A small boost to my ego…

Wednesday I went to do my feet. I have been doing some physiotherapy (some hip and leg pain from carrying too heavy bags of clothes when going to the laundromat) which required me to undress to my undies, so I didn’t have my toenails painted — just some base and clear polish on it, which nobody notices. But that ended, and I had some great plans for Thursday (which failed catastrophically, as reported on Facebook), and I had a nasty pair of callus on the toes, one of which was quite painful, so it was time to get my feet treated again. I now tend to go routinely to a salon near the office; they’re open until late, which suits my crazy daily schedule rather well.

Sandra in salon-styled wigThe last time I was there was to do some restyling on my year-old wig; it was the first time I used that salon to do my hair. At this stage, I’m pretty sure everybody at the salon (which is not huge, but not tiny either) knows about my crossdressing; they also know about my wife (she did her nails there one day), and know that my wife knows, but because we both absolutely do not stand out in a crowd, I’m sure they find it all very amusing. But they treat me very well, since, these days, I’m a regular customer there. So it was also natural for my manicurist to ask if I liked the restyling that her colleague had done. On an impulse, I showed her the picture to the left; it’s one of my rather tasteful ones, with daytime makeup, so it looks rather natural and realistic. I think she was quite impressed! She even admitted that she liked to watch crossdresser shows on TV, which is rather surprising, since I never saw one (since I don’t own a TV, it means I’m restricted to what I can watch at my mother-in-law’s place).

Friday I had some fun shopping for cosmetics. I was looking for some nail polish to offer to my manicurist; she tends to be generous and, every time I do my toenails with her, she gives me the rest of the vial, something which also happened (again) on Wednesday. Well, she does not charge much, and she does have to pay a fee for using the salon, so I understand that she’s not making much money out of me, so I decided to buy two new vials for her.

Slowly, at the mall beneath my office, people start to know me (it has only re-opened last year, after having been shut down for remodellation for almost three years). It’s a ‘neighbourhood mall’ — just some 20 shops or so and a supermarket. Besides being a ‘regular’ at the salon, there is also a shop where I get my dressed tightened up. This is something I seriously encourage everybody to do, specially if you’re wearing a corset. The overwhelming majority of dresses being sold have ‘straight’ lines (or, for larger numbers, they might even be pear-shaped, exactly what you don’t want to look like!) and almost have no waist at all. But with a corset you will have a waist indeed. A belt or girdle will help, but it’s much nicer to get the dress redone by an alterations specialist. After having brought her so many of my dresses to change, I’m pretty sure that she has figured out they’re for me (I’m still waiting for her to do my fur coat… hopefully it’ll be ready by the end of the month). And there is also a dry cleaning service which I occasionally use, for those special cases where I can’t simply wash a piece of clothing at the laundromat.

Besides a regular cosmetics & perfume shop — where I just bought something once — there is also a ‘pro’ cosmetics shop as well. They obviously sell to everybody, but they tend to have more higher-end products, or larger bottles of hair shampoo, which are cost-effective for salons but not necessarily for consumers. They’re really not targetting the consumer market: they don’t even do nice packages for gifts, but just give you a simple plastic bag. Nevertheless, I do like their selection of products, and the prices are fine if you wish to buy higher quality. For instance, they have nail polish that is very hard to find elsewhere.

Perhaps the only issue I have with them is that not every salesperson is similarly informed about their products and how they’re to be used. A lot of them are still in training (this particular shop in their chain opened a year ago). They’re used to pros who go inside and know exactly what they wish and ask few questions. As such, the quality of service varies a lot. However, all of them are very nice.

Yesterday I got the ‘clueless blonde’ to help me out, which is a bit unfair description of her. The last time I got her, she had been working at the shop for a very short time, and while she was really not confident enough in recommending a hair mask, to compensate for her lack of knowledge, she gave me all sorts of pamphlets and catalogues and product information, which was generous of her. So calling her ‘clueless blonde’ sounds rather horrible, like if she were particularly stupid and unfriendly. In fact, it’s rather the contrary: she is very friendly, very open, very empathic with the clients, figures things out quickly on her own — she just lacks experience with the vast array of products that this shop carries. That’s all. Oh, and she is also gorgeous, which is a plus if you work on a cosmetics store 🙂

So after selecting two vials of nail polish, I saw that they had added two shelves, one for L’Oréal and another for Maybelline. A quick glance made me immediately notice that they were carrying ‘special’ and ‘hard-to-find’ products of those two brands. Pretty much all supermarkets around here, even the smaller ones, will have products from Maybelline; the larger ones might also have things from L’Oréal, but the choice is limited to the ‘most used’ products, which often means just some lipstick, eye shadows, and some basic foundation. Here they had much more, so I asked if they carried any highlighting powder.

A short explanation is due at this stage. As said before, I’ve done the latest online makeup course from Lucille Sorella, and learned about a plethora of new products and techniques of which I was absolutely clueless; makeup technology has definitely become incredible complex in the past 15 years! Oh sure, there are a gazillion videos about makeup techniques on YouTube for free, but I was a bit stumped at how all those products work together. Since doing that makeup course, one of the (many!) things I’ve learned is that there are basically two kinds of products these days for your skin. The first kind is used beneath the foundation. They are usually a gel, or cream, or liquid. You can go wild on them to do contouring, highlighting, and correction, because the foundation will blend them in and make them not stand so much out; your face will look very strange before applying foundation, but it works! Women who do not wear foundation can still use those products, they just have to be careful about the quantity they apply.

Sometimes, however, using those products beneath the foundation is not enough — or, more likely, you still haven’t gotten the highlighting/shadowing correctly done. So, on top of the foundation, there is the second kind of product you use: and this is almost always a kind of powder. Blush is probably the most well-known kind of product applied on top of the foundation; bronzer the second-most-well-known. But now I’ve learned that there are highlighters and shadows as well in powder. I wanted to try that out! When doing my makeup using that technique last time, I noticed that I would definitely like a bit more highlighting on the nose and cheekbones, but after the foundation has set in, that’s not possible… so, highlighting powder, here I come!

The blonde shop assistant hesitated for a second, then she mentioned ‘regular’ liquid highlighters, but I told her I wanted a powder, to place it on top of the foundation. She immediately understood what I wanted, so she showed me one sample from each of the two brands. L’Oréal is more expensive; I picked Maybelline.

But on an impulse I told her that I wasn’t just selecting it because of the price. In the cosmetics industry, American and Japanese brands have far more pigments than European brands. This has mostly to do with the market; European women tend to wear slightly less makeup (specially in the south, where the sunlight is stronger and you don’t need so much makeup — and most cosmetic products in Europe come from France, at least the best-known brands) than their American and Japanese counterparts. Americans also prefer to get ‘more bang to the buck’ — they want to apply little product but immediately see a lot of effect. Europeans are less concerned about the amount they need to apply, but worry more about the kind of stuff they put on their skins. So the brands have increased or decreased the pigment depending on mostly cultural bias; that doesn’t mean that L’Oréal is better or worse than Maybelline, their products just work differently. Another example: recently I have bought some blush from Inglot, a Polish brand which I had never used before (I normally got blush from MAC or Sephora). Apparently the Poles also love highly-pigmented products!

Anyway… this piece of information regarding pigments and American vs. European brands certainly impressed the shop rep. She smiled at me, nodding, and commented: ‘You certainly do know a few things about makeup…’

I’m sure I blushed a bit and said that I picked these things up here and there… and that a lot of practice experimenting with different brands also helped!

But inside I was certainly gloating, and my ego was almost bursting.

All in all, it was definitely something I enjoyed a lot!

And as a bonus, now when I walk across the shop front (which happens almost every day, it’s on my way to the office…), and she is doing her shift, she smiles and waves. That certainly helps to add a little more polishing on my ego; of course I know that she’s just being friendly with a customer, but it’s still nice to know that at my age I don’t strike fear and terror on women half my age…