Interview with a Beauty Expert: Amber Murray

Obsessed with the hottest makeup products? Can’t wait to read up on what beauty trends are taking over? Then, you should definitely be reading beauty expert Amber Murray’s blog, Beauty Junkies Unite. Find out how Amber got started in the industry, what beauty product she’d invent if she could, and what other beauty blogs you should be checking out in our interview below!

Your blog, Beauty Junkies Unite, is the perfect source for anyone who truly loves makeup and beauty products and trends. What sets your site apart from other beauty blogs?

Thank you! I appreciate you saying that. I really try to stay authentic and true to who I am.

While I love beauty products and the beauty industry in general, I’m also a real person with insecurities like anyone else. I think my route is a little more of the old-school beauty blogging route, because I haven’t incorporated much video or in-depth tutorial posts like you’ll see with the newer generation of beauty blogs.

I see SO much incredibly beautiful, well-written, image-rich content on both blogs and YouTube now – more than I’ve ever seen before. It sets the bar very high, and from an old-school blogging standpoint, I look at them in awe, and with much appreciation. Online content creation is being taken to a level that I never envisioned when I started almost 7 years ago, and it’s more relevant than ever. There is room for everyone!

Instead of trying to jump onto the newest platform or transform myself into someone I’m not, I’m just trying to maintain a comfortable place for my readers to see things through my eyes. When I show trends and new products, I never want anyone to feel like they are “out of style” or like they’re not “cool enough” for it. I guess I’m just trying to keep it real - but without tearing down what may be someone else’s version of real. I don’t want people to ever come away from my site feeling bad about themselves.

I’ve made mistakes in the past where I’ve ridiculed a look/trend/person, and one day I just realized I didn’t like the way it made me feel. If it made me feel bad, it would make that undeserving person feel even worse. I completely regret ever writing content like that. I don’t ever want to make anyone feel that way, nor do I want to feel that way. When I come across sites that do this to other people now, I immediately close the window. No one needs to see that or start their day that way! Life is hard enough as it is.

Your background includes being a licensed cosmetologist and product expert. How did you first become interested in the beauty world? And how have these experiences influenced what you write about on your blog?

This is a story I’ve told maybe 3 times over the years, but it’s such a full-circle thing that I get a kick out of it. And, for it to make any sense for anyone who doesn’t know me personally, I feel like I have to start from the beginning.

From an early age, I worked in retail. Honestly, I have some insane respect for anyone who works in any retail profession or retail management position. Or, mainly any customer-service industry in general. Working with the general public is some of the most humbling work you will ever do. Most of my employment and real-world experience comes from endless hours on sales floors, meeting stressful sales goals, coaching employees, and dealing with very difficult people. Sometimes, I think that’s your college education of LIFE right there.

I burned completely out of retail one day. I just couldn’t face it one more day. So, I enrolled in esthetician school on a complete whim. I was entirely fascinated by it and absorbed as much as I could. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the course at the time, and eventually moved across the country to just start fresh. I was still young, and very naive! I needed a scenery reboot, STAT, to decide exactly what I wanted to do with my life, because I really didn’t know. Retail had sucked my soul out!

Once I relocated, I started dating this guy, and I got really hung up on him. After a few months, he dumped me without saying much, and I had this sad realization that I really didn’t have that much going for me in life at that time, other than feeling upset that I just got dumped by a guy who didn’t deserve me anyway. Obviously, I wasn’t really being proactive in life, I was merely reacting to circumstances.

That very day, I opened up the phone book, and called the first beauty school I could find, and enrolled the next day to finish what I had started the year before. And to make sure my head was REALLY in the game, I enrolled for the full cosmetology course to completely occupy my time, instead of completing the shorter esthetics course. I was committed for real life change.

They say you’re not supposed to get a haircut after a breakup. So instead of that, I went to cosmetology school and started GIVING them! It was a metaphor for what was going on all around me in my life. Real change started happening, like things that actually made me genuinely happy. So, that guy dumping me out of the blue is on my top 5 list of best things that have ever happened to me! If I saw him today, I would shake his hand and thank him PROFUSELY! It was truly meant to be. This industry was my calling in life; it just took a little longer to get there.

Because of a combination of all of these random life experiences and adventures, I bring along some of my retail savvy, beauty education, people skills, and blend it with my appreciation for the beauty industry - with the hopes of making someone’s day by helping them out in some small way. Even if it’s just to help them see how unflattering a lipstick is on me to save them the money! (Even if it’s one that I love, but they dislike!) Let me be the guinea pig. I’m happy to oblige!

Your site has posts seemingly covering all of the latest beauty trends. Are there other bloggers or sites that you read for inspiration?

With as much time as I spend online, I feel like I don’t stay current with even a percentage of the inspiration I should be. There’s quite of bit of talent out there. From day one, I looked up to Karen from Makeup and Beauty Blo; her photography skills inspire me to take a better photo than the last, every day. I don’t have fancy equipment, her incredible skills, or an ounce of her creativity - but she does inspire me to do the best I can with what I’ve got.Plus, she’s a cat lady like me, and she makes me crack up.

I also really like Beautezine. Jessica has carefully developed this beautiful digital beauty magazine that’s very unique. From a visual standpoint alone, it’s breathtaking. She is creating the kind of visual and editorial content on a daily basis that takes print magazines months to publish. When I first saw her site’s format coming to life, I thought, ‘Oh my God, if I were young again and had the energy, that would be the kind of site I would create.’

I know you’re never too old to do anything, but there are a lot of digital skills I’m not quite up to par with. Even my journalism and computer classes in high school pale in comparison to what students are getting now. I know it’s not too late, and I’ll never say never, but it would take me a long time to learn how some of these gals do what they do!

I have a true appreciation for anyone taking the chance to put themselves out there online in this world. It’s a risky one, but equally as rewarding when your heart is in it, and your energy is positive.

One of the unique features on your site is the Lipstick League. Can you tell us a little about it, and how it was formed?

I wish I could take credit for The Lipstick League, but I can’t! It was created a few years ago by two of my best friends, Gianna from Nouveau Cheap, and Stef from We Heart This. The League is a small, but vetted group of beauty bloggers who are ethnically diverse, and all have different areas of expertise and life experience. Some of us are single, some are married, some have children, some of us have pets who are our kids. We all vary in age and educational/vocational background and geographical location. It’s a great group of women I’m proud to be involved in!

For example: We have Jen from My Beauty Bunny, one of the most popular cruelty-free beauty blogs in the world. We have Victoria from EauMG; she’s an incredible wealth of knowledge about fragrance. Gianna is the authority on all things money-saving and drugstore beauty. Aprill from Glitter. Gloss. Garbage, and Brittany from Clumps of Mascara are able to bring us insights, trends, and product experiences from women of color. Kelly from Vampy Varnish and Jess from Love for Lacquer both take insanely beautiful nail polish photos, and Phyrra brings us more of the alternative/indie edge of beauty. There’s more of us - I didn’t leave anyone out intentionally nor is this list all-inclusive, but I could write a book about these ladies because they’re so great.

Once a week, we share each other’s favorite posts for the previous week. It’s a way to introduce our readers to our friends, and also provide unique and dynamic content you might have missed otherwise. It’s nice to feature someone else, too. I encourage every blogger to do the same!

You often showcase products that are perfect for ladies on a budget. What’s your favorite must-have drugstore makeup item?

There was a long period of time where I wasn’t inspired by anything I saw in the drugstore. It wasn’t my first place to look for something beauty-related unless it was acetone or cotton swabs. Now, it’s like heaven to me! There are incredibly affordable brands like NYX, elf, and Milani offering on-trend products and shades at great prices.

Even the tried and true, more traditional mass brands like COVERGIRL, L’Oreal, and Maybelline have significantly become more modern and appealing over the past few years. COVERGIRL’s LipPerfection Lipstick is one of my favorite lipstick formulas, hands down. L’Oreal and Maybelline kill it in the mascara department regularly!

I spend most of my personal beauty budget on prestige skincare brands and complexion/foundation products, because that’s what works best for me personally. But, I think you can always save major money by finding your staples at the drugstore. I can spend a little more on my skincare when my mascara is a fraction of the cost of what it would be in a department store, and just as good - if not better! It kind of evens out that way. Plus, I live across the street from a CVS. Believe me, I earn and spend those ExtraBucks very quickly!

Some people have a classic look that’s their go-to, while others love experimenting with different trends. Where are you on this spectrum? Do you ever switch up your look?

When I was much younger, I was all over the map. Initially, I was an original Stila customer back in the 90’s. It’s a totally different brand/look today. Then, when Urban Decay and Hard Candy launched in the department store I worked in, it’s like that’s when the FUN stuff REALLY came to the beauty world for me.

Sure, there were plenty of artistry lines with daily staples, and you could always look to MAC for a fix of flashy color that no one else had yet, but no brands were really stepping totally outside of the box yet. For a Gen-Xer, it was an exciting time to be around in the beauty game. Because of the brands like Urban Decay that took chances in that way – carving out the niche of what was outside of the norm at the time, I was able to evolve in the same way.

Now that I’m much older and don’t wear such flashy eyeshadow and clothes anymore, I’m just as loyal to those brands – I’ve just switched color palettes. (Believe me, I can still appreciate an Urban Decay neon eyeshadow, even if I won’t wear it outside of my house!) And those brands have evolved too. So, I’d like to think of myself these days as someone with classic style with a touch of “now.” I try to keep things fresh and neutral with my skin and eyes, but I love to  experiment with bold lip colors and nail polishes instead.

I love to glam it up for events and special occasions. But, for everyday, I have staples that I stick to and add a bold lip if I’m dashing out the door. I love watching how all the younger gals on my Instagram feed have their fun with makeup now. It reminds me of how excited I was to first experience the brave new world of beauty! I enjoy the diversity I’m seeing. When I was younger, makeup was very conservative and cookie-cutter-ish. Even drugstore brands are on-trend and making waves now. That never would have happened 20 years ago!

If you could invent one beauty product that’s not on the market now, what would it be and why?

I know there are slightly similar products like this out there, you just have to look for them, but I’ve always wanted to create a leave-in conditioner that’s a true sunscreen for your hair and scalp. As if you could spray it on in the morning, it would not make your hair greasy or heavy, and it would leave your scalp especially protected. Not just something you’d find and use in the summer when you’re swimming, but something you could incorporate into your styling routine every day. I know the science and process of FDA-approved sunscreen is complicated, but if there was a way I could wave a magic wand and make it happen, I would. And it would smell good, too.  :)

Your “Get the Look” column helps readers copy celebrity makeup styles. What challenges do you face when trying to recreate these looks?

For me, it’s the technique. Despite working in the beauty industry for a long time, I’ve focused primarily on being a hairstylist/colorist and skincare specialist. I was never that confident in my artistry skills – they are definitely a challenge. While I may be able to show you which products were used for getting those red carpet looks, I’d have to defer to the actual artist for the techniques. Trust me, you would not want to see any YouTube tutorials from me! That would be hysterical! It would be an entire blooper reel!

You have a huge Twitter following with over 40,000 (!) followers. What’s your favorite part about interacting with your fans?

I am humbled that I even have a single Twitter follower, let alone the current number. It’s definitely not something that happened overnight, and I am grateful for every single person out there. My favorite part of the entire thing is the fact that they even take the time out of their day to interact with me. I try very hard to recognize all tweets. I can go down the rabbit hole on there for hours, so I have to watch my time on Twitter, but I 100% appreciate every single person who follows. As long as I’m not being harassed or sent spam, it brings a smile to my face.

I absolutely enjoy paying things forward. I try to host a lot of great giveaways for my followers and readers. If there’s a way I can get them access to something they’ve wanted from a brand, I’m going to try my best to do it. I’ve been very blessed with experiences over the years, solely because someone took the time to read my site, leave a comment, or interact with me on social media. Saying hello and offering you the chance to win something nice is the very least I can do.

Make sure to watch my social media feeds regularly, you never know what is coming next! Last December, I gave away an amazing memory-foam mattress that was sponsored by Casper. I have one, and was getting such great beauty sleep on mine, I knew I had to get one to someone else to enjoy! If there’s a product I really love, eventually, I’m going to find a way to share it with someone else too.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! Anything else you’d like the CouponPal readers to know?

Thank you for all of your support and readership. And I REALLY need to get better about my couponing game! I think I’m okay at it, but I could use some schooling for sure. I’ll be hanging around CouponPal a little more often ;) Thanks for talking to me!

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with an Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #Experts to @CouponPal!

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