Coming Clean: Beauty Tools you didn't know needed cleaning.

Hi there! Today we're going to take a journey into the world of cosmetic cleanliness. I know you're probably thinking, well I wash my face -- how much cleaner can I get?

The answer, MUCH cleaner.

Did you know that bacteria lives on every surface? Currently, as you're reading this article, sipping your coffee on your couch, there's millions of different types of bacteria swirling all around you. Let's try not to focus on how disturbing this development is, but rather on how to make sure those swirls of yuck don't end up affecting your daily routine with things like "Pink Eye", also known as Conjunctivitis aka Con-yuck-tivitis.

So let's get started on the, "Oh crap, I was supposed to clean that list".

First and foremost, there's a huge debate in the industry on whether 70% or 99% alcohol is the proper sanitizing agent. But according to the CDC, 70% is the most effective cleaning agent out of the two. So be sure to keep a jug close by for proper germ disposal, because 70%.
 Elegance and Beauty,  ©  2014

Elegance and Beauty, © 2014

Makeup Brushes

You've heard the horror stories of infections being spread through makeup, but the moist, porous surface of your makeup brushes are normally the culprit behind every horror story. So it's imperative we clean them. The best way to clean them is with a brush shampoo, like this one from Eco Tools. They're built for a multitude of hair types (crazy, right? even brushes have different hair!), you won't have to worry about damaging your brushes.

If you're traveling, or even just sharing brushes with your teenager child/weirdly invasive room mate, there are instant brush cleaners like Cinema Secrets -- which is my favorite one to use due to it's fast drying. You never want to use the same brush on different people without it being cleaned, your funk isn't the same as the funk of someone else. So if you share your funk, it can cause major issues for the person without it.

Tweezers, Nail Clippers, and Sharpeners

Yep, often laying dormant in your beauty bags, these surfaces need to be soaked/cleaned with 70% alcohol immediately. I know I personally use my tweezers for a ton of different things like putting on lashes, plucking stray hairs from my different areas of my face, and maybe even to help with hang nails. Talk about cross contamination! There are soaking jars available here, they're really nice for cleaning tools. You set them in to soak, and remove after 10 minutes. I'd also suggest upgrading to a sharpener that has a cleaning pick, like this one. They seem to work the best in my opinion.

Hot Tools/ Skin Tools

Do you use a straightener? A Clairsonic to exfoliate? Chances are those surfaces need a good wipe down themselves!

Hot Tools often have the most build up of any product, hair products and germs seem to latch onto the surfaces. A good cleanse will up the performance of these tools, and leave your hair clean. Clairsonic brushes by default have antibacterial bristles but the machine itself could use a wipe down. You want to use 70% alcohol on both these products as well.

  ©  Reader's Digest

© Reader's Digest

Hair Brushes/Combs

Also a beacon of bacteria, your hair follicles are a major port for germs to harbor through. The best way to clean your brushes is by using a hair removing tool, like this. Then soak combs and spray brushes with 70% alcohol or medical grade Barbicide.

 Again, if you're sharing these tools with multiple people or using them in a professional setting and do not have time to deeply clean them -- there is an instant Oster Spray that is great to clean utensils in a crunch.

Your Makeup Bag

I'd use a wet cloth with 70% alcohol to clean the interior and exterior of your beauty case. This is often overlooked, but it's super important that every surface/tool be wiped down!


So there you have it guys, now stop saying, "Oh crap!" and go clean your beauty utensils so your skin is the healthiest version it can be!

  • How do you currently clean your beauty tools?
  • Any suggestions on products, cleaning regimens, or things I missed?




How to clean your skin like the pros.

Congratulations! You've taken the first step into the world of facial cleansing. Just clicking this article is a huge deal since at least 90% of the clients I work with aren't cleansing properly. We're going to take a journey debunking common cleaning methods I hear daily, and end at the proper 5-step process that is recommended by professionals.

 Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Artist - Ashley Watts

Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Artist - Ashley Watts

1. "I use Makeup Removing Wipes to remove my makeup, it works great!"

But does it really? Makeup Removing Wipes typically have the same ingredients as basic cleansers do. They're able to lightly breakdown makeup, and probably do work wonders for someone who wears very light makeup (no mascara, eyeliners, bold lips, etc). But if you wear anything beyond a bb cream with some light blush, chances are you're not properly removing or breaking down dirt. You end up with a greasy feeling face, and lots of residue left behind. It might appear clean, but it certainly isn't.

Now, I realize that if you're on the fly, you might need to use something like a Makeup Wipe to speed things up. If you plan on using these, be sure to rinse your face and apply a moisturizer afterwards. It isn't proper, but it will work in a pinch!

2. "I wash my face with a cleanser that is a makeup remover, toner, and moisturizer in one!"

We're all looking for that miracle product. Trust me, everyone's life would be much easier if their skincare regimen can be summed up in one product. But proper cleansing isn't a 2-step process. No cleanser, even though who have some traces of makeup removing power can really clean your face entirely. It's hard to guarantee traces of remover built is, can break down the heavier stuff, just like the wipes.

Chances are, you feel cleaner, but not clean when you should be feeling refreshed. Your skin is normally left still dirty, and unbalanced.

3. "I love my micro-beaded exfoliate, it works so good!"

Grinding your skin clean is never, ever going to better than using something like, an AHA/BHA exfoliate. Trust me, I fell victim to the beaded exfoliate until I used a mask that gently removes the dead skin, and even helps brighten your complexion by naturally lightening dark spots and discoloration. You won't get that kind of performance from your typical beaded exfoliates. These masks are 1-2 times weekly, so about the same amount of application time which is nice.

4. "I got to have my toner!"

You can thank large beauty brands in the industry for convincing you that an alcohol based toner is surely what you need to put on your skin. It leaves you feeling dry and tight, and I only recommend using a toner if you have extremely dry skin and for morning cleansing. There is no reason to use a toner for most skin types if you're using a good cleansing regimen.

5. "It's gotta work, it's over $100!"

Hell to the no. If someone is telling you that you have to spend over $100 per item for a healthy skin care regimen they're lying to make money. Most higher end brands are perfectly great for anyone who can afford that -- but good skin care doesn't have to break the bank. You can certainly find a genuine regimen for $150 or less.

I've noticed a lot of the pricey items are filled with cheap fillers and fragrances, which are known to irritate the skin. If you're willing, and wanting to spend some major dollars on skin care -- be sure to research what is inside that $100+moisturizer.

6. "The girl at the store said to wash my face morning AND night."

There is no proof that washing your face two times a day helps. What I do know is that using a toner, or mineral water to freshen your face does not strip your skin. You face isn't getting dirty during your sleeping cycle, so why are you trying to cleanse it entirely? You're just loosing the benefits of the expensive creams you put on the evening before! I personally buy a $75 serum for evenings, and don't want to waste the benefits I get from using it by stripping it all away with cleanser.

7. "I have oily skin, so I can't use that cleanser"

Well, any cleanser works my dear! Of course each skin type tend to have a preference, but there is no need to have a specific cleanser. Moisturizers, and serums are where you'e getting your skin care treatment at. Everyone should be weary of cleansers that are heavy in fragrance, as they're known to irritate skin.


I hear a ton more misconceptions about skin care, but those are the most common ones I get. A good regimen doesn't need to fit into a box, and a good regimen doesn't always align with one brand. The most important part about the perfect regimen is the process. I have seen a huge improvement in my skin since I changed my regimen to this, so I'd like to share with you the professional regimen I follow. This regimen is recommend for EVERY skin type.

1. Remove makeup and impurities with an oil cleanser. Pump once into the tips of your fingers, and begin to remove at your eyes. Steadily massage until your entire face is covered. Splash clean with luke warm water.

2. Wash face with cleanser and cloth/clairsonic.
 - If you choose to use a wash cloth, use a fresh one each time. Pump once into the tips of your fingers and begin massaging at cheeks until entire face is covered use cloth to massage. Splash clean with luke warm water.
- If you choose to use a clairsonic style machine. Pump once directly on the brush head. Run brush head under luke warm water, apply to cheeks and begin rotating cycle on brush. Move around face until the machine clicks off, or face is entirely covered with cleanser. Splash clean with luke warm water.

3. Allow face to dry, the proceed to gently massage one pump of chosen serum into skin.

4. Apply one point of eye cream to the tip of the ring finger on your dominate hand, and pat into the area around the eye -- if your eye cream if for 360 use around the entire orbital area.

5. Apply one pump of selected moisturizer using finger tops, place the moisturizer in three area (forehead, both cheeks) and massage gently in.

6. TWO TIMES A WEEK: Use an exfoliating AHA/BHA mask.

Simple enough, right? It will certainly take some habit changes but I can bet that if you switch to the professional recommended regimen, you'll see results within two weeks. Less break outs, brighter skin, and more hydrated/healthy skin.

If you'd like a custom regimen, please feel free to contact me and set up an appointment for a skin care consult we can do this online, or in person.

Making Up With Your Makeup: Best Concealers for Oily Skin

I know, I know. You're sitting there shaking your head in disappointment because it's been months since I've found time to another Making Up With Your Makeup post. Frankly, I've just been too busy with bookings. But I haven't forgotten Kelsey's burning questions about concealers, foundations, and powders. I decided in the last post to break it down by skin type, and even further, into types of coverage. Yes, I do think I am fancy enough to do that. I also think it's the easiest way to not write a blog post the size of a bible. Pst, it's probably also the best way for you guys to retain knowledge as well!

In this edition, we're going to focus on the concealers that I think are best for oily skin. The most important step is knowing what exactly an oily eye area , and whether or not these concealers are for you. Does your eyeliner/mascara slip under your eyes during the day leaving you to look like you've been crying? If you gently press underneath your eye does it feel hydrated? Moist? (Ew, that word is awful.) If you answered yes to these questions, you're in the right place!


 Ashley Watts Makeup - Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Artist

Ashley Watts Makeup - Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Artist

1. Benefit Stay, Don't Stray - Priming your skin is a step I cannot recommend enough. You get the best performance from your makeup when you use a primer, and seeing as your eye area is much different than the rest of your face it's important to choose a primer that targets your concerns! This product is a game changer for anyone with an oily eye area!

2. Benefit Boing! - Self Proclaimed "Industrial" strength concealer is full coverage and in a "putty" texture. The application is easy, and the color range is pretty great as well. With the consistency I'd recommend rubbing the concealer between your fingers or around the container before applying it to warm it up -- it will glide right on! (Medium/Full Coverage)

3. Mac Prolong Wear - This waterproof concealer is one of my favorite ones to use on any skin type but I think the performance on oily skin is absolutely incredible. I personally don't see much wear using this product during the day. I wish their shades went a little lighter because my ghostly complexion barely makes the cut. It claims to provide matte coverage for up to 15 hours, and I personally think it lives up to the claim. (Medium/Full Coverage)

4. Stila Perfecting Concealer - This semi-matte concealer offers great coverage but if you're looking for the "dewy in all the right ways" look, I highly recommend this product. It's very controllable, and easy to use. The color range is remarkable as well, and it lasts all day. You could really get light, medium, or full coverage out of this concealer. It's formula is the most buildable out of all the concealers I've suggested. (Buildable Coverage)

 So there you have my top three concealers for an oily eye area. Now, there are some runner ups for me, so if these don't work for you, but you'd like some other options, I can certainly recommend more products for you. Also don't forget the priming step, it's the most important one out of all of them!

 In the next edition, we'll be covering the perfect powders for oily skin. Thanks again to Kelsey Smith, who suggested this question! I hope this answers some of your questions.

Marshall's Beauty Find: Nars Debbie Harry Palette

If you're a die-hard beauty addict like myself, you'll find yourself looking at the beauty department in every store you ever enter. I could spend hours romantically walking down the isles, looking for new products to add to my collection. Marshall's and TJ Maxx are one of my favorite places to hit, they've been known to have gems if you dig deep enough into their discounted shelves. I've gotten Kat Von D's Liquid Lipstick in Backstage Bambi, Adora, and Outlaw for a measly $6.99 USD. I've been fortunate to find her Christmas eyeliner set as well for a pretty affordable rate. I guess what I am trying to get at, is you can find some great brands hidden on those shelves waiting for someone who's got a knack for what a brand/product really is worth.

This week, I found myself roaming around the local Marshall's, mostly for a new laundry hamper, but who truly only goes directly to the item they need when there's tiny cat figurines to gawk at, and a beauty department filled with affordable rose soaps and oils? No one is strong enough to do that. I repeat, NO ONE. As I rounded the store a little discourage because I was leaving with said hamper, and that is all, I remembered that they have began putting makeup in their little "grab n go" type area. I looked at the E.L.F covered shelf, moving box, after box, of "smokey eye" palettes. Thinking Seriously? Am I about to walk out of this store with not one fun item? As I hung my head in disappointment,  I just so happen to see a box laying under the gondola/fixture. I slide the sparkling box out from underneath, as I saw the ever famous Nars logo begin to appear.

  © Ashley Watts - Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Arist

©Ashley Watts - Winston-Salem, NC Makeup Arist

You betcha! I just found a unswatched, still in the box, Debbie Harry Eyes Palette from the Andy Warhol Christmas collection Nars released in 2012! The best part? It was on clearance for $8.00 USD! What a ridiculously good price for an incredible palette! I haven't gotten to really dive into playing this palette yet due to a bunch of really big, exciting things going on in my personal life. But I have swatched it, and can tell you the pigment pay off is quite nice. It's really amazing to me what items Marshall's end up having on their shelves. I highly suggest, if you're not utilizing this store for makeup deals, you start today! 

Have you ever found any really great deals in the bargain bins? Any products you thought you'd never see there?