Monday, January 25, 2010

Dance Off!

Sometimes looking good isn’t about the amount of sleep you get, the lack of bags under your eyes, or perfect hair. It may even be one of those jeans-fit-great-days, but your kid is cranky, you’ve had a bad phone call, and lunch at the high-chair was a disaster. That’s when you need a healthy thing called an at-home dance off.

Almost everyday, around the toddler witching hour (4-6 pm), I crank up the stereo and smooth out my daughter A’s whines with some rejuvenating hip and ass shaking. My favorite song of the moment for rump-shakin’ is Beyoncé's (with Jay-Z)  "Crazy in Love."  A may only be 17 months old but she's half black and will need to learn to move that ass at some point so why not start now?

I grab A’s hands and we boogie: twirling, skipping, jumping and she'll even roll on the floor. It dawns on me that I haven't smiled all day and suddenly I'm giggling as I see her push out her tiny rump trying to copy me. Like magic, all the tension that’s been building up inside of me slips away. And when I look at the living room mirror I see a happy me. We’ll even take it to the dinner table and keep bouncing and head-bopping while we eat. This kind of Happy is something you definitely can't buy in a bottle and apply.

During these moments, A and I are in our own little physical and free world. I’m teaching her that if you truly indulge in the beauty of the moving moment, wherever it takes you, it’s going to be good.

It’s easy to get trapped in the gripping schedule your life and kids command, and forget how important it is to break out once in a while and just celebrate. To smile. To bust-a-move. To let go.

Get Down 1-2-3:

1. Earth, Wind & Fire: September

2. Justin Timberlake: Rock Your Body

3. Kylie Minogue: Love at First Sight

I want to hear from you! What is your favorite song to dance to at home? 

Note: Depending on the age of your child, you may want to listen to the lyrics first.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Make-Up ABCs

Here is a beauty framework I’ve built through trial and error with my daughter that is literally as simple as her ABCs. Sure, there are times when she tries to pull my leggings off while I’m standing at the vanity. And other times when she’s so happy fiddling with my laptop sleeve as a hat that I can indulge in doing my entire face. If she does pitch a fit, I’ve learned to involve her in the process -- like handing her my not-so-nice eyelash curler to play with, which, not to worry, she waves around proudly, putting it no where near her eyes -- and I’m rewarded with one of her awesome smiles. It’s the snap recognition that we’re a team: ever-improvising and adjusting to the sometimes melodic, sometimes chaotic interruptions in life, together.

Make-Up 1-2-3:

These are the ABCs of easy make-up, and all of these steps shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes each.

A = Attractive BROWS. B = Bright EYES. C = Clean LIPS. Listed in order of importance, they are the main elements that define and amplify your face. Even if you only have time to pay attention to one of them you will see a rewarding difference.

1) A is for Attractive Brows
If all else fails with time I make sure my brows are done. Brows shape your eyes and frame your face and expression. I won’t get into heavy shaping issues like tweezing or waxing because that takes more than a few minutes, but you can do a lot to shape your brows without actually removing any hair.

Take a brow brush (here’s one for $1 by e.l.f., or if you don’t have one just use your fingers) and brush or stroke upwards and outwards toward the temples starting from the inner brow. The closer you get toward the temples the more outward, rather than upward, you should brush or stroke. If your brows are sparse like mine, you can fill them softly with a brow pencil remembering to blend afterward, either with an eyebrow brush or your finger. Here are two options for brow pencils: Shu Uemura Hard Formula ($22), or Cover Girl Brow/Eye pencil ($3).

Tip: To set groomed brows, you can brush them with a brow gel. Try these: Christian Dior Brow Fix ($18) or Cover Girl Clear Eye Mascara ($5). And, using a brow gel eliminates the need to brush separately, because you’ll be setting the brow-hairs by brushing with the brow gel wand.

2) B is for Bright Eyes

The simple act of curling your lashes adds surprising width to your windows. For those who don’t know what to do with an eyelash curler, don’t worry, it’s easy. Just take the curler and press the curler up against your upper eyelids so that the lips surround the base of your lashes; then squeeze the scissor-like handles for a good ten seconds. Optionally, you can repeat, but this time place the curler's lips around the middle of the lash to round out the whole curl. The bottom lashes don't get curled. Take a look at the difference it makes:

Here are two great curler options: Shu Uemura ($25), my favorite,  or you can also try this one by Tweezerman ($11).

After curling comes a couple coats of mascara, which takes you from blah to awake in a matter of a few strokes. That little bit of brown or black on your lashes will open up and brighten your eyes. You can’t go wrong with Maybelline for a great drugstore mascara -- I'm currently enjoying the Stiletto ($8), or if you’re willing to spend a little more you can try Imju Fiberwig ($24) which is particularly smudge-proof.

You don’t have to do both steps if you don’t want to. Whatever you can manage will embolden your eyes. Just remember to curl before applying mascara or you could damage your lashes. 

3) C is for Clean Lips

All you need is a bit of tinted lip balm or a subtle lip gloss. Think peach, berry, or nude colors -- not vampy dark browns or overly glittery glosses. A hint of color on your lips can light up your entire face. It makes certain that if you’ve got blemishes, unlike an intensely colored lipstick, you won’t have multiple shades of reds, purples, or oranges clashing on your face, and you're allowed the freedom of a quick and blind application. Try this tinted lip conditioner by M.A.C. Cosmetics ($15) -- I always have it in my pocket.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Pick-Me-Up Shoot

In early December, I got rejected three times. I won’t go into detail on the whys or hows but I got three Nos. It was just one of those weeks where a couple of doors came flying in my face. Not all the way per se but enough so that by the third time it stung. Sulking in self-pity with a rambunctious toddler is a bad idea so I dug deep to find a portrait of a positive self. Christmas was coming and I had no holiday cards, décor, or presents. It was the perfect time for a spur-of-the-moment photo shoot -- a little healing for me and a quick remedy for the lack of prep.

I quickly dolled myself up with make-up and gave my hair a bit of extra love. I grabbed a simple turquoise top and pulled on some seventies-inspired leggings that were black with serious sheen. A’s hair was cleaned up into a high ponytail. Her outfit: a sweater with a big red bow on the chest by the Japanese designer Undercover with striped tights and a mini. We were camera-ready.

Most of the time I feel like A’s eyes are on me all day to do something entertaining for her. Doing a photo shoot at home can be loads of fun and it takes the focus off of you for those 15-30 minutes as the camera takes charge. You can both act silly -- play and pose together on equal footing. All it takes is a self-timer button.

The trick is to take enough pictures. Take at least 25 or 30, or more if you can. If your camera has a Continuous-or Burst-shoot mode, where the camera will take several photos one after another in one click, that works with the self-timer mode, use it. Make sure you wear something nice and make yourself up for the shoot. If you fully took advantage of being creative and enjoyed yourself you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how joyful you look (and of course your kid too).

It’s good to be in the moment and celebrate, if even for a few minutes, the art of just breaking into a grin.

Perfect Pose 1-2-3:

1) Look straight into the camera, like you would with someone you were having a great conversation with. The more relaxed and natural you are the more the lens will pick up on that.

2) Dress simply in form-fitting clothes (as the camera does tend to add 10 pounds) and stay away from busy backgrounds.

3) Make sure your make-up is fresh but keep it clean and streamlined: no intense colors, e.g., use a colored lip gloss not a raging red lipstick because digital cameras often misrepresent colors.

Bonus: Take a look here at how the pros do it.



Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Art of Subtraction

I remember when putting on make-up used to be a relaxing, creative outlet for me. On any given day I could’ve approached my vanity thinking: today I’m wearing a canary yellow top, so let’s do an emerald green eye shadow for contrast – and maybe I’ll add a nice, nude lip. Now with a demanding toddler pinching at my thighs and tugging at my jeans, making my face is suddenly a battle of wills. Not that I still don’t negotiate color schemes as I simultaneously baby-wrangle and make breakfast. I’ve just learned to modify the beauty process.

As a morning ritual, just like an a.m. coffee, I need old-fashioned cosmetics to reassure myself that I am indeed a female who takes care of herself. That bit of make-up, even if it's just a dab of brow pencil, reminds me every day that despite being on my hands and knees scrubbing bits of avocado and cheerios off the dining room floor, I can still look polished.

My vanity used to be an elaborate entity lush with eye-popping products, spanning the entire length of my dresser. Black lipstick? Check. Heated eyelash curler from Japan? Check. The famous false lashes made of real mink that Madonna flaunted? Absolutely.

Now, what’s left in plain sight are the bare essentials. Don’t get me wrong, I still own eyeshadows in every color of Crayola’s 64-piece set. And my brush collection is not to be messed with. But the excess was tossed out – bags of it. Coco Chanel's famous quote about dressing well also applies to make-up: "All you have to do is subtract.”

Stressed about getting all those definers, concealers, and liners on your face? Pick one feature to highlight, whether it’s your lips, brows, cheeks, whatever. Throw out all the make-up you haven’t touched in over six months with the dirty diapers and I promise, it’ll be that much easier to walk out the door with your beauty intact and a few extra minutes in your day.

Subtract 1-2-3:

1) An Easy Red Lip (

2) Great Brows (

3) Perfect Winter Blush (


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lash-ing Out

It all started last October when my marriage was struggling, and my then 14-month-old daughter A’s first real-deal Halloween was imminent. My daughter's father and I had originally agreed to take her to our local park together, but then before we knew it, our communication had broken down, and it was decided that he would move out for the time being.  As strained marriages go, the holidays (even Halloween) can be tricky. He wasn't comfortable attending the event with us anymore. Today wasn't our day to fake a happy threesome.

I felt bare. My daughter and I were about to parade our newly fractured family in front of our entire community. A babbling toddler and her recently laid off, half-whole 34-year-old mother. None of the other parents really knew the truth about our situation -- only I did and that was what mattered.

I dressed A in her Mighty Mouse costume. She was a chubby cheeked dynamo and I was feeling like complete shit. I needed a quick recovery. One of the many beauties of being a parent is the way it forces you to face the moment. I went to my mirror. This was it. I’d had a bad day, and an even worse year, but I was about to turn it all around. I was going to make myself up from the outside in.

Luckily, the simplest swipe of eye-shadow or a touch of blush can pep up my psyche. I look good, people compliment me and I feel better. I remembered that I had a stash of limited edition Shu Uemura False eyelashes (adorned with some fabulous faux-gold pearls) stored away in a fire-engine red make-up case – a jewel-filled leftover from the pre-kid days of when I had time to spend hours primping and preening. I cut them to size and affixed them with a bit of lash glue. And as crazy as it sounds, I felt whole again.

We made it to the party -- both of us in costume. I was surprised to discover that while many of my fellow mothers couldn’t detect my recent wounds they did notice my pearly lashes. And they were amazed that I knew how to apply them. Just the sheer fun of chatting falsies and making lash play-dates with other moms was enough to carry me through the whole event.

Being beautiful is essentially having the will to look good, and the confidence that you can look good. The rest is just know-how and practice. Gaining knowledge, perfecting your technique, discovering that you have the will to do anything you put your mind to – isn’t that what motherhood is about?

If you'd like to test-drive lashes like the ones I wore, try these Mini Crystal False Eyelashes by Shu Uemura ($22). A budget option can be found at My Diva's Closet ($7), but you'll have to trim them yourself. False lashes can take you from weary-mama to Jennifer Lopez in five minutes. They'll instantly line your eyes and add sexy depth to your gaze. And they’re not as hard to work with as you think.

Lashes 1-2-3:

1) Instead of starting at the inner corner of your eye, the false lashes should begin at the inner edge of your iris (the colored part of your eye closest to your nose) and end where your natural lashes do. Hold the falsies up to your lash line to get an idea of where to trim them. Don't worry, this is not an exact science, and you'll get better the more you experiment.

2) Lightly dot the the glue along the base of the false lash and use the applicator to spread the dots into a fine line. Let the glue set for at least 30 seconds (until it gets tacky).

3) Gently but firmly press the false lash, which should curl upwards, along your natural lash line. You can use the opposite end of a pair of tweezers to help secure it -- paying particular attention to the ends. Go back and forth with your index finger a few times, pressing until the lash completely adheres.

For Extra Oomph: Set with a light coat of mascara to combine both your natural and fake lashes together.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on