Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dream Cream

I've spent the last three weeks studying like a rockstar instead of partying like one and it's been rough. About half way through writing an epic research paper last week my eyes had just about give up from me- achy from hours on the computer, and puffy from five hours of sleep a night.

Good thing my research took me to the Clinique counter at Lord & Taylor during free gift with purchase time! When I purchased a new tube of Clarifying Makeup foundation I received a mini jar of All About Eyes- the most fantastic item in my stress-combating arsenal to date.

I've had bad luck with every anti-aging eye cream I've tried, they all break me out. I took a chance on this one because it has caffeine to reduce puffiness and my puffiness was getting a little out of control. The sales associate recommended keeping this in the fridge, and I have to admit this dish is best served cold- its silky texture is instantly soothing. It has a non-greasy drydown to boot, which doesn't interfere with eye makeup while still giving skin some moisture. This is a far superior product to MAC's Fast Response Eye Cream, which packs a more serious caffeine content but is drying with daily use. I've been able to use All About Eyes sometimes four times a day for the past two weeks with no dryness, no breakout, no irritation, and no signs of bags under my eyes. Paired with soothing eye drops, mascara, and a bit of MAC's Luna cream color base on my browbone and my eyes look fresh and well rested. It seems a bit overpriced at $27.50 for a half ounce, but it only takes a small dab per eye for great results. The only problem is getting your friends to believe that you only got two hours of sleep.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shop for the Cure 2007

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and tons of cosmetics companies have released limited edition items with proceeds benefiting breast cancer organizations.

Most of these items are luxe and best suited for personal rewards, but C.O. Bigelow's Shine for Life Mentha Lip Tint, available at Bath & Body Works for $7.50, is a fantastic gift for the ladies in your life.

The mentha lip products are wonderfully soothing and moisturizing, provide lovely shine, and the sheer tints are subtly pretty. There wasn't a tester available, but sheer pink doesn't easily go awry. Stock up now for holiday gifts to benefit the American Breast Cancer Foundation.

Breakfast at Lord & Taylor

Your mother might not wear that much makeup now (or maybe she's been rocking the same lipstick for ages). Don't let that fool you, she was around for some amazing moments in cosmetics history no matter how old she is.

Case in point: my mother rocked that incredible liquid liner and matte apricot lips of the late 1960s. As an homage to her, and because I inexplicably woke up in a totally Audrey Hepburn mood this morning, I took a trip over to Lord & Taylor first thing this morning.

My last experiment with liquid liner was in 1997 when my mom got me a tube from the drugstore for dance performances. It was a goopy brown with a sickly little brush that seemed to peel off in chunks a couple hours after application: in short, a total nightmare. I vowed that today I would find a liquid liner that would be easy to master and would take less than a minute to apply, with fantastic lasting power.

Lancome's Artliner completely fits the bill. I've been hearing good things about it for years, so it was at the top of my list. What sets it apart from its competitors is its felt tip, versus floppy brushes that splay and slide around on the lash line. I don't really have a steady hand, but I was able to nail the application of this on the first try.

The color selection is pretty great as well. My favorite is Brown, a gorgeous blackened brown with a sparkly sheen. Pale girls with very fair hair or the liquid liner phobic should check out Ice Carob, a pearly medium brown which gives you all of the shape and drama of liquid liner without any potential severity.

To nail the look:

-To insure lasting power, it always helps to prep your eyelid with Urban Decay Primer Potion.
-Dust a little shimmery nude powder all over your eyelid and on the inner tear duct to give contrast to the liner.
-Trace your lashes with a pencil liner before applying the liquid; it seems redundant, but it insures perfect coverage and your hand will be much steadier if you're tracing something.

The sales associate also shared a brilliant tip: after the liner dries, take a q-tip dipped in makeup remover or moisturizer and brush it in short upward strokes at the outer corner of the eye to shape the corners evenly and visually give the eye beautiful lift.

For advice on liquid liner from makeup artist Pat McGrath, check out pg 134 of October's Allure.

Friday, September 28, 2007

lewis black analogy + makeup? awesome.

My good friend from undergrad just sent me the most hilarious analogy regarding my Full'n'Soft recommendation:

"Took your advice and have started using Full 'n' Soft mascara-may never go back to anything else. Why oh why did I spend my years effing up my eyes with Great Lash, again? Lewis Black might call it the candy-corn of mascara"

The thing is, I started thinking about it and that analogy works-

-Great Lash, like candy corn, is made of heavy waxes
-Great Lash, like candy corn, is unnaturally pigmented

And just in time for Halloween!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall Crush 2007

It's just a few days into official autumn here in central New York, and I find myself completely in love with everything that has a vintage Alpine winter aesthetic. I think it started when I developed a muscle spasm from my neck into my shoulder blade and wrapped myself up in chunky knits and using big smears of Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Headache Relief massage cream all over my back.

Some current favorites: nutella on croissants or crepes, ricola original formula (not at the same time as nutella), a warm mug of hot whiskey, and one of the best classic Bond Films- "In Her Majesty's Secret Service"

But as it applies to beauty goodies, it's all about a staunch regimen of exfoliation and moisturization. Some favorites:

Lush Bohemian Soap: Lush products were a favorite when I stayed in hostels during my study abroad in Ireland (which lacks Alps but its winter certainly holds its own). This soap smells like limoncello, a more European alternative to tropical salt and sugar scrubs when paired with a stiff scrub brush.

Neutrogena Swiss Formula Hand Cream: I love this silky formula, it sinks in beautifully, instantly replenishes, and leaves a gorgeous not-too-oily buffed sheen on nails and cuticles.

Bourjois Baume de Nuit Night Lip Balm: I'd be lying if I said I've never bought a book just for the cover, and I am simply in love with this packaging. I haven't bought this balm yet, but it's on my Sephora list for when I head back to Oregon in December (Syracuse is tragically without a Sephora). On question though- if it's a night treatment, why on earth is it tinted? Regardless, the glossy pink shown in the photo will either be nonexistent on lips, turn them into luscious Bond Girl goodness, or will be an ugly spackl-esque disaster as so many pale tinted balms inevitably are.

Monday, September 24, 2007

method to my madness

Unless you're seriously dedicated to green living (and if you are I'm not sure why you're reading my blog), should you ever intern at an environmental non-profit organization you will soon have your green self-esteem utterly shattered.

I walked into my design internship head held high, carrying my Mac laptop, nalgene full of filtered water, and a tupperware of buckwheat noodles and edamame only to immediately receive a shaming for my plasticwear, which leech chemicals that mess up the human endocrine system (hormones, I looked it up on Wikipedia when they weren't looking).

I was, however, thrilled to see that they use Method home products with wild abandon. I've been a fan since last year, when my BFF became addicted to the cucumber range of scents. Now I use as many Method products as I can, to the point of scruitinizing product labels to see if I really need a stainless steel cleaner or a daily use shower cleaning spray.

My roommate here in Apt. 5 doesn't quite get my fixation, but here's the thing. When you thoroughly clean your living environment (as I do every week), between dusting and scrubbing a whole lot of cleaner ends up on your skin and in your lungs. I've always had problems with shower cleaners making my lungs feel tight and causing hour-long coughing fits, and while Method's shower cleaner still makes me cough a little it's by far the mildest thing I've found and it leaves my shower soap-scum free. I've also found that their hand and dish soap are much less hard on my hands, cutting down on how often I need a manicure scrub. And all of the cleaners are biodegradable and non-toxic (no rinsing required- huge time saver), while managing to smell delicious. On top of all this the line is affordable and the packaging is well designed; what's not to love?

Some Apt. 5 favorites:

omop- compostable sweeping cloths, reusable microfibre mop pad, delicious lemon ginger floor cleaner, and ergonomic handle make this hugely superior to the Swiffer line

pink grapefruit cleaning wipes- these biodegradable wipes are a great compromise for those who love the simplicity of Chlorox Wipes and those who demand a greener alternative, and the pink grapefruit scent is refreshing.

aroma pill- adds just the right ammount of freshness to a mold-prone bathroom, and the design is really pretty

Sunday, September 23, 2007

a little TLC

My friend and I fell in love with MAC's Tinted Lip Conditioners two years ago, only to find after a few days use that they dried our lips out badly- exactly what you don't want from tinted balm. It was a shame though, the range comes in limited but stunningly wearable punchy shades, although the packaging was reminiscent of a body fluids collection jar.

Some time ago MAC greatly imrpoved the packaging but I steared clear until a few days ago when I was doing some preliminary shopping for a friend. The formula seems improved as well- much creamier than before, it's almost a downright goop but retains the same utterly nonsticky but glossy texture as before. I also love the smell, a creamy vanilla with a hint of sunscreen (which I personally find comforting, although I know it annoys some people).

I had the people at MAC give my friend a sample to make sure the formula is really improved, so just FYI if you ask them for one and explain the lip peeling concern they'll do the same for you. But at $14.50 for .5 oz these are really a steal, and cheaper than drugstore lipsticks.

For me the standout must-have shade is Gentle Coral- looks neon orange in the pot but it picks up the tone of your lips and transforms into something ranging from punchy pink to milky apricot depending on how rosy your lips are, kind of like the magic of those mood lipsticks of the 80s. It has flattered everyone I've seen it on, from the olive skinned with dark hair to porcelain skinned blondes. I'm also absolutely in love with Virtuous Violet- looks like it was made specifically for ladies with Natalie Portman's coloring, so if you have that going on then this is a must-have. Petting Pink (shown above) is gorgeous in the pot, but if your lips are rosy this doesn't have enough color payoff.

glow, baby, glow

I've become a bit obsessed with figuring out how to nail the glowy ethereal eyes of the spring runway- it's the perfect and foolproof look to rock when you've stayed up to all hours and have something/someone you need to look devastatingly fabulous for the next day.

It seemed to me that some sort of white pearly highlighter would be just the thing to reflect light without looking sparkly, so I combed through the July, August, and September Allure for answers. July's "Makeup Artists' Secret Weapons: Their 5 Favorite Products" confirmed to me that a white highlighter is definitely missing from my stash.

I browsed the counters for options, but I almost immediately knew that I would be going home with MAC Cream Color Base (shown at left in Virgin Isle) in Luna. These are all-over highlighter creams that give skin a brilliantly subtle light-reflecting sheen, they're lovely used anywhere on the body including the center of the lips. The Cream Color Bases are often marketed by MAC sales associates/makeup artists as an eyeshadow base, which is just bizarre- this stuff will crease in a matter of seconds if you don't prep your eye first. Luna in particular is a sheer pure white with icy shimmer, and with skin underneath it looks a little golden. The point of this look is achieving a subtle pale light reflection, so if Luna shows up too white on your skin try Pearl or Fawntastic or one of the bronze shades on dark skin (although Luna or a comparable icy shade is worth owning for highlighting the inner corner of the eye and the center of the lips).

To get the look- If you're going to wear mascara (and you don't have to, this look is gorgeous with bare lashes unless you have extremely fair hair) put it on first or you risk muddying the eyelid. I recommend saving your blackest black mascara for other days, and use brownblack, brown, or even clear if at all possible. Prep the eyelid, undereye, and inner corner around the tear duct with Urban Decay Primer Potion. Let it set for a minute, then go over it with foundation or concealer if you need to cover any darkness or veins. Either way finish with a dusting of finishing powder like MAC Blot. Use your finger to lightly dab on the cream color base until your eye is covered just up past the crease. Don't frost the brow bone, but blend the cream upwards so it fades subtly. Dab some on your inner corner (best achieved by closing your eye and gently pull the outer corner to get your lashes out of the way of your tear duct and using the tip of your finger to apply the cream). If you have a little time, or aren't completely out of it, you can use a clean small eyeliner brush to trace some cream along the top roots of your bottom lashes. Dust over the whole thing with more setting powder.

You can also use cream color base on cheeks in the absence of blush, blended on the upper part of the apple of your cheek. It's also lovely traced along the top of the bow of the upper lip, topped with a little clear shiny balm or sheer nude lipcolor.

What rocks about this look is that afterwards you look utterly fresh and awake, even if you feel like garbage. And it really only takes one trial to nail the application technique, which means you can do this in complete zombie mode first thing in the morning- especially if you skip tinted mascara and lining the lower lashes- and it only takes about 3 minutes, so you can be done within 5 if you spend time with foundation and concealer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The World of Zoe

Click on the post headline to check out a great New York Times article on stylist Rachel Zoe, who dresses celebutantes Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie. It's a really illuminating look at how tabloids and PR have permanently changed the face of the fashion industry.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spring Runway Report 08

It's quite early to be thinking about spring, especially when the air is just turning cold, but Spring Fashion Week is under full swing in New York- check out for a great peek at the clothes. My favorite so far is Betsey Johson's ready to wear inspired by prom. Clicking on the backstage/front row photo gallery gives great close-ups of the models' makeup, makeup artists like Dick Page at work, and sometimes a surprising celeb snapshot from the front row.

Makeup-wise, the biggest look for spring is quite bare- flawless glowy skin, noblush, bare eyes often without mascara, and soft shell pink lips. Zac Posen's interpretation (left) was the cleanest, a very angelic interpretation, and Marc by Marc Jacobs (right) did a brilliant metallic nude take on the smoky cat eye- brilliant for going out at night.

Product recommendations-

Skin- Don't pile on the foundation, whatever you do. The skin is really more about applying products correctly and letting your skin show through as much as possible. Definitely wash your face and apply moisturizer a couple minutes before applying makeup to get the smoothest application. I recomend gently exfoliating with a warm wash cloth. Using a foundation primer like Smashbox Photo Finish is key to making your skin a smooth canvas to work on. Use a good, thick concealer like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage only on any blemishes, then use a damp sponge (keeps foundation from being absorbed and sheers it out a little) to apply a medium coverage foundation only if you need it, giving careful attention to smooth the jaw and hairline. Touch up blemishes again if needed, blending concealer into the foundation. The look isn't totally matte, so don't use a powder like MAC Blot unless you're very oily like I am. Buff a subtle light reflecting powder over your face using a big fluffly brush (I like Sephora's Bronzer Brush). Two good powders: Laura mercier Loose Setting Powder and LORAC Perfectly Lit.

Eyes- Mix a very small drop of liquid luminizer with foundation and smooth on eyes, or buff a very subtly pearly eyeshadow that matches your skin tone on top after smoothing on foundation (check out Bobbi Brown). The idea is to make your eyelid look perfect and subtly reflect light without looking obviously sparkly. Curl lashes and slick on a clear mascara to define lashes and give some hold. For night: use a brush or your fingers to slick on a metallic nude shadow in a traditional smoky shape or in a cat eye for extra drama. New colors will certainly be released by spring, but check out MAC Paints and Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Eyeshadow- the best for oily lids.

Lips- The must-have shade for anyone with rosy lips is NARS Chelsea Girls Lip Lacquer. Smudge on a very very small ammount (seriously, a little goes a long way- you will barely need to press your finger into the product). Wait about two minutes and the product will beautifully smooth out, giving you perfect shell pink lips.

For tips on some other fall looks, including the gloriously updated Bond Girl look, check out Kristin's blog at

Sunday, September 9, 2007

No more excuses!

Skincare is hard to maintain on week-ends; late nights out with friends, sleepovers, frantic hustles to the gym to make up for all the bar food that ended up in front of you. Even if you have the best intentions, as the weather gets colder (and especially if you live in an appartment building) how long can you really stand in front of a sink at 3 in the morning waiting for the tap water to warm up?

When summer term started I invested in a pack of Target brand Make-Up Remover Cleansing Towelettes and after two months use I have found these to be a lifesaver. Sold in a pack of 30, these little wonders boast tea antioxidant complex and contain chamomile and vitamin E- all of which will sooth irritation and combat the damages caused by all those week-end late night sins. As a bonus I've found that I don't need any moisturizer after these, so they're perfect to keep bedside- not washing your face because you forgot and you're already in bed is no longer an excuse! I scanned the ingredients list and while these do contain alcohol- a general deal breaker for quality skincare- it hasn't caused me any problems and my skin is definitely on the sensitive/reactive side. It shouldn't be a problem unless you get in the habit of using these every day, which I don't recommend.

These are also perfect for tossing in your bag for after the gym or freshening up on a hot day- they're soothing and refreshing but don't make skin feel stripped and they also provide just enough moisture without feeling heavy.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fall Must-Haves

During my eight hour drive from Virginia to New York I entertained myself with my iPod and thinking about fall make-up. To my dismay, I got home and the September Allure had somehow ripped off all my ideas.

My favorites:

Tangerine Lips- whip out that Chanel Coral Reef glossimer and Fresh Portrait of a Lady blush I mentioned earlier, and pair it with sheer chocolate or champage on the eyes- just avoid heavy shimmer and go for a subtle pearl texture instead.

Slate Eyeshadow- Personally I find the eyeshadow too heavily applied in this photo but the lips are spot-on; the perfect stained warm berry. Allure used Superstay Glos in Golden Toffee by Maybelline, I like Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. For eyes I like doing a smoky smudged line of gunmetal shadow like Tarte's Here's Looking at You and blending in Stila Shore, a complex lilac gray, on top or up to the crease for night.

Aside from Allure, here's my other top fall picks:

Tarte Blushing Bride cheekstain- the perfect dewy berry blush for fall, very cold weather NE collegiate. It's not too red or too cool toned unlike so many gel/liquid stain blushes

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey- goes perfectly with Blushing Bride, this looks like you've been eating blackberries all day. One caveat: the formula could be more moisturizing, so use some balm underneath. Usually I pass on products that don't have adequate texture but this color is just too perfect to pass up.

MAC Satin Taupe eyeshadow- this brown has gorgeous dimension and can be used as a sheer wash or as an intense smoky eye. It's slightly cool toned so it looks great throughout fall's weather spectrum but it's not so cool toned that it won't work with your fading tan. I love to buff this lightly on my lid from lashes to crease with a soft fluffly brush and mascara and a little liner, it adds the perfect ammount of depth and sparkle

Bobbi Brown Pale Pink Blush- I added this to my stash last year, it gives me those enviable Carrie Bradshaw winter cheeks circa end of season 6 when she was dating The Russian. It looks vibrant in the pan but goes on a delicate ballet pink which again works wonders as your tan fades. If this shade doesn't work for you, Bobbi has added a few new shades in the fresh pink/peach spectrum that are all equally stunning.

Stella by Stella McCartney- my quintessential fall fragrance, this pairing of fresh rose and sultry amber is superb. The best thing about this fragrance is that it absolutely melts into your body's own scent, your clothing, or anything else you spray it on; it becomes a part of you in the sexiest way. I'm particularly obsessed with the way it blends with the scent of paper, and I keep a tester card tucked into my trusty Moleskine notebook.

Survival Guide's New Look

After summer term's graphics design class it was high time this blog got a facelift.

The new look is inspired by Isabella Blow as photographed by Miguel Reveriego in 1996, one of my favorite fashion icons and eccentrics who passed away in May. Below is a magazine spread I designed for graphics class based on the article "Why Fashion Needs Eccentrics" from the July 2007 edition of Harper's Bazaar (a must read). Vanity Fair used the same photograph for their homage to her in their September issue article "Final Blow".

the text reads: Isabella Blow, who passed away in May, belonged to that rare category of women whose fearlessness in dressing transcends notions of good taste. When asked by a lunch partner several years ago how she planned to eat through the veiled antlers covering her head, she replied, "That is of no concern to me whatsoever."

For the love of the sea

Like many a girl born in the 80s I have an intense loyalty to Disney's "The Little Mermaid", which for me launched a lifetime obsession with all things nautical.

Now 22, I don't care as much for the lighthearted interpretations of the very long and dark presence that mermaids and other women of the sea have in the world folk tradition. If I ever meet Frank Miller and Zack Snyder I will BEG them to do something with mermaids (especially after seeing what they did with the Oracle in "300").

Thankfully, despite a saccharine ad campaign, Lolita Lempicka's new fragrance L de Lolita Lempicka strikes a refreshing balance between the whimsy of mermaids and their rightful status as femme fatales.

As Sephora's website explains: "L, the second perfume from designer Lolita Lempicka, embodies an ancient mariner myth, with the sea for a background and a mermaid for a mistress. The woman who wears it is untamed and precious, free and elusive. The scent itself is a passionate combination of everlasting flower, bitter orange, cinnamon, vanilla and precious woods. And like a treasure recovered from the deep, the aquamarine, heart-like jewel of a bottle is caught in a golden net."

On me the scent is a simply gorgeous combination of lemony bitter orange and vanilla with just a tinge of saltiness floating on top of of a subtle deeper, richer spicy woody scent vaguely reminiscent of a men's cologne like Armani Code. The result is a very fierce gourmand scent made intriguing by its fresh girliness that unexpectedly fleshes out with sophisticated depth as you inhale it. If Angelina Jolie were a mermaid, I expect that this is what she would wear. And as a bonus, the lasting power is impressive- 8 pm to 1 pm when I hit the gym.

My only caveat: the bottle, while beautiful, is difficult to hold. I recommend picking up the 1 oz size, $44 at Sephora. Department stores, unfortunately, seem to be stocking mostly the 2.7 oz size.

For those interested in exploring folklore about other women of the sea besides mermaids I highly recommend "Favorite Folktales from Around the World", edited by Jane Yolen- particularly the stories "Sedna" and "The Seal's Skin"

Fair Temptation

Those dedicated to healthy eating bring their own food to the Great New York State Fair; 100-calorie packs, granola bars. But the scents of cotton candy and cinnamon dusted elephant years, frying meant and onions, irresistible Dinosaur Barbecue, are going to catch up with you eventually. You have to eat some time.

If you manage to resist all fried temptations (even funnel cake!) as I did, reward yourself with a bottle of Aquolina Pink Sugar. This cult gourmand fragrance is relatively inexpensive at $25 for 1 oz of perfume or $12 for a 3.4 oz Natural Deoderant Spray and is a calorie-free way to appease your sweet tooth. A gorgeous blend of raspberry, caramel, vanilla, musk, and woods, this is the perfect flirty pick-me-up year round; I especially love it with chunky knits in late fall, or a spritz or two before bed. It isn't a sophisticated gourmand scent so I wouldn't plan on wearing it to the office but it has fast become my week-end indulgence.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Autumn in the air

The air here in Central NY already has a hint of briskness and that smell that means gray skies and yellow leaves aren't so far away. Bath and Body Works believe that we should skip blithely from fun-in-the-sun to no-place-like-home-for-the-holidays; their coconutty personal fragrances have been shoved to the back in favor of fall home fragrances like pumpkin and apple. This does a great disservice to a very Tim Burton time of year, unacceptable in my opinion. Thanksgiving is coming soon enough, friends; for now, skip over gingerbread and warm your home with something a shade darker like Method's fig aroma soy candle. It's spicy and fruity but perfectly earthy; its soy formula is eco-friendly, and its wick produces 90% less soot than regular candles. Available at Target.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

secret weapon

Yes Visine is a gem at getting the red out-crucial on bleary 9 am Monday morning lectures- but it's also one of the most dead useful tools in my makeup arsenal.

This little wonder, coupled with a good quality eyeliner brush such as the MAC 266, turns any eyeshadow into a budge-proof eyeliner. Something about the formula gives powder more tenacity, and applying it damp adds gorgeous dimension if the shade has any pearl or shimmer in it. I put a small drop of visine on the back of my hand and dab my brush in it, then blot the excess liquid out onto my hand before running the brush across the surface of the powder. A damp brush will also give you a far more perfect line than a pencil ever will, and it mimics the look of liquid liner fairly well. This technique will also save you money- I invested in a brush, a bottle of visine, and a pan of Stila Espresso eyeshadow two years ago to replace MAC's Teddy eye kohl in my collection and I've barely dented the surface of the eyeshadow, vs. buying two or three eye kohls a year.

Visine will also add dimension to your eyeshadow once it's on your lid. For going out I like to use a light wash of something highly pearly like Stila Kitten eyeshadow all over my lid and then pat over it with my fingers dampened with visine. It makes the shadow look more intensely metallic and dimensional- gorgeous in low lighting. You could use water for both of these tricks, but I find that visine really makes eyeshadow last a bit longer, plus it's more sterile than tap water and nicely portable.

Still not convinced? Visine is a temporary fix for an angry looking blemish, it works on enflamed skin the same way it works on enflamed eyes.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Coral Crush

The beauty magazines have been pushing coral tinged colors for months, and if you're like me you're tempted to check it out even though coral has NEVER looked natural with your complexion. We're also on the cusp of fall when punchy colors are traded in for smoky eyes or wine stained lips, is it really worth jumping onto the coral bandwagon this late in the game?

At the makeup counter today I found some items that bare a hint of the hot hue but will be workable year round.

Chanel Coral Reef Glossimer- looks neon in the tube, but glowy golden peachy nude on the lips. It adds gorgeous dimension to reds, pinks, and nudes and adds just enough coral tinge to transform colors. Available at counters for $25.

Fresh Blush Cream in Portrait of a Lady- A touch of coral warms up this dusty pink blush which doubles as a gorgeous and long-lasting lipcolor. Paired with Coral Reef and a smoky or nude eye the looks is effortless for the end of summer and fall. Available at for $28, not so steep considering it's an unbeatable shade and the pot lasts forever

Chanel Fall!

Chanel knows how to make a great red gloss, as proven by the renown of Spark Glossimer. They've hit gold again with Hibiscus( shown at left), which is a little less gold than Spark and a bit more cool berry- much redder than it appears in the photo. If you, like me, get suckered into the gorgeous berry lips of fall year after year, you'll want to check this one out.

The rest of the collection? I'm not so impressed. I like a burnished bronze, brown, or gold eye for fall and to me their eye quads look a little flat and dated. The rest of the lip shades weren't anything to write home about either.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer Scent

I've spent most of my adult life wishing I were a Bond girl, effortlessly slender and tan, traveling Europe via the Mediterranean sea on my custom built yacht in a Bardot-ish wardrobe. The reality is browsing the international and organic isles of Wegman's grocery store in loafers and red lipstick.

On extra hot and humid days like today when it's a little easier to feel beachy in the middle of central NY, I help the fantasy along with Estee Lauder's Azuree Soleil skin scent atomizer. Designed by Tom Ford, this perfume is hailed as summer in a bottle although to me it's about the lifestyle where you'd never have to face winter if you didn't want to. It boasts a coconut note which I don't really smell, on me it's like rich woods and sweet white flowers baking under a hot salty sun. This scent is not a must in your perfume arsenal and it's difficult to find now (it's limited edition every summer) but it's definitely worth checking out and maybe even hunting down on eBay.

Hair Pow(d)er!

Nothing like heat and humidity (hello thunderstormy summer in Central NY) to kill a good hair day. The added bonus of Bootcamp summer term for all of us grad students doing the Newhouse program at Syracuse U is the pressure of fitting propper grooming into a painfully long day- let's just say ponytails are on the rise.

My personal hair savior? Stila Hair Refresher. This fabulously finely milled and gorgeously scented powder is a step beyond the old trick of massaging baby powder into your scalp to soak up excess oil and banish limpness. The genius spout on the bottle distributes perfect whisps of powder into trouble spots like bangs or you can gently drop a small ammount of powder into your palm, coat your palms, and distribute across your whole head. Bonus? The powder provides the perfect ammount of grip for doing lavish updos with squeaky clean hair while preserving volume. I'm loving the scent of Creme Bouquet, a gorgeous vanilla tempered with white flowers and just a hint of clean baby powder. The generous 2.6 oz bottle lasts forever, making it a bargain at $28.

Friday, July 27, 2007

There's nothing like an intense week of grad school followed by a stiff martini to give a girl the impulse buy itch. It's especially bad for me this week as my subscription to Lucky Magazine finally kicked in and I received both the July and August issues yesterday.

I found myself unusually attracted to August's "Treatment" spread in the beauty section, which often gives me ideas for DIY spa treatments but rarely gives me product lust. This month's article "oils-for oily skin" is just what it sounds like, a run-down on the benefits of oils to treat oily skin and breakouts. About six months ago I discovered the benefit of avoiding oil-free sodium-laureth-sulfate free moisturizer and my acne-prone skin is much calmer for it, but I have yet to put anything on a blemish oilier than neosporine. La Fleur Organique's Blemish Rescue, mentioned as an at-home spot treatment in the article, sounds promising from's description, but in a rush of willpower I've decided to wait a week before buying to make sure this fixation isn't just a short-term crush.

In the meantime, a stroke of inspiration and a little internet ingredient research has prompted me to try a little Sunny Brae Body Works Nail Oil, available at, on a healing spot. While it lacks the disinfecting antibacterial ingredients of some of the oils mentioned in the article, the ingredients are skin friendly and beneficial for healing tissue- rice bran oil, jojoba oil, neem oil, and vitamin E are reasonably noncommedogenic for oils and lavender oil, chamomile oil, and rosemary extract are delightfully soothing. And since that comprises the entire ingredients list, there's very little to react badly to. I put a small drop on a healing blemish last night and it's healing beautifully with less dryness and flaking than usual. I wouldn't recommend this for use on pores that are still clogged but spots that just need to heal will benefit from this.

Their website seems to be down right now (sorry- that's not very helpful) but if you can find this oil I highly recommend it- both as a nail treatment and as a spot healing aid. There are tons of nail oils out there though, just look for ones with lightweight oils and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as the ones mentioned above, or invest in a vial of La Fleur Organique's- I'm sure I will in the near future.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Mermaid Hair? Not so much...

If I had spent less time on my thesis and more time browsing magazines I would have been better prepared for our family beach extravaganza in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. But as a child of the icy-watered Pacific Northwest I somehow missed that swimming in the ocean 4 times a day really fries your hair.

About three days into the vacay I knew it was either deep condition or hack of six inches of fried mess. The conundrum was finding a suitable non-silicone loaded deep conditioner with very limited resources (i.e. no internet for research or Sephora for browsing). As your faithful guide in the world of beauty, I decided to utilize the (free) mayo in the fridge and thoroughly investigate the rumors of its hair restorative properties.

I used about a quarter cup of mayo on my very, long thick hair (so adjust accordingly if you decide to try). My hair was a little damp, but I don't think it matters as long as your hair isn't wet. I let it soak in for about 10 minutes, occasionally putting my head under the water to encourage deep penetration via the heat. The results? Fabulous soft hair, with no sign of split ends nearly 3 weeks later. The one treatment was also enough to keep my hair reasonably nice for the next four days of swimming and baking in the sun.

Just now I did it again to test whether it works decently on only slightly dried hair, and with the same great results. I would definitely recommend trying mayonaise over olive oil unless your hair is VERY damaged, it was quite difficult to get only two tablespoons of oil to wash out and even harder to work with in the first place.

If I could do the trip again (or if I get to go again next year) I would definitely invest in something from Carol's Daughter, either a leave-in conditioner or Lisa's Hair Elixir. I haven't been able to try the line as the Oregon Sephora doesn't carry it, but Kristin over at The Beauty Addict ( gives the line nothing but raves. From what I've read and experienced, it seems like coating hair with a light oil would be ideal for protecting it from surf and sun. Personally I didn't find a standard leave-in conditioner to be enough (not even my beloved Fekkai Glossing Cream).

Whew again!

It's been a long, strange month since I posted last. From the beach in North Carolina to driving across country to Syracuse University I've had hardly any time to sleep let alone write in the blog, for which I apologize. Now that my uber intense (and uber awesome!) grad studies are under way, I'm hoping to have more time to blog so don't give up on me just yet!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stainy Day

While the J.Lo nude look is definitely gorgeous in the summer, I get a little sick of it being dragged out year after year. That's why this year I took a hint from Evangeline Lilly on season 1 of "Lost" and Keira Knightley in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" and looked for something to replicate the vibrant but naturally subtle punchy lips they used to rock before their makeup artists went over to the dark (or rather drab) side of nude lips.

The obvious choice to replicate her look is a lip stain- you don't want to add any texture really, just color- so off to Sephora I went. After making my rounds, Lorac's Sheer Wash emerged as the clear winner. Where Benefit's Benetint wasn't pigmented enough (read: no staying power) and Vincent Longo's Gel Stain had a limited range of overly orange and overly purple shades, Sheer Wash comes in a gorgeous range of colors that last me from 9 to 5 (although not through an oily 3 course meal with drinks, which isn't surprising). The genius rollerball packaging also preempts spills and controls how much product comes out, which is a life saver considering you need maybe a scant drop of stain for perfect rosy lips. I recommend giving your lips a soft rub down with a warm wet washcloth before application- this will deeply stain any flakies as sadly the bloody lip look isn't in vogue this year. I'm in love with the shade Sheer Emotion, a raspberry pinky red that's similar to Benetint which should theoretically flatter pale, tan and olive skinned ladies. Bonus: as Benefit's insanely overpriced Benetint lip balm was used on Keira Knightley in "Pirates," a swipe of shiny balm on top of this shade will give you her look (I recommend mark. Kiss Therapy in Sheer Rose) and you'll want to do so anyway because all lip stains are a little drying. Just be sure to give the stain about two minutes to set first. Those with yellow or olive toned skin might also try Sheer Luck- it's a gorgeous red that unfortunately looked quite ruddy on me. Either of these shades looks stunning with mascara, a bit of eyeliner, and clean polished skin. The travel size retails for $17.50 at Sephora, a great investment considering this bottle should last for a decade.

Light My Fire

Candles are a four billion dollar industry in the US, which comes as no surprise if you read Lucky magazine regularly. But before you get ready to shell out $50 or more on their candle du jour, check out Pacifica's line of clean burning soy candles. I really dig the ultramodern Art Nouveau vibe of the packaging paired with a minimalistic glass vessel that won't disrupt your decorating scheme. The Pacific Northwest company's scents range from light florals and fruity notes to deep and spicy scents. My absolute favorite is Bergamot Amber Rose, but I can't get enough of Blood Orange and Mediterranean Fig either. And at under $10 for a 5.5 oz candle that burns for 50+ hours, you'll have plenty left in your wallet for some of Lucky's other extravagant splurges.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Going Red Update: Chanel Knockoff!

Friends, a little miracle occurred at work today. As some of you know I work for a plant nursery and my job is stocking plants at Home Depot. While I was moving carts of plants around I found a brand-new sealed Neutrogena MoistureShine gloss in Swizzle on the ground. As if this initial score weren't enough, when I inspected it during my break I discovered that the shade is an EXACT match to Chanel Spark glossimer- it's the same slightly cool toned raspberry red gloss with very fine gold microshimmer. I found that I even prefer the texture of the Neutrogena version to that of Chanel- Chanel feels a little sticky on the lips if you put on a thin coat, whereas the Neutrogena is delightfully not sticky in any way. It almost feels like a high shine lipstick instead of a gloss. If you were hesitant about checking out Chanel Spark because of the price (I know I was) then you have no excuses now, as the Neutrogena glosses are very affordable and regularly on sale. If you're doubtful about the color then at least go to a Chanel counter and try it on, you have nothing to lose with this drugstore look-alike available.

Spa Time!

I'm a little obsessed with the idea of spas, those almost mythical places where you do nothing but relax in a calming deliciously scented environment while dedicated people make your skin more beautiful. But frankly, who really has the time and money? Over the years I've perfected some relatively quick and affordable ways to get some of the benefits, especially in the facial category.
Shower Aromatherapy- If you don't own at least one divine smelling soap or shower gel, get one immediately! You don't have to buy into all the specific aromatherapy stuff about how lavender is stress relieving, citrus is energizing, etc., because I certainly don't. But it's proven that surrounding yourself with fabulous smelling things releases endorphins and adding that to a relaxing shower is an easy and cost effective way to feel luxurious. Bonus: if you use a bath poof or loofah to scrub yourself in long, brisk strokes you'll stimulate blood flow and further endorphin production. It doesn't matter what shower gel or soap you choose as long as you love the smell. I love The Body Shop Satsuma shower gel, Aquolina Pink Sugar shower gel, and Bath & Body Works Be More Pacific shower cream. Another great brand to check out is Philosophy, their 3 in 1 shower gels come in an incredible range of scents although I don't recommend using them on your hair unless it's an emergency.

Shower Exfoliation- I get complemented often (okay I admit, from boys) about how smooth my skin is, the secret is exfoliating often. You can use any soft bristled scrub brush (I use a surgical scrub brush my mom picked up somewhere) and a bar of soap, but it's nice to go a step nicer once or twice a week. The drugstore has tons of options, I recommend getting a sugar scrub that comes in a tub- tube scrubs are a little hit and miss, sometimes they don't have enough granules to be effective. Outside of the drugstore I really like Product Body's Crush On You sugar scrub- it feels and smells like heaven, plus the company is VERY eco-friendly. The Body Shop's scrubs are less of a splurge and come in a travel size (convenient given carry-on regulations) that is regularly on sale. Those of you who visit Starbuck's regularly (i.e. most of the population) are in a good place to make your own scrub- nab some of those raw sugar packets and mix it in a small container with a little squirt of your favorite shower gel until it's a paste and you're good to go. I've found that letting the steam and heat of the shower soften your skin first and then turning off the water to scrub up is most effective, and be sure to do your shaving after you rinse off to avoid irritating your skin. The same bonus applies from above.

All-Natural Skin Treats- Ever notice how spas really push their eco-friendly treatments? Skip on over to the organic/all natural section of your grocery store and check out what these brands have to offer in terms of bath and body products. Several of the products mentioned above are reasonably eco friendly, but your skin will thank you if you pick out one or two products from lines like Jason and Kiss My Face. If you're going to the effort of picking out some treats for yourself, consider the benefit these natural goodness packed products have: they contain fewer chemicals, are cruelty free, and biodegradable. I've personally noticed that my skin is less dry and acne prone now that I've switched to soaps without sodium laureth sulfate, a lathering agent found in basically everything that is known to worsen skin conditions. These products are also the best way to benefit your hair while you're treating the rest of your body- pick up an SLS free shampoo and massage your scalp to get rid of product buildup, then deep condition your hair with a silicone free conditioner. Some products I love: Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil bar soap and Whenever Conditioner and Jason Tea Tree shampoo. If you don't have the cash to spend on new goodies, run a bath with some Epsom salts and toss in a few tea bags- peppermint and green tea work especially well together and this blend will provide your skin with a soothing detox.

Facials- I've experimented with countless at-home facials ranging from treatments to packaged masques and have mostly been disappointed, but I've come up with a few treatments that consistently yield fabulous and multitasking results. First, if you're going to do a masque treatment you should exfoliate first, but sometimes a little exfoliation is all you need. If you exfoliate once or twice a week with a gentle scrub you can get rid of dullness and congested pores will start to clear up- just be careful about scrubbing on top of infamed acne, you can further irritate your skin and spread the bacteria. I've been using Olay Microdermabrasion and Peel kit once every week or two for almost a year with great success- my pores are smaller and clearer, my skin is smoother and less red, and the kit has lasted me about ten months so the price is definitely worth it. You can also use a gentle face cleanser scrub if your skin isn't congested or dry and flaky, I like the ones from Neutrogena because the beads are smooth- steer clear of anything with a natural exfoliant like ground apricot kernel (I'm looking at you, St. Ives Apricot Scrub), the edges of the exfoliant aren't smooth and will cause small abrasions on the skin. If your skin is dry or is healing from acne or sunburn, the best thing I've found is to smooth 2-3 tablespoons of honey all over the skin and let it set for 15-20 minutes- just be careful after the 10 minute mark, the honey will start to drip off of your nose and chin a little. Sugar is a natural anti-inflammatory and is anti-bacterial, I found it to be really effective at soothing enflamed acne in high school and it seems to help the healing process. It's also wonderfully moisturizing, and helps your skin lock in moisture after exfoliating. If your skin is a little congested, try a basic clay masque- Queen Helene's Mint Julep Masque is highly affordable and great at pulling excess oil, sebum, and dirt from the pores. You'll look a little funny after you put it on, but the feeling afterwards is worth it. I find that the masque is more effective if I squeeze the tube out into an empty tupperware container and add more water, it's so thick it doesn't adhere to the skin as well as it could and it's a little difficult to work with because it goes on so thickly but this isn't a must to get great results. Be sure to follow any of these treatments with a quality facial moisturizer to lock in the moisture and prolong the benefits.

Although it's no seaweed wrap, I find that taking an extra long shower followed by a mini facial once or twice a week truly benefits my overall well-being, and improves my skin to boot. I doubt I'll ever go to a spa, but with a few splurges tucked away in your medicine cabinet, who needs it?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

For a No-Fail Mani/Pedi

'Tis the season to bear those toes proudly. But if you're like me, you fail at keeping your polish looking nice and can't stand it when it gets dull and begins to chip but can't stand to attend a special occasion without making those toes presentable. That's why the only bottle of polish I own is Revlon's Snowflake Pink.

Nude polish is my favorite; it's probably because I'm obsessed with ballet, but I just can't get over the look of a well done nude or American manicure (a sheer and less ostentatious version of the French). But nude polishes always go seriously streaky on me, which just bugs the crap out of me. While reading through an old issue of "Glamour" I found an article on the best nude polishes for every occasion, Snowflake Pink being recommended for weddings because of its micro shimmer. After checking the reviews on for potential streaking issues I decided to give it a shot, figuring I'd take advantage of RiteAid's cosmetics return policy if it turned out to be a dud. It turned out to be the best polish I've ever owned.

One coat looks like a slightly glinty clear, due to the fine icy shimmer. It dries in minutes, so it's perfect if I have eight minutes before an event and want my nails to look nice. Two coats gives me the perfect slightly milky clear that I wish my nails were naturally. Three coats looks like one coat of more opaque nudes, but with nary a streak in sight. Plus, the shimmer is completely unnoticeable except with close scrutinizing but adds to the shine beautifully- a bonus because it keeps the polish looking nice after the shine begins to wear down after a few days. I'm not an expert on how long polish lasts because it all chips on me after a few days no matter what I do, but this is definitely some of the longer lasting polish I've ever used- it lasts 3 or 4 days chip-free, compared to OPI which lasts 2-3 on me if I'm lucky. Pedicures last about two weeks before looking slightly terrible, and that seems reasonable to me. And because one coat is basically clear, it can also be used to mend nylons. Whether you're a polish fiend or an earthy girl who generally can't be bothered with cosmetics, this is the versatile every season/every outfit nude polish that is totally worth owning.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Get the Look: "Gray's Anatomy"

Although I'm by no means an avid watcher of "Gray's Anatomy," I've been a huge fan of the makeup used on the three lead female characters- they have the epitome of that perfect "no-makeup" natural glow that I strive to recreate. Until recently I wasn't quite sure how to replicate the look, but after stumbling upon a drugstore treasure and watching the season finale (um, cliffhangers much?) I think I've got the key basics down.

LIPS- The girls lips are slightly glossed with just a hint of peachy pink color that looks fresh but utterly natural. Neutrogena MoistureShine tinted lip balm in Glow is the best thing I've found to mimic the color- it's a shiny peach with a touch of pink, beige, and golden shimmer that lets your natural lip color show through enough so that the color doesn't look fake. The formula is similar to Vincent Longo's Baby Balm line in slickness and the SPF 20 is a huge bonus for summer (the shade range is limited, but this is a really great product and worth checking out). If your lips are naturally very rosy, you can neutralize them a bit further with either a pale nude lip liner like Stila Glaze Liner in Nude or a thin layer of an opaque pale nude gloss or lipstick like NARS Lip Lacquer in Chelsea Girls. The idea here isn't really to change your lip color, but rather to mimic the nude peachy pink glow while working with your natural lip tone, so don't coat your lips too much or it will spoil the effect.

SKIN- Keep things fresh and clean- cover any spots or under eye circles with concealer and go light on foundation but cover any redness. Pat over any concealer or foundation that you put on very lightly with a damp cosmetic sponge to blend it all into your skin. The girls don't wear noticeable blush or bronzer, but dusting a little glowy highlighter on your cheeks will again help to mimic their natural glow. There are tons of great highlighters out there, but choose on that's very finely milled (read: not glittery) in the peach to pink range- whatever is most flattering on your skin. I like Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks in Rose and Apricot, they reflect light in an almost dewy way and don't show up as noticeable sparkle even on those of us with large pores while providing a hint of color. Sweep it on the tops of cheekbones from the apple of the cheek towards the temple. If you want a little more dewiness in the look, use a pearly liquid highlighter like Stila All Over Shimmer Liquid Luminizer.

EYES- If lids are oily prep them with a dab of Urban Decay Primer Potion, then smooth on a light coat of foundation regardless. The idea is to even out the skin of the eyelid and cover up darkness and tiny veins. If you like, sweep on a subtly pearly eyeshadow similar to your skin color (probably in the champagne to cocoa range), but don't use anything too shimmery or frosty- it's texture overkill considering lips and cheeks. Bobbi Brown, Stila, and Tarte are great brands to look at (I like Tarte's Champagne Brunch). If you feel naked without eyeliner, use a damp liner brush to push a blackened brown eyeshadow like Stila Espresso (shown center) into the lash line, which defines the eyes without making an obvious line. Follow with a brown black or soft black waterproof mascara on curled lashes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Going Red II: Gloss It Up!

After balm, sheer gloss and sheer shiny lipsticks are the next most low maintenance and forgiving formulas- they're more pigmented than balm, but their sheerness and glossiness make them solidly wearable.

My favorite in the sheer lipstick field is definitely Vincent Longo Baby Balm in Boccacino (pictured in the previous post), a dewy berry red that will be my must-have for fall. This line unfortunately doesn't have a true cherry red or anything on the orange side of the spectrum at this time, but fingers are crossed that Longo will expand this line soon.

My favorite gloss is the renowned Chanel Spark Glossimer, which has been touted for years as a universally flattering shade. I first stumbled upon this gem in high school while reading Seventeen; some of you may remember their article which pictured a ton of girls covering a wide spectrum of skin tones who all looked fabulous in it. I can honestly say that I tried it on a slew of girls in my sorority and it looked great on all of them. I think the secret is a slightly pinky red gloss packed with the finest gold shimmer I've ever seen; the cool and warm tones sort of neutralize each other and somehow this makes it work on everyone. Another bonus is that the nonsticky gel formula is buildable from sheer to pretty full-on red, making it highly versatile. It retails for a ridiculous $25, but a tube lasts me about two years with pretty regular use- well worth it for the perfect red.

Another winner I stumbled upon last fall is Prescriptives Rain Gloss in Cherry Storm. The formula is like a very thin watery gel and the effect is like a sheer wet liquid lipstick- it's a formula unlike anything I've ever seen. Cherry Storm is that perfect wet "I just ate a popsicle" look, which leaves the perfect stain of color after the shine is gone. The shine is disappointingly short lived; because the formula has no tackiness whatsoever you can basically lick this one right off (and you might want to, it tastes and smells just like a grape pospsicle) but with a little self control this is one of the most gorgeous lip products I've ever used. The shade range is pretty good too, and makes other bold shades like coral and deep berry equally wearable. It retails for $18.50 which is a little steep considering that re-application is a must after eating or drinking anything but then again you don't need very much product to get a stunning look.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lip Saver

My last Sephora visit was all about lips. I wanted the best everyday natural but polished work-to-play face illuminating and divinely comfortable lip product Portland's embarassingly small Sephora had to offer. I was sure NARS would have it- I look great in red lips and NARS has some really spectacular reds- but either the light was off both in the store and outside or I was somehow having a bad lip day because almost everything I tried on looked like it was sitting awkwardly on top of my skin. I spent two hours going from brand to brand, and in the process my lips were rubbed raw and sore (it didn't help that a sales associate inadvertently handed me a tissue moistened with rubbing alcohol at one point). But then I came to the back of the store and saw that Vincent Longo replaced another brand while I was at school, and there my lips found heaven.

I tried all of Longo's formulas, and I'm quite impressed. Not only do they feel amazing, but the color selection is stunning. I can't comment on how the range will flatter the entire array of skintones out there, but I found a so far unparallelled variety of the natural "your lips but better" colors that in my opinion are one of the best things a person can put on their lips.

The standout for me was the new Baby Balm line- again gorgeous shades, but the formula is what really won me over. My raw lips felt soothed within two or three minutes of swiping some on, and the redness went down in about ten or twenty minutes. The texture is highly emollient and slippery which some women will find to be a deal breaker, but the slippiness gives lips a gorgeous natural moist shine and I assure you the color and moisture last long after the slip is gone (usually about an hour or after eating). While the description of the benefits of the ingredients on Sephora's website seems like hype, I used this product throughout the trip to NY and my lips never once felt dry. I recommend the shade Fawn Nestle as a year round polished work-to-play neutral nude rose. Although this lipstick is steep at $23 a pop, its .12 oz size is much more reasonable than many other high end sheer lipsticks (Bobbi Brown's Lip Shine is $19 for .08 oz for example) and I think the shade range and texture make this worth investing in if you're a lip balm junkie like me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


The last month has been absolutely ridiculous between sorority obligations, finishing my thesis, and taking a quick trip to New York to check out my grad program, and finally graduating. While I may have been a slacker in terms of posting, several beauty standouts have emerged in my stash of goods as champion stress combatants, the foremost being Philosophy's When Hope is Not Enough serum.

I first stumbled upon this serum last winter after extensive research into age prevention and antioxidant skincare ingredients. While many brands flaunt unique plant derivatives as miracle cell rejuvenators, I find a lot of products on the market frankly to be mostly hype and gimmick. This is not to say that something boasting a molecule derived from orchids that is apparently the reason for the flower's longevity won't be a lovely moisturizer, but rather that it's ridiculous to charge $360 for 1.7 oz (I'm looking at you, Guerlain). Ultimately there are only a few ingredients that have solid scientific evidence to back up them up. As the April 2007 issue of "Allure" discusses in the article "Skin Saviors", retinol- a vitamin A derivative- is proven to stimulate cell turnover and increase collagen production as do peptides- protein fragments-, and antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea combat free radicals and protect skin from environmental damage throughout the day. There is also significant research saying that antioxidants are brilliant for reviving the skin when you're overly stressed and tired, i.e. the story of my life. Finding a reasonably priced no-frills serum with these key ingredients is more difficult than it sounds, especially one that isn't loaded with silicone which has no real benefit for skin other than making it feel nice and helping foundation glide on smoothly (if that sounds nice try Smashbox Photo Finish primer). After hours of Internet research and a big chunk of time spent investigating product consistency at Sephora, When Hope is Not Enough emerged as one of the best contenders.

The watery gel consistency is perfect for reviving tired skin in the morning or during the day, and the light herbal rosemary scent is definitely an aromatherapy perk. It seems expensive at $35 a pop, but a good friend's aunt has a point when she says a good skincare regimen now will save you thousands on surgery later. I've also found that 2-3 drops does the trick, although Philosophy recommends 6. After using this serum for about 5 months I find that I don't look as tired as I used to and when I get a minor acne flare-up it heals quicker. Not convinced? I used this religiously during my hectic and virtually sleepless trip to the east coast then had to go to a formal dance after being awake for nearly 20 hours and was told repeatedly that I looked fabulous. I recommend using When Hope Is Not Enough with a moisturizer that packs a solid retinol punch like Philosophy's Hope In a Jar.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Going Red Part 1: The Balm

I first became obsessed with red lips when I read an article in "Seventeen" when I was in sixth grade. My mother's friend's daughter, whom I've never met, received two of the same issue of the magazine by mistake and somehow it made its way to my posession. Beauty magazines were still a great mystery to me, and I poured over the pages over and over until the thing was reduced to shreds and my mom got me my own subscription. I remember visiting this article on red lips time after time of flipping throug the magazine, it seemed that if I could somehow achieve effortless red lips then somehow I would be popular and thin and attractive. As I slowly began building my makeup collection, I've actually found some truth in this. Red lips are empowering, they scream self confidence and ooze sex appeal- if done correctly, that is. And managing it correctly is what seems to keep a lot of women from embracing the look. Over the course of the next few weeks I'll post the tricks and products I've come to rely on, beginning with the least intense ways to do red and ending with full-on cream lipsticks, as well as advice on what to do with the rest of your face.

As a quick note on color selection: the internet and beauty magazines are full of detailed advice on what reds to pick for your skin tone. The essential piece is that reds are made with a variety of undertones, so pick one that has the undertones that you look good in. I.e. if you can rock orange like there's no tomorrow, then go for that hot oranged red from the 50s. If you wear really earthy colors, then pick a creamy rosy slightly browned red. Again not to diss on drugstore lines, but be a little careful- these reds are notorious for turning fuschia and orange so use a tester if at all possible. If you haven't stumbled onto this gem already, provides extensive consumer reviews on beauty items- it's great for getting an idea of whether a product is going to turn a funny shade after application, and for looking at what specific shades work on what range of skin and hair coloring.

The easiest place to start when beginning to work red into one's makeup collection is with a tinted balm- either a traditional Chapstick type formula or one of the sheer moisturizing non plastic shine tinted glosses now on the market. The benefits of its sheerness are that it's very low maintenance- you never have to worry about it smudging or fading strangely, and you can swipe it on without a mirror- and that it's not intimidating if you're anxious about starting to wear red. Where gloss tends to make more of a statement through higher shine and more intense pigment, balm gives the effect of making your lips look like you just ate a popsicle. It's also a great product to use in conjunction with lip stain and to refresh red lipstick throughout the day. My all-time favorite is mark. Kiss Therapy Super Soothing Lip Balm in Sheer Red, which isn't available from mark. at the moment but can still be found on eBay. The formula is a thicker and less fragrant version of Smith's Rosebut Salve, and the tint is an effortless true red, perhaps a little on the cool side. The balm also packs some nice shine and moisturizes very nicely. The bonus is that this stuff is cheap- a few dollars for 12 g. If you can't find a sheer red balm that you like, apply your favorite semi-glossy untinted version and lightly fill in some color with a lip pencil or smudge on a little lipstick before the balm to sheer out the color and it will give the same effect. Once you find a tone of red that's flattering on you, wearing a sheer and shiny balmy version is one of the most effortlessly sexy ways to make a statement.

Other balms I haven't tried but beauty magazines rave about: Bobbi Brown Tinted Lip Balm, Stila Lip Pot in Cerise, and Urban Rituelle Pomegranate lip balm.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Best Blush Ever

A short time ago I posted on how to work with powder blush to make it more natural. The truth of the matter is that while I love working with powder blush, it's not my favorite. I reach for my Cargo Miami Beach when I'm in the biggest hurry and when I look exhausted, and I love to play with blending shades of powder when I'm getting dressed up for fun, but when it comes down to it I think that creams and gels give a glowier more natural look.

As Rosie Jane Johnston, founder of Rosie Jane Cosmetics, commented in Lucky a long while back, there really is something about powder blush that just kills a dewy look. Fresh dewy cheeks are another one of those things that I get complemented on all the time, and truthfully- the only things you need to execute it perfectly are some concealer if you have blemishes, a dewy cream or gel blush, and some setting powder. I recommend a drier concealer like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage because it won't smear off as easily. The application of the blush itself depends on the exact product you're working with. I don't care much for liquids, they're harder to control and messier- overall not worth dealing with when there are so many hassle-free alternatives on the market. If you're working with a highly pigmented cream or something in pot form, dabbing two or three fingers or a sponge into the product and using a smudging motion on the cheeks works well. Very dry and highly pigmented products yield lovely results when you work them into skin dampened with moisturizer, which also adds some dewiness as these tend to be a little more on the matte side of things. If it's a sheerer/wetter product or something in stick form, it usually works just fine to apply straight to the skin and then blend the edges with fingers or a sponge. The key to not looking like a big shiny mess is to mattify the rest of the skin- especially around the nose and under the eyes- so that only the cheeks are giving off sheen. You can also experiment with dusting powder over the top of the blush to control how dewy it looks, some of the wetter formulas will still look shiny after the powder sets for a few minutes. Ultimately it's worth it to play with these products until you master the application, and don't hesitate to aks someone at the makeup counter for help if you don't know where to start with a specific product.

I first fell in love with Stila Convertible Colors because Rose, a gorgeous soft red, looks lovely on both cheeks and lips. These tend to fall into the dry category, although the colors tend to have different consistencies. Generally I sweep a dab of moisturizer onto my cheeks, pat two fingers onto the surface and smudge to blend, then swipe the excess color on my fingers onto my lips and top with clear gloss. This is definitely a harder product to master, especially the darker colors, because it takes so little product, and I don't recommend investing in this if you're constantly crunched for time although it's a great multipurpose product to take traveling. Stila Convertible Colors retail for $22.

Tarte Cheekstains are my overall favorite cream/gel blush because they're so easy to use, they have great lasting power, and they come in a very wearable range of shades. The big push pop packaging creates a large round surface to pick up product with your fingers, a sponge, a cream blush brush, or allows you to apply it directly to the skin with very little efort. Minimal blending is necessary as these are pretty sheer, but the color builds nicely with some layering. Some of the shades are in a true translucent gel formula and others are creamier and opaque in the package, but all of them give a sheer pop of color to the skin. After a couple tries, I've found that these take only a little more time to apply than a sweep of powder, and their moistness definitely perks skin up on those painfully tired days. Some people experience that these don't dry completely on their skin, but I've found that a light dusting of powder on top doesn't completely kill the dewiness and sets the blush so that it lasts all day. Generally these act like a stain, so once you apply them the color is good for most of the day. While the package is definitely bulky, you do get a ton of product for your money; one stick will last you for years to come. If that's too much commitment or too much blush to cart around in your purse, Tarte offers a mini size which also lasts forever even though much smaller. Blushing Bride is definitely a shade to check out, it's an earthy warm berry that I've found to be much more flattering on pale skin than pinky reds like Benefit's Benetint. Tipsy is one of those fabulous peachy pinky shades that magazines tout for good reason as gorgeous on most skin, and especially perky when you're tired or sick. Tarte Cheekstains retail for $28 for the full size, $15 for the mini.

Got Shine?

Don't get me wrong, I love glossy lips and dewy cheeks. But the oil slick known as my forehead? Yeah, not so much. Since puberty I've tried a number of powders and primers to keep the oilies at bay, but MAC Blot is definitely the standout.

But before getting into the merits of Blot, there isn't enough powder in the world if you don't have a good skincare routine to begin with. I can't tell you how many women I know think they have a serious oil problem but don't use any moisturizer or don't wash their faces on a regular basis. Beauty magazines tend to run regular articles about basic skincare, so if you don't have a routine established yet I suggest going to the library and flipping through some old issues of Allure. Personally, my oiliness has greatly imroved since I've simplified my routine down to a gentle cream cleanser twice a day, a light moisturizer with seaweed extract- The Body Shop's Seaweed Mattifying Day Cream is beloved by myself and my BFF, the Olay at home microderm kit once a week, and the occasional mud mask or serum application when I'm stressed. I've found that consistent daily face washing and moisturizing and a weekly gentle but deep exfoliation goes a long way in improving oiliness.

Although this regimen has drastically improved my skin, I do rely on MAC Blot powder to keep my face looking polished throughout the day. I usually apply with a fluffy brush in the morning, and once again before going out at night and my face stays shine free without looking cakey or ashy. I've used it with and without foundation and it seems to work equally well, although I would recommend gently pressing your face with a tissue after foundation and before Blot; this is a great trick to gently lift excess moisture out of the foundation while leaving the pigment behind so the face stays matte longer throughout the day. If you use powder foundation but still get oily, using Blot underneath other powders is also pretty effective at controlling oil. One piece advice on shade selection- unless you're gothic white, pale ladies should go for Medium, Light is a little too chalky.

If you're not too oily and find Blot a bit on the dry side, Stila Sheer Pressed Powder is great for achieving a polished look but couldn't quite stand up to my oily skin. If you love powder but have normal to dry skin, Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder gives an amazing soft focus glow- I love it, but my oily skin eats through it in a couple hours.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

For That Effortless Glow

Me and Bobbi Brown, we're on the same page when it comes to creating a realistic looking glow. For years I've been layering two or three shades of powder blush to get the most natural looking color and as I was flipping through a back issue of a beauty magazine Bobbi listed this as one of her top makeup tips. So hey, we can't both be wrong...

Bobbi recommends using a soft color close to the shade you naturally blush and a brighter pop of color like apricot or coral pink. I don't particularly regard this as a rule that you should absolutely follow, but I do find that using shades from two different color families works best as long as they're colors that work on you and they coordinate well. I.e. don't use something extremely warm toned or orange based with something extremely cool toned or blue based. On my pale skin I love to mix Bobbi Brown's Pale Pink blush-bright cotton candy pink, with Stila Tutu blush- softer peachy pink. This trick is also highly effective with a bronzer, I've used everything from red, plum, pink, and peach with some golden bronzer and it looks amazing.

The only downside with this trick is that it's not time effective, and often I just need something I can swipe on over a little concealer and get out the door. Two years ago my best friend bought Cargo's Beach Blush, and once I saw what it can do I've been hooked ever since. I use Miami Beach, shown at left, which shows up as an effortless healthy dusty pink golden bronze. This shade is great for pale skinned girls whose skin makes most nude beige pinks and bronzes go orangy. My olive toned best friend loves Coral Beach which is a peachier golden bronze, and it flatters her whether she's pale or fairly tan. Besides how easy they are to use, they're also nicely versatile- the two lightest shades make great eyeshadows, so when I go on vacation I usually just take my Beach Blush, mascara, concealer, and a lipgloss. While sometimes these look a little too shimmery in the sunlight, they don't emphasize pores as much as other shimmer blushes out there. Cargo has one matte shade out, and will probably release more in the future. Beach Blush retails for $26, and comes in five ultra flattering shades.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mmm, Lashes

As some of you may know, I had muscle corrective eye surgery a little over a moth ago, after which I wasn't allowed to wear eye makeup for two weeks. While I could handle not wearing eyeshadow (maybe I cheated occasionally with a touch of highlighter on my browbone), I really began to miss mascara.

In the interest of keeping my eyes clean even after I could wear it again, I decided to toss my almost empty tube of Maybelline Full'n'Soft waterproof mascara and thought it would be fun to experiment a little with a few of the small tube samples I've received over the past year. Generally it's a bad idea to base your opinion of a mascara based off of a tiny sample- generally the full size is probably going to be better. But I was reasonably impressed with Stila's Major Lash and Lorac Lashes, both of which gave me pretty, long, defined lashes that could easily be built up to a little more drama. Generally I'm not willing to buy high-end mascara, I think the drugstore has plenty of awesome options and I'm not going to feel good about throwing away an expensive mascara when it starts to go funny as mascaras often do. But both of these seem like they have potential and they're not too expensive if you prefer a step above drugstore.

When I went to the drugstore to pick up a full-sized tube, Cover Girl's Lash Exact was on sale so I thought I'd give it a try. It's been years since I've strayed from Full'n'Soft and I've never bought anything other than Maybelline as I've always been impressed (aside from the generally hated Great Lash), but I've been curious about the new trend of soft rubber bristled mascara brushes so on a whim I decided to try it. I have to say, I'm less than impressed with the formula- it really tends to flake and smudge throughout the day. And while my lashes were nicely separated and defined, it didn't do a very good job of coating the tips of my lashes which made them look a lot shorter than they usually do with mascara. Overall it was really difficult to build any volume and thickness without my lashes beginning to clump. The brush, however, is pretty useful- it does a nice job of reaching the lashes on the outer corner of the eye although again building volume is problematic. It's also great for doing lower lashes, where you mostly want some tint and definition and not thickness or lenght. If you're looking for really subtle tint and definition, this is a pretty good formula although I would suggest getting the waterproof formula, or if you strive to sculpt perfect lashes you might get this on sale and use it for the brush. Otherwise I'd pass.

I probably won't be straying from my beloved Maybelline Full'n'Soft waterproof again. It really does a great job of giving me volume and lenght while keeping my lashes defined. The waterproof formula never smudges or flakes, and the soft wax formula keeps my lashes from getting brittle and it's really not that hard to remove with just soap and water. I do however use Lush's Ultra Bland cleanser- a rich oily makeup remover- to take off eye makeup a couple times a week to condition my lashes and keep them from breaking. Maybelline Full'n'Soft varies in price and is widely available at drugstores, Lush Ultra Bland is $13.50 for 1.5 oz.