Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: Lessons of a Lipstick Queen September 7, 2010

I can’t remember when I first heard about Poppy King, her lipsticks, or her seemingly implausible accomplishments, but I was always impressed and intrigued by King and her runaway success in the make-up business at a very young age.  So when I saw that King had written a book about her experiences, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen, I was very interested in reading what she had to say.  Truth be told I’ve never tried one of her lipsticks; it was always her story that I found fascinating.

So who is Poppy King and what is so interesting about her life?  I’ll let King explain in her own words:

Gosh… It is hard to know how to tell this without it sounding like I made it up… But I didn’t! I started my own lipstick brand in 1992 in Melbourne Australia when I was about 6 months out of high school and had just turned 18.

I did this not because I was a chemist, a make up artist, a designer or anything else (I was barely an adult and sometimes wonder if I am one yet!) I did this because I couldn’t find any lipsticks I liked. They were all thin, slimy and too greasy feeling. Plus there were no deep colors or browns and most reds went pink. I wanted lipsticks that gave me the look of the 1940’s. Rich, opaque and filled with pigment.

So… On a whim I found manufactures to mix up some lipsticks, a business partner and the nerve to approach a few stores. It became a run away success!

For 12 years I had a brand called Poppy that specialized in all sorts of lipsticks and lip glosses (I am obsessed with the lips and every possible color, texture, finish and technology there is to make your lips look amazing). During those 12 years I experienced many of the ups and downs involved in running a business so when I was approached in 2002 to move to New York and join a large cosmetic company I decided it was time for me to try something new.

Which I did… However my fascination, obsession and borderline insanity regarding specialized lipsticks and lip products would not leave me. So last year I decided once again to return to having my own business and the obsession that has been with me since my school days.

Intriguing, right?  How many of us can say that at the age of 18 we took a personal obsession, created a business because of that obsession, and made that business a success very quickly?  Not many people have done what Poppy King has done.

The book is actually a how-to guide for the would be entrepreneur in all of us.  Interspersed amongst King’s advice for how to start, develop, and grow your business are short asides titled “my story” where King illustrates her points with a tale from her own experiences.  I found King’s book straight-forward, heartfelt, and helpful.  I’m not someone with a business background or any business know-how so reading a clear guide to how to start and build a business was interesting for me.  I was grateful to King for being so honest about her own mistakes (her candor reminded me of Ruth Reichl’s autobiographies which I loved), lack of confidence at times, and her own need for both professional and personal improvements.  I liked the fact that King was enthusiastic, upbeat, and lastly that she broke down everything about starting a business into the easiest of terms.

There were two things that “bothered” me about the book.  The first is that I kept finding that I would skip pages ahead in the book just to get to the “my story” parts.  I wished the book was done in reverse – that most of the book was King’s personal story and the asides were her advice.  As I wrote at the very beginning of this post, I was always captivated by King’s personal story and journey.  The book only provided a glimpse into her story; I was left wanting to know more.  The other thing that I found interesting about the book, which was published in 2008, was for the most part a lack of acknowledgement or instruction on the use of social media and the internet to promote or otherwise help your business.  While I know that King started her original business before the internet was such a daily, powerful force in our lives nonetheless I thought it was strange that the its power and possibilities weren’t addressed further.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you have an idea for a business but don’t know how to proceed with that idea.  If I ever have an original idea for a business I will definitely give this book a read again.  In the meantime, I will be waiting for King to write a true autobiography which I will be interested in reading.  Lastly, I do have to say that while reading this book I had an almost overwhelming urge to put on lipstick and will definitely think to try or even buy one of King’s lipsticks in the future.

Poppy King’s current lipstick line can be found at Lipstick Queen.

For an interview with King read this BBC article.


Skin Care According to Life’s Phases and Events September 3, 2010

If there is one consistent thing that I can say about skincare it is that your skincare needs will constantly be changing.  Our skin changes with the weather and as we age.  Our skincare needs are affected by the products we put on our skin, by the stress in our lives, and by our overall health.  I’ve already addressed the topic of skincare needs according one’s age –  Skincare Tips for Your Teens and 20sSkincare Tips for Your 30s, Skincare Tips for Your 40s, 50s, and Beyond – but was prompted by an article in the newest issue of Allure (September 2010) to think about skincare according to life’s events.

The Allure article is entitled Skin Milestones and explores how to take care of one’s skin according to life’s biggest events:  college, graduation, a new job, getting married, pregnancy, turning 35, and menopause.  For the most part the advice in the article is spot on and helpful.  It is definitely true that you can see big changes in your skin when you start a new job or plan your wedding – each stressful events, no questions asked.  Stress affects our skin (and our health) in profound ways.  While you are pregnant your body is undergoing so many phenomenal changes it isn’t a surprise to realize that your skin can quite affected as well.  Lastly, menopause brings about tremendous bodily changes and affects your skin more often than not as well.  I think it is comforting to know that you are not alone is experiencing skin changes as your life changes, and it is important to think of tweaking your skincare regime as you notice changes.

While I might quibble with some of the specific product recommendations in the Allure article I do agree with the overall approach that is outlined for each skin milestone.  I especially liked the advice for brides to be – to get a serious skincare regime in place months before their wedding in order to look their best in photos.  Lets not forget that once all the wedding hoopla is over the only thing that remains are the photos and videos. 

(As an aside I was happy to see that Dr. Amy Wechsler, the author of one of my favorite skincare books The Mind-Beauty Connection, was consulted for this article)

So pay attention to your skin and remember that there is always a solution out there for what bothers you.


How To Get Rid of Blackheads September 1, 2010

Blackheads are a scourge.  I think I’ve had the same blackheads on my nose for the last 20 years; I gently squeeze them out and they come right back.  When I do facials I find that most people, no matter what their age, have blackheads, especially on their noses.  Luckily there are a few different methods for getting rid of blackheads but persistence and patience is needed in order to see results.


What Are Blackheads?


Simply put blackheads form when sebum (oil) and dead skin cells clog the inside of the sebaceous (oil) glands and form a cyst.  Blackheads are open comedones, the word doctors use for blackheads and whiteheads, which means that the dermis has not covered the clogged pore over, and the comdone oxidizes in the air and turns black.  Just because the comedone is black does not mean that it is dirty or that there is dirt there.  This type of blockage starts deep inside the pore and builds up until it reaches the surface.   Blackheads typically grow to between 2 to 4 millimeters and can remain in place for months and even years. 


What Causes Blackheads?


There are few different contributing factors to the formation of blackheads.  One is that your body is producing excessive amounts of sebum or oil and that oil does not exit the pore properly.  Another contributing factor are dead skin cells that also do not exit the pore properly – rather they stick together and get stuck in your pores.  This, by the way, can be a genetic condition.  Certain make-up and skincare products can contain ingredients that can contribute to clogged pores.  Not removing all your make-up at night certainly doesn’t help to keep your pores clear of debris.


How Can You Get Rid of Blackheads?


Two things are important to remember about blackheads when you go to treat them.  One is that the oil and dead skin cells that are blocking your pore and have lead to the formation of a blackhead have accumulated deep inside your pore so you need pretty powerful ingredients that penetrate deeply into pores in order to dislodge the stuck debris.  Simply cleaning your face with a scrub or rubbing away at your blackheads will not help dislodge them since the debris is stuck deep down in your pore.  Secondly, as I wrote above blackheads can stick around for months or even years which means that you need patience and persistence when you want to remove them.

The two best ingredients for getting rid of blackheads are salicylic acid and retinoids.  Salicylic acid is oil soluble which means it can penetrate into your clogged pore and help to dissolve the oil trapped in the pore.  Retinoids help to regulate skin cell turnover and prevent the dead skin cells from sticking together and staying in your pores.  Many people might find it too strong to use products simultaneously with those ingredients so I would choose one or the other ingredient.   But be sure to be patient!  The blackheads formed over time and it will take time to remove them.  (For more information and product recommendations please see my earlier posts Ingredient Spotlight: Salicylic Acid and All About Retinol).


Should You Squeeze Your Blackheads?


It is extremely tempting to squeeze your blackheads, but if done improperly you can actually cause quite a bit of damage to your skin.  Ideally if you want to get rid of blackheads go get a facial.  During a facial the esthetician properly prepares your skin for extractions and then knows how much to squeeze and for how long.  For instance, don’t go squeezing your skin for more than 10 minutes since that will just end up causing trauma to the skin in the end.  If you insist of doing your own extractions at home I suggest doing them immediately after getting out of the shower and after having washed your face.  Make sure your hands are cleans and wrap your fingers in clean tissues.  Squeeze gently and don’t keep poking at your face for more than 10 minutes.  If you can’t dislodge the contents of a clogged pore easily leave it alone!  Pushing and pushing will just damage your skin.  Finish your extractions by wiping your face with toner or witch hazel oil. 


Sources and Further Reading



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