During dark winter, I recommend using hits of brilliant color across bare skin and hair to brighten things up a bit, especially for holiday parties.
I suppose you could call these beauty tips, but they’re also all about breaking the rules and trying out the unexpected. Unlike what maddening women’s magazines might tell you, there is NO age restriction on wearing a bright pop of color on your lids or streaking your silver hair pastel green. Surprise YOURSELF and consider these “tips” a little neon-bright gift to yourself and to everyone around you. (They all wash out…whew!)…
(Iris Apfel, in colorful plumage, agrees!)
My great inspiration is the lapis-blue boy from the remote village of Pikin Slee, Suriname, only a three-hour canoe ride upriver from the next town over; he caught the eye of photographer Viviane Sassen, previously a fashion photographer (which might explain the attraction to the striking hue), as she was compiling intimate portraits of locals at work and at play. He appears to be dusted with chalk, which we can do ourselves….
…using a classic art material doing double-duty as a beauty product. “Hair chalking” became quite popular a year or so ago as a temporary, non-toxic means of tinting your hair, and temporarily altering your appearance. Trendy stores and several well-known brands now sell their own “hair chalk,” packaged up nicely and released as a unique specialty product. It isn’t, really. It’s a chalk-like product that is more pigmented and more finely milled than actual blackboard chalk. Does this sound familiar? They’re essentially chalk pastels for artists!
Sennelier, a French brand that also manufactures incredible silk dyes and other pigmented products for art and textile, carries a fabulous spectrum of chalk pastels. At about $2.50 per pastel stick, Sennelier sets can run into the hundreds of dollars. I would personally recommend them over any other brand but only if you have a serious vision and want a range of subtle colors. Otherwise, I’d opt for a more more affordable starter sets of 20 assorted half sticks….And this set of 24 iridescent colors holds lots of possibilities. Sennelier pastels are also sold individually, perfect if you’ve been searching for that one nuanced shade of, say, Pink Lake 274.
But for, say, your son or daughter’s birthday party, I’d probably go cheap-o. These Non Toxic Soft Pastel Set of 64 Assorted Colors Square Chalk are perfect for “dyeing” kids’ hair as they’re extremely low-to-no damage (perhaps a bit drying); if using a higher artist grade, make sure the pigments don’t contain anything unsavory like cobalt.
It helps to get your hair slightly damp before you apply the color:
Applying the pastels to lighter, or lightened hair will make the colors pop. Use more opaque colors on dark hair. Naturally white/silver/grey hair makes the perfect neutral canvas for hair chalking. I always thought Emmylou Harris would look fabulous with a little streak of something in that perfect steely ‘do of hers (which is often toned to the brink of lavender, anyway):
There is something very satisfying about literally drawing on your own hair, changing its color not with a chemical cocktail but with a handful of dry, powdery pigment.
Another material for brightening the day-to-day this winter are interesting cosmetics. They have been a passion of mine for years, and actually a source of inspiration for some of my performative art. Makeup can very much be about covering yourself up and being displeased with your true appearance…but it can also be a temporary agent for change, transformation, disguise: mysterious, glamorous, even hilarious. Makeup done right isn’t about putting yourself away; it’s about putting yourself on display, demurely or dramatically.
My favorite tried-and-tested, ready-to-wear cosmetic brands that feature kooky, eclectic, BRIGHT colors include: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ pro-grade “lip tars” in every shocking shade from pastel blue to apple green and everything in between; Urban Decay’s thunderously popular Electric eye palette (which gets snapped up despite its hefty $50 price tag); and on the low end, NYX’s delightful Macaron (pastel cream) and Wicked (vampy metallic) lipsticks that are extremely affordable at $6 a pop and come in all sorts of greys, whites, olive greens, yellows, lilacs, oranges, corals, blues….
But the real fun comes in when you start working with raw cosmetic-grade pigments and natural mica glitter; they’re super cheap and can be used for a bevy of other craft projects like soap- and candle-making and home-pressed eyeshadows.
I strongly suggest you pick up a few of these DIY cosmetic pigments and go nuts on a rainy day craft session, or launch your own line of makeup. TKB Trading is not a pretty website; it looks a bit stuck in the early 2000s, and their powders come in industrially-labeled plastic baggies. But with several hundred shades of pigments and natural mineral-derived mica glitters in both bulk and sample sizes, I have some of their products nearly everywhere in my household. The stuff can and does go into my cosmetics (dabbed on top of Chapstick or worn as eyeshadow), mica glitters in my body wash, and even my paintings, mixed up with some gouache and gum arabic.
Looks can go from subtle…
…to all sorts of ranges in between (check out this Artful Faces Pinterest for inspiration)…
TKB Trading offers “blank” colorless bases for lip, eye and face products as well as lipstick molds, recipe manuals, scoops and mini-spatulas, and quite a few indie makeup designers have released home-cooked lines of makeup using these pre-mixed bases and managed to run a successful mini-business from home.
Here’s a sampling of their fab colorful swatches; watch with sound OFF (Video link HERE.)
My favorites to use as a painting additive are the ethereal Mermaid pigments, which are six white “interference” colors that suddenly flash different colors when they catch the light at the proper angle. Do spend twenty minutes going through all the micas (shimmery powders) and all the matte dyes and pigments and see if anything strikes your fancy.
Color can be so absolutely transformative—not only with appearance but with mood, with memory, with creativity—that I’ll use almost any excuse to slip into something brighter (or, in this case, get something bright thrown right in your face!). Just as the teen protagonist in perennial young adult fiction favorite The Giver was utterly changed by seeing a glimpse of red in a greyscale world, color — messy, unplanned, explosive, crazy color — might be able to draw you out of a funk, provide you with a new material for making.