professional beauty recommendations & comparison shopping

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HOLIDAY HIATUS and what's coming in January

Hello my fellow beauty vixens.  I have been having a heck of a holiday season and haven't blogged in far too long- so so sorry.  There was plenty I wanted to write about but unfortunately it is not to be.

And I leave for vacation in two days. It's the type of vacation where I will be racing around not chillin' so I will have to resume blogging in mid January.  Some posts you can look forward to are:  magnificent mascaras, my holy grail products (lately), January empties, splurge! January, and my skincare routine. 

I wish you the happiest of Holidays and the best New Year.  Mwah!

Friday, December 11, 2015

sensational stocking stuffers 2015

I love shopping for stocking stuffers!  It is the perfect excuse to shop for a whole bunch of (not too pricey) stuff.  It requires both imagination and savvy.  It's a real chance to play Santa!  And do you want to know what the most memorable stocking stuffer gift I ever got was?  It was not a beauty item, or even anything pretty, but was a very practical roll of stamps.  They were forever on hand because I hate having to go to the post office to wait in line - its a total pain in the ass.  Of course this was back in the day before you paid all your bills on line, but still I would appreciate getting another one.  Go figure.
However, on to more exciting stuff.....

Stila Eternally Yours Liquid Lipstick Set comes with six vivid colors including reds, plums, and nudes.  It is a bit of an extravagant stocking stuffer for $39 but would definitely make quite an impression. Better yet, break up the set and toss one or two tubes in each person's stocking.  That comes out to $6.50 - $13 a gift.  FYI:  liquid lipsticks are all the rage in the makeup world (they dry down matte and indestructable) and would be much appreciated by the makeup maven in your life.  I chose this particular set because Stila makes some of the best liquid lipsticks around.

Jo Malone London Cologne Gift Set has a selection of five .3 oz spray bottles of her popular colognes.  Another pricy item ($115) it is also perfect for breaking down into several loved one's stockings equaling $23 each.  Jo Malone is a luxury fragrance house and pretty much everybody likes at least one of her scents.  This coffret includes:  Lime Basil & Mandarin, Pomegranate Noir, English Pear & Freesia, Peony & Blush Suede, and my personal fave Wood Sage & Sea Salt.

Tony Moly I'm Real Face Masks.  The Korean skincare brand Tony Moly has a wide variety of sheet masks that do a wide variety of different things.  An individual packet is not a bad price at $7.50, especially because it comes with two individually wrapped sheets.  Plus it is fun packaging to find in a stocking.  Also you could get super cheap sheet masks at Korean stores and throw a whole handful into the stocking.  Sheet masks are the thing right now!

Sephora Collection Wishes Come True Eye And Face Makeup Palette is just so beautiful and compact.  For $15 it has six gorgeous and useable eyeshadows, a universally flattering blush, and two awesome highlighters (who wouldn't want to glow for the holidays?)  It is perfect for an on-the-go makeup bag, or takes up virtually no room in a makeup drawer.

Agraria TasselAire room fragrance defusers make a unique and unexpected stocking stuffer.  A very classy find at $40 the perfumed silk cord tassel is a lovely decoration to hang around your house:    door handles, certain window locks/handles, dresser drawer knobs etc.  These come in eight different scents, including interesting ones like Mediterranean.

OPI Infinite Shine PRIME + GLOSS Duo Pack Top & Base Coat is the set to make any (well preferably OPI Infinite Shine) nail polish look like professional gel nails.  It claims to make your manicure last for up to ten days!  Nail polishes are the perfect stocking stuffers and this special duo definitely takes things up a notch.  Most suppliers charge $19.95 for the pair, but if I'm not mistaken you can get them on Amazon for half that.

The Body Shop Mango Body Butter.  Of course these body butters come in all different scents but I am making a plug for my very favorite delicious mango.   It is sooooooo sniffable!  For $21 the 6.9 oz fits perfectly into a stocking.  The consistency is to die for, silky/creamy, not too heavy, and absorbs easily.    Ulta and the Body Shop are both having limited-time sales on them right now.

Aveda Stress-Fix Concentrate roll-on.  Love this stuff!  It's the perfect blend of natural essential oils for total relaxation.  I keep one in my purse and one on my bedside table.  It's $24 for .24 oz and whoever you buy it for will be sure to thank you.  Let's all de-stress!

I was at Nordstrom yesterday and in their cosmetics department they had several tables of the most wonderful, exciting, INEXPENSIVE, little do-dads for stockings.  Total abundance and something for everyone.  Check it out!

For more stocking stuffer ideas check out my super star stocking stuffers 2013
A few of those products are no longer available but they still might give you ideas,
and the ones that are available are terrific!  

pics stolen from Sephora, Aveda, Google, Selfridges, and Neiman Marcus dot com

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Sunday, December 6, 2015

great holiday gifts for men 2015

Before I got really into the beauty biz I used to think men were impossible to shop for.  But now I find that there is always a little something grooming related a man would want.  And sometimes even perfume/cologne.  My brother-in-law loves it, so I either buy him a full bottle or a bag or box of samples that he can use for travel.  I even send my lost and wayward 20-something nephew a bunch of fragrance samples every year and although I never hear from him I like to imagine that he enjoys them.  Anyway, the gist of it is that I love to shop for men these days, especially when there is so much out there.  Here are a few of my ideas for this year:

Let's start with perfume (yes men's fragrance is also called perfume) seeing I was just talking about it.
 A no-fail, everyone-loves-it selection is Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme.  It is a fresh, modern, woody scent that is not too citrusy (like many colognes are) and not too strong.  I'd say it's even ok to wear to work.

But my personal all-time and forever favorite is Prada Amber Pour Homme.  It is sex-on-a-stick with softly blurred edges. But not sleazy at all - quite classy in fact.  Vetiver, saffron, orange blossom, and suede!

And if you want him to try something unconventional I would go with a unisex perfume.  Bond No.9 makes some of the most accessible ones and the bottles are works of art; terrific for display.  Their selection is wide and varied and even though their website breaks them down for women or for men, pretty much all the formulas are considered unisex.  Very upscale but worth the investment.

More and more men are getting into skincare these days, especially when it concerns their pores.  Clairsonic Alpha Fit Cleansing System For Men is perfect for them.  The very famous Clairsonic brand has come out with a compact, more masculine looking sonic technology brush that is designed to use with or without beards.  Because of the super deep clean, it is recommend to use before shaving for a cleaner,  smoother, less irritating shave.

Kheils (since 1851) is a skincare/grooming brand that men usually love because of it's no-nonsense packaging and non-froo-froo smelling products.  Plus it is all very effective.  This year I am impressed with a couple of their things.
#1 Amino Acid Shampoo and Conditioner Collection counts coconut oil in it's ingredients and has a very mild, non-floral coconut scent to it.  Other than that no real scent at all.  This set is loved by many because the shampoo gives a good lather but is gentle on the hair, and can be used on any hair type.  The conditioner doesn't weigh hair down, which is a big thing for men (well, women too actually).  Buy the huge 33.8 oz sizes!

2#  Body Fuel All-In-One Energizing Wash For Hair & Body would make a great stocking stuffer.  Because I admit there really are some guys who don't care so much about fancy grooming.  This is for the no-fuss kind of guy but will give him something fun and new to try, and with it's many cool benefits it'll make you feel like you are doing something good for him.

Ok here's a weird one (or maybe I should say unique):  Frank Lever Bavarian Sausage Hand Soap.  Beautifully and expensively packaged, it makes the perfect luxury gift.  And maybe upon unwrapping, good for a laugh.  But don't be grossed out, the predominant scent is spice.

L'Occitane Zesty Cedrat Gift Set is a crowd pleaser.  L'Occitane is a natural brand from the Provence region of France and Cedrat is the newest scent in their collection of products for men.  The scent is an agreeable light citrus, woody, smokey smell, and it's not hard to imagine it coming from Provence.  The set includes:  3.4 oz Eau de Toilette, 5.1 oz Shaving Gel, 8.4 oz Shower Gel,  and of course the reusable gift box.  It's a great deal!

Baron Shave Kit is the most sleek and sophisticated shave kit I've ever seen - very special.  It blows The Art Of Shaving stuff out of the water!  The old fashioned way of shaving with a safety razor, brush, and soap is taking over.  It is an extremely hip trend men are curious about and feel good about.  And this particular set comes with a year's worth of razor blades - you can't beat that!

For more great men's gift idea's check out: hot holiday gifts for men 2013
(it's an oldie but still has some great ideas)

pics stolen from Sephora, Uncrate, Google, L'Occitane, and Khiel's dot com

all products reviewed were either bought, researched, or sampled by me. And product pictures were stolen from the link's websites. I am not financially compensated for my reviews

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

November favorites 2015

For some reason I am particularly passionate about this November's favorites.  I can't recommend them highly enough.  Which is weird because I was numb from the flu for half of the month.  But no matter,  I did manage to eek out some enjoyment and comfort from my beauty products.   If you are curious about what surpasses the flu, read on.....

NAILS:  Essie "Going Incognito" nail polish.  It's my favorite dark green - perfect for Fall and Winter.  It's not a forest green but more like a really dark emerald - very flattering.

HAIR:  Oscar Blandi Dry Texture & Volume Spray.  Would I prefer to have the famous Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray?  Of course.  But it's $42 so I go with the Blandi.  And I actually like the Blandi a ton.  I like how it looks even better than a dry shampoo plus it holds the style.

WATCHING:  Chopped Junior on the Food Network.  I've been a fan of the regular Chopped competition for years but these precocious kids are hilarious and have mad cooking skills.

EATING/DRINKING:  Ever since my bad flu I have been super hot all the time so a morning cup of tea heats me up too much.  I have taken to making a refrigerated hibiscus and white tea blend the night before.  I have become addicted!

BODY:  Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse OR Multi-Purpose Dry Oil smells like Summer sunshine and the "OR" here means gold in French.   It has micro-fine gold specks in it.  It smells so good I love putting it on before bed instead of a perfume, and besides, who doesn't need a little sparkle to sleep in.  Plus it hydrates and absorbs instantly.

READING:  The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs is a fun escape.  Good characters (interesting).  Knitting (comforting).  NYC (cool).

FACE:  Dermalogica The Sponge Cloth.  Used with a gentle cleanser, I find this reusable micro cloth the gentlest way to cleanse my face.  It is soft and smooth as can be, and is bacteria resistant and machine washable.

MAKEUP:  color! color! inexpensive color!  I am especially loving my drugstore palettes Wet N' Wild "Comfort Zone" and Pixi "Plum Quartz" (at Target).  The quality of these is surprisingly good (Wet N Wild makes terrific eyeshadow pallets).  The textures are soft, the colors are vivid, all with good lasting power.  "Comfort Zone" has 8 shades of dusky greens and browns.  "Plum Quartz" has 6 shades of plum, burgundy and rose gold - a lot like the much more expensive Lorac "Unzipped" palette.

What were your favorites in November?

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

recommended winter perfumes 2015

December is not fall.  I don't care when the actual winter solstice is, all of December is winter.  And it's coming in three days so I am jumping the gun and suggesting a few of my favorite cold weather, winter-time perfumes.  Even starting a week or so ago I was feeling ready for something more heady and rich as the colder weather usually dictates.  And I wish so badly that I had a real fireplace because I can just imaging sitting in front of it and letting my gorgeous perfumes bloom.  Oh well, fireplace or not, I still intend on enjoying these:

Yves Saint Laurent Belle d'Opium:  Fragrantica describes the wearer of this perfume as "a woman who wears this is full of ambivalence, elusive and obsessive, powerful and troubling, ingenue but dangerous."  Sounds intriguing right?  It is clearly a creamy oriental with floral and warm spicy notes, along with an underlying sweetness.  It is not as common as the other Opium perfumes (more mild I'd say), but is perfect for keeping you warm during these icy months ahead.  Some notes include:  coffee, pink peppercorn, orange blossom.  jasmine, patchouli, cedar.

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles eau de toilette is the grand dame wrapped in fur and jewels.  But she just came to the party after having elicit sex with her young lover.  This is at the same time opulent and dirty.  What a combination!  Originally launched in 1962, it has, of course, been reformulated.  I like both versions but the original is the most special.  You can get the vintage version on etsy (my link) or the new one on amazon.  I think the original version is more anamalic than the recent one, which I find more floral.  Some notes include:  jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, orange blossom, rosemary.  Vetiver, leather, amber, sandalwood, and civet

Kim Kardashian, Kim Kardashian For Women.  I know, I know, don't scoff.  Even though this is kind of a one trick pony, its dominating white floral notes are very pleasing.  I love white florals in winter!  Plus you really get your money's worth because the scent lasts for hours on the skin and the price point is inexpensive.  Just think of it as a fun one.  It is a glam young woman making all the rounds of holiday parties.  Some notes include:  tuberose, gardenia, jasmine.  vanilla orchid, sexy musk, and sandalwood.

Juliette Has A Gun Midnight Oud is a rock and roll oud.  It is in my top three ouds (Roja Amber Oud, and Mancera Roseoud & Musk  being my other two).  If you have never tried an oud before (the woody/musky agarwood from the middle east) this is a good starter one in my opinion because it is tempered by a lovely rose.  The type of woman you might find wearing this:  Cheryl Crow, Patti Scailfa (guitarist and Bruce Springsteen's wife), Nora Jones, and of course me.  Some notes include:  Morrocan rose, amber, oud,  saffron, geranium, and patchouli.

Chanel Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Misia.  Honestly I prefer the dry down on this, rather than the initial spray, but it is extremely popular and has taken the world by storm.  Like many Chanel perfumes it is classically powdery but is sexed up a bit by its woody and sweet notes (definitely not too sweet though). It's very vintagy smelling and I totally imagine it could be worn by a gaggle of 1920s flappers.  It also smells quite floral and some notes include:  iris, violet, benzoin, leather, and Tonka bean.

SarahWen Perfume Art, Gladiator.  SaraWen is an indie perfume oil brand found on Etsy.  She describes her art as "magical and romantic perfume inspirations".   Gladiator is a musky unisex perfume to be worn by an idependant woman.  It is kind of sweet and the myrrh definitely comes through, reminding me of something perhaps from the Renaissance (even though the name suggests something much older).  It'll keep your blood pumping and your cheeks flushed during these cold winter months (I love perfume oils in the winter!).  It's %100 vegan and a small bottle only costs $12.98.  Some notes include:  leather, sandalwood, dragonsblood incense, myrrh, and pomegranate fruit.

For more winter perfumes read my perfect holiday perfumes

pics stolen from Fragrantica, Chanel, Google, and Etsy dot com

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

splurge! November

It's time for another splurge post and who doesn't love that!  Plus I have a lot of fun doing them.  With the holidays here it is the perfect time for you to put one (or some!) of these on your wish list.  I don't know who could give it to me but I'll be angling for the Roja perfume.

Roja Amber Oud perfume.  All of Roja Dove's British niche brand perfumes are extremely expensive but so unique and refined there's no need to wonder why. My favorite, Amber Oud, is classified as a spicy oriental and the notes in this are to die for.  It starts out with lemon, lime, and bergamot.  Next are rose, ylang ylang, and fig.  And finally some of what keeps it going are civet, oud (agarwood), oakmoss, saffron, and sandalwood.  So sensuous!  If this is out of your price range, I highly recommend ordering a sample from either Surrender To Chance or The Perfumed Court.

$725 for 3.4 oz

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black and Nirvana White Dry Shampoo  These designer dry shampoos were created by Mary Kate and Ashley and Olsen and are like perfume for your hair.  Except they soak up all the dirt and oil, and volumize your hair too.  They smell exactly like the perfumes that they were created to replicate (Nirvana White and Nirvana Black) but you get good action from them as well.  If a tad bit powdery and white, they are easy enough to fluff through the hair and blend in.  The smell lasts for hours and hours and they get all rave reviews.  They are expensive for a dry shampoo but a lot of fun.

$28 for 4.4 oz

Marc Jacobs Beauty The Face III Buffing Foundation Brush.  Is favored by the youtube beauty experts as they rave on and on about it with joy.  The size and density of synthetic cruelty-free hairs make your foundation easier and quicker to apply with nothing but a flawless finish.  I can pretty much make it work for a lighter application but it is supreme for a heavier one. I love love love this, and to me it is totally worth the price.


Viseart eyeshadow palettes are professional brand makeup.  The consistency of the powder shadows is as creamy as can be so that they apply better than many other brands and blend like a dream.  They may be pricey but you actually get a lot of product in the palette, so if you can lay down the money it's not a bad value.  They have neutral palettes, bright colorful palettes, and all are beautiful in my book.


Fresh Creme Ancienne Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask Is in my top two best-working masks.  First of all, the hydrating effects lasted almost three days on me.  So it's a work horse.  But it is also extremely luxurious and thick.  You can feel the honey soothing and nourishing.  It smells yummy, has beneficial anti-oxidants, and with regular use can be helpful to slow down the aging process.  Simply divine!

$140 for 3.3 oz

See anything here that is splurge worthy for you?

If you like this splurge post check out my others:  

pics stolen from Sephora, Roja, and Fresh websites

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

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