Saturday, September 29, 2007

Curly Hair or Cancer?

Like most women with curly hair, my crazy curly hair and I have a love-hate relationship (yes, hate rules on most days). I usually attempt to straighten my hair into submission or put it up into a ponytail or bun on bad weather days. Frankly, after seventeen years of fighting with my hair (I used to have stick straight hair when I was little), I am getting a little exhausted from the amount of time I spend loathing it each day.

Naturally, I was ecstatic when I learned about a revolutionary new hair straightening treatment called the Brazilian Keratin Treatment (BKT) a few months ago. The treatment is somewhat similar to the japanese rebonding treatment that created a craze a few years back. Unlike rebonding, however, the BKT claims to use keratin (a type of protein already found in the hair) instead of chemicals to naturally smooth and straighten the hair. Plus, the BKT is supposed to be somewhat cheaper than rebonding and the New York Times even wrote an article on its amazing results. Despite my excitement, I decided to wait a while to see if the BKT was really up to its hype, and I am glad I did.

This morning, in the latest issue of Allure, I read that the BKT not only uses keratin to smooth the hair but also uses formaldehyde to straighten. Formaldeyde, however, is thought to be a carcinogen by a number of health and safety agencies both in the U.S. and overseas. Apparently, the use of it in the BKT releases noxious fumes that the customer inhales during the treatment.
Despite the fact that there are no conclusory studies as to the safety or danger of the BKT, I am not risking a treatment that may cause the inhalation or absorption of a potential carcinogen. It did make me wonder to what extent women who know about this risk are still willing to try the treatment because of the results it provides. The before and after pictures on the website are certainly tempting.

Now I am over my excitement of the BKT and have run back home to the curly hair. We are learning to love each other....

Friday, September 28, 2007

Runway to Reality: Michael Kors' Ski Bunny Chic

Translating runway makeup to reality can be difficult task, given that we don't have have the expertise of skilled makeup artists. Its even harder for us brown ladies since, most of the time, the look we would love to copy originate on a caucasian model. My goal is to select my favorite Fall 2007 faces and translate them to look equally beautiful on a woman of color.
First up, Michael Kors Fall 2007. The look: Sun-kissed ski bunny in the French Alps. The how-to:
Face: The skin is really dewy, almost shiny. Skip the foundation and use a tinted moisturizer to cover up discolorations. The great thing about tinted moisturizer is that you don't need an exact color match since it goes on sheerly and is meant to just add a glow to your face. I use YSL Oil-Free Complexion Enhancer in #4 Apricot but it also comes in Beige, Caramel and Golden Sand if you are more tan. Use powder sparingly and only powder the t-zone to keep your cheeks dewy.
Next, lightly dust a bronzing powder such as Shiseido Luminizing Color Powder in Golden Bronze just at the temples and along the cheekbones. I love this bronzer as it has three different colors that you can mix and swirl to get the perfect bronze since even bronzers should be customized to your skin color. Avoid putting bronzer everywhere since this look is"ski-bunny" not "beach goddess." Add a little MAC Clear Gloss or even moisturizer to make cheekbones gleam.
Eyes: Take an eyeshadow brush meant for your lid and brush on the same bronzer used on your face from the lashline to the browbone so that you can see the bronze color when you look straight into the mirror. Use a metallic, silver-gray shadow from the inner corners of your eye to the middle of the lid. Use a darker, metallic gray shadow from the middle lid to the outer lid and blend the two shadows together. Try using the different grays of Rimmel London Underground Stir it Up Trio Cream Shadow in No Way! Line the entire upper lash line and only the outer half of the bottom lashline with a black or dark gray eyeliner and smudge the line with a q-tip so the line isn't harsh. Makeup artist Dick Page used MAC Smolder Eye Kohl but I prefer MAC Engraved Powerpoint Eye Pencil because it has more staying power.
Lips: These are baby lips, light pink and moisturized but not overly glossy. However, avoid using actual light pink glosses since they have a tendency to make you look washed out. Since our lips are already quite pigmented, go for a nude gloss such as MAC Plushglass in Big Baby which will allow the eyes to stand out.
I love this look as it bridges the gap between summer and fall by allowing for a sophisticated yet healthy glow.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vogue India Strikes a Vexing Pose

While the U.S. edition of Vogue magazine is not one of the must-read glossies on my list every month, I must say I was excited to hear that Conde Nast International was launching Vogue India this month. A glance at the cover of the inaugural issue, however, was less than thrilling. Desi beauties Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, Monikangana Dutta, Preity Zinta and Laxmi Menon grace the special fold-out cover...with blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned Aussie model Gemma Ward smack dab in the middle of the main cover in between Bips and Priyanka.
My first thought was "Why in the world?!" What is Gemma's significance in India and Indian culture? Are the desi models and actresses not sufficiently beautiful and glamorous to hold their own? Couldn't the very first cover of Vogue India be a celebration of only Indian beauty, something that is rarely celebrated in the west with the exception of Miss World and Miss Universe pageants?
At its best, the cover is an attempt to display the rise of India and Indian culture in the international world of fashion with Gemma representing the traditionally western dominance over the fashion world. Priya Tanna, the Managing Editor of Vogue India, says, "Vogue's launch in India symbolizes India's arrival onto the global fashion scene. India is ready for a magazine that is intelligent, sophisticated, and that understands the stylish, modern woman." Still, if this was the rationale behind the cover, it could have been been accomplished in a different way...I would have preferred two Caucasian models flanking Bipasha or Priyanka in the center rather than a Caucasian model as the clear focus of the cover.
At its worst, Gemma on the cover is not particularly original (Gemma was centered in between two Asian models in Vogue China's inaugural issue) nor, in my opinion, appeals to the Indian woman, even if that woman is the worldly, sophisticated individual that is Vogue India's target. Sure, she is a beautiful international model, but Gemma Ward is not exactly a household name in India. If a desi woman living in the west doesn't even use Gemma as a beauty role model where she is more recognized, what woman in India will?
Even further, Tanna states that the magazine's target woman "has come into her own, is more exposed to the world, has a great job and spending power, so consumption patterns have changed." If Vogue India believes in embracing Indian women that have "come into their own," then why did they decide to stick blue colored contacts on Bipasha and Priyanka? Sorry, but my vision of the modern Indian woman coming into her own involves her acceptance of her God-given features without scary accroutrements.
I hesitate to make this an issue of race, ethnicity and the residue of colonization in India and would like to believe that the magazine's editorial staff simply has skewed ideas of what appeals to their audience. Though I am ecstatic that Vogue India decided not to be boring and put Aishwarya Rai on the inaugural cover, this cover is just tired in itself. Here's hoping the contents of Vogue India are not as disappointing.*

*Despite my head shaking and eye rolling, I am making every effort to get my hands on this issue...not only to write the editor a scathing letter but also to discover the makeup magic behind our desi cover girls.

photos via and

Monday, September 17, 2007


Welcome to Roop Cafe! The word roop means "beauty" in Hindi, and we're slightly addicted to beauty products. Well, actually, make that very addicted.

Here, you'll find us bantering about the latest in beauty trends, especially those that flatter women of color. We're not professional makeup artists, we're beauty enthusiasts, just like you! In our combined years of experience using beauty products and dabbling in makeup, we've learned plenty about what really works for us, and what doesn't. Our goal is to share with you our honest advice, reviews, and tips to help make you more beautiful than you already are. And if you've got some beauty tips to share, tell us by leaving a comment, we love talking beauty and learning more about it. Now, let's begin!