Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Beauty Wrap Up

I'd like to introduce to you a new monthly blog post series that I'm going to aptly title "Beauty Wrap Up." Those of you who know me well know that I'm always trying new skincare products and makeup and I've been capitalizing on a lot of reviews that have been kindly posted by other bloggers. I thought I should pay it forward and write a few of my own reviews.

I thought a monthly post highlighting the best, the worst, and what samples or products I've used up or tried in the month would probably be the easiest way to go so that it doesn't become an overwhelming portion of this blog. 


August Beaty Roundup

Empties:

 (Sample) The Face Shop The Smim Fermented Concentrate Total Treatment - I had two deluxe samples of this particular toner. I used it in the morning only for almost a month directly after cleansing my face and saw very little change in my skin, either for better or for worse. On my regular skin it was a decent neutral toner but I do like to see improvement if I buy a product so I will probably not purchase the product again.

Rating: 2.5/5 - Totally neutral. Which is why it scored in the middle. Will not re-purchase.

➳ (Sample) Isa Knox Care Zone Clarifying Cream - I absolutely love this soothing, clarifying cream. This particular brand and product was one of the first Asian skincare products that I was given and it completely revolutionized how I took care of my skin and cleared up a significant amount of new breakouts. I have since found other products to use and have cleared up most of my issues completely so my tactics of changed from prevention of acne to healing of hyper-pigmentation and the occasional emergency breakout which makes such a dedicated product unnecessary. Should my skin ever decide to go crazy again I will return to this line but I don't feel the need to do so right now so I'm not re-buying it. It is very thick so it might not be a good summer cream if you live in a humid area and it also smells a bit medicinal so be forewarned if you are buying it!

Rating: 4.5/5 - Really great product, half a point off for the smell. Will not repurchase at this time because my skincare needs have changed for the better (in part thanks to this product).

➳ (Sample) Caudalie Premier Cru The Eye Cream - I've actually been using this product for more than a month now. I didn't use it consistently because I simply forget to use eye creams. Caudalie is one of my go-to brands and I'm always impressed by their products. This one is no exception. On the days I did use it the ultra fine lines around my eyes would clear up and the skin around my eyes would feel protected, moisturized, and ready to take my eye makeup.

Rating: 3/5 - Great product but couldn't use it consistently enough to justify a five - results would last about a day and after I discontinued use I didn't see any major lasting change. Will not repurchase at this time because I have other eye creams to try out and I never really use eye creams anyways.

➳ (Sample) The Face Shop Green Tea Oil Free Toner - I had about three or four little sample bottles of this and I patch tested one bottle and broke out in that area so I discontinued use and tossed the rest. The product does absorb well and my skin feels soft after use. I'm not sure why this broke me out as I've had pretty good success with other Face Shop Products but I wasn't going to push my luck and re-try it when I had several other different things to try.

Rating: 1/5 - I ended up breaking out in the place I patch tested this. Will not repurchase for obvious reasons. It does smell nice, though!

➳ (Sample) The Face Shop Aqua Drop Pack Sleeping Mask - I actually really liked this product! I used this product two to three times a week (on cooler, less humid nights) and always woke up to hydrated skin and a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, especially on my forehead where they are most prominent. This product is a bit heavy (like most sleeping packs or masks) and sometimes I would wake up with a bit of a sticky face but because I wash my face first thing and then apply sunscreen it never bothered me. The downside of this mask is that it does contain Silicones and phenoxyethanol which are both known irritants for some people. Luckily I am fine with both of these things and had no issues while using this. The smell is vaguely citrus and is very light. I think it's supposed to have a smell that helps with sleep but I don't think it affected how well I slept.

Rating: 4/5 - Using this product leads to visible (if short term - one to two days of visibly hydrated skin) results with no irritation. It doesn't soak in completely, especially on humid days, and does contain some irritants so one point off for that.  I like it enough to repurchase this product.

➳ (Sample) Shiseido Benefique NT Makeup Cleansing Oil - This is actually my first foray into a cleansing oil. I have long read about the benefits of double cleansing on just about every single skincare blog I read but I don't usually do it. If I have a particularly heavy makeup day (Stage makeup, HD makeup for filming) I wash twice with my regular Isa Knox Foam Cleanser, once with my Clarisonic and once with my hands. The first thing I did when I moved was to find a place where I could shop locally for my preferred beauty products and the person working gave me several sample packs of this to try out. I am not sure if I like this product or not. I'm honestly on the fence! It seems to do a good job of dissolving the makeup off my face without stripping my skin's oils but I have no similar products to compare it to. I did experience one or two breakouts while using this but I didn't patch test it so it could have been caused by external factors. I'm going to order some other cleansing oils soon and try them out as well to see what I really think.

Rating: 3/5 - Does a great job clearing the day's makeup off my skin. Experienced a few breakouts but may be unrelated to product use. No smell at all, feels smooth against my skin while using it. Still unsure if I will purchase it because I have nothing to compare it to!

New Products I've Introduced:

➳ (Full Sized) Missha  Perfect Cover BB Cream No. 21 - I am in love with this product. I mean...truly, truly in love with it. When I use this product people actually come up to me and comment on my skin. Strangers, even. That's huge for me because I have notoriously scarred and uneven skin (evidence here). When I use this product it's just thick enough to cover up any unevenness but it doesn't strip the natural color out of my face and I have to do a lot less color replacing with bronzers and blushes and highlighters than I had to previously with my Boscia BB cream. It isn't thick enough to conceal everything, but it does a great job. You can see how it works on my face in these photographs. Additionally, this product has decent sun protection: it is PA +++ with an SPF of 42. I still layer it over my regular Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel sunscreen but I like the assurance of having another layer of sun protection. This product has become my HG (holy grail for those of you not in the skincare blog world - the product you return to as your ideal product) BB cream. Just a heads up, though: some people may have issues with this because it does contain mineral oil and parabens in it. Also, it does come out very pallid looking at first but after a few minutes of wearing it it adjust and matches my skin tone a lot better.

Rating: 5/5 - Perfect coverage, perfect color match, great sun protection. Will repurchase when I'm out of my bottle.

➳ (Full Sized) Holika Holika Vita UP! Facial Water - I bought this while I was traveling at the end of last month on a whim. We had been walking around Toronto all day, stumbled upon a Holika Holika shop and for whatever reason I was compelled to purchase this product and stick it in my purse to spray on my face every few hours. I try realllllly hard not to touch my face once it's been washed in the morning but sometimes your face just needs an extra boost and that's why I bought this. It claims to moisturize and hydrate tired skin which is exactly what you get when you're traveling. After I got home I stuck it in the fridge in the Tupperware that holds my sheet masks and pull it out to spray on my face from time to time. I really like having something cold to spray on my face in the middle of my workday. It doesn't cause my makeup to run, it sooths my skin, and it smells like a fresh aloe plant. I'll be traveling again at the end of the month and I'll be putting it in my purse to use on the journey.

Rating: 4/5 - Soothing, absorbs quickly, non irritating, and inexpensive. May repurchase when I'm out of my bottle or I may try something new. I don't feel compelled to hoard facial mists like I do sunscreens, moisturizers, and spot treatments, though.  

Links of Note:

Snow White and the Pear's posts about cleansing are an informational read and a good reminder to wash your face well. (Part one and two) 

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Daily Rhythm: Running as Meditation

MR5

MR3

The first thing I do in the morning is go for a run. I like to run on an empty stomach, before breakfast but right after my first cup or two of coffee. Even though mountain biking will forever be my favorite sport, running is the only place I have found where don't have to exist. It's only rhythm and pace and time. 

Maybe that sounds scary or weird or something but when I run my brain goes into hibernation mode, or somehow drops out of reality. It's like time doesn't exist for a while. I don't have to tell my body how to do it and unlike cycling, I don't have to pay attention much. I've even perfected the art of nap running - When I'm really sleepy but still need to run I let my eyelids close and run for a while (Don't feel scared, I only do this on wide trails, never sidewalks or streets) and open them every so often just to check that I'm still heading in the right direction.

 When I cycle I have to think about some really practical things like, "Don't crash into that tree. Carbon Fiber handlebars would be a gonner if you did that." or "This guy can't ride in a straight line. Who else is here that has a steady wheel I can hop on." Cycling is like playing a game of chess - it's all about the cocktail of terrain mixed with speed and ability. 


Running, however, is just running. One foot in front of another slightly faster than I walk. It's ten minute mile after ten minute mile after ten minute mile. And when I'm in the ten minute mile zone, be it for 20 minutes or an hour and a half, I have space to daydream. I ignore all my phone calls. There's no emailing or texting or whatsapping. Its a place where no one expects anything of me so I am free to build whatever I want and construct anything that I wish would happen. 

I always have a lot of projects going at once and there are always more on the horizon. I love so many things and want to do so many things. I tend to build a daydream, constructing the future and thinking about what I want it to look like in detail and then as I run I work backwards. Right before that moment comes another moment and I think about what that moment should look like, how I should figure it out and make it work, and then there's another moment before that one, and another and then suddenly we are thinking about the moments I get to have today and I know exactly what's on my itinerary for the day. 

Then its home, shower, and work. The rest of the day goes on and flies by but because I ran in the morning there is a settled order, beat, and pace to my life. Running helps me because I know where I'm going for the long and short term. 

MR4

***

Shirt: Target
Pants: Lululemon (these running tights are very old but you can find similar ones here.)
Shoes: Brooks Pureconnect 3 (who I'd recommend highly! Not only have I been training injury free in their shoes for the last half decade, their customer service is amazing. I had recently purchased a new pair of shoes to replace my old ones because they hit their milage. After about twenty five miles the left shoe started to have some issues which turned out to be construction issues. I emailed them and a day later a new pair of shoes was on it's way to my doorstep, free of charge.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

What Does It All Mean? Fashion Photography in the Fine Art World - Thoughts on a Lecture by Vogue's Ivan Shaw

The Divers by George Hoyningen-Huene


Last Friday my friend A. invited me to attend a lecture given by Ivan Shaw. The lecture took place at the beautiful Detroit Institute of Arts and discussed photography's place in the fine arts world. In the short hour he gave an overview of how fashion photography has fit into the art world from the 1920's to the present. He rounded out the academic portion of the discussion with anecdotes about some of the the better known fashion photographers lives. He also told a few personal stories of how he knew or interacted with some of the later era photographers. He has been in the business for several decades and had a very broad and vast knowledge about the history of it.

By the time the first ten minutes of the lecture was over I knew there were going to be some great things to think about and mull over so I had pulled out the tiny notebook I always carry with me and I took down some notes. Here are a few choice anecdotes for you:


  • Mr. Shaw mentioned that displacement was an overarching theme in a lot of Conde Nast fashion photographer's lives. Many of them fled their homes during conflict, and for a large portion of them were forced to move, leaving everything behind, during the World Wars. Many of you have seen Horst P. Horst's famous Mainbocher Corset Photograph. Mr. Shaw mentioned that this was Horst's very last photograph in Paris. He took this picture in September 1939 and as they were shooting this photograph the model (I can't remember the name of her though it was mentioned in the lecture) was crying because all things were ending. 
  • In the 1930's fashion photographers were spending a lot of time in Cafe Circles with other artists and literary figures. In this way there really was no disconnect between fashion photography and the fine arts world. Later, this changed significantly as fashion marketing and the meaning of fashion photography changed. I still am not sure what (if any) catalyst concretely caused this to happen. It seems like there was a surge of putting the fashion first in the photograph during the 1950's and sixties. 
  •  During the Q&A Mr. Shaw briefly touched on the relationship now between fine art photography and fashion photography right now. My biggest takeaway on what he said is that there are two different skill sets needed for each subject matter and the job descriptions.  The ideas may seem similar to the outside observer but are very different. He didn't detail the exact skills needed for each part but he did say that some people can easily transition between the two and some people can't. Also, he noted that fine art photographers transitioning towards fashion photography need to be cautious and retain their sense of identity that made them a great photographer in the first place. 
  • Another audience member asked him what he looked for when he was looking at the portfolio of beginner photographers with promise. Surprisingly, Mr. Shaw said that many times the work of the best photographers is rough. He said that often times those photographers have something they really want to capture, an idea or a way things should look, but they don't quite know how to get there yet. Instead of being nervous about it and mimicking someone else's style they keep going for what they know will eventually look right to them. At some point the skills catch up with the vision.


Until recently, I've never thought critically or objectively about my own photographs. While I've always tried to improve my skills and get what I see in my head into the picture,  I've never considered myself a photographer. Taking a picture was never the point of my camera. I ran around with a camera all through middle and high school (In fact I just recently found seven unexposed rolls of film in my parents basement - I am so curious about what is on them and will have to get them developed soon!) but it wasn't about me being a photographer. It still isn't. Its just about me being present in a really amazing place and it's always about the moment that is happening then and there.

It might seem silly to never reference myself as a photographer because my blog is so picture heavy but taking photos is more about what's in the actual picture than the fact that I'm taking a picture. All of my favorite photographs up here have been me trying to capture specific moments more than the straight up HD fashion-centric photographs. For example, the photographs from Toronto or the ones in the vintage dress I took all by myself in my empty Denver apartment just an hour before leaving to move far away stand out as some of my favorite pictures. These pictures, more than ones where my hair is curled and my makeup is done perfectly, and I managed to get great lighting, tell the truth. They explain to you, (and sometimes me, after giving them a second or third look) what is really going on.

Circling back to my notes, Horst P. Horst's Mainbacher corset photograph is dreamy - the woman, the pose, the draping of the laces, the line and shape that points back to classical art. We see a woman gracefully covering her face. The image easily features the piece of clothing they were trying to capture, but beyond that it's kind of a desolate image, all curves and lines and greyscale. When you are told the story of the model, who was his friend, crying and them packing up and leaving their vibrant Parisian life because of the war the things you knew about the photograph click. Here is Horst being honest with the moment. And here is a piece of clothing, half undone, in the middle of an unraveling life.

And, thankfully, I have come to a conclusion, after all that thinking and talking about this weekend and trying to answer my lingering question from the lecture. The connection and link between the very best art photography and the very best fashion photography and the very best blog photography is that the image is truthful in some way. It's a simple concept but its not something everyone can just do.  Beneath whatever magic and makeup and lighting we've used to make that photograph happen, the images that endure are honest photographs that seek to explain the truth about something.

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