Answer Angel

Brushing up on must-have makeup brushes

Answer Angel responds to readers' questions on holiday makeup, free beauty makeovers, painful shoes and queries on style, beauty, shopping and fashion

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Makeup tips

Makeup tips (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune)

Of course we want to look especially fabulous at holiday time. Right now, makeup questions abound and so do solutions from your devoted Answer Angel Ellen.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I have never understood makeup brushes. Too many shapes, kinds. What does what? How often do you clean them? When should you toss them? Is it worth spending big $$?

— Kerry Ann

Dear Kerry Ann: Thanks for putting the problem so succinctly. I don't understand makeup brushes either. I use three (blush, shadow, eyeliner), wash them out in whatever soap is handy whenever I think they're cruddy (probably not often enough), and toss them when the bristles start to fall out, stick to my face and make me look like I'm growing a beard. And, no surprise here, I never spend much. But what do I know? To get the real lowdown, I went to the experts who, more or less, told me I'm (miraculously) doing the right thing. "There is never a reason to spend big bucks on brushes," says Paula Begoun (aka the Cosmetics Cop). She ought to know. Begoun has her own cosmetics line, Paula's Choice (paulaschoice.com) and is the author of the makeup bible "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me." She washes her brushes in shampoo every three or four months. Ingrid Grimes-Myles, who has counted first lady Michelle Obama among her clients, is a fan of Target's well-priced Sonia Kashuk brush line. Grimes-Myles suggests that if you're really mystified, go to a department store and ask an expert, say at the Trish McEvoy or M.A.C. counter, for a brief brush tutorial. (See the next question below for more on that.) Here's the Cliffs Notes version from Begoun: The number of brushes you need depends on how complicated your beauty ritual is. If you use multiple eye shadows you'll need separate smallish brushes "so the colors don't get all mixed up when you apply them." Same goes for multiple face brushes (which are thicker, bigger). You need one if you use powder, another for blush. And you'll need an eyeliner brush if you don't use a pencil. Drugstores sell multi-brush "kits" for under $15, which is one good place to get the gear to start experimenting.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: What is the proper etiquette when department stores do those beauty events and have makeup artists do up your face? I know they are all selling ... so is it ethical of me to participate knowing I won't buy anything? (And are you supposed to tip?)

— H.B.G.

Dear H.B.G.: Yes it is ethical for you to participate! You don't really know you won't buy anything. It's the makeup artist's job to introduce you to a product so marvelous that you can't resist. Remember you can ask for samples to try at home before you buy. And tipping is not required or expected.

And now … two questions with solutions that are cheap and simple. And a reader tip that won't cost you.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I'm a big fan of pleather (instead of animal leather) but I find that my purses get nicks and worn places no matter how careful I am. Any suggestions on avoiding this problem will be welcome.

— Accessories Queen

Dear Accessories Queen: Here's your answer: a permanent Sharpie marker. Get one the color of your fake leather purse and fill in the nick. It works on leather too. And use it on shoes — like when your heels get eaten up by a sidewalk grate. You know how the dye will mysteriously disappear, leaving a small white spot on a dark shirt or sweater? I've used a Sharpie to make the spot less noticeable. I've also used this method on my black Ikea bookcase that scratches easily and to fill in small areas on brown wood where the dog gnawed at the chair leg!

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I am super sensitive to rough seams and stitching on the inside of shoes. My friends think I'm nutty but even one stitch or the smallest rough spot makes the shoes unwearable. What to do?

— Owww

Dear Owww: Try this: Buy a coarse emery board (or sandpaper) and gently rub at the offending stitch or rough spot. Sometimes that's all it takes. If you still can't wear the shoes, your backup plan costs a few bucks at the drugstore: Moleskin with stickum on the back. Cut a small piece to apply over the spot.

Angelic Readers

Amy S. needs to share this tip: "Have to tell you about how I got a favorite pair of leather boots to fit again. I've had the boots for 20 years. After having them resoled and fitted with new heels, they weren't my comfy, reliable boots anymore. They were too small! I inserted a plastic bag in each, filled the bag with water, placed them in the freezer overnight. The frozen water expanded the leather. After thawing them today, they fit fine, even with thick socks! Wahoo!

Dear Amy: This should work with tight shoes too, although I haven't tried it yet. And I'd be iffy about using it on suede!

Reader Rant

I'm really tired of women news and weather readers/anchors on local and national TV who continue to wear short-sleeved or sleeveless dresses or tops. I appreciate what Michelle Obama has done for fashion, but this one is now out of control. Don't these people have consultants and handlers? This trend is so odd, especially when these women are sitting next to men who have suits, long-sleeved shirts and ties on. It's as though they didn't get the email regarding the dress code.

— Mary

Dear Mary: TV women with toned arms are going to be showing them off. Obama made that not just acceptable but desirable. If my arms were as gorj as the first lady's I'd be tempted to flash them around too, no matter what the temperature! Sadly, that's not gonna happen.

Shop, drop, get help

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

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