From college coed to polished professional: making up for lost time.
How I went from college girl to cover girl in eight easy steps.
By Marisa LaScala
Photography by Halina Sabath
I avoid wearing makeup. All those blushes, brushes, and bronzers—who has time for all of that? Maybe once in a while I’ll smear on some lipstick and use a touch of mascara, but every day? It’s just too much of a hassle. I went to an earthy liberal arts college where a face au natural was the norm in the dorms, and since graduating I’ve never forced myself to break away from the roll-out-of-bed, no-makeup look. After all, I’ve got deadlines to meet.
Apparently, I’m in a very small minority. According to studies by Mintel, a market-research firm, the sales of makeup grew to $6 billion in 2004 (the most recent statistics available). An overwhelming majority of women and teens—90 percent—report that they use cosmetics on a regular basis. If you’re like the average American woman, you use nine personal-care products every day, including foundation, eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, and blush. Even dogs are getting into the beauty scene, with nearly 500 doggie-care products launched in 2005, including nail polish, fur highlighters, and fragrances (well, fragrances for dogs I can understand).
Okay, when dogs are more into their personal appearances than I am, I know it’s bad. It’s high time for me to get a crash course in cosmetics. Luckily, Westchester is the perfect place to find expert advice when it comes to beauty. Within the last five years, a slew of cosmetics counters, beauty boutiques, and everything-makeup stores have cropped up around the county—just in time to help me out. I visited eight such stores and asked the pros in charge to teach me a thing or two. They were all nice enough to give me makeovers in their—not my—signature styles. I gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to my face, even though every fiber of my being wanted to say, “Just a little lipstick, please.” Here, the results of my makeover story.
#1 blush beauty bar
34 Purchase St., Rye • (914) 921-2980 • www.blushbeautybar.com
Shari Hochberg, owner of the elegant five- year-old Blush Beauty Bar on Rye’s main thoroughfare, dabbles in a little of everything. Her shelves carry a mixture of Calypso fragrances; Gianna Rose soaps; State of France and Votivo candles; DDF, Bliss, and Décleor skincare products; eShave items for men; the Lucky Chick line for teens; and even some moderately priced jewelry.
For makeup, Blush carries Paula Dorf and T. LeClerc cosmetics in every size and color. Hochberg also sells Beauty Buffet cosmetics, which are magnetized makeup palettes that can be fitted with your choice of cosmetic products—much better than pre-packaged palettes that leave you with shades you don’t want. “You can put in lip gloss, eyeshadow, concealer,” Hochberg says. “You can put in three shades of lip gloss if you want.”
A small treatment room off the back of the store hosts aesthetician Karen Cuthbert Wednesdays through Saturdays for expert eyebrow shaping, organic soy-based waxing, brightening facials for hyperpigmentation, and a menu chock-full of other spa services.
“It’s very personal, very one-on-one,” Hochberg says.
Makeup artist Liz Varenne takes care of applications, either at the boutique or chez vous. She’s careful and methodical, testing out each color on her hand before committing to any one. For my session, she quickly puts together a simple, casual look that takes only 10 minutes to apply. The secret? Using the Paula Dorf Cheek Color Cream on lips, cheeks, and eyes. It couldn’t be easier. “You can put it on with your fingers if you don’t want to use a sponge,” she says. Afterward, Varenne shows me how to layer makeup on top to transform the “everyday” into an “evening” look.
#2 eiluj a beauty lounge
9 Depot Plz., Bedford Hills • (914) 241-4447
Eiluj is everything you could want from a store that declares itself “a beauty lounge.” It’s sleek, chic, and totally hip. Its SoHo-cool shelves are stocked with red-hot exclusive items, like Estée Lauder- spin-off Medina Milano cosmetics—owner Julie Cuomo is one of the few shopkeepers in the whole country to carry the line. “We’re slowly moving toward becoming an LA-lifestyle beauty shop where you can purchase anything from bodycare to skincare to cosmetics to clothes from lines like Kasil Jeans,” Cuomo says.
“We want people to be able to get a really cute tank top or an accessory and have their makeup done all in one place.” Eiluj’s shelves are bursting with products—more than 80 lines. If you’re pressed for time and don’t feel like sorting through them all, you can head straight for Cuomo’s bestsellers: Bliss products, Natura Bissé and MD skincare lines, and Paula Dorf cosmetics. Another uncommon find is the Talika eyelash and eyebrow extenders. They use gels that are embedded with tiny hair-like natural fibers. Just brush them on (no adhesives necessary) to fill out your lashes or eyebrows. You can try out some of these products at the monthly “facial nights” which Eiluj hosts in addition to offering makeup applications, makeup lessons, and parties.
Part-time makeup artist Cathy Lanza, in keeping with the feel of Eiluj, chooses colors that are very of-the-moment. “This winter is all about plum, burgundy, and wine colors,” she says. “They go with those velvet jackets that everyone is wearing.” Her makeup application feels like a massage. When it was time to go, I wasn’t ready to get out of the chair.
#3 kathrynellen make-up studio
15-17 S. Moger Ave., Mount Kisco • (914) 242-1700 • www.richardscottsalon.com/cosmetic_boutique.html
Walking down Mount Kisco’s busy Moger Avenue, you won’t notice a sign for the KathrynEllen Make-Up Studio. To find it, you’ll have to work your way through the buzzing Richard Scott Salon and Day Spa to a private corner behind the hair stations. There, former Bobbi Brown and Trish McEvoy execs Kathryn Weinberger and Ellen Mancuso work their makeup magic.
The small studio carries mainly KathrynEllen’s own long-lasting cosmetics and signature brushes, but the duo make room for the Too Faced line (popular in Sephora and Nordstrom), Bella Il Fiore products, and the European skincare line Skin Lumé, which is said to simulate the look of Botox for up to 24 hours without the icky injections. Off to the side, there’s a glistening counter full of enticing belts, bags, jewelry, candles, and compacts. “Ellen and I try to really stay on top of the trends,” Weinberger says.
Makeup lessons are a big draw at KathrynEllen—including ones that use your own cosmetic bag. “We’ll go through the makeup and discuss,” says Weinberger. “We never say, ‘Oh no, don’t use Chanel,’ or ‘Don’t use Trish.’ It’s more, ‘This color isn’t really right for you,’ or ‘Absolutely, incorporate this with our makeup.’” In addition to lessons, the ladies do special-occasion applications and eyebrow shaping (the adjacent salon does waxing). KathrynEllen offers a “complimentary eyes” service to all new Richard Scott visitors, and if you’re heading there for a haircut or spa treatment, you’d be wise to take them up on it. For my makeover, I am treated to an extremely rare tag-team approach (Mancuso does the foundation, Weinberger does the rest). The two consult on colors, trade compliments, and contribute makeup tips. It may be cliché, but two heads really are better than one.
#4 maison rouge
27 Pondfield Rd., Bronxville • (914) 779-8869
Maison Rouge is a bit of Bergdorf’s packed into a Bronxville boutique. The three-year-old shop carries the Westchester exclusive on some tony product lines, including Tracie Martyn skincare products, which are otherwise available only at upscale department stores like Barneys. Other popular lines offered include Bumble & bumble hair care, Ella Bache skincare, L’Artisan perfume, the Mama Mio line for pregnant women, and cosmetics by Laura Mercier, Longcils, and Paula Dorf. Maison Rouge has also branched out into accessories and clothing, with bestselling items being the ooh-la-la lingerie by Roberto Cavalli and Aubade.
Patricia Margro, Maison Rouge’s owner and makeup artist, is a perfectionist when it comes to cosmetics. Maybe it comes from her years working for Laura Mercier and at John Barrett’s salon in the city. (Margro still makes the trip to Manhattan to do makeup for Hearst magazine photo shoots.) She sits me down, and before I even know we’re starting—zip!—she cleans up my eyebrows with a razor. I don’t feel a thing. Once we finish, after I put on my coat and pick up my bag, she still has the brush in her hands for just a dash more on the cheeks—and comes back again with scissors for another little snip of my eyebrows. “We’re known for doing eyebrows,” she says, noting that they do the shaping without waxing. I can see why it’s so popular; it’s fast and painless. Maison Rouge also offers Darphin facial treatments and peels from the MD skincare line. In addition, the store hosts beauty events, like the recent “Goddess Night,” which featured in-store astrology readings along with its famous Darphin facials.
#5 n.y. prostyle studio
385 Ashford Ave., Dobbs Ferry • (914) 478-2684 • www.nyprostyle.com
Walking into this cheery, off-the-beaten-track studio feels like stepping directly into owner Rosemarie Pomilla’s living room. “Everything here is personal and one-on-one,” she says, ignoring the ringing telephone. She graciously shows me to a comfy chair and offers to make a Dunkin’ Donuts run for coffee. The sounds of smooth jazz is piped in over the radio as she spins my chair toward the natural light and energetically gets to work. “I’m licensed in everything: hair, makeup, nails,” she says. “But my love is makeup.” It shows. Our session is loose and experimental. Pomilla dashes from my chair to the rows of makeup and back, lipstick in hand, only to return again with a “nope, too orange.”
Almost all of the makeup available in the studio is from Pomilla’s own line, which she spent three years developing, and is sold exclusively in her one-year-old boutique. In addition, she sells MakeUnder products (only available to pros) and offers professional applications, makeup lessons, custom facials, and hair designs. “Personal style is a big thing for me,” she says, assuring me that my makeover will look natural.
77 Main St., Dobbs Ferry • (914) 478-5507 • www.ritualsonline.com
Rituals doesn’t look like the typical Westchester beauty shop. At first, the three-year-old store seems like a fun and funky accessories boutique selling pashminas, purses, and lots of jewelry (I loved the eyeglass cases with Japanese scenes printed on them). There are no signs of the Bliss body scrubs or L’Occitane lotions that are ever-present in the other boutiques. Instead, tucked away on the sides of the store, owner Ilise Harris stocks personal care products with more of an holistic, herbal bent. “I feel that when you put something on your skin, you’re putting it in your body,” she says as we sip tea together.
“I look for things that utilize herbs and essential oils and have no toxic ingredients.” This includes big sellers like the Essence of Vali Sleep Drops and the Naturopathica botanical skincare line. Rituals’ aesthetician sees such good results with the Naturopathica products that she uses them in her facials and body wraps, which are given in a very private treatment room downstairs. In addition, the store offers eyebrow and waxing services, Swedish massage, reflexology, energy healing, makeup lessons, hen parties, and bridal beauty services.
Harris developed her own line of cosmetics and brushes—and she certainly knows her way around a palette. She spent her pre-Rituals years doing makeup for celebs (including Cindy Crawford, Liv Tyler, and Anna Wintour) and as the makeup artist on shoots for magazines like Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. The most interesting product Harris uses, however, is not one of her own; it’s the Blinc Kiss Me mascara. Instead of painting color on the eyelashes, Blinc encases them in tiny, smudge-proof tubes that look like regular mascara but feel like plastic when they dry. Once formed, the tubes can’t clump or stick together, be smudged by even the hardest rubbing, or be removed even by pulling on them—I tried. But a combination of warm water and light pressure causes the tubes to just slide off (“The first time I used it I thought my eyelashes were falling off,” says Harris). It’s magic.
#7 pink on palmer
1907 Palmer Ave., Larchmont • (914) 833-8955 • www.pinkonpalmer.com
No time to travel to Manhattan for beauty products? Not a problem with Pink On Palmer, where owner Judy Graham simply brings Manhattan to her charming corner store. And she doesn’t stop at importing high-end makeup, skincare, and fragrances, either. About once a week, top-notch eyebrow artists come up from the city and offer re-shaping in the two-year-old boutique (book early). And while complimentary makeovers are offered weekly, glamorous city-girl and T. LeClerc expert Valerie Kurti comes in a few times a month to do makeup applications (lucky for me, she was there for my visit). The women in the store seem to all have great fun, laughing and joking with each other during my consultation.
Though Graham carries many popular product lines, the clear-cut favorite among clients is Mario Badescu. Says Graham, “There are people who, when I’m sitting at my desk after I’ve locked up for the night, will knock on the door and say, ‘Please, I just need the Mario Bedescu drying lotion!’” If you can tear yourself away from his fresh-smelling creations, you can also find along the picture-perfect white shelves products by Red Flower, Darphin, Frederic Fekkai, L’Artisan, Thymes, Bliss (check out the moisturizing gloves for cracked hands), Shelley Kyle, and the Art of Shaving for men. There are also fun lines and goody-bag treats for younger girls, like Ally Kats (for ages four to eight), The Bakery (for teens), and Knotty Girls. Look for special events going on in the store, like Mar-tea-ni nights with Red Flower tea or beauty nights for the Larchmont Newcomers Association.
#8 via michelle
49. S. Moger Ave., Mount Kisco • (914) 244-7000
Via Michelle is the new kid on Mount Kisco’s picturesque shopping block, having opened only a little more than one year ago. But in that short time, the retail arm of Chappaqua’s Michelle Danielle Day Spa has managed to build a dedicated following for its fast-rotating merchandise, especially the glittery hair jewels. “People are always waiting for us to get new hair ornaments in,” says manager Carol Bello. “Sometimes new merchandise won’t even stay on the shelf twelve hours.” Among the hottest-selling items are Michelle Danielle’s own cosmetics and spa products, the DDF skincare line, Antonia Flowers fragrances (“She has a cult following,” Bello says. “People who love her really love her.”), and gift items like jewelry, chic travel bags, cowboy hats, and the aforementioned doggie fragrances.
Bello is the beauty behind the makeup applications, and she does eyebrow tweezing as well. Her previous experience as a model and professional makeup artist taught her all of the tricks of the trade, which she easily imparts to her clients. “It’s a form of art to me,” she says. “I love doing it.” She’s the first artist who points out to me that cosmetic colors have a tendency to turn orange on my skin. I check it out and, sure enough, she’s right. With compact in hand, Bello explains how she’ll alternate light and dark makeup to shape the contours of my face. Though at first I’m skeptical the makeup can make that much of a difference, I leave the shop a believer.
So I can see why I was avoiding makeup in the first place. It’s a big investment. Who knew that you would need to use 18 products to achieve a “natural” look? If I bought all of the items used on any given makeover, it would cost me between $221 and $820. Not to mention the 45 minutes it takes to apply.
In the end, is all the time, money, and effort worth it? For my glamorous two weeks, I didn’t miss the dark circles under my eyes, the never-see-the-sun color of my cheeks, or the untamed eyebrows. (Though, to be honest, the eyelash curler still freaks me out.) To see if all of those cosmetics really make a difference, the proof, as they say, is in