Refilling a Vintage Compact

Dear Constant Reader,

I hope you’re all doing well.

Last month Christine McConnell released a video for her Patrons where she refilled vintage makeup containers with modern cosmetics. This inspired me to show off some of my vintage cosmetic items on Instagram. Someone asked if I was going to make any of them functional as well and I got thinking.

I found this compact at Streamline Antiques, a local shop specializing in Art Deco items. I loved that it had a compartment for lip rouge as well as one for powder and even had traces of the makeup inside! It’s an Elgin American, a popular compact manufacturer in the early 20th century, but other than that, I don’t know anything about its history.

First thing I needed to do was clean the old makeup out. That proved to be a challenge. The lip rouge was quite fossilized. I tried warming it up with a little boiling water poured into the compartment, but it stayed firm. Then I took my own advice and remembered that oil takes off lipstick. I poured a few drops vegetable oil into the compartment and sure enough, it started to soften. I used toothpicks to get into the crevices and get all the old gunk out.

To clean out the oil, I turned to my old friend Dawn. Soon the compartment was perfectly clean. I also washed out the powder compartment. It also needed a bit of an oil treatment, because there was residue from a sticker on the lid.

When everything was clean, I used a little precious isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the compact. Christine boiled many of her cases, but I didn’t want to harm the mirror or the enamel on the lid.

I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my Atomic Cosmetics lipsticks (since they’re not being made anymore) to this experiment, so I grabbed some classic Cherries in the Snow. I cut off a chunk and melted it in a spoon held over a candle. Yes, I know how that looks. Then I poured the melted lipstick into the compartment and let it harden. It wasn’t a perfect pour, so I tried to smooth out the surface with a hairdryer with limited success.

Then I took some setting powder and mixed it with a little isopropyl alcohol. I packed the resulting paste into the powder compartment and smoothed it with a butter knife. Then ended up using a cotton swab like a tiny rolling pin. Then I pressed a piece of lace onto the surface, weighted it with an Altoids tin, and left it to dry out. It did dry into a solid cake of powder, but you can’t really see the lace design.

There is a divot in the lid of the powder container, which I suspect held a powder puff. None of my powder puffs are the right size or shape, so I made a new one. I used a rectangle of cotton quilt batting and covered it with white satin. I wanted some white or pink velveteen for the puff part, but I didn’t have any. I took a drugstore powder puff and dismembered it for the velvety fabric. It was barely enough to cover my square of cotton. I ended up gluing some narrow ribbon over the edge to seal it. It’s not my best work, but we do what we can under the circumstances.

And voila!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 4 May 2020 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! If you’re in New England, I hope you’re prepared for the snow! If you’re in Los Angeles, I hope you’re prepared for me! I’ll be performing at Audrey DeLuxe’s Burlesque Bingo – The House of Knyle Edition on Sunday. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! I’m debuting a new act and it’s very different from my usual style.

And now for your tip!

Use invisible lip liner to keep your lipstick from feathering.

Invisible lip liner is clear and creates a barrier so your lipstick stays put. Put on your usual lip liner and then run a line of this stuff just outside the line. I always use it and it’s kind of magical.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 January 2019 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Review: Mix-Your-Own Mask

Dear Constant Reader,

The other day I took my own advice and used a skin care mask. I’d done three weekends of shows, hadn’t been sleeping well, and winter is settling down here in New England. All this conspired to make my skin look very tired. I’m actually terrible about taking said advice because commercial face masks need to be refrigerated and I’d always use a mask once and then forget about it in the fridge until it dried up or got moldy.

Dr. Jen from Atomic Cosmetics had sent me a sample of her Mix-Your-Own Facial Mask. There’s a tube of wet ingredients and one of dry, that you store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Keeping the two parts separate means she doesn’t have to use serious preservatives. You combine the contents of the tubes in a bowl (I found a fork helpful to mix it smooth) and slather the results on. There’s enough in the tubes for a single generous use (you don’t want to save the leftovers because of the aforementioned lack of preservatives). I used the dry/aging skin mask, which has fabulous ingredients like coconut water, evening primrose oil, French green clay, and powdered goat’s milk.

The result is a greenish goo with a funky aroma — that’s the goat’s milk. It made more than enough for me to spread all over my face, neck and decolletage. That frightening image to the right is indeed me under a freshly-applied layer of this stuff. Don’t say I don’t show you the true glamour of being a burlesque performer. Then I relaxed in my boudoir whilst watching a couple of Ask a Mortician videos, staying far away from where ordinary people could see my swampy visage.

Then I washed the dried mask off with some warm water, which was more of a challenge that I anticipated, seeing as I had the stuff ALL OVER myself. Next time I’ll step into the shower instead of trying to do it over the sink. However, it was worth it. My skin felt smooth & soft and most importantly, no longer looked tired.

Dr. Jen has four formulations of this stuff — dry/aging, oily/combination, sensitive, and custom blended for your unique skin issues. I think $7 (for a standard mix) is reasonable for a once-in-a-while skin treat.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 15 November 2017 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

A Day in the Lab

Dear Constant Reader,

When last we left our traveling showgirl, she was wending her way high into the Jemez Mountains with native guide Dr. Jen and faithful assistant Gia.

I was welcomed to Dr. Jen’s adorable house in the woods, with wall to wall leopard print carpeting, by her three dogs: the famous Wallace, enormous puppy Stella, and Maya, who immediately figured out that I wasn’t a dog person, jumped up on me and planted a kiss on my nose. After enjoying the sunset and the scenery, I was happily ensconced in the Drag Room. Had I a middle of the night wig emergency, I would have been all set.

My Monday was spent in the Atomic Cosmetics lab seeing where and how the magic happens. This was a rare opportunity for me to get some makeup color matched and to make sure I’ve been using the right products for my skin.

I’m starting to run out of my favorite colors of Shu Uemura eyeshadow and blush and it’s getting increasingly hard to get Shu products (they closed all their US stores, for example). So, Dr. Jen made me a matching set. She even improved on the original a little in that two of the colors were on the cool side and she gave me warmer shades that compliment my skin tones better.

Also, we determined that I was wearing the wrong shade of BB cream. It wasn’t bad on me, but now I’ve got the same shade as my foundation and Nudie Cutie. It’s a subtle improvement.

I forgot to mention that when Dr. Jen picked me up, she greeted me with a lip balm (with shimmer!) (also a two-color liquid lipstick). I pretty desperately needed that lip balm all the time. It is insanely dry in New Mexico.

Dr. Jen also mentioned that she *might* have figured out a gel eyeliner and packed me up some samples when I told her that Pearl Button’s life would now be complete.

Part of the day was spent with me on the phone (more on that later), but Dr. Jen had another guest who had come in from Texas (I think) to make lipstick. I got to watch the process of making the base, adding the pigment, &c. through to molding and putting it in a case. The new shade was dubbed “Red Velvet” and you can see it on my (dry, needing more balm) lips to the right.

It was fascinating to see how eyeshadows are pressed, what pigments are to be used for which kind of cosmetic, the precision measuring, and what that big whisk is for. I’m so thrilled to have gotten an inside look at how the products are made.

This is the result of my shopping trip:

Next up: Time to go home. Or is it?

Published in: on 30 March 2017 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Use cosmetic-quality glitter on your face.

Sure, you could pick up glitter at the craft store for way cheaper. But what’s it made of? You don’t want glitter of unknown origin near your eyes or, especially, on your lips. No matter how careful you are, you’re probably going to ingest some flakes over the course of a show. Make sure your glitter is non-toxic and made to be on your skin.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 17 June 2016 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! And best of luck to everyone performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame this weekend!

Here’s your tip!

Clean your false lashes.

It’s better for them and for your eyes to give them the occasional cleansing. It’s easy and you only need a couple of items, which you already have (or should).

1. Take off your lashes.
I know that sounds dumb, but falling asleep while still wearing lashes is not unheard of… When removing them, grab the edge of the band, not the lashes themselves!

2. Peel off excess adhesive.
A little old glue can help the lashes stick better, but you don’t want a thick layer. Some recommend using tweezers, but I just use my fingernails to peel it off. Remember to hold the band, not the lashes when you pull off the glue residue. I’ve found latex-based glue comes off more easily than the non-rubbery stuff I use these days.

3. Put the lashes back on their plastic thingy.
It will help them keep their shape during cleaning.

4. Dampen a cotton swab with a gentle eye makeup remover and gently brush it over the lashes from band to tip to take off the accumulated gunk.
I like this remover from Atomic Cosmetics (of course).

5. Dampen a second swab with a little water and repeat the process to rinse the lashes.

6. Let them air dry on the plastic form.

That’s it! You don’t need to do this every time you wear your lashes, but occasional cleaning will keep your lashes looking good longer. And it’s got to be healthier for your eyes!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 3 June 2016 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’ve got some really exciting news before we get to your tip!

For more than four years, I’m been writing these tips here for you. Now I’ve collected some of my favorites (and winnowing them down was so painful!) into an attractive volume. That’s right, I’m publishing a book! Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque will be available in March! I’m so excited!

You can preorder your copy by backing me on Kickstarter. If the project is funded, I’ll be producing a lovely book. If it’s over-funded, I’ll be able to include even more tips!

And speaking of tips, here’s today’s:

Oil will remove lipstick.

If you run out of makeup remover, you can use an oil that you might have in your kitchen cabinet, like olive or coconut. However, oils in food will also take off and smear around your lipstick. So avoid eating greasy foods when you’re wearing lipstick! (You can chow down on the fried chicken or BLT in the privacy of your own home — that’s what I do.)


Published in: on 8 January 2016 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When curling your lashes, move the curler from base to tip, gently squeezing as you go.

This gives you a more natural curl than one sharp crimp. You knew this already, but open the curler to move it; don’t drag it down your lashes while it’s closed. Ouch.


Published in: on 11 December 2015 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip!

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’m at BurlyCon right now, but I wouldn’t forget your tip.

A sharp pencil is a more useful pencil.

Keep your cosmetic pencils nice and sharp.

A fine point will give you more control. Also, you’re exposing a fresh, clean surface.

There are a couple of different sharpeners pictured above. There’s a traditional square one. I also have one of those with a wide hole for fat pencils as well as a smaller one, but I have no idea where it is. The white pencil came with a cap with a built-in sharpener, which is very convenient, although you need to be careful handling it. The two-part one was a gift from Betty Blaize. It’s also a pencil cap with a built-in sharpener, but the blade is protected in a cover, so you don’t hurt yourself blindly groping around in your makeup case. Not that that’s every happened to me.


Published in: on 13 November 2015 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

How did I not know about this?

Dear Constant Reader,

I will confess, I came late to the false eyelash game. I didn’t like them the first time I wore them because no one had taught me how to properly fit and wear them. And that was that. No lashes for me.

It wasn’t until I had my face done by the lovely Dana at the Shu Uemura counter at Barney’s that I embraced the lash. She gave me demi-lashes, which are perfect for my eyes. These are my go-to lashes these days:

But I didn’t actually want to talk about lashes, I wanted to talk about glue. I used to get adhesive in a tube. I suppose some dexterous people can squeeze the glue directly onto the lash band without making a huge mess, but I’m not one of them. I would squirt some out, either too much or too little, into the lid of the tin where I store my lash paraphernalia, and then apply it to the lash with my sophisticated adhesive applicator — that is, the tip of a hair pin. It was messy & wasteful.

Recently I ran out of lash adhesive and discovered that…

Duo comes with a brush!

This has made my life so much easier! I can brush exactly the right amount on without any waste. Bonus — the tube exactly fits in the above-mentioned lash storage tin.


Published in: on 14 October 2015 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)