Beauty Beat

beauty beat : ceremony salon

February 3, 2017

I love my long-time stylist but after she moved to a salon across town (to one of the busiest, trendiest neighborhoods with no parking, natch), I decided it was time to reach out and find someone closer in. Recalling Ceremony Salon as the place that gave Ragen Fykes, the fly AF manager of West End Select Shop, her rad ‘do as well as the place keeping VGS Sister Style Alumna / food blogger Alison Wu looking sparkling, I decided to try them out.

This is where the universe seemingly pulled some strings because the very next day I received an email from Ceremony manager, Sasha, asking me if I’d be interested in checking out the salon. Uh, yes please. Total kismet.

After researching Ceremony’s carefully selected roster of stylists, I settled on Irisa Elaine. It was a tough decision as everyone had informative bios and an impressive Instagram feed but Irisa’s portfolio showed a diversity of hair types. The biggest issue I have with my hair is that I have a super wonky wave pattern that, if cut incorrectly, causes me all sorts of grief. Not only that, I have extremely thick hair that’s on the coarse side and does whatever the eff it wants. I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone gets it. (Thankfully, and as I predicted, Irisa got it.)

Arriving at Ceremony for my appointment I was immediately dazzled by the salon’s Palm Springs-meets-Portland vibe – in fact, the first thing you see when you walk in is bright pink neon promising Good Vibes Only and you guys, it’s completely true. The large white space is bright and open but anything but boring with resplendent displays of plants, plants, plants all over, beautiful brass light fixtures, cinder blocks reminiscent of The Parker and super fun, groovy wallpaper in unexpected places. Owners Stephanie and Lauren told me to be on the lookout for handmade art objects they’ve picked up over the years and placed throughout the salon and it was super fun to spot a Friend Assembly planter here and Liv and Dom incense holders there.

Best friends and veterans of the industry, Ceremony owners Stephanie Hand and Lauren Kolb, began with the idea of creating their own space and ran with it, tapping top talent (mostly people they’d worked with previously) to join them. The result is a highly curated roster of Portland’s most skilled stylists and those aforementioned Good Vibes.

Ceremony Salon Owners Stephanie Hand and Lauren Kolb
Ceremony Salon Stylist Irisa Elaine

Settling in with Irisa, I was immediately charmed by her easy-going and friendly attitude. Before I could even tell her about the weird things going on with my hair that I wanted to address, she called them out and suggested how we could fix them while taking into account my special instructions: thin my hair but hide the layers so it looks more or less one length and no face framing pieces, please. Off to the groovy shampoo room we went where Irisa made sure not to scrimp on the head massage portion of the wash and kindly refrained from shaming me for my truly greasy hair.

Next up was the cut. Taking all angles into account, I could tell Irisa was fully focused on the task at hand, something I don’t always notice when getting my hair cut. She also asked me questions as she went to ensure she wasn’t over or under doing things. After drying and styling my hair she also gave me tips on cutting my own bangs in the event that I couldn’t make it back in for a free bang trim, something she offers for all clients.

So here’s my Before and After –

Before: An okay cut that I had to keep straightened at all times to hide a weird, random chunk that was cut out on one side only. I also botched my own bang trim so I cut off face framers on one side of my face but not on the other.

After: A freewheeling cut that took the length up a bit to fix the weird and random missing chunk while allowing my weird wave pattern to fly it’s freak flag so I could give the straightening iron a rest. Irisa also fixed my bangs to remove my random remaining face framers and even out the sides. (The stars are obvs a filter, meant to convey just how sparkly I was feeling with my new hairs.)

Overall, I loved my experience at Ceremony. It’s location on East Burnside is much more convenient for me, the space is so lovely and I felt like Irisa was really listening to me and my needs. Plus, she was super easy to talk to! There’s nothing worse than awkward silences when getting your hairs did. I will definitely be going back and can’t wait for my next visit.


Check out Ceremony Salon on Instagram for more info and stop in at 1101 E. Burnside in Portland or book an appointment online.

beauty beat : age of earth collective

July 5, 2016

Portland-based Age of Earth Collective may appear to be a relative newcomer to Portland’s fragrance + apothecary scene but that’s due to a recent re-branding. Formerly known as Bohemian Beauty Co., founder and maker Roxanne Capparelli knows a thing or two about mixing dreamy scents. While Bohemian Beauty Co. focused more on skincare, Age of Earth Collective has shifted the focus to scent.

Age_Of_Earth (1 of 8)

Intrigued by the switch, I reached out to Roxanne to learn more. After inviting me to check out her studio, I fell in love with Age of Earth and it’s process. Letting the tarot guide her each day, Roxanne hand pours each batch of product. To me that speaks volumes about her skill and attention to detail, both of which shine through in her perfumes, incense cones, and room sprays. I spent what felt like forever taking deep whiff after whiff of everything, finally deciding on a few products to test out. In the end I made some excellent choices, though truthfully anything I might have picked would have been an excellent choice.

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Piquing my curosity most were the incense cones. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of an “incense person”. While the idea of incense greatly appeals to the Taurus in me, my experience in incense shopping has always been disappointing at best. No matter what a label might say, you know ‘Angel Dreams’ or ‘Apple’, I’d find myself quickly overpowered by the same musky smell that I associate with drum circles. No thanks. Resigned to believing incense was only for those with an affinity for nag champa and patchouli, I was beyond delighted when I lit a cone of Age of Earth’s Thoreau for the above photo. It’s notes of pine, vetiver and rosewood create a divine aroma that’s uplifting and not at all overpowering. It was the first time I burned incense and didn’t have to open a window and leave the room after a few minutes. In fact, I wanted to light another as soon as it burned down. Not to say the smell had disappeared, I just loved it that much and didn’t want it to fade away, well, ever.

Then I burned Ignatius. So smitten with Thoreau I was, I neglected to try it’s mate until many weeks later. Before sitting down to watch ‘The Witch’ recently I was drawing the blinds and lighting candles when it occurred to me that Ignatius’ notes of frankincense, holy basil and vetiver would really set the tone. It did. Reminiscent of church incense, without being too literal, it mirrored the forest scenery and religious hysteria perfectly. Ok, maybe not the hysteria part (ok, not at all) but you know what I mean. It now enjoys the same amount of burn time as Thoreau.

Age_Of_Earth (5 of 8)

After the initial incense burning, I tried out Ritual. A unisex perfume, I chose Ritual for it’s palo santo, rosewood, sage and vetiver notes. Again, I’ve never been much of a “perfume person” for the same reason of bad experiences with overpowering and downright cloying scents. Thankfully, that’s something niche perfumers have been working on fixing and Age of Earth Collective is definitely up there with the best of them. There may not be as many notes involved here as in other brands but I love that simplicity and feel that Roxanne’s holistic approach makes some serious magic happen in these bottles. I prefer a woodsy scent and this one fit the bill with warmth and depth.

Age_Of_Earth (8 of 8)

Last to try (but not least) was Aurora, one of Age of Earth’s room + linen sprays. In my mind, there’s nothing fancier or more luxurious than a really good quality room + linen spray. Curating your environment with scent just screams ‘YOU’VE MADE IT’, am I right? I am. I know that because spritzing the bathroom before I get ready for bed each night has turned my most put-off chore into a lovely experience. My other favorite new ritual is to smudge my bedroom with white sage and follow with two spritz’s of Aurora. Golden rose, white tea, ginger and saffron – with Roxanne’s treatment they combine to make heaven in a bottle.




Age of Earth Collective is offering a limited time discount code to VGS readers. Use code VOTREGRANDE at checkout for 20% off all items.

Follow Age of Earth on Instagram and Like them on Facebook for news about upcoming pop-ups, sales, re-stocks, new items and more.

beauty beat : macaron story

January 7, 2016

Today’s post is the result of a collab between photographer Kendra Barber and makeup artist Kylie Sallee. I met Kylie last fall during a look book shoot for Zoe Cope Jewelry (check it out here) and took immediate note of her skill with editorial makeup. Something that is all too often not done well, Kylie’s techniques are current and versatile and her application is impeccable – anyway, that’s what the makeup nerd in me noticed.

An obvious fan of her work, I was all heart eyes when I saw what she and Kendra baked up for this shoot (yes, I went there) featuring my all time favorite dessert, the macaron. With picture perfect cookies provided by Farina Bakery, Kendra and Kylie were inspired by the vivid colors and delicate texture of the gem-like treats and used them as their jumping off point to make some magic –

Beauty Day 3862Beauty Day 570Beauty Day 778Beauty Day 288Beauty Day 443

Photography | Kendra Barber
MUAH | Kylie Sallee
of Option Model and Media
Macarons | Farina Bakery




I love Kylie’s use of sheer glosses ranging from soft pastels to saturated jewel tones, both of which feel perfect this time of year. I’m also in love with that extreme cat eye in the soft pearly yellow – which I’ll have to remember as I remind myself that I should start wearing eye makeup again.

To see more of Kylie and Kendra’s stellar work follow them on Instagram @kyliesallee and @kendramphotog.

beauty beat : tnt color lab pt. 2

October 22, 2015

TNT (1 of 1)

You may recall, over the summer I shared the first post in a series introducing TNT Color Lab, a super fun and highly curated line of South Korean cosmetics and skincare. In case you’ve been wondering when the next tutorial was dropping, you’re in luck because I’ve got another installment for you today! The first in my series with TNT was a tutorial on using sheet masks starring adorable BFFs and face mask aficionados Emily and Shola (click here to watch). This time we’re highlighting a bright lip.

Some might say a bright lip is for summer, and while I wouldn’t argue, I would go a step farther and say it’s also perfect for fall. I’ve always been a bit of a rule breaker and as we make the seasonal transition, here in Portland at least, we’re still enjoying sunny afternoons and higher than usual temperatures. I can’t think of a better way to highlight your new fall duds (which hopefully includes a fuzzy sweater or two!) than with a bright lip – and boy does TNT Color Lab have you covered there!

I’m going to turn things over to make-up artist Chloe and model Jessica to demonstrate –

TNT_1Pre-step: Say Hello to your favorite new lip color, I have a feeling you’re going to become very good friends.

TNT_2Step one: We chose a super saturated pigment from 3CE in a bright pink. Start by daubing a very small amount onto your hand and apply to your lip brush from there. I’m not kidding when I say this stuff is super saturated, so go easy – a little dab will do ya! Next, start in middle of your bottom lip and apply pigment, spreading it out towards the edges.

TNT_3Step two: Once you’ve got most of your bottom lip filled in, take it all the way out to the edges. Go back over the entire surface of your lip to ensure pigment is spread evenly.

TNT_4Step three: Now it’s time for your top lip. Here, Chloe employs the opposite tactic by starting at the outer corners of the lip and working her way towards the middle. Go over it all again to ensure even coverage.

TNT_5Step four: Pout and gently kiss a piece of tissue (not pictured) to set and remove any excess pigment.

TNT_6Step five: Take a selfie and share your bright lip with the world!

(Tip: Let your bright lip be the star and keep your look fresh by pairing with otherwise minimal make-up. To really set your lip for long wear lightly rub a tissue over your powder compact and gently daub over your lip color. Press lips together to spread the powder evenly and use your lip brush to very lightly daub more pigment on top. Finish with another light blotting and enjoy.)

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TNT Color Lab is now online and accepting orders for their curated beauty collections. Click here and treat yo’self.

TNT Color Lab is also @tntcolorlab on Instagram, I suggest following along for lots of general awesomeness and upcoming shop updates.

Huge thanks to Jessica Latham for modeling,  Chloe Thompson for hair + make-up and Crazy Wind for wardrobe!

 Stay tuned for another fun tutorial next month!

beauty beat : tnt color lab

August 24, 2015


Last winter I read about a pop-up going down at West End Select Shop for newcomer TNT Color Lab and was infinitely bummed that I was going to be out of town at the same time. Wait, what is TNT Color Lab? Oh, just a highly curated collection of cosmetics and skincare items imported from South Korea. Friends and longtime readers know just how gaga I am over Korean soap operas (K-dramas if you’re nasty) and if they’ve taught me anything, it’s that Koreans take their skin SERIOUSLY. Famous for a daily ten-step beauty regimen, Korean women have majorly beautiful skin – at least, all the actresses do.

Intrigued, I got in touch with TNT founder Tina Bue last spring for more info. Since TNT’s launch was a ways off yet, Tina graciously let me preview her amazing goodies, even providing some fun sheet masks to try out, and we came up with an idea to share it all here on the blog, tutorial style. One of my biggest blog projects to date, Tina and I coordinated a big shoot that went down last June (and was so much fun!) and I worked hard on making tutorial gif’s for some of TNT’s star products.

First up are those sort of creepy but way cool sheet masks. Intimidating at first, they’re actually totes easy to use and the result is super hydrated, dewy skin for the win. Don’t take my word for it though, let BFF’s and face mask experts Emily and Shola show you the ropes –


Pre-step: Introduce yourself to your mask, you’re about to become very intimate.

Masks2Step one: Remove mask from wrapper and unfold fully.


Step two: Line up eye, nose, and mouth openings with your own features and apply mask to face, gently patting the edges for maximum adherence. Let mask sit on face for 10-20 minutes or as directed by package.


Step three: Remove mask by gently pulling downwards from the forehead. Allow excess serum to absorb into your skin or remove with a gentle toner, perhaps one with with hazel and rose petals. Your choice.


Step four: Dispose of your mask responsibly.

(Tip: I’ve had masks on occasion that still have lots of serum left after removal. In those cases you can re-fold the mask with the used side in and place it back in the package using a chip clip or whatevs to keep air out and re-use the other side within a week or so. I don’t know if this is TNT approved, but you’re welcome.)

kiss emoji

TNT Color Lab is now online (check out their end of summer mix!) and accepting orders for their curated beauty collections, most of which include – you guessed it – sheets masks! Click here and treat yo’self.

TNT Color Lab is also @tntcolorlab on Instagram, I suggest following along for lots of general awesomeness and upcoming shop updates.

Huge thanks to Chloe Thompson for the hair + make-up and Crazy Wind for wardrobe!

 Stay tuned for another fun tutorial next month!

beauty beat : gressa foundation review

April 22, 2015


Portland based Gressa Skin is a line of clean, green skincare and cosmetics. Founder Svetlana Sanchez grew up in Eastern Russia where herbal medicine and skincare were the norm. While studying biochemistry, Svetlana built her own steam distiller and began formulating early versions of Gressa Skin products from her own essential oils. Dedicated to natural and beneficial ingredients to optimize skin health, Gressa Skin now boasts a product line twice as large as when I first discovered the brand this time last year. One of those new products is Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation. I recently tested it out and here’s what I found …

First some background: I have struggled with skin issues for nearly twenty years. After surviving puberty relatively blemish-free, I developed terrible cystic acne at the age of 18 and struggled with it until just a few years ago. After cleaning up my make-up bag and switching up my diet – processed foods, alcohol, and sugar are my biggest enemies – I now only experience mild break outs from time to time. Still, any blemishes I do get leave behind bright red blotches than can take six months or more to fully heal. On top of my pale complexion, I feel like they might as well be blinking neon lights on my face. Finally, due to medication I take for my underactive thyroid my skin is currently extremely oily. Like, whatever you think oily skin is, multiply that by 10 and that’s my skin every day for the past six months. This poses definite challenges in the overall wear of my make-up. I have tried many foundations since giving up my go-to NARS foundation, which contains many harmful ingredients, and decided to give Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation a go.

What: Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation is an oil-based, powder finish skin treatment and foundation in one. Made with clean, natural ingredients like anti-oxidant rich silicone alternative Broccoli Seed oil, Gressa’s trademarked Healing Complex, and anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial Neem and Licorice Root extracts, this foundation aims to improve the balance, radiance, and clarity of skin.

How: Using those clean and natural ingredients to prep and treat skin, the addition of mineral based pigments provides medium to full coverage to even skin tone and conceal imperfections.

Usage: Gressa recommends 2-3 drops of foundation evenly spread on the face. I found that I need to use 5 drops in addition to dabbing sparing amounts on problem areas but was able to achieve just the right amount of coverage to mask redness and blemishes. As someone who used to regularly slather cream concealer on my entire face before applying liquid AND powder foundations (yes, really) I love that this single good-for-my-skin product is all I need to even things out – including my dark under-eye circles.

Results: I wore Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation for a few weeks straight. I liked the light and silky texture, the shade I used (No. 03) was one of the best matches to my skin tone that I’ve ever found, and it provided the coverage I desire. The one caveat I experienced was that finish and coverage did not last all day for me. I blame this on my aforementioned extremely oily skin; after application I set the foundation with my go-to drying powder and follow up with a finishing powder for further fortification. That lasts me 2-4 hours before my face becomes a virtual oil slick. At that point I utilize blotting papers which causes me to lose a layer of coverage. A new layer of powder helps keep things under control for another 2-4 hours but all further attempts to blot & powder leave me with a blotchy finish and visible redness showing through. I honestly don’t believe those with normal to mildly combination skin will experience this issue though. I didn’t notice any significant improvements to my skin but I didn’t experience any break outs that I would attribute to my usage either – which is great since certain ingredients that most do just fine with can break me out (cough – argan oil – cough).

Overall, I would definitely recommend Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation to most. For now I’ll be sticking with a powder foundation which helps keep my oil under control slightly longer than liquid formulas and is easy to reapply throughout the day. When I do get my oil issue under control, I will be switching to Gressa. In the meantime, I love Gressa’s Rejuvenating Mist and Dirty Pretty Things facial polish.


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Shop the entire Gressa Skin line here and follow @gressaskin on Instagram for info on new products, promotions, and more!

rad ladies : ainsley fox

April 9, 2015



Those who came of age in the 90’s might remember Hard Candy nail polish – offering then hard to find pastel shades, the nation was obsessed, as was I. Fast forward to the present and local gal Ainsley Fox has picked up the proverbial torch, having introduced her line of 5-free, vegan polishes, Palate Polish, just last year. Arguably cooler than Hard Candy was even in it’s heyday, Palate offers a consciously made product at an affordable price.

Themed around Ainsley’s love of food, Palate’s, well, palette is comprised of a wide selection of both bright & neutral colors and perfect glitters – including their recent collab with beloved local donut cafe, Pip’s Original, resulting in the beautiful rose gold Pip’s Honey & Sea Salt . Having already gained a dedicated following here in Portland, I expect Palate will be coming to a shop near those of you residing elsewhere soon. In the meantime, I connected with Ainsley to see what inspired her to get into the nail polish game, what we can expect from Palate in the future, and of course, where the renowned foodie goes for a burger –


VGS: Where are you from and why did you decide to call Portland home?

A: I’m from Salt Lake City originally. I moved to Portland after a 4 year stint in San Diego. I missed having actual seasons and outdoorsy adventures literally at my doorstep – and of course, the food was a big draw!


VGS: What inspired you to start Palate? What inspired your food theme?

A: After years of accumulating nail polish and researching how to make my own, I decided to combine that love with my love of food in a fun and innovative way. Like an artists palette, I wanted my line of colors to be food inspired thus the play on words in ‘Palate’ – every polish color is named after a food.


VGS: Who is your favorite nail artist right now?

A: Sarah Kane out of Austin is great and locally, I love Asa Bree. Definitely check them both out, their work speaks for itself.


VGS:  If you could only wear one color of polish for the rest of your life, which would it be?

A: Dark Purple – I think I must own 20 subtly different dark purple polishes.


VGS: What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?

A: Surround yourself with motivating people. Seriously, I would’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support and ingenuity of my family and friends – and even strangers!


VGS: What are your general thoughts regarding Portland’s Maker scene?

A: I love the community-driven attitude here in Portland, this was the perfect place for me to start a business. Portland was my place of inspiration to design food related nail polish because I work two jobs in the food industry which has been very helpful in starting a small business like this.


VGS: What can we expect from Palate in the future?

A: Palate is always introducing limited edition colors to go along with the seasons, new trends, and collabs with other local businesses. Follow us on Instagram @palatepolish to get all the up to date happenings!


VGS: Where is your favorite spot in town to grab a burger?

A: Any veggie burger with a fried egg on it gets my vote! But the Jackfruit Burger from White Owl is my go-to: an uncanny pulled pork look-a-like sandwich dressed with apple-cabbage slaw and slathered in delicious Coava coffee BBQ sauce … so tasty.




Shop Palate’s full selection here and follow @palatepolish on Instagram for giveaways, flash sales, and news on new colors.


beauty beat : nail art by carlyn

February 4, 2015


A lifelong nail biter, a few years ago I finally discovered why I spent most of my life biting and biting until my ragged nail beds throbbed with stinging pain – I hate the feeling of long nails. A definite side effect of my OCD, any time I feel the top edges of my nails anywhere near my finger tips, the impulse to gnaw and chew them away is more than I can ignore – and you know that shizz has to be perfectly smooth and even before I can even think about stopping, hence I would only give up biting when the pain became too much. I finally learned to cope, and even learned to love my nails, by making sure to keep them filed down to just below my finger tips and by keeping them painted since nail polish helps dull the edge of the nail. I would argue that manicures are necessary in the treatment of my malady, which I’ll admit is a pretty fun cure despite all the upkeep.

For the most part, I do it myself since that pesky OCD usually rears its head in how I like my mani too – the length and shape of each nail is crucial and the polish has to cover my ENTIRE nail, from cuticle to top edge and side to side. Some things I can’t do myself though, and nail art is one of those things. After years of solid colors, the party nail isn’t doing it for me anymore and my attempts at simple line designs have been spotty at best so I decided it was time to seek help.

My first choice? Carlyn Wutkee.




Having seen her graphic and dreamy works via the Insta feed of vintage shop Zigzag Wanderer and on the nails of a friend, I knew Carlyn was the artist for me; the charm and character in her take on nail art standbys like eyes and geometric shapes, her use of color, and experimentation with negative spaces and homemade decals made her a standout for me. Continually missing out on the days she has been doing nails at Zigzag Wanderer, I contacted her and made an appointment to finally have my nails Carlyn-ized. It was totally worth it.



Arriving at her lovely home not far from my own in NE, Carlyn suggested we take advantage of the unseasonably warm and sunny day to work in her tree house. After ascending the stairs, I found myself in the most delightful, well, tree house. Kitted out with Southwestern blankets, crystals, and pillows, I settled in while Carlyn put on some tunes and started setting out her huge stash of nail polishes. I chose a palette heavy on blush, mint, and baby blue with a neon for punch. Next we discussed what I wanted on each nail. Referencing her Insta feed, I chose a mix of eyes, dotted lines (‘worms’ in Carlyn speak), dotted circles (‘portals’), modernist half circles (‘drippy guys’), and a half-and-half design that Carlyn compared to a Pokeball.

Having come ready with my cuticles pushed back, nails shaped, and a base coat applied, we got to work. I hadn’t met Carlyn before and her serious-sweet manner put me at ease right away. She explained that she’s not a trained nail technician (so do come with your nails groomed and ready to paint) but found she enjoys expressing her art best when she can connect with people. Calling herself ‘terminally authentic’, she most enjoys a solid connection with people, including discussing meaningful topics and being able to touch them. Carlyn also explained that she loves people’s hands and studying their different shapes – I hope she enjoyed my stubby little elephant leg shaped digits!

All told, we spent about two hours on the process as we enjoyed our creative collaboration, a snack of fresh fruit, lots of chats, and, duh, nail painting. As I mentioned earlier, I am totes OCD when it comes to how my nails are painted and Carlyn’s style is best described as imperfectly perfect. Not every line was to the exact edge of my nail but that’s how she achieves the unique character that drew me to her in the first place. Truth: I normally OBSESS over any and all perceived imperfections in my mani but since seeing Carlyn, I just gaze at them lovingly and recall the beautiful day in which we hung out and made some nail magic. So here they are – and dang, it’s hard to photograph your own hands!



Mega thanks to Carlyn for the best time and nails I love and am complimented on all the time!

Follow Carlyn on Instagram @ohcarlyn and email her to make an appointment for your own nail magic.

beauty beat : grayed out

January 14, 2015

jeanbaptistesantens– via Jean Baptiste Santens

Those who didn’t know me as a teenager would not associate me with crazy hair colors but it was my thing for many years. It started when I was twelve and my mom was working as a nail tech at the now defunct Gary Lucky Salon on NE Broadway. I often hung out there after school, playing receptionist, eating Bit O’ Honey’s from the candy jar on the counter, and befriending the stylists. They were definitely on my side when I started begging my mom to let one of them bleach two streaks in my hair. She gave in and the next few years saw me DIY’ing my naturally dark chestnut hair into just about every color you could imagine; bleaching it myself, I added color via Kool-Aid, Manic Panic, and purple hair rinses meant for old ladies. Tired of the mess, upkeep, and hassle of scraping together cash for dyes, I threw in the towel when I was eighteen. Since then I’ve been more or less happy with my natural color – at least until I began to notice aggressive patches of gray sprouting up all over my scalp a few years ago. Suddenly, I wanted to color my hair again and bad.

Ironically, my dream hair is gray. The natural process taking far too long, I asked a few stylists around town about going gray à la the picture above. One of the few colors I wanted to rock in my teens but never did (Manic Panic’s Pillarbox Red was the other shade I never got around to), I was way into the look back then too. After seeing one of my fave models from the 90’s, Kristen McMenamy, make a comeback recently with sleek silver hair, my obsession started all over again. Just as suddenly it seemed, everyone else got way into gray hair too and pics of lucky ducks sporting the shade flooded Pinterest.

Of the four stylists I talked to about going gray, all of them said I would need to bleach it in stages given how dark my hair is. Two of them suggested I start with a purple ombre and go from there. I scheduled and then canceled appointments with both of those stylists. The bottom line is, I don’t want purple ombre – I want gray. I know no one wants to fry my hair off but I’m not too worried about it – I’ve been there and done that so I know my thick, coarse hair can take quite a beating. However, my obsessing over gray hair these past two years may be for naught if recent predictions have any merit – the fashion savvy have declared it over. Not just gray, ombre’s and bright purple shades got the ax too. I can see where they’re coming from but am saddened that one of my first methods of self expression is now so common place as to be declared passé. I still remember my hot pink hair eliciting blatant stares and glares in 1990’s Seattle and Astoria. Oh how time changes everything!

Perhaps if one of the people declaring gray and bright purple over wasn’t one of my best friends, I might take a ‘whatever’ attitude about the whole thing. As it is, I respect her opinion and have to wonder if she’s right. At this point it doesn’t really matter since no one will agree to bleach my hair in one go and I don’t want to hassle with doing it myself. By the time nature takes it’s course though, who knows what will be played out or not. In the meantime, for those who aren’t over gray, I leave you with some of my favorite examples –

rad ladies : kim damio

March 27, 2014



i couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce today’s rad lady, kim damio of portland black lipstick company who i met last month at the unmentionable lingerie show. already the owner of PBLC’s classic black lipstick, i was delighted to be able to see all of her colors up close and personal. so much so, i added a few more shades to my collection- most notably bad penny, a gorgeous creamy-metallic copper that has become my go-to lipstick as of late. maybe it’s the old goth in me that was initially attracted to portland black lipstick’s wares but don’t be scared, there really is a shade for everyone and i’m telling you, you’ll be hard pressed to find another brand offering up the natural, high quality ingredients and awesome wearability that you’ll get in a PBLC lipstick. i haven’t even mentioned yet just how lovely and sweet kim is! she totally is. read on to find out how she got started, how she comes up with colors, and her fave hot dog joint (it’s mine too!) –


VGS: how did portland black lipstick co. get its start?

Kim: PBLC has only existed for a few years, but I had been making cosmetics for many years prior to starting the company.  I really enjoyed it as a hobby and never really thought it would become my full time job!!  I mainly sold my makeup at events—which was really fun, since it offered me a chance to talk with people about my craft and to trade with other vendors. Some local boutiques started selling my lipsticks around that time as well. Then my friends encouraged me to go online and the internet side of the business grew from there.

VGS: do you have a background in chemistry or did you learn to formulate cosmetics through trial and error?

Kim: I don’t have a formal background in chemistry, but I’ve been picking it up on an amateur level for some time now because it helps me avoid mistakes in formulation. When I first started making cosmetics I relied much more on trial and error (and less on research.) I would love to study chemistry in a classroom environment—as soon as I have time, I plan on doing just that!!  My educational background is mostly philosophy and foreign language.

VGS: what was your process in deciding on your current color line up? 

Kim: Originally I worked on what I wanted to wear—I just could not find a black lipstick that used all-natural ingredients!!  I kept mixing more and more colors and eventually got to the point where I’d see a pigment and think ‘I bet I could make a good lip color with that!!’ I tend towards wearing black, blues, greens, greys, etc., but I truly enjoy the challenge and aesthetics involved in mixing other colors. Sometimes my colors are the result of requests from friends and/or customers.

VGS: what are your thoughts on portland’s maker scene?

Kim: I love it—people are really open to making just about anything here!

VGS: what is your biggest source of inspiration currently?

Kim: I’ve been really into historical recipes, some of which may translate into new products and some of which are just fun projects. There are so many extant recipes from the late Victorian period alone—I feel like I could experiment forever and never get bored!!

VGS: what challenges do you face in staying motivated and how do you overcome them?

Kim: As anyone with their own business knows, it can be a little overwhelming at times!!  Thankfully, there are lots of things that keep me motivated. I really love what I do and I’m truly grateful that I can make my living this way. It’s always encouraging to get feedback from customers–to hear back from people. I find that research and development is good for avoiding monotony.  If I feel like I’m doing too much repetitious work, then I might mix up a new lip color or try a new face cream recipe.

VGS: what can we expect from portland black lipstick co. in the future?

Kim: More historical recreations and some new lip colors!!  Colors of particular interest include pumpkin, drab violet, icy blue, and golden red…

VGS: what’s your favorite burger spot?

Kim: Honestly, I’m currently more into hot dogs and my favorite place for those is Zach’s Shack 🙂


PBLC– my own fledgling PBLC collection L to R : bad penny, purple cloud, pewter cauldron and black –


IMG_9852– follow kim / PBLC on facebook and purchase PBLC via etsy & yo! vintage –

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