By Kate Harvie
Back in November, I wrote an article addressing the challenges inherent in the search for the ideal complexion products. Upon finding one’s signature foundation, the real cherry on the sundae is finding a concealer that blends smoothly and naturally without exacerbating what needs concealing. Most cosmetic brands do many things well – lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, etc. – but how many brands offer a concealer that works so well it can be used on its own? Alison Raffaele Tatem, the founder of her eponymous line Skin Alison Raffaele, started her brand with seven concealers and has extended it to include a range of exceptional foundation formulas, color products, and tools.
When I spoke with Alison, who worked as Bobbi Brown’s head assistant before developing and creating her products, I learned a great deal about what separates a decent product from an exceptional one and the level of commitment required to ensure some of the highest quality I’ve seen in the beauty industry.
Skin Alison Raffaele is truly a labor of love: Alison spent nine months perfecting the formula of her True Concealer ($22.50), a mineral-oil free, anti-oxidant- and aloe-enriched recipe whose texture is unlike any other concealer at this price point. Somewhere between a liquid and a crème, it’s ideal for the under-eye area as it does not settle into lines and comes in a range of neutral and gold undertones. True Concealer goes so easily onto the skin it works on its own without the addition of foundation. The addition of high quality silicone yields a satiny feel and blendability not found in any concealer I’ve tried. While the product comes with a “rabbit’s foot” (or flocked tip) applicator, for those who prefer using a concealer brush, the Concealer Brush Duo ($25) works beautifully with a larger taklon brush for blending and a smaller brush for spot concealing. Like all of the line’s brushes (ranging in price from $18 to $24 with a luxurious kabuki face brush for $50), these are cruelty-free and have manageable, shorter handles that make them ideal for travel. Alison told me stories of working in the lab with her chemists for hours at a time, watching the various batches of product and tweaking them at the right time, in order to achieve the ideal shades for her ever-growing customer base and the legions of makeup artists who are devoted to her products. True Concealer is definitely one of the “hero” products in the Skin Alison Raffaele line and when Alison made her QVC debut on January 6, three of the shades sold out during her brief appearance. More impressive: True Concealer was the only product offered to QVC viewers during the brand’s premiere on the channel.
The venerable makeup artist Way Bandy published two books when he was alive and many makeup artists, including Alison and the late Kevyn Aucoin, have credited Designing Your Face as being a source of true inspiration. Bandy’s common sense approach and perfect skin esthetic are evident in the Alison’s products. She takes Bandy’s complexion ideal a step further by creating a range of easy-to-match foundation shades and easy-to-blend formulations. She also favors a common sense approach to taking care of one’s skin: no smoking, good nutrition, ample exercise, lots of water, and seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Reality Base ($35) is that rare thing: an oil-free liquid foundation that glides onto the skin instead of streaking. All skins can use Reality Base and the coverage is breathable and buildable – with five shades, one’s own skin comes through naturally. To apply Reality Base, a foundation brush is in the works for later this year and Alison’s Foundation Sponges ($6 for 2) work well damp or dry. While most sponges begin to disintegrate after a few uses, the unique polyurethane foam of these brushes gives a sheer and even finish. Washing them gently with anti-bacterial soap will ensure they last far longer than the average drugstore sponge.
There is joy in Alison’s voice as she discusses the journey she’s embarked upon with her husband, Glenn Tatem, the company’s Vice President. Her commitment to helping women achieve attainable beauty with ease began when she worked with Bobbi Brown. Just as she spent nine years perfecting her True Concealer, Alison will not settle for anything less than that same perfection, tempered with humor. This is makeup, after all! The other foundation Alison has created is a unique mineral one – it lacks the shine found in most mineral makeup. Mineral Powder Foundation ($29.50) contains micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – natural sunscreens with anti-inflammatory benefits – and it lacks the bismuth oxychloride that gives most mineral makeup that unwieldy (especially for oily and acne-prone skin) shine. The seven shades are yellow in undertone and free of oils, fragrances, and dyes. Coming in early 2006 is Mineral Powder To Go, a portable version of this sheer, natural looking foundation.
When I become loyal to a product, it takes something significant for me to switch. For years I was a devotee of a certain brand’s “blot powder” and I’d entertain no other options for setting my makeup and touching up throughout the day. When a colleague gave me a jar of Transparent Finish Loose Powder ($27.50) last fall, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found it sooner. I was immediately drawn to the whimsical lavender and violet packaging – so many brands wrap themselves in black that it’s getting hard to tell them apart! Along with the Blotting Tissues ($6 for 50), those who desire to control shine and create a flawless face, Transparent Finish is the go-to product. Made of the finest (both in quality and texture) talc, Transparent Finish is unlike any loose powder on the market. Before using it, I was convinced that only a cornstarch-based powder would create a natural, non-ashy finish. The powder is so finely milled it feels like velvet, silk, insert your softest reference here. Most impressive is that any skin tone will benefit from this product. The 1.25 oz. jar will easily last two to three months – a terrific investment. The Blotting Tissues are durable, powder-free, and have two usable sides.
As it would be cumbersome to tote around the jar of Transparent Finish, Alison created Transparent Finish To Go ($42), a refillable portable brush/tube of this wondrous powder. The bristles of the brush are made of super-fine, luxurious goat hair.
Lest you think that Skin Alison Raffaele is only a complexion brand, the color products are innovative as well. In August 2005, Alison launched 12 shades of Soft Shadow ($19.50) – a powder eye shadow that does not crease. I tested three of the colors when I did my makeup for a particularly energetic wedding – Moonlight is a perfect highlight and brow bone shade, possessing the sheerest champagne pigment; I lined my eyes with Red Plum, a mildly opalescent warm violet that intensified the green of my eyes and I applied Amethyst on my lids and the shimmer in this gentle lavender color was sophisticated and stayed on my lid for the wedding’s five+ hours of dancing and merriment. I plan to line my eyes with Bittersweet, an intense blend of black, brown and gray, instead of black for a refined and elegant, not overly intense, look.
A truly great lip gloss gives me a lift that was once possible only through the purchase of expensive shoes. Those of you who share my passion have reason to celebrate since Alison has just introduced Soft Gloss Volumizing ($22.50), which joins Lipskins (at $19.50, six tinted lip balms in the shape of a lipstick containing anti-oxidants, evening primrose, jojoba, and apricot oils) and Soft Gloss (also $19.50, in six non-sticky yet long-wearing shades). To my knowledge, Soft Gloss Volumizing is the only peptide-enriched lip gloss – a collagen-boosting wonder that also contains sun damage-repairing Vitamin E and miracle moisture binder sodium hyaluronate. What lip glosses do you know of that have research to support their proclaimed benefits? After four weeks, lip furrows were found to reduce by 30%, lip moisture increased by 60%, and here’s the most fun development, lip volume increased an average of 40%. There is no better lip color to add to your collection during this confusing cold-warm/dry-wet winter weather. I wore Chic, a transparent red, at the wedding mentioned above and reapplied only once within seven hours – and my lips did not stick together or smack as they often do when I wear long-wearing glosses. Among the six shades, Hip is a universally flattering sheer brown and I’ve never seen a color like Subtle, which is deceptively beige in the tube and lusciously pink on the lips. As with the Soft Shadows, Alison’s strategic use of opalescence in her glosses sets these colors apart from others on the market that are pure shimmer. Another product that withstood the jumping around of my friends’ wedding was the longwearing, gel-based cheek tint Inner Glow ($25) – the gentle plum of Graceful would look lovely on most skin tones. There are seven shades in total.
More than one cosmetics brand proclaims to empower women to “be their own makeup artist” and Skin Alison Raffaele has the products and tools that promote healthy, natural-looking skin and wearable colors that enhance one’s features at a reasonable price point. From her experiences working with Bobbi Brown, working as a professional makeup artist, and as a woman in need of the ideal complexion products, Alison’s empathy and high standards have informed her brand and help women to celebrate their individuality and inner beauty.
Skin Alison Raffaele products are available at select Sephora stores, on http://www.sephora.com and on http://www.beauty.com. Application tips, brush techniques, and detailed product information are available at the company’s web site http://www.alisonraffaele.com.