Read ALL about my review process including how I take swatches, photos, and more here.
Guys! You guys are like friends in my head from all over the world. Many of you have been coming here and visiting this little ole blog since its beginning in 2007 and many of you might have recently found me. No matter what though, I appreciate every single one of you for hanging out, reading my thoughts, and leaving comments. Who knew the pictures I take of makeup and my thoughts on them could be so important to so many people? It all just blows my mind—but I love makeup (and clothes and skincare and traveling and working out and cooking and ok—I like a lot of things…lol) and more than anything I love being able to talk about something I love with an audience who loves to read about it.
But lately I’ve been getting some comments where there seems to be a bit of a disconnect in what’s being asked and what I actually can do. I answer most of them, but figured it would be better to give some insight into how I do my beauty review and makeup swatches process.
So first things first, while there may feel like there’s some “standard” beauty blogging process, owning a blog means the blog owner can set his or her own standards when it comes to running their blog—in my case about beauty products. I don’t have to be a Temptalia or Makeup and Beauty Blog. Those ladies are great at what they do and have huge audiences who follow their every word, but I’m me and I do what I can with what I have. I’m also not a Youtuber. I have a Youtube channel but it’s mostly past failed attempts at doing reviews and my TV appearances…lol. I’d love to do Youtube videos, but I just don’t have the time nor the equipment (if I’m going to spend the time doing it, I want the right lighting, setting, etc. and need to have the time to spend editing—if you’ve ever edited a video and are NOT a professional, you’ll know how long it can take to make a good 2 minute video). But I do like to write and like to describe my experience with products and even if something isn’t for me, lay out who it might be for.
About a year or so after writing this post I learned how to make videos! Subscribe to my channel here.
I also don’t have a team. It’s just me here. One of my really good friends is a photographer and takes amazing fashion pics of me and works with me on special projects like 50 Shades of Lipstick, but we don’t live near each other and she has her own business to run so it’s not like I’m going to drive 30 minutes to her studio every time I have to take makeup pics…lol. It’s just not feasible for me. Some bloggers are really fortunate enough to either have multiple person teams or even a loving boyfriend or husband who does all the technical stuff for them. I mean, I date, but I certainly don’t have a beau-tographer (boyfriend photographer…lol) and as busy as I am, I think I’d like to spend the extra time with my man doing um—non-blogger thangs…lol.
So anyway, here’s my review process. I will figure out how to link to this post so it’s on every review I do so you can have it handy to read and understand my process.
Also, and this isn’t a complaint on my end, but just to get you to understand my POV. Swatches and reviews are about 25% of the posts on this site I do but take up a good 50-60% of my time to complete.
In addition to this blog, I also work hard at being a freelance fashion and beauty writer (I had my work published in print magazines and regularly write for another fashion publication). I also have the business-end of this blog and my brand to run as again, I don’t have a team.
See also How to Start and Maintain a Beauty Blog.
How I Obtain Product
When I first started blogging in 2007, ALL the products I talked about were things I owned and bought myself. It wasn’t until maybe two or three years later when PR companies and brands started sending me stuff. And when I am sent a sample, I mention it within the first paragraph or so of the post. I personally don’t care whether or not a blogger review I’m reading bought a product or if it was sent for review consideration, but the FTC says bloggers must disclose if something was given or we could face being fined. I also personally don’t like putting “I received this from the company’s PR” at the bottom of the post in little print (not knocking anyone who does it—again, I really don’t care…lol. Some of my sponsored posts will have a disclosure at the bottom but that’s because the sponsor requested it). I like to write as if I’m having a conversation with whoever’s reading and it feels more natural for me to do that within the post. If I didn’t say it was sent to me, then I bought it myself.
Now here’s the thing about PR samples. They aren’t some bottomless store where any and every blogger can get samples. It just doesn’t work that way. Brands/PR agencies can decide whether or not they want their product sent to certain bloggers. I’m not on every major brand’s list and in fact there are some brands who may only send me press releases about new products, but won’t send me the actual products. No sweat off my back. I understand and respect that not every brand is going to want to send me anything. And when I do get samples from brands, not every brand is going to send me everything from a collection. I’m okay with that, too…lol.
Sometimes if I’m out shopping and see something I know you guys would like to know about, I’ll buy it just for the sake of reviewing it. I try not to do that often because otherwise I’ll always have an overflow of product and it doesn’t make sense business-wise to spend money on makeup I won’t use after I review it. And once you open a product, you can’t donate it to charities (see the vicious cycle? lol).
Also I don’t always have the luxury of reviewing a product the second I get it. Sometimes I miss delivery, sometimes I’m busy working on other obligations, and sometimes I just forget I have it. Hey, I’m human…lol.
I am SO not a photographer. Not in the least bit. But I’ve found some settings that work for me and that best show a product in its true form. I rely on a good source of sunlight when taking product pictures with my SLR (I have a Canon Rebel T2i) so if it’s cloudy out or I missed my window of opportunity in the spot where I take pics (usually from 9 A.M. – 12 P.M.), then I have to wait until I can get the light I like. I like my product pictures to look a certain way but that’s just my personal preference. It fits the aesthetic of my blog and my brand.
While I’m pretty decent with taking photos of products and swatches of makeup on my arms, I have yet to perfect taking pictures of myself. It’s a lot harder than you think. What makes it easier for me is to take it with my iPhone using the forward facing camera (we’ve had that discussion before). Folks, this is all I’ve got for now. My long drawn-out actual words and those pictures. I can’t give any more than that now even though I’m constantly working on improving and revamping. If you need more than that, you will not hurt my feelings if you use Google image search or Youtube to find someone else that can give you all you desire.
In fact, I’ve come a long way already with how I used to take pics. And I do listen to feedback—I only started doing lip color swatches on my lips after people asked me to do it. But that slows down my process because where before I would test makeup while still in my PJs (if I had two eyeshadows to test, I’d put one on each eye and then a lip color and whatever else I needed to test—multitasking at its best which allowed me to bring more new products relatively quickly to you), now for me to take pictures of my actual face I need to look presentable and girl, that takes time since I work in my pajamas most of the time and when I do go out for meetings and events, I often don’t have time (or the right lighting) to snap pics. And you know what, there’s some days I don’t feel like taking pictures of myself. But I give the most that I can with what I have.
Also some products just don’t translate well into a photograph as easily. Like for instance, I reviewed some Laura Mercier foundations that even in person looked exactly the same so they looked the same in pictures. I definitely made mention of this in the post and also noted what the undertones were for each which is what I’ll do when something like that comes up.
Also some monitors may display colors differently, but I’ll include a description of the product color in the post.
My reviews are written in a way as if I’m having a conversation with whoever is reading it. I talk about the product color, the texture, how long it lasted, and where I can, I mention which skin tones it’ll look best on. Not every review can be the same because not every product is the same. At the bottom of most reviews I’ll have a “bottom line” (which is a SUPER quick summary on whether or not you might want to check the product out) and “price and where to buy” (which sometimes contain affiliate links—which is like how a sales person receives a small commission for product you buy).
The idea with my reviews is to HELP you with the buying process and to be a guide to lead you down the right path when it comes to choosing products that I love that I think you’ll love, too. As much as I wish I could be, I can’t be the entire buying process for you. I realize not everyone lives near a Sephora and I try my best to always think of that girl who lives in a smaller town when doing reviews, but sometimes you have to also experience the product for yourself which might mean buying more than one shade if you’re ordering online (see: How to Buy Makeup Online and Here’s How to Buy the Right Foundation Shade Both In-Store and Online).
I’m also under no obligation to say I like something when I don’t. I’ll be the first one to say I didn’t like something but even then if I feel that there might be someone who it might work for, I’ll mention that, too.
Each product category can sometimes warrant its own process, so here’s how I deal with certain products in a nutshell:
I try all lipsticks and gloss on their own with no base, no liner, nothing. I’ll wear it for as long as it wears on me which will usually include through meals and drinks. I’ll put swatches on my arm as well as on my lips. But I also did a really big project where I swatched over 100 shades of lipsticks on me, full face and had them photographed by my friend Nas of Nasilele Photography which I did to serve as a guide to see how lip colors look on a full face—because really and truly, all these lip colors tend to look alike…lol.
I try foundation/concealer/powder over a couple of days to see how it works in different settings. I have oily skin and will make mention of it in all posts and prefer to review foundations for oily skin just because ones for normal to dry skin won’t work on me unless it’s the dead of winter in NYC.
I also review foundation with powder on. I never wear foundation without powder unless the product specifically says not to wear powder.
I didn’t always show pictures of me wearing foundation in all my posts because to be honest, though I can tell the difference in person about how a foundation looks on me, in pics they all look the same…lol. And I find that could be distracting because people will look at the pics and not read the actual review. I want people to read the review because most foundations will look nice on me (I’m not saying that to be a jerk—I take really good care of my skin and have good skin genes). So please read the review…lol.
My foundation shades/skin tone
You can find my foundation shade equivalents across a couple of brands here.
I always test and swatch eyeshadows without any kind of base or primer to see how good the formula is. When I wear them out when I’m not testing, I always wear a primer or base to make sure the shadow stays—as should you. But I never use a primer underneath for swatches. What you see is exactly what you get.
Also to note, certain eyeshadow colors—particularly very light colored mattes—are VERY hard to photograph on me. I try my best to go in Photoshop to alter the color so it looks like how it looks in person, but even then sometimes they can still look ashy. But you’ll know about wear and pigmentation from what I write in the review.
There are some hair product reviews where I’ll just have to spell things out for you. I’m not a video girl and sometimes taking pics doesn’t show what I mean, so I explain it the best I can in the review. But of course when it comes to things like hair weave, I’ll get as many pictures as I can but again, all the meat is going to be in the review itself.
I LOVE nail polish but it takes the most time to showcase. I wear gel nails a good 85-90% of the time so I can’t show you what something looks like on my hands. Plus I wear long wear top coats on everything when I have a regular manicure, so I’m personally not as invested in how long a formula lasts. Or how the brush glides. I’m pretty much just like “Ohhhhh color!” lol But luckily there are SO many blogs dedicated to just nails that will go into that detail for you.
Skincare is another huge favorite of mine. Some products take much longer to review than others. A cleanser usually takes maybe 3-5 days for me to have an idea of whether I like it or not. Mattifying moisturizers I can tell after about two days. Things like dark spot treatments, night time moisturizers, wrinkle creams (I don’t review a lot of these—at least not yet), or pretty much anything promising a change in the skin can take me 6-8 weeks and sometimes even longer.
I take breaks in between reviewing skincare just to get back in neutral mode and also take note of the ingredients in each product so I know if I notice a change, I can pinpoint which product it came from. Also some skincare products are seasonal. I have oily skin so in spring and summer I need to do more to help control the shine. In fall depending on what NYC is serving weather-wise, my skin can either be oily or not-so oily. In the winter my skin can tend to feel drier than normal but it’s still for the most part oily—but this is when I change to “heavier” formulas to protect me from when it gets really cold and dry here.
I’d LOVE to explain how to do something to you, but you’d have to be willing to read it…lol. I’m working on doing some pictorials but most likely won’t be doing video tutorials any time soon because I’m a crazy Virgo and I don’t have the right equipment and setup now to do them.
Sorry, but I don’t make it a mission to do dupes. If I notice right away something looks exactly like another product, I’ll mention it, but I don’t purposely go out to find dupes. There are SO many sites dedicated to just finding dupes though. I personally own makeup that looks extremely similar to each other and can justify why I have them all so I’m not the best person to tell you that you don’t need X if you have Y…lol.
I know that my swatches are important to so many of you because I’m a dark skin beauty blogger. That’s why I keep doing them even though they take up so much time and mean more work for me. I love being able to help you out and love nothing more than to help someone feel great because they finally found a concealer that works for them or a lipstick color that makes them feel sexy because they read my blog. That’s freaking amazing!
I know a TON about beauty and fashion (I have my Fashion Institute receipts and I’m constantly getting updated on the latest through virtue of my job…lol) and love sharing what I know—beauty is my life…lol. But I can’t be all things for all people, and I’m okay with that. I would like you to be okay with that, too.
If you have questions about anything, my comment section is always open (I have to approve your first comment because spam bots try to take over) but ask a question if you missed something or don’t understand, leave a comment. I’d love to answer your questions when I can :)