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Answer Angel

Applying the truth about BB creams

Tips on makeup trends, comfortable shoes for bunions, dressing to look older and more

Ellen Warren

November 8, 2013

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Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Can you please explain BB creams to me? I don't know what the letters stand for or what they're supposed to do.

--I don't get it

Dear Don't: I didn't get it either. For many months now I've been reading about BB creams and wondering the same thing. If you believe the beauty and fashion magazine hype (I don't)—this stuff has nearly miraculous properties. BB stands for "Beauty Balm" and supposedly these are multi-tasking "skin perfectors." Huh? They variously promise to prime, hydrate, smooth, enhance, protect and more. I ignored BB creams completely until drugstore brands got in the act and sold them at reasonable prices. Then I decided to dive in, and I just finished testing five—Revlon, Maybelline, Rimmel, Garnier and L'Oreal. To answer your question, here's what BB creams are: tinted moisturizer. Many also contain sunscreen, but because you don't put that much on, I wouldn't use them as your sole sun protection. That said, I like them. For a long time, I've thought the foundations I use are a little too heavy. BBs (first popularized in South Korea) are lighter but still offer some coverage and give the skin a glowy (but not sparkly) look. Of those in my test, Revlon ($12.49/ounce) and Garnier ($15.99/2.5 ounces) were the heaviest and most light reflecting. L'Oreal ($12.49/ounce) offered the least coverage and, interestingly, it goes on whitish/gray, then turns flesh colored. Rimmel ($7.49/ounce) was the hardest to blend into the skin and the coverage by the Maybelline ($10.87/ounce) was somewhere in between.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I'd be interested to know if there are any companies that make ballet flats with more coverage in the front/instep area. With bunions I find that I cannot wear most of them at all, because the edge of the shoe hits the bunion area. Also, I don't like a lot of toe cleavage. It is really frustrating, because there are so many cute ones out there but I'd say about 99 percent of the ones I see/try on have this problem.

--Bunionated

Dear Bunionated: You're not the only woman in the universe who has this problem, and you'd think there would be a wide array of options for those of us with less-than-perfect feet. But what I've found is that the comfortable shoes are either dirt-ugly orthopedic-looking nightmares or way too expensive—or both. On a recent trip with lots of walking, my feet were killing me (what else is new?). Limping along, I saw a few styles in the window of an Aerosoles store (yes, I know what you're thinking but, really, they've gotten cuter) so I tried them on. I've been happy with both the look and comfort of the $69 "Nashville" ballet flat I bought in black suede. And some Aerosoles flats come in "wide" too. Generally, the suede are better looking than the leather ones. Beware, the photos online (aerosoles.com) might be disappointing, but they look better on your feet.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I'm 31 and a professional woman who has to interact often with the public. How can I dress to look older and be taken more seriously? I'm 5-1 and 105 pounds, size 0 or 2. I don't have pigtails, but I'm frequently asked, "Are you the intern?" or "Are you a student?"

--Not a kid anymore

Dear Not a kid: It is not helpful for me to tell you that 20 years from now this will be a blessing. Right now, you need a makeover. Stat. For that, I turned to my go-to stylist, Joyce Sobczyk (theclosetconsult.com). I've boiled down her good advice.

*Get a stylish haircut (perhaps a bob shorter in front than the back?).

*If you don't wear makeup now, start. Hate it? Get your brows shaped; add a little blush, mascara and lipstick.

*Flats are out when meeting the public. Not used to pumps? Try a one-inch kitten heel, with pointy toes. Skip round toes and shoes with straps, which give off a little-girl, Mary Jane-ish vibe.

*Add a push-up bra for some curves.

*Stay away from chunky jewelry, belts (will cut you in half), cute anything such as little florals.

*Beef up your wardrobe basics: The Theory brand (theory.com) is a good line for a professional look in small sizes and in charcoal, which is less severe than black. Theory is expensive, but it's "one and done." Can't afford those $300 investment Theory pieces? Use them as a guide, and go shopping for similar styles in store brands at department stores like Macy's or Nordstrom. Get the right fit, even if it means alterations.

Suggested pieces:

-A pencil skirt at the knee but not below

-Matching basic trousers at or just below the waist

-Matching fitted blazer/jacket

-A simple sheath dress (like Theory's "Betty") to wear under the jacket

-A few fitted (not tight) tops: ivory and colorful T-shirts or shells in cotton/silk blends, NOT low cut

-Basic white shirt

-Pullover scoop neck short-sleeve cashmere sweater

-Colorful cardigan(s)

-Basic turtleneck

-Classic trench coat

-Slim wool coat

-Riding-style boots (not Uggs)

-Gold hoop earrings

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: Can you tell me how to "pattern mix," which is so popular? I've seen it on fashion makeover shows and on the street and, frankly, it looks like those women were blindfolded and just grabbed whatever out of the closet. What am I missing?

--Maureen

Dear Maureen: Mixing patterns can go so wrong that I don't recommend it. Yes, you can wear stripes with florals and plaids if you stick to the same color palette. But usually it looks like a ragtag mess.

Reader rant

Remember when almost all clothing intended for wearing during cooler months was LINED?

Lately it has become almost impossible to find cool-weather dresses, skirts and pants with lining—except of course at thrift shops!

Why and when did lining get banished to the Island of Misfit Clothing Items—along with sleeves for bridal and party dresses and maternity clothes that don't make the wearer look like she "swallowed a watermelon" (as some mommies used to explain to their inquisitive kids, especially in public)?

--Nina

Shop, drop, get help

Send your rants and questions—on style, shopping, fashion, beauty and makeup—to answerangel@tribune.com.