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.