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Expert Shopper Beauty & Personal Care

Get to know our beauty expert, Oscar Molinar

Expertly reviewed by Oscar Molinar

Beauty products can enhance features, conceal perceived imperfections and even change your look entirely. However, first you need professional advice to choose the right products to create the looks you love. That’s why BestReviews has sought the advice of beauty expert Oscar Molinar, who in over 25 years of experience has transformed faces for the stage, runway and camera. 

The youngest of 10 siblings from Texas, Molinar is based in San Francisco, where he runs On Location as a pro stylist offering expert skin care consultation and makeup application. An advocate for clean beauty, he has represented several prestige beauty brands and worked as a coach and makeup artist for the Miss USA organization. His long list of clients includes news anchors, models, politicians, recording artists and other celebrities.

In addition to sharing his expertise in skin care and beauty with clients through one-on-one consultations, Molinar is often featured in TV appearances offering advice and information about the latest beauty trends. 

Q. You're BestReviews' beauty expert. How did you get into the field?

OM: As a little boy, I would accompany my mother to the hair salon every Friday and watch how they would set her hair. One day, Mother couldn't make it to the salon and was upset she would miss her appointment. I looked at her and said, “Mom, don't worry. I know how they do it.” She looked at me and asked, “Do you think you can do my hair just like the salon does it?” I replied, “Well, let's find out.” After washing, drying and setting her hair, she looked in the mirror and said, “By George, I think you got it.”

After that, I started experimenting with applying makeup on my five sisters, and somehow it got out around the neighborhood that I knew how to do hair and makeup. Before I knew it, I was charging $25 a person. When prom came around, my mother returned home one day from work to find 25 girls waiting in my living room. She pulled me aside and asked how much I was charging. After I replied $25 a person, she smiled and said,  "That's my boy." She joked, "I get 15%,” as she retired to her bedroom.

Q. What's your advice for people shopping in this e-commerce climate where there are so many options?

OM: Whether it's diminishing fine lines and wrinkles or covering dark circles, you have to be knowledgeable about exactly what you want to achieve.

For example, when covering up dark circles, most women would look for the perfect concealer, and some women would search for eye cream. As a makeup artist, I would direct you to a corrector because dark circles are caused by a discoloring of the skin in some women, and in others it is because their skin is very thin under the eye, so they have a purplish hue. Either way, a corrector would cancel out any discoloration and completely prep your under-eye area for the perfect concealer to act as an eye brightener. 

I would also recommend adding a light eye serum in a roller ball to help the sinus fluid and blood circulate before applying these three products. So my advice is to determine what it is you want to achieve when searching for a product, be realistic about your expectations and commit to attention to detail. You can't achieve flawless skin if you don't want to commit to a proper daily skin regimen — period! 

Q. How has your experience shaped your expertise and approach to making purchasing decisions?

OM: Working for over 25 years in the beauty business, you touch a lot of faces, textures of skin and contours of different sizes and shapes of faces. You also handle different textures of hair. You learn what works and what doesn't. You realize that your approach shouldn't be against aging, but how do we use the tools and the products, along with the tips and the tricks, to outsmart aging.

You should also be realistic about purchasing decisions and, most importantly, ingredients and sourcing of the raw materials used for products. Most people wouldn't think twice about buying eyeshadows or blushes made from mica, and that's fine — it’s a naturally sourced product. But I want to make sure the company I chose to purchase these items from has integrity on how the raw material is sourced. For example, child labor has been a big issue when it comes to mining for mica, and I want to be certain my dollars and cents are not funding this horrible behavior toward innocent children. 

Q. How does your philosophy as an expert align with BestReviews’ mission to simplify purchasing decisions? 

OM: As an expert with over 25 years in the beauty industry, I'm in the forefront of the clean beauty movement and an advocate for safe ingredients and cutting-edge technology. For example, most people don't realize that a serum targets cellular renewal underneath the surface, and it’s able to do so because of a smaller molecule.

So today, we are able to outsmart aging by targeting the cells with a product we can get over the counter and don't need a prescription. Forty years ago, all we could get over the counter was a moisturizer, and one of the strongest products that showed results was ceramides that were patented by cosmetic giant Elizabeth Arden. Since the patent has expired, ceramides are found everywhere from shampoos to face creams, so my knowledge of the latest innovations, cutting-edge technology and safe ingredients is part of what I recommend.

If it works, I've tried it, so consumers can rest assured when they purchase any of my suggestions that the legwork has been done.

Q. Please share some of your favorite simple beauty tips anyone can use. 

OM: When applying makeup, make sure you hold your hand-held mirror up and toward the light you are working with. Never apply makeup looking down at a mirror. Once you apply your product, step away from the hand-held mirror and look into a larger mirror 2 feet away. This gives you an idea of how people will see you when you enter a room. If you apply makeup close up without pulling away from the mirror, I'm afraid you're chasing an unrealistic goal of perfection. 

Makeup is an illusion to create or enhance certain features. For instance, draw a thicker line on your lid with eyeliner on one eye before you put on mascara and step away and look in a mirror 2 feet away. You have the illusion of lashes without even wearing mascara.  Apply mascara only on the top lashes and lower outer corners of the eye, and you look lifted and awake.

Keep a go-to lipstick that matches your natural lip color, and seal it with a touch of gloss so your lips look plump and hydrated.

Dab a bronzer that would be a few shades darker than your current skin color on the temples, cheekbones and chin, and pop the apples with bubblegum pink or peach color. It's a fresher version of yourself, and all it took was five minutes.

Q. What's your advice for someone who wants to create a dramatic look for a special event, such as a wedding, pageant or prom? 

OM: Practice a couple of days before to make sure you know the look you're going for. If it's a prom or a wedding, you want to keep it fresh and natural. For a pageant, you're being judged, and your features have to stand out to that judge across the auditorium.  

So, by all means, pull out the false eyelashes and the red lipstick for a pageant, but for a prom or a wedding, mascara is enough. You certainly don't want to look like two spiders have taken up residence in your eye sockets, and you want to look like a blushing bride, not like the Bride of Frankenstein. The mantra is: If you're far, then no holds barred; if you're near, keep it soft and sheer.

Q. Are there some key makeup products every beauty enthusiast should have in their collection? 

OM: Face wash, softener or toner to act as a magnet for your serum, to help cellular renewal. A tinted moisturizer to soften while moisturizing your skin. A set of hot rollers instead of a curling iron to save time and get an awesome bounce of body in your hair. Bobby pins and hair ties to create various hairdos.

Baby wipes to clean your brushes after each use. The worst thing you can do is use dirty brushes — don't even get me started about what you would see if you viewed dirty brushes under a microscope.

Q. What are common mistakes people make when applying makeup?

OM: Not applying makeup in natural light, applying too much product or using it for other reasons than its intended use, and using makeup to cover instead of enhance.

Remember, beautiful makeup begins with beautiful skin. So you should never apply makeup without first cleaning and prepping your skin with skin care products.  If you skip this step, you will notice and feel the difference.

Q. Do you have beauty tips for a mature face and mature hair? 

OM: Invest in a good serum and apply it with a gua sha stone. Never leave your house without applying a tinted moisturizer to even out skin. A true-color lipstick, a little rouge, a pop of mascara, a dab of bronzer and your hair pulled away from your face. Spritz gray hairs with a hair shine product and they turn silver.

Look in the mirror, smile and remember it's not about being anti-aging; it's about outsmarting it. And don't ever call your lines wrinkles — they are character lines because they are there to remind us of the wonderful triumphs and heartaches we have experienced in life. They, just like you, are beautiful and worthy.

Q. At-home beauty gadgets are trending. What are some of your favorite devices and why?

OM:  I tend to go toward anything that I would otherwise pay for at a dermatologist. I love light therapy for all skin concerns, especially for people with acne-prone skin. It’s also great for someone who is sensitive to certain ingredients. It's quick and no mess, and it works on the first use to kill bacteria that cause acne. 

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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