Beauty

By Courtney Dunlop

Sometimes beauty gets boring. Products start to look the same, smaller brands get gobbled up by big conglomerates and lose their edge, and it all just seems…dull. Enter Paula Dorf. She is a breath of fresh air with her visionary products, energy, and passion. In other words, she is just what the beauty world needs right now.

Dorf’s entrance onto the scene has become somewhat of a beauty legend. As a makeup artist for film and television, she custom cut brushes from art stores to achieve the looks she desired. Realizing she was on to a good thing, she debuted her own color cosmetics collection in 1995 (with her partner and husband, Sandy) based around the innovative brushes. The innovations have not stopped since.

With the October launch of her new skincare line, Simple Skin, Dorf is venturing into a tough world. But among the all-too-familiar sea of lotions and toners, these products stand out. Drawing on her love of nature, the line includes exotic ingredients such as kola nut, macadamia, and evergreen. The Gentle Bamboo Exfoliator (already on its way to becoming a classic) taps into the never-been-explored properties of bamboo rice, a grain used for smoothing and clarifying. The line also includes products such as the Primrose Night Cream (with sweet almond and carrot), the Firming Neck and Décolletage Cream (with clover, mulberry, and licorice), and the Soy Day Lotion (with sugar beets and sage). This is not your everyday skincare. Dorf – who ardently believes in practicing what she preaches – has been using the products throughout the two-year development. The woman glows.

As well she should. She has created a collection to be proud of. Everything with the Paula Dorf name on it personally represents her and has gone through her tough standards. She is involved with every product from beginning to end. She worked with the perfumers to create her signature fragrance, Zita, testing notes over and over until she was satisfied. Dorf had the inspiration for the scent long before she ever dreamed she would actually create it. She always wanted to capture her memories of morning walks with her mother while vacationing in the Catskill Mountains. The result is a dewy floral with notes of grass and rose, the essence of a mountain morning.

At the heart of it all is her down-to-earth practicality. “I chose to do real faces. I have never done models. I want to make things easier for real women”, says Dorf. She doesn’t do “makeovers”, she gives “makeup lessons”. A lesson at a Paula Dorf counter involves the makeup artist teaching how to do one side of the face and then allowing the customer to replicate the other side on her own. The brushes are there to make it all come together. “I started using brushes for economical reasons”, she confides. She found that sponge applicators absorbed too much product and had to be thrown out too frequently. Plus, the colors went on clearer with a brush. She calls brushes a “common sense” product. Makeup lasts longer in the container and on the face when a brush is used. Simple.

Dorf would be happy to show anyone how to use her brushes. “I love doing personal appearances. I always want to help other women”. Her philosophy is all about teaching and guiding, not peddling trends. “Trends don’t work for me”, says Dorf. “Who am I to dictate?” This makes a trip to a Paula Dorf counter a refreshing experience. The products are designed to help and enhance. A few standout items are the new Smart Set II (a great travel brush kit), the Enhancer in Baby Eyes (inspired by her nephew’s big, bright eyes), and the Transformer (turns powder shadow into a water-resistant liquid).

Dorf has plenty of beauty advice to go along with her products. For starters, she says, “I don’t necessarily believe that if you wear bright lipstick you have to wear a nude eye. Eyes and lips should enter a room at the same time.” And, “Lipstick is an accessory. Women should have a variety of lipsticks and wear a different one all the time”. And her trademark mantra, “Become your own makeup artist”.

Anyone who has not had a Paula Dorf experience should attend one of her personal appearances; her excitement is contagious. She has a gift for pinpointing exactly what a woman needs. In my case it was the Special Camouflage for my under-eye circles and the Cheek Color Cream in Candy Apple, all applied with brushes, of course. Anyone who has shied away from brushes in the past should take a trip to a Paula Dorf counter and get a lesson. Things like foundation brushes and angle liners can seem daunting without proper instruction.

In the crazy world of beauty, Dorf stays one step ahead by staying true to herself and following her heart. She honestly loves what she does and continues to find inspiration in every aspect of her life. Many people in the beauty business say that they just want to help women feel beautiful…Dorf actually means it. And you got to love that.

Originally published October 2003
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