Let’s Talk About Batch Codes.

Look.  I buy a lot on line.  Most of my clothing and many of my cosmetics.  Generally, when I buy makeup I buy directly from the sellers website, from a pro site like Camera Ready Cosmetics, or from a place that has convenient return locations like Sephora.com.  But sometimes for my more basic skincare needs I just opt to use my Amazon Prime account.

Now, I love my Amazon, and I love getting things in two days, but I feel taken advantage of after my last order came.  Now, I do have faith that Amazon customer service will be good to me, and I understand that Amazon is a complicated world where sometimes it is easy to have your products coming from places you didn’t expect, but that is why it is important to be proactive and look out for yourself.

When I got my package there was an immediate red flag.  The package looked a little beat up and said “New” on it, when I knew the product had been around for a decent while… DIVERSION!, my heart yelled!  And as all the horror stories beauty professionals hear about people dumpster diving to obtain and sell old product, sometimes changing the products composition by adding water or even more questionable substances.  But I kept it cool, because I knew the logical next step which is…

Checking the batch code

I highly recommend checking batch codes on products you buy, especially if you feel like you really scored a deal at one of those stores that buys last seasons clothes and sells them at a super cheap price.  And you know what, some of the products under your sink that you’ve had for awhile, it really wouldn’t hurt to see how old they are.  I’m not saying you need to throw out everything that’s expired… but wouldn’t you rather know?

So when you look at the bottle there is usually a barcode somewhere and then an area where the company lists all the company information (address, website, etc.) with some random numbers.  Neither of these are the batch code.

The batch code is between 3 and 11 numbers (sometimes letters) and is usually either located near the barcode, near the company information, or on the bottom.  The way you can tell it is the batch code is that it looks like it was stamped on after the packaging was made.  The other numbers are part of the packaging.

They look like this:

or this:

or sometimes this:

All these pictures are from CheckFresh.com, which brings me to the next point: what to do with batch numbers.  Go to Check Fresh, or other sites (Google “Check Batch Code” and you will find some).  Check Fresh will have more examples of what to look like if you aren’t sure where the code is, and then you can select the manufacturer from the drop down menu and it will tell you what the batch code means.

Don’t try to figure it out yourself unless you know first hand about how batch codes work for that specific company.  It’s really complicated and convoluted, and every company does it in a very strange and different way.

In some cases you may need to find the “parent company.”  For example, when I was checking my Philosophy products, I couldn’t select “Philosophy” from the drop down menu, so I looked up who they are owned by and sure enough, “Coty” was on the drop down menu.

Looked REALLY hard and can’t find a batch code?  Run!  In some cases of diversion, batch codes are scratched off.  To me, if the product is trying that hard to conceal its age, it is probably much, much older than it looks.  And probably smells funny too.

So now you have the date the product was made, so what?

Different types of products have different shelf lives.  Some will have a label for how long they last after opening, which is called the PAO (period after opening).  It looks like this:

The FDA doesn’t have any specific requirements for how old is too old.  They leave it up to the manufacturers.

Generally cosmetic companies print an expiration date if the product is expected to expire within 30 months (2.5 years), so if the batch code is within a couple years you are probably good.  You can always contact customer care if you want to know about your specific product’s shelf life or PAO.  (But who has time for that?)

If you ask CheckCosmetic.net, another good batch code site, about PAO, they say that generally:

Perfumes, perfume, edp – up to 3 years;
Powders (including blush, eyeshadows powdery texture) – 1 to 3 years;
Foundation in a jar or a cream powder – 1 to 3 years;
Liquid tone means (in tubes or jars with dispenser) – 1 year;
Nail polish – 1 year;
Sun cosmetics – 1 year (but no more than one season);
Lipstick, lip gloss – 1 year;
Pencil (Eye, Lip) – about 1 year;
Skin care products (hydrating cosmetics, wrinkle, eye contour) in a sealed packet with the pump – about a year, in a jar – from 6 to 10 months;
Solid eyeliner and eyebrow pencil – from 6 to 8 months;
Bronzing – 6 months;
Mascara – 3-6 months;
Liquid eyeliner – from 3 to 4 months;
Natural/Organic products – up to 6 months.

This is fairly standard but some will say that powders can last longer.  General rule is once you notice a change in the product it is probably bad.  For example, the texture of a foundation getting really clumpy or a funky smell in your skin cream.

But this is for how long after opening.  If it is a new product that you’ve never tried before and so you don’t really know the texture it is supposed to be… use your judgement.  I mean no matter what use your judgement.  Don’t listen to me!  Use your senses and see if it feels ok.  But if you ask me, buying something new that was made five years ago, it probably isn’t going to work as well and may be full of bacteria and other nasty stuff, so watch out!  I think 3-4 years for skin care is grey area but a lot of cautious people would say to throw it out!

Also think about the type of product.  Some say powders can be relatively fresh for 5+ years, where foundations and skin creams would ideally have been made within 2-3 years.  Mascara?  I probably wouldn’t touch it if it was made over 2 years ago.  It’s in your EYES every day!  Gross.

Too lazy to check batch codes, but don’t want to use rancid products?

I’ve probably made all this sound like a lot of work.  Too much hassle?  That’s fine.  Buy from trustworthy sources and you don’t have to worry about it.  For hair (and usually makeup and skin care), buy from local salons and beauty stores you trust.  Places that specialize in beauty and take pride in their reputation.  Target is great for a lot of things, but I have seen diverted haircare there.  CVS or other pharmacies?  Some are probably squeaky clean on this, but I have seen some pretty old looking product at some of these places.Everything I’ve said should be combined with your own common sense.  Don’t just trust random online suppliers.  Use old product if you want to (yes, I’m talking to YOU middle-aged woman who stockpiled 10 years worth of foundation and/or lipstick when you found that your shade would be discontinued).  Just understand that old product will, best case scenario, not perform as well as intended, and worst case scenario, be full of bacteria or even be toxic to the skin.

New blow dryer: X:Q onyx by Velecta Paramount Paris (envy+ onyx)

A few years ago I reviewed the Velecta Paramount Paris 4000i blow dryer.  I have to say, I was not easy on that dryer.  It had travelled extensively with me and had been dropped on a couple occasions.  It lasted over two years, which was past the warranty, but I had a great experience with GroomIt Industries, who repaired it for $50 (which included shipping back to me, but not the shipping that it took to get it there).  So now I am happy to have two Velecta Paramount Paris blow dryers and a quick and inexpensive contact for fixing them.

Before my 4000i went out, I had started eyeing the X:Q onyx.  The specs are similar to the 4000i, but only 80mph windspeed instead of 81mph.  So… not a big deal.  The main difference is the silencer on the back of the blow dryer.  My main love on the 4000i was the small body, but due to the extremely ergonomic placement of the handle, all of the extra bulk doesn’t really impact my grip.  Weight-wise, it is an extremely balanced blow dryer.

Below is the European version.  Mine looks the same, just with a different name.  Check out the specs on the official website.

This blow dryer is relatively expensive, but due to the ease and cheapness of fixing it, I think it is worth it.  And two years seems to be on the long end of average for professional blow dryers that are used all day, every day.  With my pro discount, it was $200 plus tax, about $50 more than the last one, but I would say it is worth it for how quiet this dryer is.  I also think the cold shot is less stiff on this one, but perhaps that was just because the other one was old.

Another tip I’ve gotten through this process was not to put the blow dryer nozzle directly on the hair.  When I spoke on the phone with GroomIt Industries, I asked the (very nice) man for advice on helping my blow dryer last as long as possible.  He mentioned how platform artists always put the nozzle directly onto the hair and brush and how that is very bad for the blow dryer, and allowing a small amount of space can help the blow dryer a lot.  And obviously, he said blow dryers don’t like being dropped 😉

Quick at Home Tips for Blow Drying Fine, Limp Hair

Hey all!  Just wanted to share a few tips that I often share with clients in the salon, as well as stylists that attend my Nioxin classes =)

First of all, when I am talking about fine hair, I am talking about hair that has a very small diameter.  A lot of clients who have dense, fine hair—a ton of hair but the hairs are all small (and usually limp)—have to deal with a lot of the same concerns as people with sparse, fine hair.

1)  Use light product!  I love Nioxin products, especially the Diamax at the root, followed by either Bodifying Foam or Thickening Gel roots to ends, but this post isn’t about product, it’s about technique.  Whatever you use make sure it has been formulated for fine hair, even if you have dense, fine hair.  Many with fine hair try to go without product due to their hair being weighed down, but I recommend using something.  Fine hair is generally more delicate because there are fewer layers of the cuticle.  The cuticle is made up of the protective, outer layers of the hair.  When hair looks fuzzy or feels rough, it is from the cuticle being popped open, dried out or damaged.  Nioxin’s Therm Activ Spray is also incredible as very light weight, yet silkening, thermal protection.

2)  Assess the root area.  Some hair grows out of the head like this:   |  ;  other hair grows out of the head like this: \  ; and other hair grows out of the head like this:  — .  If the hair is growing out of the follicle very flat in one direction, the hair will tend to lie more flat.  This is also where you see the cause of cowlicks.  Since fine hair usually dries quickly (unless it is extremely dense), it is important to dry the root area first.  Making sure the root is lifted off the head and any strong growth directions are neutralized is the key to a great blow dry!  If you don’t want to dry your hair thoroughly, just focus on the root.  Flipping your head upside down will add temporary volume but if the root is not dry then as it dries, it will fall down.  Use medium or low heat at the root area if you have delicate hair.

3)  Remember that hair is pliable when it is wet or hot.  When I blow dry the root area, I generally do so with my hand.  I start at one side of the head and blow the hair in different directions so it lifts off the head and doesn’t stick together too much and then I let the section cool in the opposite direction of where I will want it to lay.  That way it is cooling down and setting while I work on the next section.  Moving the hair back and forth in different directions will add volume and smoothness.  The technique is called wrap drying.  If you have a lot of breakage near the front hairline you may not want to wrap dry that part.  Just blow those pieces where you want them to go if they are short and pokey.  If they are longer it is usually fine to wrap dry.

4)  When working with a round brush, make sure the nozzle is going in the same direction as the hair.  The cuticle is like a bunch of scales that fold over each other, so if the nozzle is directing air down the hair shaft it will smooth the cuticle.  Roll the hair on the brush and as the hair is cooling gently spin it off of the brush, if you can.

5)  Be realistic and appreciate what you have!  Focus on width, rather than height, when working with a brush because it is a more attainable way to get fullness into the hair.  Not only is it more doable, it also creates a more modern look.

Questions?  Comment below or come visit me at Jose Luis in Austin, TX.

The Importance of Using Products Effectively, Part II

Sometimes we try products that we have only heard marvelous things about and we hate them. Sometimes products that work well on others don’t work for us, but before you through away that high end foundation, try putting it on a different way. This is a troubleshooting post for everyone out there that just can’t get their facial products to work for them.

Skincare
People go for power, power, power in their products. But for skin care it is not about power, it is about balance. I see a lot of people that over exfoliate and have issues with redness, and others who under exfoliate and their skin is dry, dull and lifeless. You don’t need salicylic acid in your face wash if you only occasionally breakout, or for one or two pimples. Be kind to your skin! A lot of issues people have with their foundation is due to over or under exfoliating. Healthy skin is always the first step.

Similarly, a lot of people over or under moisturize. Plump skin is all about a healthy balance of oil and water. Drink lots of water and use a moisturizer that is appropriate for your skin. Even people with oily skin should moisturize.

With moisturizer, it is also important to know when to use it. Some will work better at night but might be too slick under makeup. Most are more effective on slightly damp skin, but will be diluted if your face is too wet or won’t soak in if your skin is too dry. If you haven’t exfoliated, the roughed up surface skin can keep the moisturizer from penetrating your skin.

Foundation
There are so many ways to apply foundation. Before returning or throwing out a nice foundation, always experiment with application. Some foundations can appear too heavy if you use too much. Dotting the foundation onto your forehead, nose and a few dots on your cheeks can be enough and then blend. A lot of people only need foundation on certain parts of their face, so on some people I just focus around eyes, on cheeks and over nose then blend outward. Sometimes blending with your hands can push the product around without much control, in which case a brush or sponge my work better. A makeup sponge will give maximum coverage. Always tap the product on rather than wiping. On some people a brush will cause microexfoliation (flaking).

Also, know whether a foundation needs a primer. Most are designed to work best with a primer these days, but through reviews and research you can sometimes see how necessary it is. Sometimes moisturizer and primer under foundation is just too much. Also, not all primers are equal. So a primer that works well with one foundation might not work with another. They can literally separate like oil and water.

If your foundation is oxidizing (turning orange over the course of the day) sometimes primer or setting powder will help. Some just do and if so, toss it.

Concealer
As I said before with primer, when you mix brands sometimes products don’t sit well together. For example a water based foundation and an oil based concealer might separate, so watch out. Some concealers are better for the undereye area and others are more focused on blemishes and dark spots. Always think about your goal for your concealer, as some will be heavier with more of a makeup feel.

A good brush can make all the difference with concealer. A good rule of thumb is to have the brush be a similar size to what you are trying to conceal, so a tiny brush for pimples and a more small/medium size one for undereyes. Make sure you aren’t getting reverse circles by painting too far outside the lines, especially if you out concealer on after foundation.

Make sure not to use too much, as it can cause flaking or creasing, make sure the undertone is right. I know some people recommend two shades lighter but that isn’t necessarily what you want, depending on your skill set and intention.

A lot of creamier concealers work better if they are first warmed on the back of your hand.

Dabbing concealer with a sponge or tissue after application can help keep it from moving, but removing excess oil.

Powder
Not all powders are the same. Some can be made to have as much coverage of a foundation, others are merely for setting. Also know that some you can use a lot and others must be used sparingly. Also remember that some foundations are meant to set without powder.

Some powders can be used alone or to set foundation, in which case the brush is very important. To get coverage out of a powder foundation you want an extremely dense brush. I have a small mineral brush from Sephora that looks kinda like a little kabuki brush with a long handle. I love it and I can get so much coverage. It is very soft and I can just buff and buff and with my Smashbox powder, it looks like skin. Sometimes I use my powder to set instead or to add just a touch more coverage and I use a fluffy powder brush. With setting, be careful not to wipe the foundation around, use a soft, dabbing motion and a light hand. Sometimes dabbing foundation and concealer with a tissue first will help remove excess oil before powder to prevent clumpy looking powder.

Eyeshadow, Brow Products, Liner
Experiment with primer and brushes if your eyeshadow isn’t “working.” For brows, experiment with brushes. Even if it is more of a pencil type product, you will probably want to smudge it with a brush. Most eyeliners will have better staying power if you set them with black or brown (or whatever) eyeshadow after applying. Some look better when smudged with a brush.

The Importance of Using Products Effectively, Part I

We’ve all done it. We see someone’s makeup or hair and immediately have to know what they are using. We read reviews online, we ask people we trust and we buy, buy, buy. But no matter how great something looks on someone else, sometimes it is not right for us. However, if you are repeatedly trying new products that are highly endorsed by sources you trust and you are not seeing the results you want, sometimes the issue isn’t the product, it might be the application.

I can’t tell you that there is exactly one way to do anything, but I am going to go through some different product types and give some different tips and tricks!

Mousse, Gel and other Form-Building Products

Some products are more for detailing and others are more for structure. The most important thing for structure supporting products like mousse and gel is to make sure they are thoroughly dispersed through the hair, especially inside of the hair. In really dense hair, it can be difficult to get product throughout the interior of the hair. A lot of people will just take the product and plop it on the surface of their hair, which will cause the weight of the product to collapse the shape of the hair, and can even make it crispy in places. I always emulsify the product through my palms and fingertips and then start at the back hairline and massage the product through the root area and then pull it through the ends. That way the majority of product is on the interior and then the product is lighter through the ends. You can always go back in and put more product on the ends, but it is harder to get inside the hair once there is a lot of product on the ends.

Product will not create the maximum volume unless it gets to the roots. If you aren’t getting the root dry during your blowout, your hair will flatten as it continues to dry. So be sure that the root is going in the direction you want while you are pre-drying your hair before you pull out a round brush.

Pomades, Clays, Waxes and Putties

These are the detailing products.  If it comes in a tub, it probably fits in this category. For short hair styling it is important to start with small amounts of products and thoroughly emulsify the products in your hands before going into the hair. Also, like above, you need to really press the product into the interior of the hair. To get that tousled look you really want to give yourself a little scalp massage with the product. If you focus on the ends it will just be weighed down. Detail ends with the product left on your hands after you have already pressed the majority into the root area. For controlled looks you still want to press the product all throughout the hair, root to end, but make sure to continuously direct it in the direction you want it to go.

For medium or long hair, make sure not to use too much as it can weigh the hair down. Sometimes that is the goal, but you don’t want the hair to look droopy. Start small and emulsify into your hands. You can always go back for more product afterwards.

Hairspray

First of all, use the correct spray for your needs! A common mistake is to reach for the most intense spray possible, but sometimes stronger sprays will collapse the hair instead of keeping the volume.

For use with hot tools, use a light to medium hold working spray and don’t hold the can too close to your head. Make sure it is evenly distributed and try not to overdo it. You don’t want your hair crunchy! Too much spray while working can just cause the flyaways to be stickier and crispier. I prefer Shaper Zero Gravity for curling iron sets.

The really tacky firm sprays are more for flyaways on slicked back hair. Mist hair with spray then smooth flyaways with tail comb.

For volume at root you can spray a medium-firm spray on partings (like where you would tease) and even hit it with the blow dryer to dry spray into the hair. I do this when I tease but it can be done without teasing, too.

Finish with a mist of spray that is suited to your hair type. Lighter sprays for fine hair and firmer sprays as needed for thicker hair. Remember that spraying hair at the end will help seal a look, but to really help it hold it is important to use other products to create the form before that last step. Without the structural support of mousse or gel, it will fall. A firm structure will keep it from collapsing.

Oils and Shine Serums

Know the weight of the product you are using. A lot of these products are easy to get carried away with. Don’t for a second think that since you have used one oil or shine serum that others will react to your hair the same way. Some are very heavy and it is important to use small amounts. Some are better put in wet, others dry, and still others can be used both ways. Some oils will feel like they aren’t there at all until all of a sudden there is way too much. Always start with the manufacturers’ instructions and then go from there.

When in Doubt, Read

Some products are activated when they are shaken. Others look like they would go in wet but go in dry and vice versa. Some are focused at the root (although, you should always pay attention to the root). Some look like one type of product but they are something else. A lot of times the directions will hint at the amount you should use, which can be crucial. Don’t say a product is too heavy until you have tried using less and really focusing where you are putting it, and don’t say something is too light until you have tried using more.  Products are your friends.  Be patient with them and pay attention to the feedback you are getting.  And when in doubt, ask your hairstylist.

Stay tuned for Part II, with makeup application tips.

“But I don’t DO anything to my hair! Why is it so damaged?”

I hear exactly this sentiment from about a third of my long haired clients. So let me explain how hair can get damaged even if you don’t use heat tools or color it. Some of these are big shockers to my clients!

1. Putting your hair up into one of those towel turbans after the shower. Towels are very heavy, especially when wet, and that is a ton of weight to put on your hairline, where the hair is already the most fragile.

2. Never brushing or combing your hair. A lot of long hair clients will put their hair back in a messy bun when it is still dripping wet and just leave it up until their next shower, where they rip through the knots while shampooing. Except for some of the curliest of curly haired folks, you need to get that brush though those strands. Brushing is great for hair!

3. ALWAYS having hair up in a bun/pony tail. Elastic bands are not great for hair for continuous usage. If you always have your hair back get a butterfly clip or something that won’t pull it as tightly. Braids are also wonderful. Styling hair (yes, even blow drying and flat ironing) can be great for your hair as long as you are using heat protectant, since you are thoroughly distributing the oil though your hair and stimulating the scalp from continuously brushing/combing.  And let’s be real, the scalp can get really weird really quickly if it is always wet… I’m talking fungus weird!

4. NEVER using product. I’m not sure where the rumor went out that product is bad for your hair…? If you use a product suitable for your hair it will not only look better right away, it will also protect your hair from the elements.

5. Never getting it cut. This one should be obvious, but doesn’t seem to be.  As hair travels through the world, the ends get battered by wind, water, changing clothes… everything!  The ends fray and if those ends aren’t cut, they travel up and up and cause tangles and the tangles cause more damage.  It’s a vicious cycle.

6. Not getting color. This is a strange one because, yes, some colors can cause damage, especially if poorly formulated, but a demi or semi permanent color can work wonders for the hair, adding shine, improving texture and sealing down the cuticle. Consider a clear gloss!  Even gray coverage goes a long way toward evening out the texture of salt and pepper hair.

7. Not conditioning enough. Many of my long hair clients should be getting a conditioning treatment at least once a month, either in salon or with a quality at home mask. Just conditioning in the shower a few minutes is probably not enough. The bottoms of your hair may have been with you two, maybe even three or four years! Give ’em some love. Leave-in conditioners and styling conditioners can work wonders for smoothing, silkening and protecting! Check out Potion 9 from Sebastian.

ADDITIONALLY, a leave-in conditioner is wonderful for protecting hair against sun, chlorine and saltwater!

Don’t we all just want beautiful, healthy hair?

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Sydney Perez of Taxi Talent, Photo by Megan Gardner Photography, Hair and Makeup by Rachel Lynn Carr (me)

Eyeliner Challenge

Hey everyone, summer is a great time to play around with new looks. One thing I have noticed lately is how eyeliner, more than anything else, seems to get ladies in ruts. There are so many different ways to wear eyeliner. I want to challenge women everywhere to take this month just to play around with different colors, textures and techniques. It seems like women will change blush color, lip color, eyeshadow, try different products on their brow… But however they started doing their eyeliner in middle school, high school or college, that is how it stays until middle age. Life is too short.

If you are me up and try some new methods of defining your eyes, give it a few days before you say yay or nay to the different methods.

A few thoughts on different styles, and inspiration for new methods:

– If you use very crisp eyeliner consider softening it or blending it out with a darker eyeshadow. A soft eyeliner line can make the eyes look less lined, with simply the illusion of longer lashes.

– If you always have soft/smudged liner, try something crisper, like a sharper pencil, a gel or a liquid. Eyeliner pens like Stila or Eyeko are great for people who want to try a crisp line but have trouble with liquid liner.

– Remember, it isn’t a black and white issue. Crisp and soft are too extremes and anything in between is possible!

– Try a different color. If you have light coloring maybe try a brown or charcoal over black liner. If you have dark eyes, maybe pop them with a bright color, or a subtle color like a deep green or blue.

– If you always line your lower waterline, experiment with keeping it natural. You can also line it with a white or peach colored pencil. This will wake up your eyes, draw light to them and give them the illusion of being even bigger. It is also a softer look. If you have always done the lower waterline I would recommend smudging a dark shadow under the lash line just so your eyes don’t feel too light, but this will give you a fresh new look. Personally, I think liner on the lower waterline looks too harsh unless it is supported/balanced by more eye makeup on the top, like a smoky eye. The problem is compounded by the fact that it often doesn’t last well. I always recommend very soft liner or just smudged shadow on the bottom, for a softer, fresher look. Give it a shot!

– Play with shapes. Some people feel like there are only a few options for eyeliner, when there are so many different variations. Some are afraid of a slight wing because they don’t want to have that “retro” look but a slight, soft, smudged wing can extend the eyes without a huge statement. Winged eyeliner can also curve up more or less depending on the illusion and statement you’re going for. If your eyes turn up at the outer corners you can even experiment with letting the line extend slightly downward at the outer corner for a balanced, modern look. So many options.

– Play with line thickness by using different brushes or products if they are available to you. A dark eyeshadow and a wet brush will do the trick. A thicker line in the center of the eye gives the illusion of rounder eyes. A thicker line at the outer corner will make them appear slightly more oval.

– Rim more or less of the eyes. You can go a third of the way in, two thirds, all the way along the lashes or even all the way to the tear duct (the last one is not recommended for most daytime looks). I generally recommend following the lash line on top and bottom but keeping the line at the inner corners very thin.

– If you have a more vibrant style, do a darker, neutral liner with a crisp line of color right on top. You can do either color first. If you do the dark liner first with the color on top, it will tone down the darker color.

– Try lining the upper water line. Your lashes will look so long!

Have fun! And remember, there is no one right way so loosen up and experiment! A great way to reconnect with yourself in the mirror.

Post pictures and comment with results!

Here is a picture of Mary with a soft winged liner look. Photo by Megan Gardner.

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