Friday, August 31, 2012

the best drug store buys

As you have probably gathered by now, I am a bit of a beauty snob.  However that in no way means I am above raiding the shelves of my local drug store.  I think the old adage "you get what you pay for" is often true, but what is really exciting is when it turns out to not be true and you get more than your money's worth.  The only problem is that it can take a lot of trial and error to find those low-budget gems.

Allure and other women's magazines put out an anual "best of" list, that usually includes a high-end and a low-end product in each category.  My problem is I don't always agree with them, so I am left to do the experimenting on my own.  Not that I'm complaining mind you, there's nothing I love more than buying and trying beauty items, especially items that I don't have to pay much for. So I am going to give you a list of drugstore recommendations - my very own "best of" list (and yes, I currently have all of the these goodies in my bathroom).

BEST BODY LOTION:  Organix Hydrating Moroccan Argan Oil Creamy Oil Body Lotion
Super hydrating but not thick, absorbs easily without being sticky or greasy.  Pleasant scent  $8.00

BEST NAIL POLISH:  Essie No Chips Ahead Chip-Free Top Coat
Only the best top coat ever - at any price.  (available at Walgreen's) $8.00

BEST FACIAL WIPES:  Burt's Bee's Facial Cleansing Towelettes With White Tea Extract
hard-working, all natural, see Best Working Wipes for all the deets.  $6.00

BEST MASCARA:  Maybelline Volume Express The Falsie's.
Lengthens, volumizes, curls for a dramatic no-smudge eye.  $7.50

BEST LIP STAIN:  Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm/Stain
pretty, hydrating, long-wearing colors $9.00

BEST BIKINI SHAVE:  Bikini Zone Anti-Bumps Shave Gel paired with Bump Fighter Razor
fights bumps and irritation for a smooth shave. gel $5.50  razor $6

BEST DANDRUFF SHAMPOO: Head & Shoulders Dry Scalp Care
pleasant smell and gets the job done.  $6.50

BEST ANTI-AGING NIGHT CREAM:  ROC Multi-Correction Lift Anti-Gravity Night Cream
Not too thick, not too thin.  Smooths wrinkles and firms, gives a nice vitamina A glow $28.00

BEST EYE COLOR:  L'Oreal HIP shadows and cream eyeliner
HIP stands for high intensity pigment and it really is.  wears well.

Friday, August 24, 2012

marvelous masks

If you came to me and asked me for a drink I would say, "What kind of drink? Water? Cappuccino? Vodka on the rocks?". It would depend on what you wanted the drink to do: hydrate, energize, or unwind. Well, the same is true for facial masks. You can come to me and say you want a mask but I will need to know what kind of mask - what do you want it to do. Different masks do different things. Some masks hydrate, others firm, or soothe, or exfoliate (I will deal with exfoliating masks in another post because, being the best way to exfoliate, they are a law unto themselves). So keeping in mind your own skin's needs, here is a rundown on some of the finest working masks.

For inflamed, irritated, or just plain sensitive skin, First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask will calm things down. When you put it on, your skin will sigh with relief because the ingredients of colloidial oatmeal and sea buckthornberry are so very healing. As it soothes and hydratles you will definitely notice a reduction in any redness. Bravo!

If you are looking a little haggard I can't think of anything better to use than the Fresh's Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask. This is a multipurpose mask that will perk you right up and give you  glow. It hydrates, it firms, it smoothes and gives instant radiance. Not that many masques out there are able to multitask so effectively. It comes in a big tub so it will seem very expensive but ounce for ounce it is worth every penny - those in the know call this the "date night mask" or the "miracle mask".

The best type of mask for oily or pimply skin is a clay mask. Add some sulfur to the mix and you've got death for acne. Peter Thomas Roth's Therapeutic Sulfur Mask will clear you right up. Use it up to three times a week and you will be a happy little beauty vixen. The clay pulls out impurities and the sulfur dries the oil up. You can even dab it on as a spot treatment at night.

Like Peter Thomas Roth, Dermalogica is a professional brand that will give you a spa treatment at home. I particularly love their Skin Hydrating Mask because all that lovely hyaluronic acid plumps your wrinkles right up and gives your skin a youthful dewy look. If you're not too sure what kind of mask to do, hydration is the way to go - it covers a multitude of sins.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award!!!

I was given the Versatile Blogger Award from the fantabulous Beauty Makeup Addict, please go check out her blog she is a very current and sexy and knowledgable blogger. 

1. Nominate 15 bloggers
2. Let them know that you have nominated them.
3. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
4. Thanks the person who nominated you.
5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your post.

7 Random Facts:
1. While I am loving the Fall fashions for make up and fragrance this year, the clothes fashions are leaving me cold
2. I often blog in bed
3. I am reading strictly non-fiction these days
4. Diet coke is my only vice (it's gonna kill me)
5. I am a sun-worshipper but limit my exposure and use spf
6. I have a BFA from art college
7. I still like to watch reruns of Sex and the City

I nominate the following Bloggers, Commenters.
11. Beauty411

Thanks again Simera for nominating for this award!

grooming gifts for your guy

It was my boyfriend's birthday this week and I had to go through the whole process of figuring out what to get him.  Unless you have an unlimited budget to buy expensive electronics, men can be difficult to shop for.  I mean, what do they really like?  I ended up buying my guy a cool vintage T shirt and a set of shaving products - after all it would be remiss of me to not buy him something beauty-oriented.  Plus it's much more fun to shop for beauty/grooming products than, let's say, an autographed baseball.  Anyway, I thought I'd share with you some of the great grooming product ideas that I came up with, and you can file this information away until the time is right.

Men love stuff from Malin + Goetz New York Apothecary and Lab.  The modern, spare, no-frills packaging appeals to them as well as the clean scents and natural ingredients.  It's a fairly high-end line (they supply the Soho Grand Hotel in NYC) which makes for a special gift, and around the Holidays they offer some pretty phenomenal gift sets.  For the rest of the year you could get your honey a peppermint shampoo and cilantro conditioner set or their famous Grapefruit Face Cleanser which is suitable for even the most sensitive skin.  You could even pair these up with one of their very masculine-scented candles like the best-selling Cannabis, or Dark Rum.  I actually find that men are using candles more and more these days.

Another option is is to pick one of the many terrific shave sets available at Sephora and pair it with the Bump Fighter Razor (available at most drug stores).  The Bump Fighter was originally designed for African American men who have easily irritated skin, but it has become a cult favorite with men and women of all races.  It's something about the angle of their blade that helps give a smoother shave and prevents ingrown hairs.  So slip that in the giftbox along with something cool like the Jack Black Core Collection which includes a face wash, a moisturizer with spf, and the ever-popular Beard Lube shave cream.  The Art of Shaving kits also make a great gift because they contain those nifty natural bristle shaving brushes.

For some men, like my brother-in-law Phil, fragrance is the best option.  Here I would go one of two routes:  the more conventional fragrances like Chanel paired with their matching deodorant, or a non-traditional, even unisex line, such as CREED.  If your baby already has a signature scent, then just stock up on that but this time include the matching deodorant - it is something they will never expect.  If your guy doesn't have a favorite scent yet, you could try one of the more easily-likable brands like Issey Miyake or YSL.  But for something unique and truly special go to Saks and smell all the Bond No. 9 fragrances.

Bond No. 9 was created right after 9/11 to help celebrate and support the city of New York.  They have over 40 scents: men's, women's and unisex, each named after a specific neighborhood of New York.  I'll tell you right now, it is expensive, but totally worth the price to wear something innovative, sophisticated, and urbane - something not every guy in the office will be wearing.  Plus the artstic bottles will look stylish sitting on his dresser.  There is such an abundance of sexy scents I would maybe start off checking out 'Fire Island' which won the Fragrance of the year FIFI award.  Or test 'West Broadway' which is a unisex scent with notes of lime, lily of the valley, and musk.  And if your other half is a NY aficionado, 'I Love New York For Him' is a great choice with its notes of ginger, grapefruit, geranium, patchouli, amber, and musk.

So you see, even if you can't afford to buy your guy the latest ipad, there are still some pretty exciting grooming gifts out there that he'd be sure to love.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

let's compare lip stains 2012

Ok it's time to talk lip stains.

It used to be that lip stains were either wildly-hued liquids, or lip-drying formulas that needed to come with a lip balm or lip gloss to counter act your crackly lips.  These were something only Miss Havisham could be satisfied with.  But in the last couple years there has been a major revolt in the world of lips stains and now, not only does everyone make one, but the formulas and colors are far more user friendly.  There are so many brands and so many types of lip stains out there, and you know what, I think they are all pretty good.  So what I want to talk about are some of the more popular ones, and what are the differences between them, because these days you can afford to be choosy about your lip stain.  Want something glossy - fine, there are a few.  Want something subtle - great, there are some of those too.  Thick, creamy, sheer, neutral - whatever -  there's a lip stain out there for you.

Everyone is talking about YSL Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Lip Stain and with good reason - it is a perfectly lovely stain.  It is also a very sheer liquidy stain so you may want to apply several coats if you want an opaque look.  Its sheerness however makes it a very pretty base to apply beneath another lipgloss or even lipstick, because as for it's glossiness, well it's pretty subtle.

Bite is an all natural, super duper healthy brand that makes Honey Lip Lacquer.  This Manuka honey infused stain has its own cult following.  You will get a lot of dense color from the liquid-lipstick-like consistency, as well as protective/preventative benefits from all the anti-oxidants in it.  It is a shiny lacquer all the way.

Revlon's Just Bitten is phenomenal.  It is actually a lip balm and stain in one, so that it kinda feels like you are putting on Chapstick, except you get plenty of luscious color and a moist look that will last for hours.  My only complaint about this wonderful chubby stick is that it doesn't come in enough colors.  Still, I'm sure you can find one or two lovlies to take home with you.

If you want a glossy lip stain Tarte is the way to go.  They are an all-natural, gluten-free brand (see my post gluten-free beauty) that's not afraid to get glamorous.  They have three types of chubby pencil stains:  the Lipsurgence LipLuster which is extremely sheer and glossy and doesn't stain well, the Lipsurgence Matte Lip Tint which is nice but kinda dry, and then there is Lipsurgence Lip Tint which is perfect.  Lip Tint comes in the most enticing colors, which when you wear them will be mistaken by the general public for regular, non-staining gloss.  Only you will know that you've actually been wearing it for hours.

One of the lip stains that has been around forever, and has always gotten it right is Stila Lip & Cheek Stain.  The only difference between then and now is that now there are four times as many colors to choose from.  I have always been partial to their liquid automatic-brush-on formulas, and bold yet realistic-looking colors.  There is no shine with these babies but the texture is very blendable and perfect for cheeks as well.

**  This is an OLD post and about a zillion other lips stains have come out since then, but I still stand behind this post - these are fast becoming classics.

Friday, August 10, 2012

professional home spa

Today I had the most perfect facial with the most perfect esthetician at the most perfect spa.  I only wish I could afford to go more often.  There is nothing like having someone attend to your skin in a sumptuous environment but I hope to channel some of the spa vibe here at home.  And  you can too, just keep in mind the two most important essences of a spa:  deep relaxation and supreme pampering.  Much of this is created through the association of scent.  It has been proven that psychologically there is nothing like scent to evoke memories and emotions, so here are a few professional spa brands that not only do a expert job on your skin but even more importantly will make you feel deeply relaxed and supremely pampered.

The first spa I worked at used Aveda products and so their essential-oil-infused goodies always recall the spa experience for me.  While all their stuff evokes a herbally, healthy feel, it is their Stress-Fix line that is the most relaxing.  Stress-Fix is aromatherapy designed to calm and relax.  It features herbs of lavender, lavadin, and the dream-inducing clary-sage.  Whatever else they put in there they are not saying, but it makes me feel like laying down on a bed of moss and taking a nap deep in the enchanted forest.  There are three ways to conjure up this magic elixir:  soaking salts, body lotion, and roll-on concentrate.  I keep the roll-on in my make up bag and apply liberally whenever a tense situation arises.

To simulate a European spa at home Phytomer is the way to go.  This French company is particularly popular in spas along the eastern seaboard of the US, but spa-goers on the left coast may not have heard of it.  That is a huge over-sight.  One of the leaders in marine-based skincare Phytomer combines the finest of science, nature, and esthetics.  Its sea algae derived ingredients are one of the best things you can do for your skin.  However for our at-home spa experience we are also concerned with the fragrance and feel of the products and Phytomer will not disappoint. Their products all smell incredibly fresh and clean, yet soothing and comforting.  And, well, pretty.
You can navigate their website to find the right products for your skin type but don't over-look the body care line - Europeans are very into the care of the body.  Their Oligomer Pure is a bath treatment of dried sea water that is extremely therapeutic - just like being at one of their spas.

If you want organic Eminence is the way to go.  And not only is it organic but it is all hand-made in Hungary.  Everything they make looks, smells, and feels delectable and divine - without a doubt you will feel like you are at a spa.  They have a carrot masque, an apricot masque, an eight greens masque, and even a garlic &; tomato masque that you would just love.  It all sounds so natural, but don't be fooled, this is a professional grade skincare line and their products are potent so choose wisely and choose according to your skin-type only.  For example their Yam & Pumpkin Enzyme Peel comes in 5% and 20%, so if you are in the least tiniest bit sensitive, stick with the 5% concentration please.  If you want to test the waters with something safe, try their Sour Cherry Whip Moisturizer - it's very popular.

So now that we've gone over what feels like a spa, smells like a spa, and acts like a spa, you can start to build your spa "back bar" at home.  Hopefully it'll keep you going until you can plunk down your hard earned cash to have someone do the pampering for you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

fragrances for your home

I may not be the neatest person in my family but my home is certainly the best-smelling.  That is because I am a fragrance fanatic.  Not only do I indulge in purchasing plenty of personal fragrances for my body (I always have a wardrobe of inumerable different scents), but I am mad for all things fragrant for the home:  candles, diffusers, room sprays, soaps, incense - you name it I've got it.  People, and for some reason men especially, always comment on how great my place smells.  Some of it is strategic but some is admittedly accidental.

Yes, in my living room, I had a feeling that the lush lawn smell of Votivo's Deep Clover Aromatic Reed Diffuser would blend dreamily with the earthy sandalwood incense and the tangy notes of Anthropologie's Mango Jasmine Candle.  But I had no idea that my favorite sweet Voluspa Santiago Huckleberry Room Spray would go so well with the elegant Pacifica French Lilac soy candle in my bathroom.  This may all seem over-powering to you but I assure you if the room is big enough the smells assimilate nicely.

Of course what I really want to talk about are the home fragrance brands that are my true indulgences.  Scent is such a personal choice, but you can never go wrong with the quality and selection that these brands offer.

My A #1 home fragrances are Jo Malone.  Of course everyone has heard of Jo Malone, but do you realize how impeccable her blends are?  There is never anything cloying or artificial about her products- they are the very essence of refined British botanicals.  Of course it is all wildly expensive so I buy one precious candle at a time and just carry it around with me from room to room.  There are so many incredible smells to choose from but if you pick the grapefruit, I promise you will feel like you are living in a spa.

Lafco NY has the coolest candle collections.  I love the House and Homes Candle collection where each hefty-sized candle is named for a specific room in the home: Master Bath, Game Room, Breakfast Room etc.  Or maybe I prefer the Dream Homes collection where each also-hefty candle is cleverly named after a different type of home: ski house, penthouse, country house etc. But the coolest thing about every candle in every collection is that the fragrance blends are chosen to appropriately represent the candle's name sake.  Such as Pool House's summery blend of lilac, sweet pea and climbing rose. Too cool!

To depart from candles and such, you need to know about Williams-Sonoma cleaning products.  Your house will smell heavenly after giving it a good going over with their Essential Oils All Purpose Cleanser or their Essential Oils Counter Top Spray.  You can choose from three fresh scents:  Meyer Lemon, Pink Grapefruit, or Lemongrass Ginger.  They are all earth-friendly, bio-degradable, ammonia and chlorine free, and NEVER EVER tested on animals.  Wouldn't it be nice to have your home smell clean in a pleasant way?

Agraria is a luxury home and bath company from San Francisco.  They sell internationally but here in the US they are usually found at higher end stores like Saks and Neiman's.  They have an enormous selection of ways to make your home and bath smell sumptuous. I always get one of their mini diffusers for my walk in closet, but the most individual item they offer is their TasselAire.  TasselAire are opulent, antiquey-looking silk tassels filled with perfume to subtly scent the room.  Hang them on knobs, window sashes,  or wherever you feel needs a touch of class.  There are eight fragrances to choose from and even though the Bitter Orange is far and away their best seller, I always opt for the very unique Golden Pomegranate.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

yes, you need an eye cream

Yeah, sorry, you really do need an eye cream.  And if you think you don't need an eye cream then it is the ideal time to start using one.  Because I promise you, one day you'll wake up and the crow's feet will just be there.  So If I were you I'd try to stave that off as long as possible, and then when the wrinkles finally do make an appearance, soften them as much as you can.

I know your next question too.  Why can't you just use your regular face cream around the eye area?  Well, for three very good reasons:  #1 the skin around the eye is different from the skin on the rest of your face.  It is thinner, more delicate, and does not have the same sebaceous glands as the rest of your face, so it can't hydrate itself as well.  Thus if you do use a regular face cream you end up #2 not hydrating the eye enough and it will look wrinkly, saggy, and probably puffy.  Or else #3 your facial moisturizer is super emollient and over-conditions the eye causing it to have those little hard white bumps called milia, that only an esthetician or dermatologist can remove. I may be a bit of an eye cream disciplinarian, but as you can see, it's for your own good.

Then there is the issue of which eye cream to use.  Some are creamy, some are gel-like.  Some focus on wrinkles and hydration** while others lift and sculpt.  Some are expensive, others reasonable.  It's a personal choice, depending on what your biggest issues are, but I can recommend a few excellent eye creams that are multi-taskers ie. they address more than just one of: wrinkles, hydration, puffiness, dark circles, or firming.  Here are four creams that will be sure to make a noticeable improvement in your eye area.

Prevage Advanced Anti-Aging Serum Eye gets nothing but rave reviews.  It hydrates, firms, fights wrinkles, and makes a significant difference in dark circles.  It's $100, but in general, with eye creams you get what you pay for.  Expensive means finer, more potent ingredients.

Strivectin-SD Eye Concentrate For Wrinkles also does a decent job on dark circles.  Not too thick, not too thin, it's wonderful for wrinkles and will firm that loose skin right up!

Derma Doctor Wrinkle Revenge Rescue & Protect Eye Balm is light weight in texture but a heavy weight in what it can accomplish.  It fights wrinkles fantastically and helps reduce puffiness and dark circles as well.  

Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm will erase wrinkles.  It's a little thick, and super hydrating, but absorbs easily into the skin.  Made from anti-aging sea algae it is sure to do the trick . 

** Hydration is key here.  When skin is dehydrated the wrinkles are more pronounced.  Many of the women I see could look years younger if they were properly hydrated.  And if you've never used an eye cream, just starting to hydrate that area will immediately make a big difference in the wrinkles.

Friday, August 3, 2012

make up: the latest & greatest

The best part about being a beauty blogger is the research.  As they jokingly say, "It's a tough job but someone's got to do it".  I spent the evening trolling the nicer department stores yesterday to see what was new and happening, and what was hot for Fall.  While I found each brand's line for the upcoming season, what I truly found new and exciting were the makeup items that go beyond a particular season and that will work forever.  Taking that into consideration, here's my top three picks, what I consider the latest and greatest.

BRAND NEW, is Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Creme Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen.  So far the only place I found this gem was at Sephora but keep an eye out for it because I predict it will really take off.  It is a convenient, carry-with you, tinted moisturizer with serious sunscreen.  I don't normally advocate using the spf in make up as the sole means of sun protection but this one just might do. - it's almost like a BB cream. Especially important is that it is perfect to tote in your makeup bag and reapply throughout the day.  But what I loved most about this tinted moisturizer was the consistency.  It was velvety and light with a natural look and buildable coverage.  Dare I say I like it more than the traditional Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer?

Lancome's L'absolu Creme de Mat lipcolor is to die for.  And ok, technically it is a limited edition for Fall however I predict that the colors may be transitory but the matte formula will stick around.  Creme de Mat looks like a lipgloss, and applies like a lipgloss, but the lusciously pigmented cream goes on matte.  Not only that but it is hydrating and a little bit lip-plumping as well.  It is ravishing!  Who wouldn't love this year round?

Stila In The Know Eyeshadow Palette is also matte and the colors are thrilling.  Thrilling because they include gorgeous, every-day-usable neutrals, along with utterly unique earth tones, and deep smokey grays.  What a combination! Daytime/nighttime - there are so many possibilities with this pallet I can barely contain myself.  Matte shadows make for a particularly smooth, blended look.  I can't tell you how many people are looking for matte eyeshadows - yet here they all are in one killer kit.  Plus it comes with a matte Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in dark gray.  Yay!