Beauty Q&A: Do You Smell What I Smell?

1. Evidently smoking interacts with your perfume and makes you smell bad. I’m quitting smoking (Crowd: “Yay!”) but my entire bottle of perfume stinks now because I smoked around it. Also, I can’t guarantee that I’ve quit forever at any given point in time because cigarettes mystically tend to light themselves around me and put themselves in my mouth. But I have really cut down a LOT, I promise! (Crowd: “WTF.”)

So… is there something I can do to not smell bad while I try to quit for good? Orrr, hypothetically if I just give up and smoke like a chimney, am I doomed to smell horrific for the rest of my life while perfumes mutate in weird ways around me?

Okay, first of all, I have never heard of what you are talking about with the perfume, but I’ll take your word for it. We do know that perfumes act crazy in sunlight or heat, so it’s possible that yours is may not be sealed all the way and is reacting to the bad air around it, yep. I have another theory, but first, let me just remind everyone that I smoked a pack a day for 15 years (gross) so I’m not blowing smoke (hi-yo!) up your ass with the forthcoming advice. I have smelt it, and I have dealt it.

I don’t think your perfume is changing as much as your sense of smell is. When you flop back and forth between quitting smoking and starting again, you’re really taking your nose for a ride and it doesn’t know WHAT smells good or bad anymore. In fact, you don’t even know what smells bad to begin with because when you’re around an offputting scent for long enough, you become immune to it. It’s called olfactory fatigue. Your brain cuts you a break, otherwise it would bother you 24/7. Haven’t you had that experience of being on day three of not smoking and you go to sort your dirty laundry when WHAM! It hits you… “Ohhhmygoddd, I have been walking around smelling like shit!” The nonsmokers in your life have been reluctantly putting up with that every day, if you can imagine their plight. (Excluding those who love the smell of stale cigarette smoke. Hi mom!)

I think while you continue to partake, your priority should be getting rid of the bad smell that’s already on you. First of all, stop smoking in your house. Okay great. Now, when I smoked, this L’Oreal hair deodorant came in a few varieties and they even sold a pocket-sized bottle for your purse. Nowadays, I think dry shampoo has pretty much taken over. Suave’s is three dollars and has a lemony scent that’ll help you neutralize the smoke, but go for Klorane’s version if you can find it as their scent is less obvious and the product brushes out a better. If you’re at Sephora, pick up the travel-size Oscar Blandi.

To deodorize your clothes, here’s a recipe for an all natural fabric deodorizer you can make at home. And guess what? It calls for your favorite scented essential oil! It contains vegetable glycerin (available at Whole Foods or a natural market) which will help the oil mix with the water so you don’t get any oil spots on your clothes; just shake well before you spray. If you can, hang whatever you’re not going to wash right away outside your window before you go to bed.

And quit smoking or I will never ever talk to you again, ever. But if you do a good job, well, then you can be my best friend. My best friend that I’ve ever had. You hear me? 

2. My natural hair color is “dark blonde” (light brown?), but I’ve been highlighting it for ages and ages and feel like I’m blonde to the core. The thing is, I can’t seem to get it done professionally without spending anywhere less than $200. I am a graduate student now and that chunk of change every few months really puts a hurting on my booze fund. SO, is there a way to get highlights for cheaper? I have been a real Groupon/Living Social junkie for a while now, but it’s always a crap shoot, and I can’t even tell if it’s a good deal most of the time. I have had more than one horrendous at home hair-coloring incident and am quite inept at most things hair related at home. I have a feeling there might be no real solution to my problem, but I knew that if anyone had one it would be you.

[DISCLAIMER: If you are using Groupons and Living Social, I assume you live in a major metropolitan area. The following advice doesn’t address the cost of these services in non-major cities, where things are cheaper. First hot tip? Get them done out of town where things are cheaper!]

What is UP with some Groupons, especially beauty-related ones? You know how many possible meth fronts I’ve gotten eyelash extensions in only to go back for a touchup and have it be a tattoo parlor/head shop and the girl behind the counter tell me she’s been selling bongs there for 10 years and has no idea what I’m talking about I must’ve made up this so-called Ghost Eyelash Extension Store? Man.

This is a really tough question because you’re right, there is no solution that gets you the perfect, cheap highlights you’re asking for. Barring a stylist best friend or aunt who could do you the favor of cutting you a deal while you finish school, this just isn’t the sort of thing that can reliably turn out well on a tight budget. At the root of the high cost is the time it takes to do a good job. Highlights are not a one-hour in-and-out endeavor. You have to at least pay someone for the afternoon you’re taking up. Even at the cheapest places, you’re still looking at $90. And at that point it’s like, do you really want to save $60 to have them done by someone maybe not-so-experienced? And then at that point, why not just throw in another $30 and get your ideal highlights? And don’t forget the tip! This is not a single color thrown on top of gray roots — highlights are art and creating flattering ones is difficult, as evidenced by how many obvious **HIGHLIGHTS** you see out there.

You’re in luck, though, as your timing for this problem couldn’t be better given the look of obvious roots is actually in right now. I mean, technically it’s on it’s way out, that’s how popular it is, like the name Ava, but you don’t have to worry about that if you’re not a fashion icon. Next time you go in, tell your stylist you’d like some lowlights thrown in to make the roots less noticeable and that you’d like to transition to an ombré look — lighter at the ends, darker toward the roots. This will allow you to go a lot longer between touchups, and it might bust you out of the thing you’ve been doing for ages. Plenty of my not-particularly-beauty-skilled friends ombré their hair at home. Here’s how to do it by lightening the ends, and here’s a girl biting the bullet and just darkening her roots in one fell swoop:

3. I want to wear boots with my pants tucked in like everyone I know, but I don’t know how. I’m a size 10, and I’m pretty sure I can’t rock skinny jeans so all of my pants have relatively wide openings (not like, bell bottoms or anything, just normal). Is there a way to avoid that weird bunching that happens near my knee whenever I stand up? Or are tight jeans my only option?

Close your eyes and imagine your doppleganger wearing this dream outfit with the boots. What type of jean is she wearing? Are hers bunching anywhere? I think a slimmer cut pant is the way to go here, but remember that if you’re wearing tallish boots, it completely changes the proportions of your outfit and you may LIKE the way the jeans look on you. The only part that will be visible will be from your knees up, so who cares if the bottoms don’t look so great when you’re not wearing boots? No one will see that!

I know that for me, pairing skinny jeans with flats or sneakers can look… I dunno, I feel wider in my midsection. Tweedle Dee’d. The top of my head is pointy and then my feet are pointy, but the middle can look out-of-whack. But in boots? No problem! It’s probably got something to do with the golden mean. At any rate, take your boots to the store with you along with socks that aren’t too bulky and start trying them on with a variety of slimmer-legged jeans until you find the look you envision.

4. If you could please just answer quickly and put us out of our misery: This kind of ponytail is not even possible, right? Therefore we should never attempt one, because we might as well try to make our cars run on Fanta?

It is possible if you have really long hair OR if you have a ponytail extension. Either way, the main thing going on here is you have to tease the SHIT out of the back of your hair. Teasing will use up a lot of the length of your natural hair, so let’s experiment to see if you’ll need some artificial help.

First, on clean, dry hair, make a deep part and section off the front of your hair that you want to remain smooth. This will be bangs or all of your hair from your ears forward — just clip it out of the way. Now, with the hair from the crown down to the nape of your neck, take a comb like this and just rat, rat, rat, rat. Use a volumizing powder to help the ratting stay, rat some more, hairspray, and then rat even more. What you’ll have is a big mess in the back of your head. (Should look like the mess in this video.) Now, taking a tufted bristle brush, pretend that big ratted ball of hair is clay and mold it into the right shape by lightly brushing the surface hairs into place, not-too-deeply. Just mold the hair into that huge bump shape in back, gather your hair into a ponytail at the base of your skull, and secure withe an elastic. Now, if your hair is long enough, brush out the ponytail so it’s not ratty anymore and take a ½” wide chunk of hair and wrap it around the elastic in order to cover it up. Secure with a bobby pin.

If you don’t have long hair, this ponytail extension (pictured) will do the trick. Or this cheaper one. 

5. I have had a frustration with my eyes and eye make up for ages: for some reason, whenever I have experimented with eye liner, it makes my eyes look small. I have never tried false eyelashes, but I’ve a feeling that might do the same thing. Maybe it’s my coloring? Is there a specific eyeliner trick for blue eyes? I generally just put on some eye shadow and mascara, then hope for the best.

First of all, stop worrying about the size of your eyes. Some people have small ones and some people have big ones and some people have NONE. So what?

Second, yes, drawing dark circles around your eyes can cause them to recede, and therefore look smaller. Let’s shoot for a different style of eyeliner for you. (And once you’ve mastered it, go ahead with those false lashes!)

Applying makeup is not dissimilar to drawing or painting. Remember drawing a still life of like, an apple when you were in school? You’d start to draw a circle and it immediately looks like crap; like a drawing of an apple and not the apple itself. That’s because you were drawing what you knew to be the shape of the apple, but not what your brain actually perceived when you looked at the apple. The side of the apple where the light hits it? There’s no big black line on that side, right? And that half that looks to be in shadow? It’s no longer apple green on that side, right? The shadow is actually… if you look carefullypurple? Weird, but that’s how you have to draw it. Think of makeup that way. If you want your eyes to look larger with makeup, you have to trick us. I want you to look at this picture of Angelina Jolie’s eyeliner. This is a very subtle, simple makeup look — and there’s your black liner with blue eyes! — which contains a bit of an optical illusion:

See how far beyond the outer corner of her eye the eyeliner extends? The winged part is nearly as wide as her pupil. Are you overdrawing yours this much? I’m not even sure what look you want, but for whatever look you desire, I suggest truly studying in detail a photo of someone successfully achieving it. You might be surprised by what you see if you just let your eyes absorb what’s actually going on, instead of thinking “eyeliner must follow the lines of your eyes.”

Previously: If You See Something, Say Something.

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