-It-All (Nighter): Nude Pencil

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 A common question that I get from clients, friends, and acquaintances is "What is the ONE product that you would absolutely recommend to anyone?" My answer: the nude pencil. This one little product can solve an array of beauty troubles, especially the troubles we have after a night-out. This versatile product can always be close by, because it fits neatly into a purse or pocket.

The most obvious use for this pencil is in the eye line. It's brilliant for when you wake up with red, irritated eyes. Just line the top and bottom water lines for an instant reduction in redness.

A less obvious use for this pencil is to cover blemishes. The little tip of the pencil is perfect for a precise application of coverage over even the tiniest breakouts.  Because nude pencils don't come in as many shade options as a concealer, don't worry about the pencil matching your skin tone perfectly (but it should be close). The coverage should be so small that you won't even notice.

Your lips can benefit as well. Try defining the outside of your lip with a nude pencil. It has the same effect as a lip liner, only it is more natural and it can even be done without wearing lipstick. It will also add a soft highlight. Don't forget to blend it out.

Similarly, try using this product to define your brow. Drawing a soft line under your brow line will give the brow structure and a soft highlight. I always say that the brow bone is the most important bone on a face!

There you have it. Four different uses for one product! Whether you're in a rush and need a little kick, or you've pulled an all nighter and need an ever-handy product, this is it!