Friday, 26 February 2010

A Pale Tale of Southern Gothic 
Outstanding Beauty Skool exchange student ready for the sun

"You look pale."
Why thank you.
"You look mighty pale."
You flatterer, you.
"You're as white as a ghost."
Careful-- you're making me blush.
"Well, you could use a little colour."
I'll just pop on my favourite pink sweater.
"You look like you're about to faint."
Will the compliments never stop? 

"You should get some sun."

WHOA! What the heck-- that came straight out of left field! One minute they're showering Miss Brown with compliments, the next, they're trying to destroy her skin. Clearly, people have forgotten the tale of gothic horror that lies behind this bloodless complexion.

Miss Brown has long been drawn to the music, literature and landscape of the Deep South. This may be an inherited trait, for her father settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the 1980s. He drove down there with his country band, met a wonderful woman, and stayed. Miss Brown's first trip to Shreveport at age 16 coincided happily with the "cowpunk" trend: suddenly punk rockers aplenty were trading in their skinny ties for bolos and their Doc Martens for cowboy boots. Miss Brown had a white pair, and favoured fringed suede jackets and coonskin hats. 

The fur hat never made it out of her suitcase, however, for upon arriving in Louisiana she got a blast of the fiery, sweaty reality that is the Deep South in August. The house was well air-conditioned, so Miss Brown spent the month hanging upside down in the batcave of her room, nose in a book. And so the South of her dreams-- a jumble of swamp moss, mouldering and abandoned plantations, honky-tonks and residents haunted by nameless regrets--remained firmly imaginary.
A 19th Century poster depicting the folkloric Bell Witch

On the last day of her vacation, they brought out the wide-brimmed hat and bundled her into a camper van. The plane was leaving from Texas, so the Brown clan spent a the day on a lake somewhere between Austin and Dallas-- a cool, inviting lake which promised respite from the furious heat. Or so it seemed. Miss Brown spent hours in that lake, splashing around 'till the sun went down.

As the night wore on, Miss Brown was troubled by a mounting sense of impending doom.  Her legs were burning; her shoulders were frying. Her face was sizzling. In the dawn light, she picked up a mirror. HORRORS! Some kind of red-faced swamp thing had stolen her face. Its forehead was riddled with sores. Its swollen eyes glinted miserably. Miss Brown now knew for the first time what kind of havoc the sun could wreak. The one saving grace in this frightening tale: long, dense bangs to conceal the face. Reader, whatever your age, never underestimate the power of bangs in an emergency.

The aftermath was ugly; avert your eyes. It wouldn't do to tell you about, for example, the water blisters, or how the burnt skin shed itself in bits. Miss Brown was pretty sure she had done herself permanent damage. Eventually, though, the Swamp Creature receded and Miss Brown's face reappeared more or less intact. 

Soon after that, it so happened that the beauty experts began emphasizing the importance of sunscreen--we are even told that sun protection can reverse, not merely prevent, sun damage.The still-traumatized Miss Brown jumped on the bandwagon and tried to grab the reins from the driver. To this day she seldom tires of button-holing people and holding forth on the dangers of tanning. She can't say enough about the importance of wearing sunscreen every day of the year.  

Nowadays, virtually every day cream on the market comes complete with it, but Neutrogena was one of the first companies to come out with an effective cream for everyday use. Choose a moisturizer with a minimum of SPF 15, such as Olay Complete Care Daily UV Fluid. Add a hat whenever possible. A parasol. Or a roof. In summertime, ratchet the UV factor up to 30 or more (Olay has a good, though pricey, one in its anti-aging Pro-X line.) And consider using a physical barrier, such as titanium oxide, as your sunscreen.
the parasol: desert island beauty basic

Miss Brown returned to Shreveport in winter, and this time she ventured out often and encountered the captivating Deep South for real. More recently she went down to New Orleans, perhaps the ultimate Southern Gothic city and one that deserves its very own post. As for her skin, Miss Brown often opines that the punk rock/goth look saved her skin at a time when tanning was considered healthy and beyond glamorous. But in the wee hours, the phantom voices of killjoy dermatologists who say that even one serious sunburn can put us at risk for all sorts of nastiness further down the line echo round Miss Brown's chamber. Will the Swamp Creature rematerialize in some ghastly new form? Watch this space...


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Skool Holidays

Greetings, Skoolgoers! Beauty Skool is on a mid-term break. Exams are coming up soon, so please review the material so far. See you soon...

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Foundation Course

Who is that masked Skoolgirl? Outlaw teen showcases the ideal foundation.

by Miss Justine Brown (photo by Sandra Prehara)

It's tempting to spend our Skooltime on extracurricular activities. We have the Foreign Affairs Club, the Pep Club, the Bee-Keeper's Club and so on. After Miss Brown's last post, London Hair Trends Redux, someone started up yet another group-- the Topiary Club. This club attracted half the Skool. We see them all over the halls, garden shears at the ready. Fellow Skoolgoers, we can sometimes spread ourselves too thin; we have to think of our grades! That's why Miss Brown is offering a special guest lecture for the Foundation Course.

Now, Miss Brown doesn't want to take anything away from our fantastic teacher-- what's that? No, she is not a "teacher's pet"! She feels a special affinity for Foundation, that's all. For what is foundation, if not paint? And Miss Brown does like her paint.

Some lunatics contend that we don't need foundation. Miss Brown says this: not only do we need foundation, we need PRIMER. No, just settle down and listen up. And you can STOP rolling apples down the aisle, Miss Green! For your information, Miss Brown has plenty of "street cred." Yes! She has even been caught shoplifting. Twice-- once at age six, and once at age thirteen. What's the point of this shocking revelation, you ask? Read on.
At age six, little Miss Brown was passing a candy shop on her way home from school. Naturally enough, she went in. She didn't have any money. And because she had neither money nor candy, she stole a bit of both: a single gold foil chocolate coin. The shopkeeper tried to pry it from her hand, but she would not give way. She did give up her telephone number, however, and he contented himself with phoning Miss Brown's mother.

At six, few things are more enticing than chocolate coins. At thirteen, few things are more alluring than makeup. Miss Brown was keeping company with a fellow thirteen year-old-- let's call her Mandy-- and they together they fell briefly into a life of crime, getting light-fingered in the makeup aisle at the local pharmacy. Disaster struck when  Miss Brown's cohort got collared by the store detective. Miss Brown got away with her treasure, but not without first whispering a piece of terrible advice to her friend-- don't let them make you cry. And precisely because Mandy did not cry and show remorse, the store detective phoned the police. Whoops. Sorry, Mandy.

Miss Brown got away with her swag because she stole with cool determination. What was it? FOUNDATION. Foundation, that miraculous paint that seemed to magick away her nascent teenage skin problems. The following week, Miss Brown's crime spree skidded to a halt when she was caught shoplifting makeup in, of all places, Army and Navy. Fellow Canadians will know this place. It's big and cheap, full of practical gear, and most often frequented by lumberjacks and fishermen just down from the bush to buy a new set of hobnailed boots or woolen longjohns. It's also flooded with florescent lights and studded with security cameras. 

Miss Brown didn't care. She was giddy with stealing success. She even remembers noting the store detective tapping an impatient toe beside her as she scrabbled on her knees through a bin of cut-price makeup, pocketing random stuff that she didn't even want. Soon she found herself in the cramped, frightening office upstairs. Luckily for Miss Brown, her mother alerted a dear family friend who also happened to be a lawyer. He dashed into a phone booth and emerged in a flawlessly tailored suit, turned up at Army and Navy in a jiffy, and smoothly persuaded the store detective to release the young felon into his care. It was scary and embarrassing. And so ended Miss Brown's life of crime.

The point of this sordid story is this: young Miss Brown stole foundation and got away with it because foundation was important. She later got caught (and just as well) because she got sloppy. She didn't need or want those random pots of disco glitter and bronzer in the bin. 

Today, foundation remains a crucial part of her makeup routine. Then, it helped to camouflage spots and (provided one could find the right product in those olden days) whiten the skin. Nowadays, it evens out skin tone and texture and provides a canvas for additions like blush, highlighter and powder. Miss Brown will recommend her two current favorites, a cheap, wintry one and a pricey, summery one: Maybelline Dream Creamy Foundation and Bobbi Brown Oil-Free Even Finish Foundation SPF 15. But first, a few words in favour of primer. Now, some of you think primer is just another plot launched by the military-cosmetic industry to get you to shell out big bucks for something you don't need. In that case, try an inexpensive but excellent brand of primer-- Avon Magix, which can be worn alone with just a little concealer. Worn like that, it creates a soft-focus effect and smooths the surface of the skin.

Class, Miss Brown prefers to go whole hog: apply primer because it makes the paint stay on all day, then a little concealer where needed. Finally, without creating an inch-thick mask, she dots foundation on her forehead and chin, strokes a little down her nose and cheeks, and, using a foundation brush as all painting students should, she stipples from the nose outward. Blend, blend, blend. Inspect at close range. You are ready to add whatever colours you desire! And so ends this student's contribution to The Foundation Course. Thank you.