9 Things I Would Tell My Make-up Newbie Self (because I couldn’t think of 10)

Ah to be young again (says the 22 year-old). Bright eyes, bushy tail – generally squirrely demeanour. Being a big fish in a small pond. The world, being my lobster. Other animal-related things.

Except it wasn’t really like that, was it? My younger self was hopelessly angsty – obsessing for weeks over whether that guy I liked had actually meant to hit me in the head with a rugby ball* (exact quote from my 14 year-old diary: “WHY DOES HE HATE ME?!” All caps.) – and hilariously clueless when it came to make-up and skin care. So I’ve thought of 10 bits of advice that I would have benefited from when I started out on make-up and skin care.

Garnier BB1. Very few things live up to the hype

When everyone’s talking about some great new product, it’s easy to get sucked in to the point where basically you think your life is incomplete until you get a konjac sponge/BB cream/Hakuhodo brush/Seahorse highlighting powder.


2. The things that do live up to the hype completely depend on your personality

It’s no secret that I love Hakuhodo, but I don’t expect everyone else to feel the same. The hyped products that did revolutionise my make-up were products that appealed to me on many levels (e.g. I love Hakuhodo brushes for – among other things – their performance, their craftsmanship, their aesthetic appeal, their connection to a really exciting time in my life) or products that offered solutions to problems I’d been having for ages (e.g. Bronzer being too orange – solved by Rouge Bunny Rouge).

In general, younger self, if you have to ask yourself ‘What’s the big fuss about?’ before you buy something, you’ll end up asking the same question afterwards. Just because everyone else loves it, doesn’t mean you will as well.


3. Always always always go out into natural light after trying a new product in store

I used to get kind of embarrassed about this. Either I was worried the sales assistant thought I was making excuses not to buy anything, or I was worried that people on the streets would see me peering into a mirror from every angle and think I was crazy.

BUT I really should have done because the 4th thing I’d say to myself is:

Foundation Stick4. What, what, what are you thinking?

So you’ve bought your first high-end foundation, but it’s Bobbi Brown’s foundation stick in the shade ‘Warm Ivory’. Just because it was the lightest shade available (at the time), it doesn’t mean it’s your shade. Try something 4 shades lighter and 10 times less yellow next time.

5. Those aren’t blackheads, they’re sebaceous filaments. Stop abusing them

You will get your first blackhead at 22 and it will really annoy you.

6. The warm vs. cool debate is kind of redundant

When I first got into make-up I devoted a lot of time to determining whether I was warm-toned or cool-toned, and now I realise that it’s crazily over-simplified. Even when broadening the spectrum (warm-neutral, cool-olive, muted, spring, high contrast, high visibility, mountain goat), it’s hugely difficult to find an exact formula to define one’s skin and colouring. When buying colour make-up nowadays I tend to stick with the colours that I know will suit me, or experiment with some inexpensive products to find new shades that work.

7. Step away from the epilator

Congratulations on your high pain threshold, younger self! However, your epilator use is going to wreck your legs, and they’re not going to recover for two and a half years. Yay! At one point, when you are crying over how painful and itchy they are, your boyfriend will resort to rubbing ice on them to make you feel better.

8. Stop using excessive amounts of alcohol on your skin

And most importantly…

9. People don’t pay nearly as much attention to you as you think they do

So stop worrying that everyone is going to obsess over your sub-par skin or your badly-placed eyeshadow.

*22 year-old conclusion: No he did not, it ricocheted off 3 walls before it met my head. He was not that talented a ball-thrower.

What make-up (or other) advice would you give your younger self? Were you savvy from the start, or in dire need of some make-up assistance?

Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover Stick Foundation

You may remember my foundation showdown, where I pitted Bobbi Brown’s Foundation Stick vs. Shu Uemura’s Nobara Cream Cover Stick. Nobara came out on top, but there wasn’t much between them. P1000847

Or so I thought.

I’ve now had a year or so to test them out, and I now know for certain that I made the right choice. Nobara is the king of all foundations ever.



  • It’s versatile: you want sheer coverage? Spread a small amount all over your face with fingers or a wet sponge. Medium? Draw a couple of stripes on your face and blend out with a beauty blender or fingers. Full? Draw a lot of stripes on your face and blend it out with a stippling brush. “Sure”, you say, “you could do that with any foundation”, and it’s true, but not many foundations look that good at every level of coverage. A sheer foundation can be built up, but can cake or, even worse, settle into lines that you never knew you had. A full coverage foundation can be sheered out but can make the skin look dull. I’ve used Nobara for daily sheer coverage, date night medium, and wedding full, and it’s looked amazing in each incarnation.


  • It doesn’t transfer


  • It withstands heat and humidity: when Kyoto summer (think hot and very humid) came around I spent two weeks or so trying out my various foundations to see which would work for summer time. Nobara came out top. It lasted much better than my other foundations (but it still looked a little worse for wear at the end of a long day) and it didn’t pool into pores or sharp contours of my face (around the nose etc.) either. The latter was my chief issue, sweat and oil would basically force my foundation to migrate and pile up in 3 or 4 areas of my face.


  • It has a natural finish: even at full coverage Nobara still has a satin, glowy finish that stops it from looking too mask-like. It doesn’t feel exactly like skin, even at its sheerest, but it’s a far cry from foundations that feel ‘wet’ – like they never set, or those that feel powdery or rubbery.



the bottom line

The Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover stick is the foundation of foundations, I can’t think of anyone to whom I wouldn’t recommend it.

November Round-up

Can you tell I’m a fan of these round-up posts? I am. So while this one may be a little late, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for an entire ‘blog so far’ round-up could I?


First off, my favourite posts so far. It may seem a little egotistical to extol the virtues of your own posts but there are some of which I have been a little proud. Then again, each post I’ve written so far gives me a little twinge of embarrassment now and then when I read over it but I think that’s normal. Like when you read your old diary or watch Sweet Valley High. (Incidentally it seems all the episodes are on youtube and I am definitely NOT spending copious amounts of time watching them…).

What to do when Mascara Smudges on you ALL THE DAMN TIME

this tastefully titled post has been consistently among my most-read posts, and every day I get hits from searches to do with mascara smudging. I like this post a lot because geez it was such a pain to deal with the whole smudging thing and took me months to find a solution. So saving someone else that trouble makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Feature: Sunscreen

I feel I have to include this one because it was such a beast to write and hopefully I succeeded in making the whole sunscreen shebang vaguely accessible.

Magazine Monday!

My first Magazine Monday post! I like this one because of the placenta part. Strange sentence. Basically having been in Japan for almost two months now I find a lot of things that I would have found hilarious/crazy/scary when I first arrived, I hardly pay attention to now. This makes me sad. The one exception to this is placenta shots. I still find them hilarious, crazy and scary.

My favourite products of the last monthProducts

Clockwise from top (starting with the perfume)

  • Calvin Klein Euphoria Eau de Toilette: I am not good at describing perfumes. As much as I would like to tell you that Euphoria has a base note of unicorn hair and a the sillage of new born baby I cannot, in good conscience, mislead you like that. Because I care. According to reviews on Make-up alley, this scent is unsophisticated and a bit rubbish really. I love it – perhaps because I am unsophisticated and a bit rubbish really. It is sweet but not sickly, in fact it has a kind of spice to it which makes it a little (and I am loath to use this word to describe perfume) sexy. This eau de toilette doesn’t last too long on my skin though, so I have a little atomiser to top up in the day. It does, however, stay very well when sprayed on clothes.
  • Multi-vitamin Sweets: So these aren’t anything new but I love them. I always forget to take my multi-vitamin (and I’m not getting much vitamin D from anywhere else) and after this post I felt a little guilty. So now, a new era has begun in my general well-being: multi-vitamins hidden in coloured sugar! This multi-vitamin is like when you give medicine to pets and you have to hide it in their food. Except I am the pet. And I know what’s going on. And I like it.
  • Earrings: These earrings are cute. I like to wear them in my ears.
  • Darjeeling Tea: A cup of Darjeeling tea is probably in my top 10 list of Stuff That Is Good. It is expensive in Japan though :( so I now save my tea-drinking for special occasions.
  • Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation: This foundation is so awesome that when I realised I hadn’t brought it with me to Japan I actually went out and paid the extortionate price to buy a new bottle. I will try and do a proper review of this soon but basically it is lovely.
  • Kate Gel Eyeliner in BU-1 (that’s blue to us): I read a lot of great reviews about Kate Gel Eyeliners so I decided to get one. I also wanted a navy colour because it is neither black (a little too stark on my pale skin) nor brown (too much red and it makes my eyes look tired). I guess I don’t see anything too special about this eyeliner, but I also don’t think there’s anything bad about it either so I guess that gives it full marks. It stays well and is easy to apply (though perhaps a little sheer at first) .
  • Clinique Different Lipstick in Sweet Honey: This is the perfect MLBB shade. It is a little dull in its neutrality, but it is such an easy shade to wear. Also the formula, while I didn’t like it at first because of its lasting-power, is really creamy and flattering even if your lips aren’t in great condition.
  • Freeplus skincare: Regular readers will know that my skin has been stupidly dry recently. This is not helped by the fact that alcohol is in loads of skincare products including moisturiser. So I tried out some Freeplus (to find out more about the line click here). It is too early for me to write a full review, but after just about two weeks my skin has improved hugely, it is hardly dry at all and very soft. So far so good.
  • Bun-maker thingy: I got this from the 100 yen shop and I love it! I read about it on someone’s blog but I’ve forgotten which one! Anyway here’s how to use it, get one!
  • Compact mirror: I actually got this on holiday in China, usually I lose these things but I’ve managed to hold onto this one for years.
  • Face net: So I’ve read a few posts on using a face net with your face wash recently. I got this one from the 100 yen shop (again!) and it’s great. It really helps me use less of my face wash without compromising its effectiveness. This is useful because my face wash is the one part of my skincare from England that I do not want to change and so I want to make my supply last as long as possible!


So this month I plan to:

  1. Make a comparison page of Japanese Sunscreens I’ve tried (as well as writing a review post). I think a spreadsheet might be useful for comparison purposes, I haven’t quite worked out how I’ll go about this project.
  2. Make a swatch page. When I go into drugstores to swatch I am often so overwhelmed by all the products there are. So I’d like to make a page with pictures of products and then those interested can request swatches of those products.
  3. Update my links to other blogs and to shopping sites which sell Japanese goods.
  4. Write more reviews!

How to Make a Foundation Work When it Doesn’t: Part 2- the coverage isn’t right

This phenomenon is rarer than getting the wrong shade primarily because trying foundation in the shop should give you a decent idea of coverage. But there are days when your skin needs a little more coverage, and likewise there are days when you want to look like you’re not wearing any foundation. So instead of buying a new foundation, you can try and change the coverage of a foundation you already have.


First of all, bear in mind that a good concealer, while hard to find, beats high coverage foundation in most cases so before you try to make your sheer foundation heavier, consider what it is you’re trying to cover. Perhaps some nifty concealer work could solve all your problems.

Trying to make a sheer foundation give more coverage is all down to what you use to apply. Of course, you’re not going to work miracles, but I’ve successfully made a sheer foundation (Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation) into a medium/high coverage foundation just by changing the tool with which I apply it.


Fingers: This gives the sheerest application, making most foundations look  more like a tinted moisturiser.

Wet Sponge: Coverage from a wet sponge is still pretty sheer, especially if you use a ‘wiping’ motion to apply – it really spreads the foundation out.

Foundation Brush: I’m not a fan of usual (paddle-style) foundation brushes to be honest, but I’d say they’re in the middle of the scale – not too light, not too heavy.

Stippling Brush/ Sponge: I’ve put these two together because they both facilitate the application technique that gives the most coverage: when you pat the foundation on instead of swiping. If you wipe with the sponge you’ll still get some coverage but not as much as you would if you just patted the foundation on. Instead of spreading the foundation over a large area you concentrate it in many small areas. The same idea applies to the stippling brush. In some cases the stippling brush could give more coverage than the sponge because it deposits more foundation. Many sponges can absorb too much of the product and consequently not give good coverage (it’s also a waste of foundation!).

When applying my sheer foundation (Bobbi Brown Skin) with a stippling brush I got good coverage with it but I also still got the natural finish of the foundation.

Stippling brushes don’t have to be expensive – before I got one I thought that it was only MAC who actually made them. Now I use the ELF Studio Powder Brush. It has a flat top and it’s also quite stiff so that makes it ideal for applying foundation (liquid or powder). (Incidentally, ELF studio brushes are really good in my opinion, and they cost nothing). If you’re in the U.S. I’ve heard many people rave about the Sonia Kashuk stippling brush and I think ecotools produce one as well.

A long time ago, when my foundation collection was a mere 1 or 2 strong, I had a good skin day. I know. It was pretty crazy. Anyway all my foundations at the time were kind of heavy, and though my skin was good, it was most definitely not ‘go without foundation’ good. Now with some foundations, a different application technique (see above) sorts this out just fine. But with the ones I had at the time (Mat Velvet+ and Estee Lauder Doublewear) this idea just wouldn’t work. So I created a new foundation! How? By mixing with random stuff I found in my room (kind of).

Mix it with sunscreen: This method is good for lazy days (if you wear sunscreen daily). You don’t get the greatest formula from it so it’s not ideal in that respect, but it is quick. In my mix there was much much more sunscreen than foundation but it still had enough tint in it to even out my skin. Like I said, with my sunscreen (La Roche Posay melt-in-cream 50+) it wasn’t the best formula (it didn’t look very skin-like and I had to powder away the shine) but I think with a more cosmetically elegant sunscreen (I’ve heard raves about the Sofina range) you could be on to a winner.

Mix it with moisturiser: This is similar to the sunscreen but looks much more natural as most moisturisers are designed to look good on skin (ie. not shiny, not blotchy, not greasy). You are basically creating, would you believe it, a tinted moisturiser. Hey somebody patent that idea! Oh wait…

Mix it with Aloe Vera Gel: While my skin can get dehydrated from time to time, my sunscreen usually suffices as a moisturiser so the method above won’t really work as I don’t want any more moisture on my skin. I could just mix it with the sunscreen, but like I said, the finish isn’t so great when I do that. So my favourite method of customising foundation coverage is mixing the foundation with Aloe Vera Gel. Aloe Vera Gel is great as it doesn’t moisturise much at all – in fact many people use it as a primer to mattify skin – and it’s not likely to interfere with the foundation in anyway (change the finish, change the colour etc.). With this mix you get a tinted moisturiser without the moisturiser…a tinted, if you will. Also Aloe Vera Gel is a great multi-purpose item (and cheap) so you can use it for a bunch of other stuff as well!

So that’s my little guide on how to make foundations work, if you guys have any tips please please comment as it’s great to share all this information!

How to Make a Foundation Work When it Doesn’t: Part 1- it’s the wrong shade

Hi everyone, apologies for the wordy title I couldn’t think of a way to paraphrase. From my blog so far you may have realised I like foundation…a lot, but in my quest for the perfect foundation for every occasion I’ve found a lot of duds on the way. The returns policy in the UK is pretty lame so if it turns out that I don’t like a foundation I’m still stuck with it forever. So I’ve had to find ways to make the foundation work – I can’t make them perfect HG material but at least I can make them wearable. I do hate to waste them. So I thought I’d share a few tips that might help you salvage a lousy foundation.


The foundation looked fine in the shop but now you’ve realised it’s too dark: you have a ‘tide mark’ around your jaw and your face doesn’t match the rest of your body. What can you do?

The Quick Fix: blend blend blend! A lot of foundations pride themselves on being long-wearing, so sometimes blending them in can be difficult. Try using a wet sponge to blur the edges of the foundation and dab it downwards so it eventually blends into your neck naturally. It won’t look completely fool-proof because your face still won’t match your chest/neck, but you may just look like you’ve caught a bit of sun. Remember: check the areas around your hairline: while you don’t want to put foundation in your hair, it’s very important to make sure everything is blended around the hairline so the colour looks vaguely natural.

from fail blog

The Long-term Solution: invest in a white foundation. These can be mixed together with the foundation that’s too dark to make one that’s exactly your shade. It takes a little trial and error to get the ratios right but it makes the foundation usable.

What are some white foundations?

★ Manic Panic Dreamtone Flawless Foundation & Color Corrector in White – this is one of the cheaper white foundations I’ve found. It comes with a spatula that’s good for mixing the foundations together. Some people say it settles into pores when used on its own so be sure to use as little as possible when mixing – you just want the colour of your foundation changed, not its finish. In addition, its ingredients can be comedogenic so buy with caution.

★ MAC Face & Body in White – this foundation is available as part of MAC’s pro line but don’t worry, you don’t have to be a pro to get it. Anyone can buy from pro stores, and if you don’t have one near by you can call MAC pro and order it by phone. While Face & Body is pricier than Manic Panic the bottle is huge and should last forever! Remember to shake the bottle before you use it: many report that the foundation can separate in the bottle. An advantage to this foundation is that you can try a sample of one of the other shades of Face & Body to see if it breaks you out before you fork out the money for the Pro shade.

★ Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Zero Minus – this foundation is specifically meant to lighten foundation colours. It’s pricier than the others but the foundation formula itself has got rave reviews: people say it smoothes skin texture, is long-lasting and doesn’t feel heavy. Because of that, I would say this foundation is better if you think you need a LOT of white to lighten your foundation: the product is so nice that having a higher dose of lightener in your foundation isn’t such a tragedy.


It looked fine when you applied it but now you’ve stepped into natural light and caught your face in a mirror – the geisha look was not what you were going for.

The Quick Fix: The blending mentioned above could apply here too but in my opinion it’s harder to get away with when it’s this way round. Some advise using a lot of bronzer to counteract the paleness of a foundation but that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen: many bronzers have shimmer in them and can end up making your face look like a disco ball if you cover yourself with them. Also there are so many bronzers with orange tones and that’s fine for just a little dusting on your cheeks but when used on your entire face it can give you the oompa loompa look. I’d say a safer option is using a darker face powder on top of the foundation instead.

Ok well this oompa loompa is quite cool

The Long-term Solution: For a foundation that’s too light, I would advise using it in conjunction with other foundations (I assume everyone has a bunch…because it makes me feel better about all mine!). In fact, many makeup artists favour using two different foundation shades on their clients’ faces because the face is not just one uniform colour. Apply the lighter foundation in the middle of your face, starting on the bridge of the nose. Blend outwards and bring the lighter foundation along the top of your cheekbones (but not directly under your eyes – reverse panda eyes are not good) to make a natural highlight.

Here’s the effect seen on Hayden Panettiere and Halle Berry: the bridges of their noses look lighter as do their chins. Hayden’s forehead is also a little lighter in the centre. I’m not saying these are pictures of them wearing two foundations – I have no idea what they’re wearing here – but this highlight effect is what you’re after.

[N.B.  If your foundation is too dark you can try to achieve the reverse effect: using the darker foundation to contour around the hollows of the cheeks and sides of the nose. But in my opinion this is risky: when contouring your cheekbones you should blend the darker colour upwards to get the right effect. So, if you’re using a darker foundation to contour and you’re not a total master of contouring, your application can just look like a ‘tide mark’ again, and we’re back to square one. Many people do use a darker foundation to contour with great results, but with my rubbish contouring skills I’ll be steering away from that idea.]

You can also mix the light foundation with a darker one to create the right shade.

★ Face Atelier Ultra Foundation in Zero Plus – This mixes with your foundation to darken it. Like I said about Zero Minus the formula is pretty good so it’s not such a big deal if you use more of this Zero Plus than the original foundation.

I hope that helped, look out for part 2  to find out what to do when your foundation is too heavy!

What do you guys do when you’ve bought a mismatched foundation?