professional beauty recommendations & comparison shopping

Thursday, November 19, 2015

for blackheads

Who doesn't have blackheads?  Really, I'd like to know.  Even just a few on the nose.  And nothing is more stubborn than blackheads,  that's the bitch of it.  I have a few good solutions, but like most things you'll need to stay on top of them.

So when you think of blackheads think of products with salicylic acid in them.  Salicylic is a beta-hydroxy acid that not only exfoliates the surface skin but it also penetrates the pores to root out dirt and oil.  Of course, salicylic alone doesn't always do the trick so I recommend trying these as well:

All the sales assistants at the stores are crazy for Murad Blackhead & Pore Clearing Duo and it's scientifically proven to work.  Not only does it clear out existing blackheads but it seals the pores to prevent more from forming.  Step one of the duo is like a clay mask that you leave on for ten minutes and rinse off.  Then you follow it up with the Pore Refining Sealer, then more again twelve hours later.  The products are not sold separately, but using them together is what really truly works.

Everyone has heard of the Clairsonic Cleansing Brush, but if you didn't know, it has a Deep Pore Replacement Brush Head available.  Clairsonic Deep Pore Daily Cleanser is a good accompaniment but I would only use it on the blackhead areas unless you have really oily skin.  This cleanser, of course, contains salicylic acid.  Virtually everyone loves a Clairsonic and the reason it is different from other cleansing brushes is it is powered by sonic technology which cleanses the skin six times deeper than manual cleansing alone.  The only person I wouldn't recommend a Clairsonic for is really sensitive or rosacea skin.  There are several models of Clairsonic but to keep it simple; the Mia has one speed (medium), the Mia2 has two speeds, and the Mia3 has three speeds.  The fastest speed being of course the deepest cleaning.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Peel Extra Strength Formula Daily Peel is one of the best things you can do for your skin in general.  It's pricey but totally worth it.  It also comes in a sensitive skin formula and a regular strength formula for skin that isn't used to exfoliation (you can use this one to start out slow).  There are imitators out there but believe me no one can compare to this secret formula of alpha and beta hydroxy acids.  One of the reasons this combo works is that the mix of BHA acid (remember roots out dirt and oil) and AHA (to throughly keep the surface of the skin clear) enhance each other.  It is non-irritating and safe enough to use every or every-other day.  It's an easy-to-use two step process - use it on your blackheads for sure, but the rest of your skin will become totally radiant.

Another great way to stay on top of blackheads is to get monthly microdermabrasion treatments at a spa.  Some spas will even have a package deal if you buy a series of treatments.  Microdermabrasion is like a gentle version of sandblasting but using various different micro-particles - often crystals.  To me this is the most perfect form of exfoliation, but is best done by a professional type machine.  I LOVE getting microdermabrasion - it makes your skin look so fantastic!

I WANT TO TRY:  Bliss Pore-fector Gadget Skincare Device.  This electric tool loosens up dirt and oil using sonic vibrations from a metal plate.  It just seems like something used at a spa.  Apparently it really works.

One final note:  I beg you not to use a this evil tool to squeeze out your blackheads.  It is difficult to gage the amount of pressure you are actually exerting with a blemish extractor and too much pressure can break blood vessels or cause other scarring.  If you have to squeeze the little devils please just use your (sanitized) fingers and a tissue.  In many states blemish extractors are actually illegal to use in spas.  Enough said.

pics stolen from Dermstore, Sephora, Blissworld, and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MORE holiday 2015 gift sets you need to buy for yourself

More fabulous limited edition holiday stuff keeps surfacing, and I have a whole new bunch of favorites.  I gotta tell you about them because, like me, I know you will want them for yourself.  As I've said before, buy them now because they will sell out way before Christmas gets here.  And as always they are a good value.

First on the list: far and away my most coveted item is BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Champagne Glow Palette Featuring Champagne Pop and Jaclyn Hill .  The BECCA highlighters are favored by all beauty vixens out there.  It's their perfect velvety texture, the way they glide on, and the way they glow of course.  This trio has spectacular limited edition colors including the famous champagne pop created by makeup artist and beauty youtuber Jaclyn Hill. Some say highlighters and bronzers are just for warmer weather but I say "BS" they are appropriate all year round.

Smashbox Art. Love. Color. Palettes is a trio of mini palettes that are exquisitely, individually wrapped so they can be divided up and given out as several gifts.  But why would you want to do that when you will need each one for yourself?  In fact they are set up perfectly for travel.  Each mini palette has a trio of triangle/triple-choice eyes shadows and one very wearable blush color.  The shadow colors are super pretty neutrals and smokies 
And more cheek color!  Tarte At First Blush Deluxe Amazonian Clay Blush Set.  I love these generous mini blushes!  The four colors are limited edition and include two matte and two shimmer textures.  Tarte's Amazonian blush is renowned for being long-wearing (up to 12 hours) and is a natural brand - even gluten-free.  Set includes a nude melon, a poppy pink, a plum rose, and a rosy pink.  I don't know why but I prefer these individuals over the Tarte multi-blush palettes.

Clinique Whole Lotta Chubby.  Don't you just love the name?  This is a fun sampler of three Chubby Stick lip pencils, one Chubby Stick eye pencil, and one Chubby Stick cheek pencil.  The three lips represent the different levels of Clinique's sheerness:  mostly pinks but a red one to die for.  The eye pencil is a versatile champagne, good for layering under a light powder shadow (lasts longer that way).  And yes, the neutral cheek stick goes on smooth as silk and blends like a dream.  This is the perfect way to test out the world of chubby.

Drug store perfume gift sets.  I was at Walgreen's the other day and their holiday perfume set display was astounding!  Totally abundant. Nothing gets me more excited than rows and rows of perfume. And while a lot of it was pretty cheesy there were a few gems to be found.  Going this route is a money-saving way to try out new perfumes - the sets even come with body lotions.  Often you will find that drugstores have the designer standbys such as Burberry and Thierry Mugler, but I'm telling you some of those celebrity scents are whimsical, casual, and not bad at all. Celebrity scents I recommend trying are Jennifer Antiston, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian,  and Jennifer Lopez to name a few.

pics stolen from Sephora, Walgreens, Tarte, and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Saturday, November 7, 2015

october 2015 favorites

Please forgive me if I am a bit behind on last month's favorites but I have been very sick with an upper respiratory illness than is going on week three now.  So frustrating!  But I am pulling myself together here to do the fun thing and let you know what I've enjoyed most in October.  Maybe something will inspire you!

FACE:  Murad Clarifying Wipes For Blemish Prone Skin get your skin soooo clean and are surprisingly great for any skin type even sensitive.  I think it is the witch hazel and lemon fruit extract that do it. **

SMELLING:  Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay has been my go-to perfume this month.  It is the perfect light fall scent, unique and classy as they come.  Dry woods and berry smell.

LISTENING TO:  Sadly not much.  I am musically anorexic - please help me.

BODY:  Gillette Venus Spa  Breeze 2-in-1 Razor Plus Shave Gel Bars.  Believe it or not you really don't need to use shave gel with these razors and they still give a smooth, non-irritating shave. It actually does a fantastic job. I get about five uses out of one blade.

HANDS:  Lancome Absolute Hand.  Absolute Anti-Age Spot Replenishing Unifying SPF15 Suncreeen is luxuriously hydrating and attends to the fact that your hands show your true age more than your face even.  I always repurchase.

EATING/DRINKING:  Chili!  I had no idea I had it in me but I make the best chili in the world.  Just can't get enough in this cool weather.

WATCHING:  The Blacklist.  Total suspense and James Spader is awesome, but it does puzzle me why such a girly girl as myself watches so many FBI shows.

MAKEUP a tie:
(1) Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare CC Cream SPF 18 is texture perfect.  Creamy with just the right amount of coverage to even out skintone.  I use it almost every day unless I am getting all dolled up with full-on foundation.
(2) Charlotte Tilbury K.I.S.S.I.N.G. Lipstick in Stoned Rose is the perfect neutral-non-nude color for me.  I swipe it on all the time and this high-end brand feels cashmere soft.

What were some of your faves in October?

** it does contain denatured alcohol which scientists claim is safe and non-drying to the skin.  It doesn't seem to bother my dry sensitive skin, but I don't use them every day.

pic from photosearch

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Thursday, October 29, 2015

splurge! October

My "splurge" posts are always so popular I have decided to do it once a month.  Just for fun.  Certainly there is plenty of extravagant stuff out there to splurge on.  Are these "must haves"?  Well no, but that is not the point is it?

Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask is, has, and always will be my favorite mask.  I call it the "date night mask" because it gives your face an instant lift and glow.  It looks like you've been exfoliated but because you actually haven't been, there is no redness whatsoever.  No idea how they do it.  Maybe because it is super smoothing and hydrating?  It's made with the very anti-aging anti-oxidant black tea and other natural ingredients.

$92 for 3.3 oz

Go get a facial!  And be sure to add on the extra serums, or upgraded mask, or microdermabrasion.  Or all!  I often find that facials are more relaxing than a regular massage.  When I was an esthetician it wasn't unusual for people to fall asleep when I was giving them a facial.  Of course you are also doing something terrific for your skin, and it is most beneficial to go once a month if you can afford it.  Also go to a spa that uses top quality products.  Some good ones to look out for are Eminence (organic), Phytomer (marine based), SkinCeuticals (clinical).

The average cost of a facial with add-ons can be about $165-$185

By Terry Baume De Rose Salve is far and away the most hydrating lip balm I have ever used.  Nothing can compare, as evidenced by its huge cult following.  It's a perpetual best seller of the brand.  Fortified with rose flower essential wax and pastel oil, and everything nourishing you can imagine, it heals and protects the delicate skin of your lips, all with the faint whiff of rose.

$60 for .35 oz

Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses Eau De Parfum.  All the Kilian perfumes are super pricey but are as unique as they come, making them particularly coveted.  The ouds are especially popular but I am posting this one because it was the first that I fell in love with.  Liaisons Dangereuses is kind of an odd mix of notes that somehow work. It is a sexy fruity musk. Some of the top notes includes peach and black current (this one strongly evident).  Some middle notes are cinnamon, geranium, and rose.  And the extensive list of base notes includes vetiver, musk, and oak moss.  Go to Saks to get a spray, or if you are lucky a free sample!

$260 for 1.7 oz

Fornasetti Flora Lidded Candle  What you are paying for here is the beauty and the name. Fornasetti candles are works of art created by Italian painter, sculptor, and engraver Piero Fornasetti.  The designs on the ceramic containers are often quite surreal.  Of course the candles themselves are top quality using vegetable wax.  They come in a variety of "pictures" and fragrances but this luscious floral one is my favorite because of its undertones of sandalwood and musk.


I WANT TO TRY:  Dyptique Precious Oils Body and Bath.  Diptyque is mostly known for their candles and even for their perfumes but this oil is, I think, pretty new to the line.  It is supposed to be super luxurious and smell divine.  I prefer to use bath oils (as opposed to salts etc.) because they feel silkier on my skin, so this would fit the bill.

$78 for 4.25 oz

For more splurge! posts check out:

pics stolen from Fragrantica, Barneys, SpaceNK, Sephora, and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Sunday, October 25, 2015

badass body lotions

You can't go without body moisturizers.  Really.  Would you go without hydrating your face?  I thought not.  Well, your body needs hydration just as much to prevent wrinkling, sagging, or flaking.  So while any body lotion might do, there are some that go above and beyond the call of duty.  I have a few favorites I keep in rotation year after year that I want to tell you about.

Fresh Sugar Acai Age-Delay Body Cream is my absolute favorite.  It figures that it is also the most expensive.  It is an indulgent cream of medium thickness that delivers a multitude of benefits.  It has sugar and fruit acids for natural exfoliation to keep your skin smooth, and almond protein to lift and firm (you need to use it twice a day, everyday for any real firming to occur).  Of course there is the star ingredient Acai which is a super anti-oxidant to protect the skin and help slow down the aging process.  Most of all I love how it feels - utterly sumptuous.

On the other hand, the Sephora Collection Super Supreme Body Butter is in a huge tub so you really get a good value.  It is the most hydrating body butter I know that absorbs easily and doesn't feel sticky or greasy.  I enjoy the floral scent but it also has some heavy-hitting hydrators in it like shea butter, HydroSenn+ and hyaluronic acid.  If you have moderately to extremely dry skin this is the product for you, and I find it especially soothing to apply on freshly shaved legs.   It is also nice that it is paraben, sulfate, phthalate, GMO, and Triclosan free.

Philosophy Amazing Grace perfumed firming body emulsion is just lovely.  It is wonderfully hydrating with a light-weight consistency.  I don't notice that it firms too much but I am crazy about how it feels and smells (light, fresh, and feminine with a hint of bergamot and flowers).  I frequently give this as a gift and my friends always ending up buying more for themselves once my gift has run out.  Also fun: it has an inspirational, philosophical quote on the front of the bottle about aging gracefully.

L'Occitane Almond Smoothing and Beautifying Milk Concentrate makes your skin as silky as can be.  Not only do the almond oils smell divine, hydrate exceedingly well, but they are also tightening.  Way to go!  It absorbs immediately and I use it all over my body, even in places that don't need tightening just because I love how it feels. L'Occitane is a natural brand of skincare from the Provence region of France that gets nothing but rave reviews.  Also paraben free!

I WANT TO TRY:  Whipped Goods plant-based and hand crafted body butters.  Butter is the key word here.  Apparently they are fluffy and rich as mousse desert.  I can't decided which to order, the Egyptian Musk or Sandalwood Bourbon - I better do both!

pics stolen from links and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

empties October 2015

All the beauty gals on youtube like to do empties videos.  These are basically succinct reviews on the beauty products they have tried and finished up (obviously).  I think it'd be fun so I I'm going to give it a try -  I am such a copycat!  I hope it catches your interest.
And this month it seems like I ran out of a whole bunch of stuff which is unfortunate because it is always so expensive to have to go repurchase everything at once.  Luckily I found a few less expensive alternatives to some of these gems.

Perricone MD Firming Neck Therapy.
repurchase?  No.  There was a real noticeable difference but now that I no longer get my discount I can't afford it.  I loved this stuff but I'll be switching back to Bliss Thinny Chin Chin which is not as good but still works and is half the price.

Macadamia Professional Ultra Rich Shampoo and Conditioner.
repurchase?  Not for now.  It was perfectly smoothing for my long damaged hair but with my new healthy bob it is too much.  Great stuff though!.

INeKE Perfumer San Francisco Angel Trumpet Perfume.

repurchase?  Definitely!  An artisanal  light cheery floral, I was sad when my sample ran out.  I will rush out to buy a full bottle.

Garnier Clean + Nourishing Cleansing Oil For Dry Skin.

repurchase?  No.  It took me a while to figure out that, despite my very dry skin, it was breaking me out. I tried repurposing it as an eye makeup remover but that didn't turn out so great.

Scunci No Damage Hair Elastics Black.
Repurchase?  Yup!  I go through these like water, they are always disappearing into the land of the lost but I can't live without them.

Satin Developlus Hair Dye:
repurchase?  Yes although next time I think I will go for a deeper red. This professional brand (found at beauty supply stores) is a fun and inexpensive (but permanent) way to experiment with color!

Formula X SHINE Top Coat.

repurchase?  Maybe later.  I liked this a whole lot - it gave terrific shine - but I hear the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat is great and a lot cheaper.

Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Restoring Cream.
repurchase?  Absolutely!  I've used and loved this for years.  And with my Sephora friends and family discount I just bought the expensive large jar.  I featured this in my September favorites post.

pics stolen from walgreens, sephora, perricone MD, macadamia and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Friday, October 16, 2015

exciting 2015 holiday sets you need to buy for yourself

Let's get real.  Most of the time when you buy a present for someone it is something you would like for yourself.  So why pretend?  Here are some awesome sets for YOU to enjoy.  Holidays sets are unique, limited edition for the season, and are a great value (saving $$ = the best reason to buy them).  But watch out they sell out fast - the popular ones waaaaay before Christmas!

NARS Steven Klein FANTASCENE Despair Cheek Palette with the famous (mini) kabuki ita contouring brush.  Steven Klein  is a fascinating photographer and his influence is felt here in the cool packaging. The 4 stunning holiday blush shades include a natural glow, a gilded apricot, a rouge coral, and a flushed primrose: three are exclusive to this palette.  NARS is known for their blushes and these colors look much better in person.

Philosophy Christmas Cook Book Collection is full of fun and yummy holiday scented shampoo/shower gels/bubble baths.  Maybe I'm too old to like sweet things but hey, I do.  So these 4 oz vanilla bean nutmeg, pumpkin icing, cinnamon stick, fresh cream scents are a treat for me. Of course any of the Philosophy gift sets (they have skincare) are a good idea. Sephora sells them too but if you buy them from Nordstrom's right now it is 10% off and free shipping.

Too Faced Melted Kisses & Sweet Cheeks is the most adorable of all these sets.  In the princess packaging are three of their best-selling Melted Lipsticks and three of their long-wearing Love Flush Blushes.  The color selection is to die for - a little bit of flattering something for everyone.  I can't say enough good things about this one.

Laura Mercier Stroke Of Genius Luxe Brush Collection is six brushes of superb quality.   Includes  flat eyeliner, eyeshadow crease, all over eye color, cheek color brush, pony tail brush, secret camouflage brush.  I like the easy to use short handles combined with the full size brush heads.  The hard, sleek case is beautifully nubby and perfect for travel or to keep handy on your vanity top.

And I love two irresistible exclusive-to-Sephora lip collections.  If you don't like a color or two give them away to friends and family, you'll make their day.  But don't forget a girl can never have too many lip glosses!

(1) Sephora Collection Gift-A-Gloss Lip Gloss Sampler  8 oh-so-pretty glosses in Crystal, Frosted Pink, Juicy Pink, Festive pink, Sheer Lilac, Soft red, Shimmering Coral, and Holiday Berry.  With all the super pigmented liquid lipsticks taking over the market these days I find it refreshing to still use traditional glossy gloss. They are marketed to give as gifts but I need them all! And totes adorable packaging!

(2) Buxom Leave Your Mark Full-on Lip Polish & Lip Cream Set is 15 minis:  8 Full-on Lip Polishes (sheer shimmering plumping) and 7 Lip Creams (more opaque but still plumping) all with their usual coquettish names.  Includes crimsons, nudes, even a few purplish, and of course many different pinks.  Buxom is a favorite of everyone.

Now "what about eyeshadows?" you ask.  Well, not to sounds too jaded - they are all fine - but I'm not in love with any of them as I am in love with the products listed above. I admit the Urban Decay Vice4 Palette has the most spectacular packaging but when swatched, the insides were not my favorite of the Vice Palettes.   And Too Faced has exquisite packaging however the quality of some of the shadows themselves are weak.  I would say if you want something along those lines color-wise and with quality, go for Jem And The Holograms:  Truly Outrageous Eyeshadow Palette.  Exclusive to Sephora, it is getting rave reviews.

Pics stolen from, macy's, com, and

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. I am not financially compensated for my reviews