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Val Monroe (21 posts)
A: Nothing against big, sweet, heady fragrances, but the ones you've been trying may be too big, sweet, and heady, says Adam Eastwood, cofounder of luckyscent.com. He suggests you try something light and sheer with a citrus or white floral base (like gardenia or jasmine). But if you've already gone down that garden path and still smell a bit more indecorous than you'd like, you may be one of those people whose skin just doesn't tolerate fragrance. (Why the intolerance? There are so many variables in formulas and skin chemistry, it's probably impossible to determine.)
Calice Becker, executive perfumer at fragrance and flavor company Givaudan, has a solution: Spray your favorite fragrance in your hair, where it won't react with your skin. And because hair contains oils, it's very good at retaining scent, she says.
Keep in mind: Some fragrances are specially formulated for hair; try the sexy Serge Normant Avah Eau de Parfum ($60; sergenormant.com). For details see Shop Guide.
A: Yes, you can get better eye makeup if you pay more for it—up to a point, says cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer, founder and president of Mix Solutions in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. There are terrific options at the drugstore, home of big brands with great research and development teams. Because they're vying for your loyalty, these companies are constantly developing cutting-edge applicator and pigment technologies. At the department store, says Hammer, you'll see diminishing returns on your money: What you get is very similar to high-end drugstore brands.
Very similar, maybe, but not the same, says Anne Carullo, senior vice president of global product development at EstÉe Lauder. "The arsenal of ingredients and processes available to us aren't available to less expensive brands," she says. "We create our own pigments and coat them in a way that makes the application smoother and the wear longer, and we use a higher concentration of color." Department store brands are also likely to have more-durable packaging and include more bells and whistles. (A weighty gold compact does not equal better eyeshadow, but pulling it out of your bag can feel pleasingly luxurious.)
Keep in mind: Whether you're thrifty or extravagant, don't forget to replace your mascara every three months and your eyeshadows every two years, because they can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Answer: Dark circles are to complexion problems as frizz is to hair problems. Which is to say almost everyone is plagued by them. Circles can be caused by puffiness (often from allergies), hyperpigmentation, and blood vessels showing through the skin, says Elizabeth F. Callahan, MD, a dermatologist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida. Puffiness can be treated by taking an antihistamine and reducing your salt intake. Intense pulsed light treatment works well on hyperpigmentation; the Vbeam laser very effectively zaps blood vessels.But if you've really tried everything and nothing has worked as well as you'd like, then concealer is your best friend. Choose a concealer one or two shades lighter than your skin, says makeup artist Carmindy. Pat it directly on the discoloration and set it with a translucent powder.
Keep in mind: An eye cream can help reduce puffiness and shadows; try one containing niacin, caffeine, or green tea.
A: Though I'm all for sticking with a classic style when it suits you, if I'm remembering right (an increasingly rare event), 1983 was not a great year for hairstyles. How to break the news to your sister? Least useful phrase in response to any troubling issue, beauty related as well as psychological: "You need help." So not that. Among friends and family, my suggestions are more likely to be accepted when I attribute them to an expert. You might, then, give your sister this advice from master hairstylist Ric Pipino. Thick hair looks better when the volume is at the back and in the length of the hair, rather than at the crown or around the face. A cut with soft layers in the front and longer layers toward the back works well. A nourishing shampoo and conditioner help smooth the hair shaft (as does Wella Flowing Form Smoothing Balm, $14; wella.com for salons).
Keep in mind: Since superclean, thick hair tends to be hard to control, shampooing every two or three days rather than daily will help keep any style manageable.
A: I'm happy to tell you there is a needle-free way to soften the look of those "elevens" (that's what dermatologists call them). Because celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff works wonders with makeup (and eschews needles herself), I asked her about the techniques she might use. She starts with a topical wrinkle filler on the lines. (Dubroff recommends Olay Regenerist Filling + Sealing Wrinkle Treatment, $24; drugstores. Or try the new Algenist Targeted Deep Wrinkle Minimizer, $45; algenist.com) After the filler, she adds a light sweep of foundation. For the deepest lines, she brushes a brightening concealer right into the wrinkle. (She likes YSL Touche Éclat, $40; yslbeautyus.com. Or try Clarins Instant Light Brush-On Perfector, $30; us.clarins.com.) "Oh, and I wear bangs," she says.
Keep in mind: Regular use of a prescription retinoid can help generate collagen and elastin, preventing more wrinkles; a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid will temporarily plump up the skin; and wearing sunglasses will prevent the scowling that can deepen lines.
A: At least you can be grateful that it's not an actual 5 o'clock shadow, right? What you've got sounds like melasma, which is commonly caused by genetics or an excess of estrogen or sunlight, says Wendy E. Roberts, MD, a dermatologist in Rancho Mirage, California. (Roberts also mentions a host of other possible causes, among them a course of tetracycline, waxing, or a harsh microdermabrasion treatment.) She recommends using a prescription skin-lightening compound containing either hydroquinone, kojic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, retinols, or Lumixyl. A series of Fraxel laser treatments may also help fade the discoloration.
Keep in mind: Wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen every day will help prevent your 5 o'clock shadow from reappearing.
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A: Though I'm sure many of your fellow Ask Val readers will be envious of your problem—a "ton" of hair isn't often among their complaints—I know that styles gone flat are no fun. But there's an easy solution. It's not about creating lots of volume, says stylist Rodney Cutler, founder of the Cutler/Redken salons. Rather, you want to create movement and texture by cutting layers in a style that sweeps to one side. Though this approach works on various lengths, a cut that falls between the chin and collarbone works best, says Cutler.
As for styling products, try a spray that gives hold at the roots. Cutler recommends Redken Rootful 06 ($15.50; redken.com for salons).
Keep in mind: Product on the ends of your hair will weigh it down, so avoid it.
Maybe because the weather is getting warmer and you're thinking about the pleasures (and, evidently, the vexations) of sleevelessness, I've recently received a slew of e-mails about underarm discoloration. This problem is very common among black and Hispanic women, says Brooke Jackson, MD, medical director of the Skin Wellness Center of Chicago. It can be caused by frequent shaving, friction (if, say, your workout clothes rub against your underarms), irritation from your deodorant, or, more rarely, a hormonal condition. To solve the problem, Jackson suggests considering laser hair removal and switching to a gentle deodorant. (Try Secret Clinical Strength Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant for Sensitive Skin, $10, drugstores.)
Q: The women on TV talk shows have such gorgeous bare legs; how can I get them, too?
A: Once, as a guest on a morning television show, I was seated on the couch, nervously chatting up the hosts pre-airtime, when suddenly there was a man crouched in front of me, vigorously rubbing something on my shins. (In my experience, all kinds of freakish things that never happen in real life are likely to happen 30 seconds before you go on live TV.) My legs did look better, but I never found out what that stuff was. So I e-mailed your question to makeup artist Emily Kate Warren, and she offered this terrific advice. After you shave your legs (which helps smooth them), if you're fair, apply self-tanner to cover small imperfections like spider veins. Warren likes St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($40, sttropeztan.com) because it's easy to apply and delivers a good, golden color. Once your fake tan has completely developed, apply a bit of dry oil, which gives a natural-looking sheen but doesn't look greasy. Warren recommends Nuxe Golden Dry Oil Splash ($41, b-glowing.com). When you're feeling ambitious, you could also apply a bit of highlighter cream on your shins from below the knee to just above the ankle, which will make your legs look longer. If there's no time for a self-tanner, try Givenchy Mister Radiant Body ($49, sephora.com), a gel that gives you a hint of slightly pearly color and washes off in the shower.