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In Search of a Newer, Younger You : Yearning for improvement or a change? Take a makeup lesson. Hint: One secret is to blend, blend, blend.


Headlines from women's magazines you've only sneaked a peak at start jumping out at you: "Younger Skin! How to Erase the Last Five Years." "How to Be Brilliant With Makeup (Yes, You)."

This sudden interest in fluff usually left unread on your parents' coffee table heightens your worry that you are turning into your mother. Now in your mid-30s, you are definitely confronting the aging process, so you decide to run scared and take a makeup lesson. Somehow, when all the other girls in high school were becoming acquainted with the fine art of eyebrow pencils and shades of lipstick, you were, well, busy.

So you sign up for a $40 makeup lesson at Sebastian International, the people who are pro-rain forest and anti-animal testing. With those politically correct credentials, you figure that you have a better chance coming out looking like a poor man's Cindy Crawford than Elvira.

The Woodland Hills salon is a sleek, otherworldly environment, very space age, with a bevy of young women trading gossip at the front desk, which could pass for the cockpit of the Enterprise. You mumble that you're here for your makeup lesson, and they all seem to examine your face at once. Lorelei, a woman in her early 20s with wispy blonde hair, great skin and the most natural makeup (a good sign), emerges to lead you down a tunnel to her station.

You stress that you want a natural look, but Lorelei puts so much powder on your face that you begin to have an allergic reaction. You feel silly in the chair, and everybody who works in the salon seems to drop by to check your progress. You figure that they are either laughing at your lack of makeup skill or checking on Lorelei, who admits that she is new at giving makeup lessons. You're not sure if this is good or bad. Maybe she'll go easy with the eyeliner, or maybe she'll cake so much makeup on you'll look as if you've been made up for one of those glamour photos.

You become increasingly nervous and start wondering: Do serious women worry about putting on their makeup? Does Janet Reno? (Probably not, but could it hurt?) Or Hillary Clinton? (Probably has a makeup artist from "Designing Women" on retainer.)

Lorelei runs through the hourlong lesson, and you start to relax. You quit worrying about everyone sneaking a peek at you and start trying to remember some of Lorelei's tips. She assures you that the secret to good makeup is to blend, blend, blend. (You're sure the secret has to do with good bone structure and fine skin.)

She doesn't do anything to your face that you haven't tried in the safety of your own bathroom. She applies foundation, powder, blush, lash liner and shadow, mascara, eyebrow pencil, blush and lipstick, talking you through it and dispensing advice along the way.

It's a little like going to the hairdresser, though--you'll never duplicate the look at home. But Lorelei is full of little hints:

* When applying foundation with a sponge, start in the middle and blend out.

* If you see a line that looks harsh, go back to it.

* Apply blush to your entire face (part of the blend, blend philosophy).

* To set lipstick, take a single sheet of tissue, put it to your lips, then brush the tissue with powder.

* With much earnestness, she says something very funny as she repeatedly uses cotton swabs to dab away excess makeup: "Q-Tips are your friend."

As she finishes, you find yourself liking the look, except that with all this makeup on, you feel as if you've just walked through a dust storm. You find yourself liking Lorelei too, which was one of your biggest fears. You once had your makeup done in a Beverly Hills salon, and not only did they try to sell you every product smeared on your face, they treated you as though you lived in the wrong ZIP code.

During the lesson, Lorelei has not pushed a single product, although everything she has put on your face is made by Sebastian. She does try to sell you on eyelash and eyebrow tinting, but that's only after you admire her makeup, and she reveals that tinting is her secret.

As you pay your bill, the mildly made-up woman at the register asks how you liked your lesson. You mumble, still embarrassed, that Lorelei did a good job. You can tell that she doesn't believe you, and you realize that she thinks that Lorelei didn't pile on enough makeup. You assure her that, thankfully, you got what you asked for.

The last time your husband saw you with this much makeup was when you had your makeup professionally done for your wedding reception, and he said, "I didn't know I married a Kabuki dancer."

This time, he responds with: "You clean up well." "Is that a compliment?" your neighbor (who raves about it) asks. After eight years of marriage . . . perhaps.

Where and When What: Makeup lessons at Centre Salon at Sebastian International, 6109 De Soto Ave., Woodland Hills. Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays. Price: $40. Call: (818) 347-1900.

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