Makeup 101: A Guide for the Cosmetically Challenged


That was then, this is now…Event photos from before and after my “intervention”.

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I have always had an eye for fashion. As young as 11 I was doing my own laundry, not because my mother insisted, but because I decided that my clothes were far too important and delicate to trust to anybody else. I saved every penny to take to stores like Benetton and buy coordinated outfits that I saw on the mannequins or in catalogs. When I was old enough to work I got a job at the GAP, where I would hide sweaters in drawers until my paycheck came. The job was supposed to supply my gas money, but looking back I don’t think I brought one red cent home.

My penchant for clothing made me the “go to” of my friends for styling advice. Even today they occasionally ask me what to wear here or there. However, my expertise of style has always stopped at the neck. I can pick out the right outfit with my eyes closed, but those closed lids seldom had the right color, contour, or contrast. You see, if clothing was my English, makeup was my Japanese. All those colors, textures, and finishes melded into one completely foreign language that I couldn’t understand. Toss in some skin-care and I fully exited the conversation.

I still don’t know why I find makeup so intimidating. I think a lot of it has to do with me being such a minimalist. I like everything in my life to be uncomplicated and take very little time. I can’t be bothered with a few extra minutes to even properly wash my face at night, as by the time I finally get to bed it’s more of a collapse and not a climb in. Being a minimalist I also shy away from anything that looks too unnatural. I love the way some of the bold shadows we see on The Real Housewives of Miami and The Real Housewives of New Jersey look…but I love the way it looks on those women. If I try to wear these looks myself I feel like I’m in a costume pretending to be something I’m not; like a child awkwardly shuffling in her mother’s heels. I prefer to wear what fits, disco glitter eyeballs just never seemed to fit me.

I thought I was doing okay with my minimal routine. I covered my blemishes, tossed on a little blush, shadow, liner, mascara, and gloss. If it was summer I used even less, often just coating my lashes in mascara and calling it a day. Nobody ever said anything, except maybe my mother with,”You’re going to the grocery store, put some makeup on.” This always made me chuckle since usually I go to the grocery store after a run looking like a hot mess (ironically the gym is where I do feel the MOST attractive and I never wear any makeup there). Then TBB happened and I ended up on the event circuit and in photographs…lots and lots of photographs. People, the camera never lies.

I will never forget that first reader criticism, “Who does your makeup? They should be fired!” Who does my makeup? I do…should I fire myself? Despite what many people think I don’t have the financial means to hire my own makeup artist, but I knew I needed an intervention. I turned to Nicole Lotito of for help. I met Nicole through the event circuit and I knew she was somebody who would not only tell me what I needed so desperately to hear, but help me navigate that sea of never-ending products that I often found so overwhelming. “You are interviewing these women who have their makeup professionally done, frankly, you need to step it up.” Together with Terry Maher of Terry’s Mane Street Salon  in North Haledon, NJ; Nicole and her business parter Elaine Gizler whipped me into shape.

While Terry brightened my blonde and gave me a more flattering cut, Nicole and Elaine circled around me with brushes and potions like fairies performing an enchantment. They swiped things on, wiped them off, had me open my eyes, close my eyes, put things on my hands. Inside I was panicking. Was I going to end up looking like I was wearing a costume? I am not the false eyelash, flowing extension type and in my heart I know I never could be. Would they respect that? Do I have to change? Much to my relief the answer was no. In keeping with my minimalist personality all the women put together a natural look for me. It was me, but enhanced. But could I keep it up on my own? My homework was to spend more time prepping for my next event while using some of the products on my own and sending a selfie  before I departed. I’m happy to say I’m a good student. I passed.

Now months later nobody is commenting on my lack of a makeup artist. Recently a reader said, “Look how far you’ve come. You look so glam now.” Never being one to exaggerate the truth or even hide the truth I wanted to share what I’ve been using in case any of you are as esthetically challenged as I am when it comes to cosmetics. Below is a list of EXACTLY what I’ve been using. I have not been paid or even contacted by any of these companies, so rest assured there are no endorsement deals (how I wish there were) coloring my opinion. Without further ado here is a simple shopping list that will work for almost any girl with any skin type:

Some of my fave products for looking red carpet ready!

Some of my fave products for looking red carpet ready!

1. Moisturizer– I don’t care what kind you use. I honestly use whatever I have on hand, however I’m still using the Baby Face Cream from Pearl World Inc. who sponsored a giveaway with us several months back. I moisturize before I apply my makeup (and occasionally before bed…if I remember)

2. Primer– One thing I never knew before was how important primer is. I still haven’t been converted to eyeshadow primer; (Another product and step? No thank you!)  but Nicole and Elaine taught me that using a foundation primer after my moisturizer would not only make my pores appear smaller, but make my foundation last longer. They recommended Photo Finish Foundation Primer  by  Smashbox. A little pricey (available at Sephora  in the $40 range) but it’s worth it. You really only need a very tiny bit. I’ve had the same bottle since March and I’m not even a quarter through it. I don’t use it everyday, only for events and special occasions.

*Since this product is silicone based and does seal my pores I always make sure to wash it off.

3. Foundation– I still stick with Bare Minerals foundation which I’ve used for several years. It doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin and with the right brushes (and sometimes a bit of water) can double as coverup too. Plus the infomercial says you can run and sleep in it…which I confess I sometimes (okay often) do.

4. Blush– A few years ago a friend posted some pictures on Facebook after announcing she was pregnant. She was glowing and I mentioned how much her pregnancy agreed with her. She commented back “It’s actually my new blush!” That blush was  Orgasm by Nars. It’s all I use and it lives up to its name giving all cheeks that “you know what just happened” glow.

5. Shadow– Believe me when I say I have tried them all. Drugstore, department store, trendy, but recently I think I finally found my staple. I asked Stephanie Soper of  to recommend a good palette. I’d given up on single pots long ago as they created too much clutter for my taste. Stephanie suggested Urban Decay’s Naked Basics. I’ve instantly fallen in love. Each tone is natural and goes from dark to light. Everything is in there for highlighting, shading, even lining (I never buy eyeliner, I use shadow and a very thin square brush). Spring for the larger palette and get a couple of funky shades in there too.

6. Mascara– I used to use whatever random mascara came in my freebie with purchase package. Years ago my friend Paulette turned me on to Dior Show  and I haven’t touched a freebie since. I use the Noir which is a very thick dark black. It’s the closest thing I can find to using false lashes…which never will be for me.

7. Luminizer– I’m smitten for the Satin Luster Face Palette by Fresh. Three shades (white, peach, pink) to highlight cheekbone, lids, I even sometimes run some down the bridge of my nose. Unfortunately my local Sephora no longer carries it and I lost my almost new one on my last trip to the Hamptons. When I have the extra cash I’ll have to order it online.

8. Lipstick– Since I use warm natural tones on my eyes my lips are where I choose to add my pop of color. Though pricey for lipstick my heart belongs to Chanel’s Gabrielle which is my go-to-red.

9. Lipgloss– As much as I love my signature red it isn’t practical, or appropriate, for everyday use. For the average day I stick with Rose lipgloss by Bare Minerals. It’s a warm tone that enhances my natural lip color.

10. Removal– Baby-wipes. Hey old habits die hard. They are quick, easy, and with twin toddlers I’ve always got plenty available.

So there you have it. No secrets, not magic tricks, just a simple list of products that are so neutral they have the ability to work with a multitude of skin tones, no makeup artist needed!

Did my advice help you or do you have a fave product you’d like to tell others about? Leave a comment below about your makeup trials and tribulations: