Category:  inspiration

POV: What Pretty Means To Me (Or A Walk Down Memory Lane)

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After reading an excerpt from June’s Glamour magazine featuring an interview with Jennifer Aniston where she discusses, among other things, her disdain for the “Rachel” haircut and the moments when she feels her most beautiful (read here), I began thinking: What defines pretty? Not the actual dictionary definition – although for inquiring minds, Merriam-Webster defines it as: “attractive to look at usually in a simple or delicate way” – but the personal, internal association with the word. What is pretty?

When asked by Glamour when Aniston feels her most confident, she responds: ““I feel beautiful when I wake up with my sweetheart. When I leave a photo shoot, because somehow miracles have been worked. When I come home from a night out with my honey and my makeup’s a little smudged. I have many moments when I feel beautiful. It’s all about having that inner confidence.” I find it interesting that Aniston correlates confidence with feeling beautiful, but I’m quite sure that she’s not alone here. Are the two words, in fact, synonymous?

This past weekend, I went to visit my mom for Mother’s Day and she pulled out a box of old photos for me to sift through. Pictures of myself as a baby, toddler, pre-teen, and angsty teenager covered the floor as I took a visual walk down memory lane. So, I will apologize in advance as this post is long and deeply personal.

Baby Sarah was pretty cute, despite the unfortunate bowl cut that emerged at around age two. When I look back at my baby and toddler photos, a wave of love and mushiness washes over me. I know it sounds cheesy – and I’m not the emoting type, so this is a strange feeling for me – but that little girl in those photos doesn’t have a care in the world except to love and be loved, and I recall her with fondness. Sure, she was a kid, but there’s something so blissful about her demeanor. She is the happiest version of myself and, for that, I recognize the beauty – not just the beauty of a child’s innocence, but the beauty of spirit. It’s not an aesthetic thing.

It’s interesting how quickly that feeling fades even today. As I reflect on my formidable years, I notice a photo of myself at around four or five, and it’s as though I can pinpoint the exact moment where my eyebrows took on a life of their own. Of course, at 4-years-old I was blissfully unaware, but when I look at a certain photo – armed with the fluctuating self-esteem of an adult who has lived in a world largely obsessed with outer beauty – I think to myself, “that’s it! There it is. Those unfortunate, unmanageable eyebrows. I had them all along.” I can’t help but wonder, when did I actually notice? When did I become self-conscious of this feature?

Let me digress for a moment. I have a serious insecurity with my eyebrows because they grow in a thousand different directions. As a teenager, one of my friend’s sisters used to call out my brows constantly: “Your eyebrows are sad. They grow down, like they’re frowning.” This carried into my latter years, where I’d spend hundreds of dollars to get my brow shape just-so, but I was never satisfied. I plucked too much, even pierced the left one (huge mistake). Recently, I’ve been trying to grow my sparse and sporadic brows with the help of serums, so stray hairs are more prominent than ever. Of course, if I weren’t so self-conscious about my brows I probably would’ve never noticed these horizontal lines in the photo. But that’s the way that pretty works: When you look back on a life through images, it’s as though you’re even more hyper-critical and that’s kind of sad. Because I can guarantee you that 4-year-old me wasn’t worried about misshaped brows.

At around age 11, I decided that bangs would be a cute look. Looking back, they weren’t. When I mentioned this to my mom this past weekend – more like blamed her: “How could you let me walk around with that haircut?!” – she responded, “You loved those bangs.” I was a gymnast growing up and, according to my mother, everyone on my team had cut bangs. It was a thing. So, following suit, I cut bangs and, somehow, that become my signature pre-teen style. As I peruse the photos of me and those unfortunate bangs, I can’t help but notice that I look genuinely happy; always smiling, which is in stark contrast to many of my latter photos, where I look absolutely miserable. So, maybe my mom is right. Maybe I did love those bangs, and maybe those bangs made me happy, even if reflection on them makes me cringe. But that jovial pre-teen girl is so much prettier than the angsty teenager that I was about to become (bad bang job and all). And, yes, I believe whole-heartedly that this is because I was happy on the inside. I told you this post was going to be cheesy (we’re bordering on Brie-cheesy here, I’m well aware).

At around 15 or 16, I discovered makeup and the magnifying mirror (which I still blame my mother for inciting my love of picking my face). Photos from this time in my life are… scary. I’m not smiling… ever. I’m either wearing dark lip liner and light lipstick (yikes!) like a gangster, or purple/red/black lipstick and dark eye makeup like a goth chick. Looking at these photos (which you’ll notice are not included in the slideshow above) literally puts me into a panic. I was so full of angst, and the pictures reflect that unhappiness.

As I move into my college years, I notice that, while I’m still playing with makeup – usually colors like reds (on eyes), purples, and even glittered magenta – I am no longer dark and moody with my makeup or my overall demeanor. My smile returns (as does a brief stint with a tongue pierce – another embarrassing scar of my youth). I also notice that my face is more round, not fat by any means, but slightly cherub-esque for my usual slender and long face shape. I mention this to my mom: “I don’t remember ever going through a fat phase! What’s up with my face?” “Stop that. You were never heavy,” she responds in that stern voice, almost as if she’s speaking to teenage me. “You were just changing. Hormones.” I also have the thinnest eyebrows, which I know was trendy at the time (but oh the horror today!).

Here’s the interesting part: I remember everything about college. I can tell you what I wore to M-80 on Thursday night in February of my sophomore year (open-toed wooden platform sandals (yes, there was snow on the ground), black shiny skintight pants, a blue crop top that tied in the back, and an oversized vintage black fur jacket), but I can’t for the life of me remember ever looking into the mirror and thinking, “Damn, girl. Your face is plump!” Ever. I thought I was hot (piercings and all), and I rocked that confidence all four years.

Sure, pretty is a word commonly associated with attraction to an object, be it a pair of shoes or a person. Pretty is certainly aided by foundations and lipsticks and mascaras and brow powders. But pretty is also an attitude. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows, and is largely dependent on how you feel at that exact moment in time (which is why when I look back at photos, I see a totally different person than I actually felt I was at the time). It’s a personal perspective, based mainly on the history and baggage that you bring to a situation, again be it a pair of shoes or a person (hence why they say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”). Just as pretty is highly personal and exceptionally unique, it’s also a term that immediately conjures up the most judgement and criticism when we turn the mirror on ourselves.

But that’s the beauty of pretty. It’s all in the way you look at things.


*Thanks to Glamour and the Jennifer Aniston interview for allowing me to streamline my thoughts on appearance, memories, growing up, and, of course, what it means to be pretty.

Inspiration: 50 Shades of Grey

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*I first published this piece back in 2012 after reading EL James’ hyper-sexual best-selling book. But now, with the movie release looming a mere 24 hours away, I thought it rather suiting to revisit Anastasia Steele and her constant “flushing” and “blushing.” 

Besides pondering the sad realization that American’s are sex starved, the “50 Shades” phenomenon got me wondering, what does sex look like? Not the actual act of love making, more like the post-coitol look on one’s complexion. “Flushed” cheeks as EL James has so promptly pointed out on numerous occasions, a bitten lip (also pointed out time and time again – more as a turn on than as an effect of a good lay), and steely eyes? I asked celebrity makeup artist Denika Bedrossian to think up two looks for any woman wanting to channel her inner Anastasia Steele. Get these seductive looks just in time for the big V-Day evening!

Up first, 50 shades of flushed

“For this look, I’d recommend Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($43) to not only create a natural even skin tone but also protect it with moisturizers and SPF. Adding a Tarte Cheek Stain ($30) in Exposed for fair skin and Natural Berry for darker tones or Elizabeth Arden Cream Blush  in Nectar ($24) for fair skin and Plum for darker tones on the apples of the cheeks will give a dewy, sun kissed face. Stains and creams create a flirty pinched cheek appearance as described by  EL James when writing of Anastasia’s constant “blushing apples.”

Next, try using MAC clear or tinted Brow Set ($16)  to keep fine eye brow hairs in place. Placing a light coat of black or brown mascara on your curled lashes is a must. Try Tarte Eyelash Curler ($17), followed by their MultiplEYE Lash Enhancing Waterproof Mascara [discontinued, so try Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Splashes Waterproof Mascara ($20)]. You’ll need a good waterproof lash, for all of those steamy baths and showers with Mr. Grey!

I’d finish this look with a bitten lip such as Stila Lip Glaze in Raspberry ($22) – it’s great for all skin tones. MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner is also a great alternative for less gloss and more hydration.”

For a 50 Shades of Grey eye (think: flirty, sexy, irresistable), Bedrossian recommends: 

“To bump things up and add some drama for a “GREY” eye, I like to use MAC Paint Pot in Dangerous Cuvee  ($21) as a base. Layering MAC shadow in Greystone; this adds a bit of drama with out using black as a smokey color. Urban Decay Naked2 Shadow Palette ($54) is a great alternative, using shades Pistol and Verve. Apply to the eye lid and blend into the crease. You may also lightly dust the same grey tone under the lower lash line. Add a soft hint of Bootycall, included in the Naked2 Palette, under the brow and in the inner corners of the eye. This will brighten the eyes and lift your eyebrow arch. If your feeling extra sexy, add a sleek black liner on the upper lash line. For a liquid look, extend MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack ($16) with an angled brush. For a smudgy, smokier look, add Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Shadow Pencil in Barracuda [discontinued, try Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Smoke and Tuxedo ($28)] . This is a great and easy product to achieve a quick smokey eye.” 

Nail Art: Bling It On

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When it comes to nail art, anything goes. And as Candice Romanelli proves, everything can serve as inspiration – from her daughter’s Doc Martin’s to a disco ball. The art director and mother of two explains that nail art, for her, is a creative means of expression. “I just had my second kid and I needed some sort of different creative outlet. I did my first crazy manicure and became instantly obsessed. From there on, it was game over,” says Candice who has rocked some of the most intricate and awesome nails that I have ever seen… ever.

I asked Candice to choose her 10 favorite nail designs to date and explain the inspiration behind each of the looks. In the slideshow above you’ll find the art and, below, the details. Prepare to be inspired (or, at the very least, awed).

1. Silver Metallic Nails – These were my New Year’s Eve nails. I wanted to go crazy with the bling and glitter, to resemble a disco ball, but in a more chic and fun way. They actually used different studs in different shapes and sizes, rhinestones in various sizes, and the base was silver glitter on the tip that faded down to the nail. These nails took over three hours to do!

2. Flower Nail – The idea for these nails came from these amazing Doc Martin boots that I bought for my two-year old. They were black with yellow and pink flowers. Being an art director, I had a vision of how they would look on my nails. I wanted the manicurist to place the flowers all around the borders of my nail. When she was done and I had a final look at my nails, I decided I wanted to do a matte finish. I am OBSESSED with matte finished nails because they look like the actual texture of your nail which, in my opinion, is fantastic.

3. Black Sheer Polkadots – Last fall I fell in love with all of the Saint Laurent clothing that had sheer black with polka-dot cut outs in them. Super sexy and sleek. That was my inspiration for these nails.

4. Black with Gold Studs – I always make my next appointments for my nails as I am paying for the ones I just had done. It gives me 3 weeks to think about what to do. This time that I went, I really didnt know what I was in the mood for. I was wearing a pair of booties that were suede black with gold studs and I just looked down and thought, this is what I’m going to do this week. They say you usually match your nails to what you’re wearing and that’s literally what I did.

5. Red Leopard – Who doesnt love leopard print? I’m obsessed! I’ve done leopard that was nude with black before but this time around I wanted to do bright red for a pop of fun. The manicurist spent two hours hand painting each spot on and if I didnt like the way it looked I had her redo it (sadly, I’m not joking).

6. DRx Nails – These nails were inspired by my husband’s brand. It’s called DR Romanelli so i went with the whole pill vibe. The scissors on the thumb are part of his logo and the red and cream colored pills were symbolic of his collaboration with Coca-Cola. I did these nails for the launch of that collaboration.

7. The Black with Matte Tips – After going crazy with my DRx nails, I felt that I needed something simple. This nail was my first time using the matte finish and we used it as a V french tip. These are one of my favorite nails that I’ve done; super simple with an edge.

8. Ombre White Matte – Spring was in the air and I was all about the ombre nail. We were going to Mexico and I wanted to do a clean, beachy nail so I thought I would try this. I love how the nail fades to natural so when your nails grow out, it’s not as obvious. To make this ombre a little different, I went for my favorite matte finish.

9. Pink Ombre Fade with Polka Dots – After doing the black polka dot nails, I fell in love with polka dots. So, this past summer I went with a pink nail with an ombre fade and put dots on top. This was a fun design and took me out of my neutral comfort zone.

10. Glitter is Everything Nail – I LOVED these nails. I knew I wanted to do an all-glitter nail, but I wanted it to standout; something that resembled a quartz crystal stone. I went to Michael’s [art store] and bought all kinds of glitter in the same tones. The super chunky glitter makes this nail standout more than just a regular rockstar glitter nail. It gave it texture and definitely took it up a notch.

*Candice’s go-to nail salon is ES Nails on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California.

Inspiration: Festival Fashion and Beauty

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festival style inspiration

And another weekend of Coachella images clogging your feed is upon us! If you’re one of the festival ladies (or gents) who is partial to pool parties, frolicking in 95 degree heat, and enormous crowds packed onto fields like sardines – aka if you are going to Coachella, then this post will serve as your beauty and fashion inspiration. If you’re like me, and live music set against a backdrop of rowdy fraternizing patrons is not your thing, then allow this post to be your spring/ summer inspiration, with a dash of festival attire thrown in for good measure.

1. Shoes – When it comes to festivals, comfortable – yet stylish – shoes are in order. Flat boots were made for walking (through fields), but a birkenstock-type of sandal will save your feet from cramping and the new styles are actually (gasp!) cute. Just make sure you’re toes are pedicured and painted! Brands like Givenchy (floral print and all) and Rebecca Minkoff ($250) have debuted their fashionable versions of the world’s most comfortable sandal.
2. Hat – Yes, sunblock is important but a wide-brimmed hat will keep your complexion – and hair – in check. Not to mention, a great hat is quite simply the most coveted festival accessory. I am a huge fan of anything Rag and Bone and the hats are not exception. This one and this one are my festival favorites.
3. Sunglasses – Sunnies that shield you from inebriated passerby’s and the intense rays that are blocking your view of said inebriated passerby’s. Festival sunglasses are all about having personality. Try Chicwish plastic heart shaped sunnies ($16) in bright red and unearth your inner Lolita.
4. SPF – Sunscreen is a given. Sure, baking in the heat may feel nice, but it won’t look nice when you’ve given yourself sun damage. A powdered sunscreen is ideal as you can continually reapply in between your favorite musical sets — and it’ll actually soak up any excess oil or sweat! Try Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 45 ($30), one of my favorite powder SPFs!
5. Lip Stain – Stains were practically invented for festivals. The right stain can act as color for lips and cheeks while being virtually sweat-proof and waterproof (just in case the sprinklers go off?). You want that hint of color without looking like you’ve spent hours getting ready. I turn to Becca’s Beach Tint ($25) as my stain-of-choice. Watermelon is the perfect spring/ summer pink shade… that’ll give you that I-just-sucked-on-a-popsicle flirty color.
6. Dry Shampoo – So your hair is hiding under that wide-brimmed hat, but your scalp is baking in sweat and oils. Dry Shampoo will save your ‘do. Invest in a travel-size, so that you can spray the roots while en route to the big stage. Try Alterna Cleanse Extend Translucent Dry Shampoo in Bamboo Leaf Scent in the 1.25 travel size ($12). If it’s good enough for Katie Holmes, it’s good enough for us!
7. Cross Shoulder Bag – Fringe is practically a prerequisite so when choosing your Coachella bag, make sure there is some boho fringe attached. And since you’ll need your hands free to pound beers (or water) and smoke herb, a cross shoulder bag is your best bet. It’s stylish and practical. Loving the JJ Winters Mini Fringe Suede Bag ($165), and apparently Alessandra Ambrosia, Vannesa Hudgens and Minka Kelly love it too.

5 Reasons That Gwyneth Paltrow Is A Beauty Icon

By | celebrity looks, inspiration | 26 Comments

Unless you live under a rock or are immune to all blogs and social media, then you are aware of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s split (insert sad face here) – or, as Gwynie so aptly refers to it, their “conscious uncoupling.”  The La Times had this to say about the Paltrow/ Martin “uncoupling”: “No matter how you spin it, divorce is a failure. It’s a failure of intention. A failure of commitment. A failure of the very thing you promised to do when you wed, which is stay together for the rest of your life. But hey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, if it makes you feel better to torture the language, have at it: Call your divorce after 11 years of marriage a “conscious uncoupling.” It’s still a failure.” Sure, aggressive words, but the internet has been ablaze with similar mockery and messages of contempt.

This is a beauty site so we’ll leave the satirical pontificating to the more opinionated social sites and channels. Instead, we’re going to take a stroll down memory lane and, on a positive note, highlight what the Goop queen has brought to the proverbial beauty table (or vanity, rather).

Here are 5 reasons that Gwyneth Paltrow is a bona fide beauty icon.

1. WWGW – What Would Gwyneth Wear? Words I’m sure 90 percent of you have asked yourself while trolling through your closets. While her attitude may turn you off, her style is most certainly inspiring. Gwyneth is one of a very select few who can rock workout clothes – even sweatpants – while still maintaining a fashionable edge (a difficult feat indeed). But I think what people – at least, myself – identify with when it comes to Gwyneth’s sartorial decisions, is that she so easily fluctuates from lax California beach girl to posh glamour queen. We can’t always flaunt a ball gown – Gwyneth proves that you can look just as chic dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt as you do walking a red carpet.

2. It is because of Gwyneth that we have the lob, or long bob. When the actress chopped her long hair to a style that rested at the shoulder blades back in 2009, a cult classic trend was born.

3. Gwyneth made Tracy Anderson a household name. Sure, you can eye-roll at her self-confessed obsession with working out (I believe she does 3 hours a day… Who has that much time to crunch abs? I digress…), but getting that dialogue going is important, especially in America’s – dare I say – lazy and overweight culture. You like Gwynie’s body? It’s attainable… with a lot of hard work (and even more money). Point is: she’s made a healthy lifestyle aspirational and attainable (purposely leaving out the recipe mockery and vegan quips).

4. She made square-shaped faces and angular jaws kind of cool.. or, at the very least, part of our beauty vernacular. While other celebrities like Demi Moore and Keira Knightley are also part of this angular grouping, it wasn’t until Gwyneth emerged onto the scene that the square-shaped face really got some air time.

5. She’s into aging naturally and she’s not afraid to show it. Sure, other celebrities have proffered similar such statements, but this Instagram photo (last photo in slideshow) of Gwyneth sans makeup, yet with some rather noticeable forehead lines, leads me to believe that she’s being authentic. And in a culture where plastic faces free of any semblance of aging are the norm, it’s refreshing to find a few fine lines on an A-lister. Women age (even celebrities) — and it’s a beautiful thing! Also to note, the actress said to British Cosmopolitan: “I don’t like Botox. I think on some faces it works, but it’s when you can really see it that it starts to look fake. I think people look at tiny patches of their face and try to fix everything — they’ve lost the plot!”

Inspiration: American Hustle Makeup

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American Hustle Makeup

In honor of Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards, we’re pulling inspiration from one of the most exciting films of the year – American Hustle. We already gave you the tools to recreate the hair, now it’s time for some tips on duplicating that glamourous makeup. Here, celebrity makeup artist Dawn Broussard (she’s worked with Emma Roberts and Milla Jovovich) breaks down the American Hustle face.

“This look had a 70’s appeal, that natural vibe while still living in the glamour of the moment. This color combination is inspired from the glamour of the era yet wearable for the modern day appeal.

First start by prepping the skin with Cle de Peau Beaute Gentle Balancing Lotion. This helps balance out the skin tone and create a seamless canvas for application.

Using the Beauty Blender makeup sponge, apply Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation for light and natural coverage. This product builds easily to medium or full coverage. Prep the upper eyelid with Koh Gen Do Moisture Concealer dabbed on lightly with fingertips. Also use this product to conceal the under eye area and any other problem areas on the face.

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Mystic Eyes is the perfect color combo to achieve that 70’s feel. It has the deep chocolate brown which I like to use around the upper and lower lash line continuing with the color into the outer crease for depth. Mixing the pink and light bronze shades across the upper lid gives a sheer color which balances out the look. I use the silver in the inner corners of the eye to add brightness. Another option if your feeling a bit more dramatic is the Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Intuition, more heavily pigmented shades for an evening look. Nars Larger Than Life Longwear Eyeliner in 47th Street (a black eyeliner with silver shimmer) is used to line the upper and lower lash line extended out from the corners a bit to create a elongated affect. To create defined, thick and longs, I like to use Chanel Inimitable Intense in Noir, or Brun for a softer look.

The heavy cheek contour was a staple yet for an everyday look try a softer, well-blended technique with Hourglass Crème to Powder Bronzer Duo in Sunset. Use the bronze for a light contour under the cheekbone area and the sheer rose shade directly above.

The lip color can contrast the look one way or another, by using a nude or berry tone. Try Tarte Lipsurgance Power Pigment in Exposed or Natural Beauty.”

Inspiration: American Hustle Hair

By | hair, inspiration | 2 Comments

Award season is my favorite time of year. Gorgeous gowns, glowing skin, and great movies. In honor of the Golden Globes (this Sunday!), we’re taking a look at one movie that is sure to lend red carpet inspiration to its leading ladies (and many other actresses): American Hustle. Here, celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa gives us two equally fetching ‘do’s inspired by the 1970’s crime drama.

The BIG Beachwave

Amy Adams (left) sported some fabulous hair in American Hustle. These waves can be achieved with a couple simple tips.

1. Start by adding a mousse, like Aussie’s Mousse + Leave-In Conditioner to damp hair and blow dry upward. This will add shine and volume all over.
2. Then go section by section and tease the root with a tension comb that will naturally add volume to the hair.
3. Using the Beachwaver [by Sarah Potempa], select left or right (based on the side of the hair you are curling) and press “GO.” This curling iron will do all the work for you to create uniform curls like Amy’s character.
4. The key to making these curls big and voluminous is to set each curl with a small duckbill silver clip.
5. To finish the look, do not brush out the curls. Simply run your fingers through to get separation.

The “GLAM” Updo

As seen on Jennifer Lawrence (right).

1. Start by applying a major volumizing product, like Aussie’s Volume Spray Gel, to the roots of damp or dry hair and blow dry upward.
2. Pull hair into a high loose bun and continue to dry to increase volume at root.
3. Then curl hair in medium size hot rollers, starting at the root and rolling back at the crown. Then roll the pieces around the face downward and away from the face to create a sweeping bang.
4. Using the Wrap-Up [by Sarah Potempa] , pull all hair (except bangs) through and roll up into a modern French twist, bending the ends in and securing with 2 bobby pins, and leaving the top out to showcase the curl on top.

About Beauty Banter
Beauty Banter was launched in July of 2006 as a comprehensive beauty blog covering trends, tips and tricks, insider secrets, and weekly must-haves. Beauty Banter has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of emerging trends and product launches so our readers are always the first to know what’s hot and what’s just not.