Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Style Page interviews Lubna Khalid of Real Cosmetics


The Style Page recently spoke with Lubna Khalid, founder and CEO of Real Cosmetics. The Real Cosmetics product line currently consists of foundations, pressed powders, and lipsticks designed to flatter all women.

Real Cosmetics foundation and pressed powder shades are grouped into four “families”: Olive, Golden, Red-Gold, and Red-Brown. These shades were developed and tested by trial and error on women of all skin tones in the Berkeley, CA area, where Lubna studied at the University of California. She said that this approach was opposite of how many cosmetics companies develop makeup shades, by first taking an existing shade and deepening it.

Pressed powder compacts from Real Cosmetics

When Lubna founded Real Cosmetics in 1999, she started with the concept of real beauty for real women – years before Dove instituted the concept for its marketing campaign. One challenge in starting a new cosmetics line was finding investors: not many investors wanted to invest in tangible products during the boom. Another challenge was finding retailers, but Lubna succeeded in getting Sephora and select Nordstrom stores to sell Real Cosmetics.

Lubna says that her lifetime goal is to “revolutionize the way that society views beauty and to connect and empower women globally.” She seeks societal acceptance of women of all skin tones and body types. Women should be viewed holistically, with beauty coming from within.

Skin tones

I asked Lubna why she thought that many people in Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia have a prejudice for fair complexions. As a graduate of UC-Berkeley with a degree in marketing and ethnic studies, Lubna had researched that topic and had definite views. She noted that beauty was a construction of media. In many countries, the prejudice for fair complexions was part of the colonial legacy. It is also a class issue, as dark skin is associated with laborers who are exposed to the sun. For slaves, “passing for white” was a ticket to freedom, which is also why practices such as “relaxing” hair evolved. In short, the prejudice for fair complexions is tied to the historical, social, and political context.

At the same, many women with light skin tones want to be tanned. This can also be tied to social context, as it conveys the idea that they have the leisure to go on vacation to sunny places. Here is another example how women want to change their natural skin tone.

My conversation with Lubna segued into a discussion on skin-lightening cream, which is a best-selling cosmetic in many parts of the world. An ad for Fair & Lovely, the best-selling skin lightening cream in Pakistan and India, promised “a fairer skin in days, and more than that, a perfect life: a sure-shot at a husband, a super job and instant acceptance” – for more, see the article The White Complex from Little India. Lubna said that she doesn’t believe in skin lightening creams, as it conveys the idea a woman’s natural skin tone is not beautiful. More specifically, she objects to fear-based marketing, such as that employed by Fair & Lovely. She conceded that skin lightening creams do serve a purpose for making the complexion more even: in that case, the creams should be marketed to treat hyperpigmentation.

Lubna is excited about a projected relaunch of the Real brand. She has a new partner with over 30 years of experience in the cosmetics industry who complements her vision. The relaunch will feature not only an expanded makeup and color range, but also fragrance and skin and body care, for a total of 300 products. Currently, Lubna is seeking capitol to roll out franchise stores featuring the expanded line, using the same retail concept as The Body Shop (the late Anita Roddick is a major inspiration).

Real Cosmetics lipsticks come in sheer, semi-matte, and frost formulas

In the meantime, you may buy Real Cosmetics makeup, pressed powder, and lipstick through the Real Cosmetics web site at Lubna is extending a 20% discount to readers of The Style Page good through October 31. To take advantage of this offer, mention "The Style Page" in the notes section of the shopping cart.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Special 15% off jewelry from Anne Maa Designs

Anne Maa Designs is offering readers of The Style Page 15% off all jewelry on its web site through October 31, 2007. To take advantage of this discount, enter style upon checkout from its e-store.

Smokey lemon quartz ring

Standouts from Anne Maa Designs include rings with wire-wrapped stones (I'm partial to the smoky lemon quartz ring shown above) and rings with geodes set in them (see our navigation bar at left). Anne Maa Designs's Metal collection features necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings in sterling silver with a distinct primitive organic look.

Select offerings from Anne Maa Designs Metal Collection:
Crater Cuff, and Rough Amethyst Chunk Ring

This 15% offer is good until October 31. Hurry now to buy - dare I say that the holidays are sooner than you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finding cosmetics for African-American women

Here's a good article from about finding cosmetics for African-American women at drugstores and other venues. Especially valuable is the review of foundations from Iman, CG Queen Collection from Cover Girl, L'Oreal HIP, and L'Oreal True Match.

If you're a "woman of color" (a marketing rubric to encompass women whose origins come from elsewhere than Europe), do you prefer to shop a brand targeted toward women of color or one that appeals to everyone? Why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Style Page interview with celebrity makeup artist Matin - Part 1

Matin Maulawizada
The Style Page is pleased to present an exclusive interview with celebrity makeup artist Matin (pronounced mah-TEEN) Maulawizada. Matin has an impressive list of credits: his work has been featured in InStyle as well as other major fashion and beauty magazines and his client list includes Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, Liv Tyler, Reese Witherspoon, Salma Hayek, and Shakira. A more comprehensive list of credits may be found by selecting this link.

Because of the length and range of the interview, it will be split over three postings. This post focuses on his upbringing in Afghanistan and what he learned about beauty in Afghanistan.

1. Your biography states that you have six sisters. Were you the only boy?

Yes, I am the only boy.

2. What was your first language?

It is called Dari. A language spoken in Afghanistan and a few other central Asian countries inhabited by Tadjik tribes.

3. What beauty rituals did you observe your mother, sisters, and other female relatives do? A magazine article said that you learned threading by watching your female relatives, but were there any others? What about mehndi (henna), lining the eyes with kajal?

Yes, I learned most of beauty trick watching my sisters go at it decades after decades. My mom would be running around with a masque on her face ordering the staff at the house on what to do and what to cook, a sister would be screaming from pain of waxing her leg, the other would be threading her upper lip, yet another one would be painting her face… It was NICE ;-). My main inspirations were my sister Mina who did incredible eye make-up on herself in the 60’s and 70’s. She cross dressed she had a Beetles style haircut until 11th grade, then did a complete turn and joined miss Afghanistan and got very fem, my sister Shakila is absolutely gorgeous and I used to sit with her and watch her get ready to go out with her fiancé in the 70’s, my sister Trina with her super smokey eyes, pale 80’s face. So I watched and absorbed these looks not from the books or movies but right in front of me done by very beautiful, very talented women who were my sisters. Kajal and Surma (khol powder) is used by men, women in children in my country (Afghanistan) so it is of course my most favorite thing to use.

4. Would you care to comment on beauty as an act of resistance under the Taliban?

On one of my trips back to Afghanistan, I met a brilliant man that produced lipsticks, nail polishes, facial bleaching creams etc in his garage during the reign of Taliban and sold them to the underground beauty parlors. Make up is IS a form of expression in today’s Afghanistan, it is theatrical and it is a way to show the world that you are modern. You don’t wear it at all and when you do… you go ALL OUT.

In Part 2, Matin talks about coming to the U.S., breaking into the beauty business, and making it.

The Style Page interview with celebrity makeup artist Matin - Part 2

In Part 2 of The Style Page interview with Matin, Matin talks about coming to the U.S., breaking into the beauty business, and making it.

5. What brought you to the U.S.?

Life brought me to the US. I needed to go to college and we were politically exiled from my country, so we ended up as political refugees in the US.

6. Your biography says that you got into makeup on account of your college roommate. Tell me about his or her influence on you.

As I mentioned, we became political refugees. My family lost everything during the Soviet occupation and I had to pay for school. I was flipping burgers in East Oakland until 3 am. Then finally got a job selling perfumes at the stores on Union Square in SF. My father finally found someone to smuggle him out of Afghanistan and finally joined us in the US after 6 years. I moved out when he arrived, moved to the city with my roommate Marti whom I met teaching modeling at the Barbizon school of modeling in SF (Don’t even ask how and why I got a job there ;-)). She worked also at Neiman Marcus as a make up artist. When I needed a job, she suggested to interview with her boss and she told me how the make up thing worked. Next thing I know, I had a job offer.

7. How did you learn to become a makeup artist?

I do calligraphy and was always good at drawing. Make up was a very natural process for me. I often say that one has to “listen” to the skin and it will tell you what it needs. I guess some of us are born with that “ear”. I do not have formal training. I learned from working at make up counters during my undergraduate years in Berkeley and then I assisted Laura Mercier.

8. Your biography states that you worked as a research scientist after earning your masters’ degree. Was your decision to become a makeup artist full-time sudden or was it something that was planned over time? When did being a makeup artist full-time become feasible?

I had an offer to do an event for one of the cosmetics company that I had worked in the past. After that job, I realized how much fun I had doing make up. I woke up one night thinking about creating a make up line. The next step terrified me. It was to move to NY, starve for a few years and maybe make it or I though maybe I could become a trainer for a cosmetic line or a national make up artist. Without applying for any jobs, I got 3 offers in the next two weeks for exactly that position. That just blew me away. I took it as a sign and let the universe take care of the rest. Doors opened up, I met Laura Mercier and my agent Timothy Priano. Laura Mercier line created a position for me and Tim told me to look for him should I move to NY and seek representation. It was like magic. I worked for Laura full time for a year, then moved to NY and went to see Timothy. Now if I knew how little money I was going to make in the beginning, I probably would have talked myself out of it but ignorance is bliss and fate is a strong cushion to lean on.

9. Tell me about your first big break as a makeup artist. What event gave you an entry into the world of being a celebrity makeup artist?

My first full page beauty was for Glamour magazine. Kate Moodie (style director of the magazine then) hired me to do it. I met her during a beauty shot when I was still assisting Laura. Then a few months later, my 3rd year in NY that I got a BIG break. I was working for Laura Mercier 3 days a month still and I got a job for ELLE magazine to shoot a model for a bathing suit story. I was to make a white girl black from head to toe. “Bien Maron” was what the Fashion Editor (Carlyn Cerf De Dudzelee) told me. The photographer was non other that Gilles Bensimon. Intimidated I woke up at 4 am to get the girl painted and ready for a 7 am call time. I was shy, totally stayed on the side, didn’t really fit in at the shoot but the stylist was kind enough to include me in everything. We ended up doing a fashion and a bathing suit story. This meant 16 pages in my portfolio that I didn’t have. I was thrilled and very grateful. At the airport waiting for our luggage, Gilles who hardly said a word to me during the shoot tapped on my shoulder and with a very THICK French accent said: “I’m shooting Liv Tyler for a cover next week and want you to do the make up for it”. WHAT??? Usually you have to slave and test for years in order to get an opportunity like this. I thanked him and truthfully didn’t believe him. 2 days later my agent called and told me that I was booked for the cover. When the magazine hit the stands, I had the cover and 31 pages of work inside the magazine. I did 6 of the 8 remaining covers that year and it launched my career to a completely different level.

Part 3

The Style Page interview with celebrity makeup artist Matin - Part 3

In the third and final part of this interview, Matin discusses becoming Neutrogena Cosmetics' makeup artist, makeup tips, and his hobbies.

10. Tell me about Neutrogena approaching you to be its makeup artist. Are you also providing creative direction through developing new products and color palettes?

I met some Neutrogena people at a dinner party and we talked shop. Next thing I know, I got a call from them me asking me if I was interested in working with them. It was important for Neutrogena to have a make-up artist who not only understands how to apply cosmetics, but also the science behind them. Because of my science background, it was a perfect fit. I am providing direction on shades, textures and I test drive all the upcoming color products prior to production.
11. Can you share with our readers any advance information about new products from Neutrogena?

As always, Neutrogena will be launching products that are innovative while being both beautiful and beneficial.

12.Women want to know how to apply makeup and look beautiful, so this is probably the part that will interest readers the most:

a. For me (and probably many other women), shading the crease is probably the trickiest part of makeup application. It’s important to me, as I have deep-set eyes. What do you recommend in terms of eye shadow shades, choice of brushes, and application?

If you have deep set eyes, you do not want to “shade” the crease. This will make your eyes look even more deep set. Instead, try a wash of neutral beige (skin color) all over the eyes, then go with a taupe or caramel color and use it lightly on the brow bone to make the brow bone recede. Best is to use a fluffy small eye shadow brush (like laura mercier’s eye color brush) made of sable hair for the wash all over, and a smoother brush (like laura mercier crease brush) made of squirrl hair on the brow bone and under the brow to get a very sheer application of the powder eye shadow.

b. How best to apply foundation? By dotting the cheeks, “stippling,” or other means? Fingertips, sponge, or brush? If you use a sponge, do you moisten it or use it dry?

Use a dampened sponge with oil free foundation. Put the foundation in your palm and press the sponge (egg shape is the best) in to the palm of the hand to absorb the foundation. You should not see the foundation on top of the sponge. Then apply by patting the sponge and moving it quickly starting with flat areas of the face (cheeks) and neck and use very little if at all around the eyes and sides of the nose, smile lines and laugh lines.

For moisturizing, still one can use a damp sponge, or a brush or even fingers

13.Are you planning to write a book on makeup application?

Not yet. I don’t have any new concept for a book on make-up, but a book I will write, just not on make up ;-)

14.Your biography states that you enjoy “practicing Calligraphy, studying Islamic and Gothic architecture and shopping for exotic ethnic textiles.” I like textiles, too – especially block-printed textiles from India (see my blog posting Block-printed textiles, and suzanis from Central Asia. However, I can’t find the bold suzanis online that I see in Domino. What textiles are capturing your attention now?

Well, I have always had a soft spot for suzani and chain stitching. I now have a foundation in Afghanistan called Afghan Hands Inc. ( which is mainly a literacy program but it also employs the women (war widows) to do embroidery. We do bold patterns in wearable scarves and shawls using suzani and chain stitching and using the old traditional flowers on the fabrics but with a more modern color scheme.

Red shawl from Afghan Hands
Postscript: Matin was recognized as one of CNN Heroes for his role as a community crusader in starting Afghan Hands. He is currently on travel in Afghanistan and posts to the afghanhands blog.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Get it while it lasts

Here in the Washington, DC Metro area, where I live, the dominant drugstore chain is CVS. There is only a smattering of Walgreen's and Rite-Aid stores (including former Eckerd that became Rite-Aid stores after Canada's Jean Coutu Pharmacy sold Eckerd stores to Rite-Aid). Consequently, I go out of the way to shop at Walgreen's or Rite-Aid.

I went to Walgreen's yesterday, and I was startled to see all IsaDora cosmetics sold at 50% discount. I asked the beauty adviser-cum-salesperson if Walgreen's is no longer going to carry IsaDora, and she told me that IsaDora no longer wanted to ship products to the USA(!)

While I was not initially impressed by IsaDora, I reconsidered after reading Paula Begoun's glowing review of its eyeshadow quads. I now enjoy IsaDora eyeshadow quads in Antique Gold and Bronzing Plums - and picked up the eye shadow trio in Patina yesterday.

In short, get IsaDora products while you still can!