CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone Sunscreen SPF 40 Review


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Looking for a new face sunscreen?  Try my favorite!


I discovered this gem about a year ago on my quest to find a sunscreen for daily wear that would:

  1. Not make me look like a pasty white ghost, I’m pale enough, thanks.
  2. Give me a matte finish.
  3. Work well under full makeup, as I usually like to stay away from the “melted face” look.

What CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone Sunscreen SPF 40 is all about:

  • It’s a 100% natural mineral sunscreen.
  • 100% free of oils, chemical sunscreens, preservatives, fragrances, parabens, PABA, gluten, phythalates.
  • Silky, sheer matte formula.  Glides on smoothly and does not look oily or greasy.
  • Lightly tinted, no white cast.  Good for most skin tones but they do have an un-tinted version if your skin is very fair.
  • Works well under makeup, feels similar to a makeup primer.
  • Does not sting the eyes or skin.  Great for sensitive skin.
  • Provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
  • Water and sweat resistant. 
  • No heavy sunscreen scent.

Ingredients:  titanium dioxide (8%), zinc oxide (3.8%) ,
Alumina, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer,
Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Lauryl
PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Methicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone

I purchased it at ULTA for $19.99 and probably used a coupon because they always have coupons.  ULTA puts it on sale sometimes or will do a buy one, get one 50% off promotion as well.  Amazon also carries it for about $25.50.  The CoTZ website also sells it.  You may freak out at the price, but it’s totally worth it to save your face from the damaging rays of the sun.  The tube is 1.5 oz and may seem small but you don’t really need a ton of it to cover your face.  It spreads very easily.

The color outside in sunlight
The color outside in the shade


Fully rubbed in outside in sunlight
Fully rubbed in outside in the shade

As you can see, right out of the tube the color appears to be to dark for my fair/light skin tone, but when rubbed in, the color blends nicely.

I like to wear the CoTZ Face Sunscreen by itself for activities not requiring makeup (the horror!) or under makeup when I have to look presentable.  Because of the tint, you may not even need foundation, depending on how much coverage you like.  It helps to let it set for a few minutes before applying foundation over it.  At the end of the day, even with full makeup on top of the sunscreen, my skin looks great and I don’t look greasy and melted, even in the Las Vegas summer heat.  Hooray!


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John Frieda Salon Shape Hot Air Brush Review

Yes ladies, it’s totally possible to do a quality blowout at home thanks to one of these handy hot air brushes.  No need for a separate hair dryer and round brush, this guy is both tools in one.

My hair is pretty straight and I normally either wear it curly or in a knot on the top of my head.  But, being a makeup artist and hair stylist, I am sometimes asked to do a blowout on a client’s hair.  I have a full arsenal of makeup and hair supplies that I lug around on a daily basis, but any tool that makes my job easier (and looks cool) is a definite must have.

The specs on the John Frieda Salon Shape Hot Air Brush:



  • Lightweight
  • Low, High and Cool Settings
  • Professional length swivel cord
  • 500 Watts
  • Advanced ionic conditioning
  • True ceramic heater
  • Ceramic Titanium coated barrel
  • 2 sizes of bristles that comb through the hair easily
  • Available in either 1 inch or 1.5 inch barrels

I purchased the 1.5 inch at ULTA for $39.99 along with a coupon.  I was desperate and needed it that day.  It’s cheaper on Amazon.

How to use:

  • Make sure your hair is 80-90% dry (very important, it may take a while if your hair is not mostly dry)
  • Distribute your favorite heat protecting product into the hair (I like John Frieda Frizz Ease and Tresemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray)
  • Separate your hair into sections.
  • Start with the bottom portion, begin running the brush through small sections of the hair.  It may take 3-4 passes to fully dry it.
  • Work your way through the sections toward the top of the head and around your face.
  • For volume, lift up the brush at your roots, really working it in to create lift.
  • To curl the ends, curl the hair around the hot brush, blast it with either the low or hot setting (depending on your hair) for a few seconds, then switch it to cool for 5 seconds or longer to set the curl.  Turn the hot brush off and release the hair.


  • Practice working the brush at different angles to create the look that you want.

My first time using this on a client made me a little nervous in the beginning.  Of course, I tested the dryer rigorously beforehand on myself, making sure that it could handle the job and not explode in my hand.  I applied product to the client’s hair and rough dried it with a regular hair dryer.  Then I dove in with the John Frieda Hot Air Brush.  My client was chatting with her producer while I was doing her hair, speaking in French the whole time so I had no idea what they were talking about.  After about ten minutes into the hot air brush styling, the producer (a lady) started making oohhing and aahhing sounds, which I took as a good sign.  As soon as I put the hot air brush down for a second to re-section the hair, the producer grabbed the hot air brush and told me how wonderful it was (in English) and asked where could she buy it.  Needless to say, the client’s hair looked great when I was finished and they both thought I was a genius with this incredible tool.

The Cons:

  • The handle and settings switch can get a little slippery if you still have some serum or product still on your hands.  I may modify mine with some strips of grip tape or sand paper tape.
  • It takes a little practice flipping through the different settings with your thumb, the more you get used to it, the easier it is.
  • This particular brush does not rotate on it’s own, may be a con for some but for me, I like it better.
  • Yes, you’re going to see some hairs in the brush after you are done.  What brush doesn’t have hair in it after use?

The John Frieda Salon Shape Hot Air Brush is best for ladies who want a great looking blowout at home without the hassle of a round brush and heavy hair dryer.  It also costs way less than going to the salon on a constant basis.  Of course, keep your natural hair in mind if you are thinking about buying this hot air brush.  If you have extremely curly hair, this may not work as well for you.  It will work for pretty much all other types of hair.  The John Frieda Salon Shape Hot Air Brush will definitely be a permanent part of my hair styling kit.  I hope you like it as much as I do!


Great Show at IECSC 2013

The crowd at IECSC 2013

One of my favorite events of the summer in Las Vegas, the International Esthetics, Cosmetics and Spa Conference, just ended and it was a great show, as usual.  There was tons to see (and buy) and informative classes to attend for those in the beauty industry.  The great thing about IECSC is that it is co-located with the International Beauty Show, which is mostly hair and nail products.  Having the convention center filled with hair stylists, cosmetologists, nail techs, makeup artists and estheticians was inspiring.

I gave two presentations this year, one on organization and sanitation and one on mixing/substitutions for makeup products.  Both classes went very well and it was lovely to meet so many beauty professionals from all over the country.  A special thank you to those of you who attended.  I hope to have classes again next summer, so stay tuned!

Tracy and Noreen Young  noreenyoungpro.com

Another special part of the show was getting to spend time with my friend and colleague, Noreen Young.  Noreen also had two wonderful presentations and a fun booth with her famous lip products.

See you all next year at the show, if not sooner!



Lancome Artliner Eyeliner Ice Black Review

My new best friend, Lancome Artliner in Ice Black

I used to order a lot of makeup online from a French beauty company and got completely hooked on one of their products.  I used it daily and could not find anything else to replace it.  It was a liquid eyeliner with a flexible foam tip applicator in a beautiful shade of shimmery taupe.  It looked absolutely beautiful with all shades of eye shadow and stayed on all day, even in the heat and humidity.

One fateful day, I received an email from the French beauty company saying that they no longer were going to be selling/shipping to the United States and Canada.  My heart sank.  I immediately ordered a few eyeliners and shed a tear or two.  Yes, I cried over eyeliner.

Fast forward to today and those last eyeliners are long gone.  My search has been never ending, online and in the stores.  Nothing has had the same color, consistency or applicator.

 On a recent trip to Sephora, I was wandering around in the Lancome section and low and behold, there it was.  Artliner, Precision Point Eyeliner in Ice Black.  I roll my eyes at whoever named it Ice Black.  No wonder I couldn’t find it.  The color almost perfectly matches my original French eyeliner, the lovely shade of pearly taupe.  It’s just so darned pretty.
Ice Black color swatch

The great thing about Ice Black is that it looks awesome with every eye color and works for day or night makeup.  Artliner’s foam tip applicator makes it very easy to use, even for beginner liquid eyeliner users.

The only downside to this liner is that is costs $30 USD, but it will last a long time.  That’s better than wasting a ton of money on other junk liners that don’t have the payoff that Artliner does.  I’ll pay it again and again.

If you happen to be in the market for a new liquid eyeliner, definitely check Artliner out.  It will be your new favorite too!


Favorite Skin Care Product — Aloe Vera Gel

What’s my favorite skin care product that I have been using for years that has never failed me?  Is it a $200 moisturizer?  Or, is it a top brand of eye cream?  No, it’s something that you can buy at your local drugstore and will only cost you a few dollars for a large bottle.  Aloe Vera gel.  Simple as that.

Aloe Vera plant

Here is why you should be using nature’s miracle product on your skin every day:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes healing
  • Moisturizes
  • Fights bacteria
  • Reduces puffiness
  • Reduces acne and eczema
  • Mostly made of water, it absorbs quickly and can be re-applied often
  • Reduces wrinkles
  • Keeps skin tight and firm and helps skin cells regenerate
Inside of an Aloe Vera plant

Aloe Vera gel can be used by women and men, any age, any skin type, any skin color.  Everyone can benefit from it.

The best Aloe Vera gel to buy should contain NO ALCOHOL.  Read the label carefully.  It can usually be found near the sunscreen section of the store.

To add Aloe Vera gel to your skincare routine, after washing your face, apply about 1/4 teaspoon and lightly massage into the face and neck area.  Follow with your favorite moisturizer.

Use it daily and you will see wonderful results.
Disclaimer:  In the case that Aloe Vera gel irritates your skin, please discontinuing using it.Photos:  Wikimedia Commons
Beauty Boxes

Ipsy Glam Bag April 2013




There are a ton of new beauty subscription companies available now, offering a bag or box filled with samples, trial sizes and possibly full size products.  I hate to waste money on crap that I won’t use, but I figured that I would give a few companies a try and see how it went.

After doing some research, one company that I decided to go with was Ipsy.com, which is supposed to have more makeup products rather than skincare.  Their cost is $10 a month.  You are supposed to get 4-5 deluxe samples and/or full size products.

The April Glam Bag’s theme is Pretty in Pink.  Ugg, already turned off.  I’m not really an “all over pink” type of person.  The Glam Bag included the zippered pouch, Big Sexy Hair Powder Play, Station Nail Lacquer in Love At First Byte, Two Cosmetics Eye Shadow in Heartache and Be A Bombshell blush in Sweet Cheeks.

Big Sexy Hair Powder Play .07 oz.
I like Sexy Hair products so I was happy to get this sample.  The small bottle feels light as air, but it’s a fine powder so that’s to be expected.  Powder Play, when sprinkled into your roots, gives you added volume and texture.  I like this stuff and will definitely be using it with my clients.  It’s easy to use and really helps create volume in the hair.  Made in the USA.

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Be A Bombshell blush in Sweet Cheeks .17 oz.
This is a full size product.  The color is a bright pink with a rich pigment.  It is incredibly iridescent and very easy to go overboard with.  It did not look good on my skin.  Way too frosted.  I will probably never use this product on either myself or clients.  Maybe I’ll mash it up and make it into a Glow Lotion, see previous posts for recipe.  Maybe I’ll give it to a teenage girl somewhere.  The real turn off, other than the hideous crazy frosted color, is that the packaging feels very cheap and says “Made in China” on the back.  I would maybe pay $1 for this blush, if I was feeling generous.

Station Nail Lacquer in Love At First Byte .50 fl oz.
Another full size product.  From the bottle, the color is a peachy pink.  Pretty neutral, nothing that knocks your socks off.  On the nail it is very sheer.  There are two coats on my nail in this picture and you can still see through it.  I’m not into it.  Either make it very sheer or opaque, not somewhere in between.  If I ever use this, I will only use one coat.  Made in the USA.

Two Cosmetics Eye Shadow in Heartache .035 oz.
Sigh, another pink product, half frosted, half not.  The frosted part is almost exactly the same shade and frostiness as the blush.  Come on Ipsy!  What were you thinking?  You want me to put this color on my eyes?  Hah!  I would look like I got punched in the face.  Not going to happen.  The non frosted side would maybe be alright as a blush, but it’s too small to get a blush brush into without getting all the frosty pink all over it.  Cheap packaging again, made in China.

Ipsy does include discounts for the products in your Glam Bag if you choose to order them.

You may have received this bag and absolutely loved it, I just didn’t.  I may cancel my subscription in fear that next month’s bag will be more of the same.  Ipsy, please give us some good quality products!

**Update:  I just cancelled my subscription.  In the forum for this particular Glam Bag on the Ipsy site, I complained about the product.  My comment was deleted by Ipsy so others could not see it.  How nice!

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Copyright of all photos:  Tracy Sotirakis


Bridal Makeup Example


Photo by James Sotirakis  www.jsimagedesign.com

How do brides want to look on their wedding day?  Most would say they want to look beautiful and flawless, but without a lot of heavy makeup.  Being a makeup artist, the tricky part is putting enough makeup on for the photos, but not too much to where is looks overdone in the lighting of the actual wedding and reception.  Here is how I did our bride’s makeup.

I began by prepping her skin with a light moisturizer mixed with a face primer, MAC Skin Base Visage.  She had very few minor skin imperfections that needed to be covered with concealer.  For redness, I used Ben Nye Red Neutralizer #2.  Under her eyes I used Make Up For Ever’s Camouflage Cream in N13.

Brides like for their makeup to last all day and night, no matter how much crying, laughing and dancing they do.  This is why I usually airbrush foundation and blush on brides.  Dinair foundation in Light Golden Beige was sprayed lightly on the face to achieve the perfect coverage.  I also sprayed a little on her neck and chest area to make the skin look uniform.  Dinair Peach Beige Plum was used on her cheeks.  Most airbrush makeup requires very little powder so I dusted her with a small amount of translucent powder.

Our bride’s eyebrows were enhanced with a neutral taupe/brown powder and combed through with a clear brow gel to set them.  MAC’s Shroom and Charcoal Brown eye shadows were used to compliment her blue eyes.  For her eye liner, I used MAC’s Fluidline in Blacktrack on the upper lash line and on the lower lash line I used Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Eyes pencil in 2L, which is brown.

I love false lashes and always recommend them for brides, just not the gigantic showgirl type.  After curling the lashes and applying a coat of waterproof mascara, good old Maybelline Great Lash in Very Black, I applied Revlon’s false lashes in Flirty.

On her lips, I used a neutral spice colored lip liner, lining the lips and filling in completely to create a lasting base for the lipstick, Cover Girl’s Lip Perfection in Soulmate.

Do you have to use these exact products to achieve perfect bridal makeup?  Of course not, there are countless substitutions that can be made.  I just list what I used as examples of colors and textures to give you an idea.

The final result looked beautiful in person and photographed very well, making an extremely happy bride.

Copyright of all photos:  Tracy Sotirakis, with the exception of top photo.



5 Things To Never Do With Makeup

Don’t do this, don’t do that.  Wear this color, never ever wear that color.  There are many so-called rules when it comes to makeup that it’s easy to get confused.  Many professional makeup artists don’t even believe in most of these rules.  However, there are a few commandments that must be strictly followed.

Bacteria photo:  Wikimedia Commons

1.  Do not share certain makeup products with friends/family members.  Mascara should never be shared with anyone.  Eye infections and bacteria can easily be transferred.  You may think that your BFF is clean and sharing your mascara with her is OK, but can you see bacteria?  No, just don’t do it or you may be very sorry.  Same goes with the lipstick, lip gloss or balm that you slather on constantly.  What comes out of your mouth?  Saliva, bacteria, maybe the beginning of a cold or some other infectious sickness.  Do you share your toothbrush with your sister or best friend?  Just say no to sharing your mascara and lip products.  If you have shared these things, save yourself and throw them away.

Poor guy!

2.  Don’t let it get too cold or too hot.  Makeup is fragile.  It likes nice gentle temperatures.  Don’t let any liquid or creamy formulas freeze.  They may separate and get crumbly.  On the reverse side of freezing, if your creamy formulas get too hot they will be ruined.  Pencils and lipsticks will melt.  Foundations and concealers will turn sour and have a nasty spoiled smell to them.  Throw them out if this happens.  The chemicals have changed and this may cause your skin to break out.  You will also smell the funky scent all day because it’s on your face.  Trust me, I live and work in the desert where it gets extremely hot, I have ruined countless makeup items.  If I have to do a shoot outside during the hotter months of the year, I use a cooler as my makeup case.  It’s very chic!

3.  Please, don’t sleep with it on.  How many times do you have to be told?  Some of you still go to bed with your makeup on.  Your skin needs to rest and regenerate at night.  Infections can occur around your eyes and hair follicles can become clogged from not taking off your makeup.  Don’t be so lazy, clean your face!

4.  Do not blow on your makeup brushes.  Blowing on anything releases tiny particles of saliva into the air.  Kind of makes you regret eating birthday cake, huh?  Tap on your brushes with your finger to release any extra product instead of blowing.

Photo:  Warner Brothers

5.  Most of all, don’t care what others think about your makeup.  Hey, if you think you look like a goddess with bright purple eye shadow all the way up into your eyebrow, who cares?  Makeup is supposed to make you feel good about yourself, so wear it proudly!  You can take a woman who normally wears very frightening makeup and give her a complete overhaul, turning her into a supermodel, but if she isn’t comfortable in that makeup, she won’t feel good about herself.  Wear what you like and be happy.

These are just a few.  There are countless other rules out there in the makeup and beauty world.  Just pay attention to the sanitation rules and throw the rest out the window.



Please Wash Your Makeup Brushes!



Nasty, dirty things.

Would you sleep on the same pillow case every night for 3 months?  No way, that’s gross.  So why are you repeatedly putting something on your face without washing it regularly?  Your makeup brushes need a bath, right now.

I’m a bit of a germ freak when it comes to my makeup brushes for my business.  All clients get their own set of clean brushes, washed with anti-bacterial soap and water.  Why am I so vigilant about this?  I don’t want disgusting dirty stuff put on my face, so I don’t put it on my client’s faces.

Washing makeup brushes is easy and should be done on a regular basis.  The brushes will feel softer and work better without all the layers of gunk on them.  Washing brushes will not make the hairs fall out, but some shedding occurs with all brushes, especially less expensive ones.

Start by gathering your dirty brushes.  Get a fresh towel and spread it out to give the clean brushes a place to lay flat and dry.

The best soap to use for natural hair brushes (blush, powder, eye shadow) is a mild shampoo.  Baby shampoo works well or any regular shampoo that you have in the house.  For synthetic brushes (foundation, concealer, eye liner, lip) use a liquid dish soap that you would use to hand wash dishes, not the stuff for the dishwasher.  I usually try to find one that says something about dissolving grease.

Using warm water, wet the brush then work a little soap into it.  Swirl the brush around in the palm of your hand gently, never pushing too hard which will damage the hairs.  Let the brush lather up to get rid of all the makeup.

Hold the brush under the running water and work out the soap, gently spreading the hairs.  Try not to get any water into the ferrule, which is the part that attaches the hairs to the handle, the silver thing on this brush.  If too much water gets into the ferrule right where it is attached to the brush handle, your brush may get damaged and fall apart.  For very soiled brushes, the process may need to be repeated until all the makeup is dissolved.  Do not use any hair conditioner.  Do not leave them to soak.

Fresh and clean

Squeeze out the excess water and smooth the hairs out.  Lay flat to dry.

Do this on a weekly basis (at least) to keep your brushes clean and bacteria free.  Brushes will last for many years if treated with love.  Happy washing!

All photos:  Tracy Sotirakis



Spring/Summer Lip Color Trends 2013

Spring is here and it’s time to stash away your fall/winter lip colors…..again.  Don’t worry, you can pull them back out in October.  I know, every spring we get to hear what the “new” colors are and this year is no different.

Have you noticed that the clothing and makeup trends now are a little reminiscent of the 80’s era?  Florescent clothing in the stores and bright makeup back in style.  Maybe you should have saved some of your day-glow yellow shorts and hot pink tube tops from 1988.

As a lover of lipstick, I am always pleased to hear about what is happening in the lipstick world.  This spring the lipstick trend goes from vivid, bold and bright to muted nude.  Most of the emphasis is on matte shades that jump out and grab you with their intensity.  The colors are happy and care free.




Intense Red





Bright Hot Pink


Deep Berry



When going bright and sassy on the lips, make sure that the rest of your makeup is toned down.  Pair the nude lipstick with a smoky eye so that your eyes are the focus, not the lips.

Spring and summer is also about looking fresh and clean so lighten up on your heavy foundation and thick powder.  Let your skin show.

These colors can be found wherever you buy your favorite makeup.  From inexpensive to pricey brands.  Why not try some of these beautiful colors?  If you absolutely hate it, remember that it comes off with some tissue, it’s not permanent.  Makeup is supposed to be fun and expressive.  Put your bright lipstick on right now and spread some sunshine!

All photos by Tracy Sotirakis