Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Long December

I'm posting this from my phone while trying to sleep, so excuse any typos or gobbledygook. 

I had so many posts I wanted to write, but I can't write any of them, at least not right now. December has been utterly hellish. We lost two of our babies to a mysterious illness that seemed like a cold at first. We even thought Chloe was in the clear since she was able to come home for a week, but she took a turn for the worst. 

I don't feel like recommending a new nail polish or raking a poorly formulated cleanser over the coals right now. I can't fathom the idea of writing a December Favorites post because the good has been overshadowed by the bad. 

I'll be back when I can think clearly. Until then, please keep an eye on your cats. If they're sneezing and have no appetite, take them to the vet immediately. It didn't save our babies, but it could save yours. 

Happy New Year, everyone. 2013, I will not miss you. Please be kind, 2014. A lot of us need it.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

November Hits and Hell Noes

Wow, I seem to have a thing for the number 10, don’t I? Once again, this was unintentional, but what do you know? Like my last empties post, I seem to have rounded up ten products for my monthly favorites. I just couldn’t whittle it down anymore since I used all of these religiously. And I don’t have a single Hell No for the month of November! It was nice to love everything I used.*

*now featuring fewer hilarious typos thanks to Angel!

1.) L’Oréal Voluminous Butterfly: Not gonna lie here — the brush scared the bejesus out of me the first time I used it. It took me, like, three minutes to apply my mascara to one eye. But I’ll be damned if the wicked-looking brush isn’t effective! It took my pitiful, sparse lashes and made them look long and thick. It isn’t the waterproof formula, but it lasted from 10:30 in the morning when I applied it until roughly midnight when I showered with nary a smudge. 

2.) ELF Long-Lasting Lustrous Eyeshadow in Soiree: Okay, so I’m basically the laziest person when it comes to applying my makeup. I want it to be quick and easy, because I typically only have five minutes to get dressed and slap on my war paint. (I’d rather sleep an extra five minutes! Gimme a break!) This little gem, which cost a whopping $2.99 at Walmart, does not budge once it sets. This has the staying power I expected from the L’Oréal Infallible shadow I tried and hated so much at a fraction of the price. I’m really into reddish tones this fall, and Soirée is a stunning plummy burgundy. I never expected this type of shade from such an inexpensive range. I’ll definitely be delving more into ELF from now on.

3.) Maybelline Eye Studio Gel Liner: What time I do spend on my makeup, I dedicated to doing a quick cat eye. This liner, which comes with a really useful little brush, makes it effortless even for someone like me, who does not have the steadiest hands in the world when I’m playing around near my eyes. Seriously, it takes about a minute and a half, and I’m all done. It glides on, doesn’t tug at the eyes, and is the blackest black of any liner I’ve tried. Plus it doesn’t dry up in a month, which is a bonus.

4.) It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Product*: My poor hair. It’s been through a lot of trauma this past year, so I’m going as easy on it as I can and trying to nurture it so it will grow. I’ve heard about It’s A 10, which has achieved cult status amongst bloggers, but for some reason, I’d just never thought to buy it. The decision was made for me when it arrived in the mail. I started using it, and I noticed a difference immediately. My comb just slides right through my hair without hitting any snags, and when my hair dries, it’s softer and shinier than usual. I’ve also noticed that the chaotic mess I used to deal with when I woke up has been less Wolverine-on-a-bad-hair-day and more, well, normal-human-bedhead. This is totally worth the hype, and when I finish this bottle, I will rush out to buy another.

5.) Sally Hansen Triple Strong: I have the worst nails in the world. They either don’t grow, or if they do, they flake, peel, splinter past the quick, bleed all over the place, and cause great pain. So… I just don’t let them grow since the alternative is terrible. The result? I perpetually have little girl hands with short, stubby nails. I’m not going to lie and say this is a miracle cure that’s allowed me to have lovely, long nails. They still break if I try to grow them, but they seem less flaky, and this time the breakage didn’t split my entire nail in half. I’ll take what I can get. For any of you whose nails are only slightly evil, this might be what you’ve been looking for.

6.) NYX Matte Lip Cream in Istanbul: I’ve had this for a year or two and recently rediscovered it. That awkward moment when you finish off two lipsticks you’ve worn religiously, wail that you no longer have lipstick to wear, and then find six tubes jammed in a makeup bag. Ahem. But I digress. The Matte Lip Creams should need no further introduction after achieving cult status, but for anyone who hasn’t heard about them, they apply like a lipgloss and dry down to a matte, lipstick-like finish. They don’t claim to be waterproof, but I’ve worn this baby out to dinner, consumed messy foods and copious amounts of tea, all without having to reapply. Istanbul is a soft, pinky nude that goes with everything. This is literally all I’ve been wearing since I found it again. The only downside is that it can be a little bit drying now that the weather has turned cold. You can use lip balm underneath, but it does decrease the wear time by a good few hours. Since it’s so easy to slap more on, I don’t see that as much of an obstacle.

7.) Dior Rosy Glow*: I just recently became a blush-wearer, so this couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I actually squealed aloud when I opened the box to find this stunningly packaged blush inside. It claims to adapt to the wearer’s natural chemistry to become a unique shade. Whether or not this is true, it’s gorgeous on.  It looks shockingly bright in the pan, so I was very light-handed when I applied it, and that’s the way to use it. One tiny swipe per cheek, and the brush it comes with is actually perfect. With as little as I need to use, this will last forever. I hope it does.

8.) Korres Wild Rose Instant Brightening Mask*: When I think “brightening,” I think “oil-making” and fear I will resemble a disco ball. Had this sample come from any other brand, I probably would have handed it off to someone with very dry skin, but Korres is a brand I trust. Their products contain roughly 95% natural ingredients, and I’ve never used anything from them that caused any kind of adverse reaction. This mask smells heavenly, doesn’t sting, itch, or even tingle, and when I wash it off, my skin looks renewed whether I have a cold (like now) or just haven’t slept well. 

9.) OPI Muir Muir On the Wall: Autumn/winter is definitely the time of year for dark nail polish. I mean, I keep my polish collection on rotation throughout the year. It’s not unusual for me to sport neon yellow in the dead of winter or black in the middle of July, but I do tend to gravitate toward darker shades more consistently during the cooler months. Muir Muir On the Wall, from OPI’s San Francisco collection, is a gorgeous, shimmery plum that compliments all skin tones and looks perfect against the backdrop of a knit sweater, skinny jeans, and knee-high boots. Or I hope so since that’s my uniform this time of year. 

10.) Dior Hypnotic Poison: The oldest of my perfumes, (around four, but the fragrance has only improved over time if it’s changed at all — or maybe I just love it more now?), and it never lets me down. With notes of Bitter Almond, Caraway Spice, Sambac Jasmine, Cinnamon, Tuberose, Vanilla, Musk, Mosses, and Jucarunda Wood, Hypnotic Poison definitely lives up to its claims. It’s hypnotizing, and despite being an Eau de Toilette, it’s every bit as long-lasting as my Eau de Parfums. It just smells like Thanksgiving in a bottle to me. It’s warm and sweet, but never cloying, and whenever I wear it, someone always sniffs me and says, “You smell good!” 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gone, Baby, Gone (Empties #2)

I didn’t intentionally save up ten products, but as I went to add my much-loved, utterly empty Effaclar Duo tube to the pile, I counted my trash pile and decided I had more than enough for another empties list. So here we go, what I loved, liked okay, and what I completely hated.

1.) Organix Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil Shampoo and Conditioner: If I didn’t already have two other shampoos and conditioners sitting on my shelf, I would have rushed out to repurchase these. They smell amazing. So amazing that I would buy a perfume in the same scent and douse myself in it daily. In addition to the gorgeous scent they impart, they’re also SLS free, extremely hydrating, and have done wonders for my frequently-dyed hair.

2.) La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo: I’ve already repurchased this and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I can’t be without it. There’s just no way. Nothing clears up breakouts faster without aggravating my rosacea and causing a different but equally obnoxious type of breakout. It is not, and I stress this, not something to be slathered on every single day, or you’ll risk drying out the skin, which causes the glands to overproduce oil, and that leads to — dun dun dun, you guessed it — more breakouts! But applying this once a day at the first sign of trouble will dramatically reduce healing time and sometimes, but not always, keep the little bastards from popping up in the first place.

3.) Philosophy Purity Made Simple*: So we meet again, PMS. Oh, the irony of a product I loathe so much having the same acronym as yet another bane of my existence. Coincidence? Hm, we may never know. If you missed my anti-PMS rant, in sum, this shit is evil. I repurposed it as a shower gel just to get rid of it, and it was okay. It smells nice, but it’s drying on the body as well as the face. Never again. 

4.) St. Ives Blemish Control Green Tea Scrub: This is something on my list of things I need to pick up as soon as possible. It smells a little funky, but its slightly gritty texture makes for an effective yet gentle exfoliator. I used this twice a week in the shower — never on the same day as Effaclar Duo, which is a chemical exfoliant — and never suffered any redness or flaking from it.

5.) Korres Basil Lemon Showergel*: I’ve heard some people rave about this scent, and if you love light, citrusy scents, this is the shower gel for you. I personally prefer something slightly sweet and/or musky, so I was not a fan. It did the job. I’ll use it if it ever comes my way again, but not if I have to pay for it.

6.) Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 40*: I was so sad to see this go, but it lasted a really long time. I’m on the dregs of a La Roche-Posay sunscreen, too, so I may very well switch over to the Shiseido when I run out. I like them equally, but the Shiseido seems to be just that bit more hydrating (but never greasy), which is good for the upcoming winter months. This keeps me from burning without breaking me out or making me resemble an oil slick. Very few sunscreens can make the same claim.

7.) Chanel Precision Gentle Eye Makeup Remover*: This tiny, adorable sample came to me four months ago and just now ran out. Four months. It’s gentle, effective, and doesn’t leave behind an oily film on the eyelids. Considering it lasts so long, it makes the hefty full size price of $38 seem paltry. I have another remover I need to finish up, but I may return to this unless I’m really wowed by the Lumene one.

8.) Korres White Tea Fluid Gel Cleanser*: Another trial size, but a generous one. This lasted close to a full month, and I have no complaints. It smells mild, doesn’t dry out the skin, and takes off both sunscreen and foundation with ease. Korres is a brand that’s really starting to grow on me. Their products are natural, effective, and not that expensive.

9.) Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Waterproof*: This is a ridiculously expensive mascara, so I did a little happy dance when I opened a box and found it inside. I’d heard so many raves about it, but in the end… I didn’t like it. The color is a nice, solid black, but the formula? It’s wet, gloopy, and volumizing? No. Not at all. The brush is also to blame, as it has short, weirdly shaped bristles that didn’t even come close to coating my pitiful, blonde lashes. It became useable after it dried up some, but it only lasted two months before drying up completely. I wouldn’t pay $13 for this let alone $30, so I am very pleased I didn’t pay anything. WTF, YSL? Maybe my hopes were too high.

10.) L’Oréal Telescopic Shocking Extensions Mascara Waterproof: Seeing as how YSL owns L’Oréal, and this mascara is supposed to be the cheaper version of the aforementioned Faux Cils, I’m pretty sure you can guess what I’m going to say. Wet, yucky formula. Short, stubby bristles. Only this one is basically impossible to use because very little product comes off the brush. So little, in fact, that I could only tell when it dried up because I could see the mascara caked on the wand. Epic fail, L’Oréal. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done in creating this trash.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Hits and Hell Noes

The Balm Hot Mama! Highlighting Powder, Eyeshadow, and Blush*: As someone with an almost perpetual flush, I’m not usually a blush wearer, so I was surprised by how much I love this product. My aunt gave it to me while we were rooting around in her makeup drawer, and I mostly took it because I felt sorry for the little, brightly colored package, unused and unloved. It says it’s an all over color, so I thought I would probably use it as a deep, rose gold eyeshadow. It looks gorgeous on the eyes, but one day I came down with a nasty cold. Worse, I had to go out in public while ill. Rather than look like I was near death, I popped this on, and it’s awesome. It has a very faint shimmer, but it’s not glittery, and it doesn’t make me look overly made up. This is the first blush I’ve ever habitually reached for, and I think it’s made a blush wearer out of me. 

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer: Once fall rolls around, my skin goes from combination oily to combination dry, so I set aside the mattifying foundations and go back to my old faithful tinted moisturizer. I’d forgotten how much I love this stuff. It’s oil free, so it doesn’t add too much moisture, and it has an SPF of 20, perfect when the skies are a deep, dark gray.

L’Oréal Project Runway Collection Watchful Owl’s Pout: Erm… so I bought this when it originally came out back in 2011 because… I’m obsessed with owls. There, I admit it. I can’t the first gal to buy something because of a name. I found it the other day, tore off the plastic wrapping, and discovered it was a stunning burgundy, which is very on trend this year. The color is beautiful, the formula is rich and creamy, and the lasting power matches that of high-end lipsticks. Well done, L’Oréal! Too bad it was limited edition, but I found a place where you can still buy it! Just follow the link. :)

Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream*: As much as I carry on about sunscreen, sometimes I forget about it. As in, I forget where I placed the bottle. Thankfully, I had a sample on hand, slathered it on before my tinted moisturizer — because when you are the pastiest of the pasty, SPF 20 doesn’t cut it on sunny days — and fell in love. When I kill off my current sunscreen, I might get this one. It doesn’t leave a white cast (not that it would be detectable on my skin anyway), and it doesn’t make me oily or break out.

Laura Geller Waterproof Eyeliner*: Another acquisition from my aunt’s stash that I don’t know how I’ve lived without. The color bone is perfect to use in the waterline when my eyes are so red I look like I haven’t slept in a week, and because it’s waterproof, it actually lasts on me, which most eyeliners fail to do.  

Michael Jackson's Thriller: I love me some MJ, no lie, but I listen to him more during October because Halloween and Thriller have gone hand in hand for me since childhood. They're like cozy sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes; they just belong together. 

Shockingly, I don't have any hell noes this month aside from the nasty cold I had earlier on. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Back to Red

I was born a strawberry blonde, and as anyone with a hint of ginger in their coloring knows, everything but reddish shades look artificial. I've been every shade of the rainbow, but I always go back to some shade of red. During the summer months I was an extremely pale strawberry shade, but as the red tint faded, it left behind an unpleasant cast that looked platinum in daylight and lemony under artificial light. It had to go. 

With autumn in full swing, I decided to go a bit darker to match the changing leaves. On a whim, I grabbed Clairol Natural Reddish Blonde. I'd never used it before, so I Googled reviews. After reading statements like "this is the natural color of my hair without the gray" and "you get the color on the box," I patted myself on the back for a choice well-made and went home to get rid of the faded mess. 

This is just a bit darker than my natural color, only without the gray

You get the color you see on the box

This has never happened before with any dye ever. After years of relying on Revlon and L'Oréal, I've become a Clairol convert. 

So what else should you expect if you jump on the Clairol bandwagon? Strangely enough, the dye honestly didn't smell. That overpowering ammonia odor that steals the breath from your lungs? I didn't catch a whiff. It smelled chemical-heavy -- it's hair dye; it ain't gonna smell like gardenias -- but it wasn't too strong. The conditioner smelled lovely and left my hair in great shape. Best of all, my hair doesn't glow pink or fire-engine red in the sun. It's a rich, russet tone that looks completely natural. 

Whether you're going blonde, red, or brunette, I'd suggest giving Clairol's aptly-named Nice 'n Easy range a shot.

You can also follow me on Feedspot thanks to my shiny new membership. (Thanks for the subscription, Feedspot!)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

September Hits and Hell Noes

September turned out to be a hectic month, what with finally having major projects do for school, the chaos that resulted from by Colorado trip, and the death of our oldest dog. So I don't really have much of anything to show for the month because I very rarely wore makeup in Colorado, and I haven't worn a stitch since returning home. When I did wear makeup while traveling, I was happy to have two of my September faves on hand. I can't be without them now! Here we go, the good and the very, very bad. 

Givenchy Eclat Matissime*: This stuff is brilliant. Being ultra-pale, I've struggled with finding foundations that are a.) light enough for me, b.) don't make me oily throughout the day, and c.) don't break me out. Thanks to my friend Amanda, I've discovered this, which ticks all three boxes. The shade porcelain is perfect for my coloring. It has a faint yellow tinge that counters the redness in my face without looking like a mask. Best of all, it's a matte finish, so I don't end up shiny an hour later. I still need to powder after a few hours, but that's the story of my life. Best of all? No breakouts from the makeup!

Ole Henriksen African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser: After the sample-size cleanser I brought along with me to Boulder turned my skin into a sore, blotchy, pimply mess, I dashed into Sephora and snagged this from the bargain bin near the checkout. I don't usually go for foaming cleansers since they're usually too drying and cause my skin to rebound by becoming oiler, but this is formulated with fruit oils and cleanses gently without stripping the skin. Within two days of using this, my skin was less sore, less red, and the blemishes were healing.

Nude ProGenius Treatment Oil*: Another tiny sample I got from Sephora ages ago, this little bottle was a lifesaver when my poor, abused skin was crying in pain. I used this day and night to help it heal, and between this and my Henriksen cleanser, my skin recovered. I may pop for the full size when my Advanced Night Repair is empty.

Dior Diorshow Fusion Mono Eyeshadow: I keep hearing about how wonderful these are, and when the gal in Sephora remarked that the shade Hypnotique made for the easiest, longest lasting smokey eye ever, I grabbed the last one. It literally takes twenty seconds to do my eye makeup with this stuff. It comes with an adorable sponge applicator, but I just use my finger. It does crease after about eight hours, but it does so in a way that looks deliberately messy. I love these! The problem? Now I want them all, and they're pricey.

Philosophy Purity One-Step Facial Cleanser*: I have encountered Satan in a bottle, and it is this cleanser. Purity? Pure evil, maybe. I used this the first night on the road, loved the smell, and decided I'd ignore the squeaky-clean feeling it left behind. "I'll just use more treatment oil," I said. The next day, I had red patches on my nose and five new bumps. "It's the stress of travel," I thought. I continued to use this cleanser the first few nights in Boulder, and with each use, my skin felt worse. It was the cleanser. I hate to throw anything out, so I've repurposed it as shower gel. It smells nice and does the job. It does not belong on anyone's face. 

In other news, I've become obsessed with Instagram, so click the little icon on the righthand side of the blog if you haven't already. :)

Friday, September 27, 2013


My plan to post about my vacation was derailed, and for good reason. 

I was visiting the baby of the family (does anyone else with younger siblings call them "babies" still?) in Boulder.

This is the backside of an apartment complex in Boulder, Colorado, after a four-day deluge of a total of nearly fifteen inches of water bombarded the populous college town. First-floor residents lost everything to the rising waters that lapped onto the second story landing but thankfully never rose any higher. Neighboring areas fared even worse. 

For those who haven't been watching the news (or live in another country where there hasn't been any coverage), here's what happened: Rains began to fall heavily on September 9th and continued to do so through the next day. Worse, the pressure centered over the Great Basin, trapped there by atmospheric pressure from the Pacific Ocean that rolled in off western Mexico into the northern parts of Colorado. Coupled with the winds, it was prime territory for more rain. 

As of now, eight people have been confirmed dead, roughly 1,500 homes destroyed, and 18,000 more damaged. While everyone is thankful the damage wasn't worse, there is still much to be done to return affected areas to their former state. To help, please donate to one of the following:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gone, Baby, Gone (Empties #1)

I've been hoarding trash. It sounds completely absurd, and it is, but there you have it. I've been hoarding trash in order to show off the things I liked well enough to finish off. Some of them are itsy-bitsy little samples, so finishing them wasn't hard. However, if I hate something or have problems with an ingredient, it goes far, far away from me. These are things that stood the test of time. 

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment: I received two of these, one clear, the other tinted, as a free gift from Sephora ages ago. I honestly have no idea when, that's how long ago. The clear balm was the first to go, and the tinted one is on its last leg since it's currently my daily "lipstick." This thing was amazing. The smell is lemony-sweet, it has a decent, hard-to-describe flavor, and they moisturize wonderfully. The only problem is that the full size isn't much bigger than this tiny tube, and it costs $22.50. Sit back and read that again: $22.50. For a lip balm. No matter how much I love it, I won't be purchasing the full size when my Nivea one does the same thing. 

Ren Micro Polish Cleanser: This came in a sample set of Ren's best-selling products. As someone who has sensitive skin, I was a little apprehensive about trying it. I do exfoliate at least once a week, but a "polish" cleanser sounded like it might be a little harsh. This was a dream to use. The tiny granules weren't sharp or scratchy, but I could tell it got the job done because my skin looked brighter and had fewer blackheads (eugh, I know, but we all get them!) after each use. I will definitely be nabbing one of these for my weekly exfoliator as soon as I finish up the St. Ives scrub I have going. 

L'Occitane Shampoo with 3 Essential Oils: Oh, my God, this shampoo smelled divine. You know the smell of freshly baked cookies? It had a note of that, probably from almond oil. I was sad to see this sample go because of the smell, but it honestly didn't do much for my hair. It didn't damage it -- I was a bit concerned because it has SLS -- but it didn't do anything. I won't buy it, but I may explore my local L'Occitane to see if they have any bath products that smell similar. 

Sarah McNamara Miracle Skin Transformer: Some use it as a primer. I used it as a tinted moisturizer after my sunscreen, because SPF 20 ain't gonna cut it for my vampiric complexion. It was pretty damn good as a tinted moisturizer, but what I loved most was that it kept me relatively shine-free right up until its final few dollops in mid-July. Then again, by July, nothing can keep my skin matte except for maybe smearing Milk of Magnesia on there. (Hey, it's a thing. People do this. I'm just too lazy!)

Suave Naturals Creamy Milk & Honey Splash Body Wash: So, yeah, this is what I was hoping to find when I tried the Vile Dial that landed on my last Hell Noes. It's cheap, it moisturizes, and it smells like creme brûlée. What more can you ask for in a drugstore body wash? I'll buy this again once my coconut-scented one runs out.

Simple Radiance Cleansing Wipes: Everyone has been raving about Simple in the blogosphere, so I decided I'd give something of theirs a try. Me gusta! They removed everything from my sunscreen to my waterproof mascara without stinging, making my eyes burn, or causing any breakouts. I liked them so much I ran out and grabbed a Simple starter kit to see how I get on with the rest of their products. I will be thrilled if I can find a range of cheap products that actually work for me. 

Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes with White Tea Extract: Great for refreshing the face. Not so great for removing makeup. Or, you know, going anywhere near your eyes. At all. Ever. No lie, these stung my eyes like a mofo, but they're wonderful for wiping sunscreen off the neck and décolletage. Still wouldn't get them again. 

Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Face Cleanser: More commonly known as (cue Smeagol voice) "the precious." I've gone through three bottles of this, and I always go back to it. Or I would if I could find the damn stuff. Sephora no longer has it in store or on their website. Ditto for Beauty.com and Nordstrom. This is literally the best cleaner I have ever used, but while it's so difficult to get my hands on, I'm taking the opportunity to try new things. Any suggestions?

Phyto Phytojoba Shampoo: This is another old Sephora gift. It's designed for dry hair, which I have (thank you, nasty grays and the dye I use to mask them), and it worked extremely well. I wouldn't go so far as to spring for the full-sized bottle when Phyto's prices and the performance of cheaper shampoos I've found act as a deterrent, but I like it well enough that I would jump for joy if I ever got it as a gift. 

Benefit They're Real! Mascara: Quite possibly the best mascara ever. It's not a waterproof formulation, but it stayed on, most notably, through my Star Trek Into Darkness cry-fest. (Shut up. Don't talk to me if you didn't cry!) It volumizes, lengthens, and is one of the blackest blacks I've found. The only reason I haven't rushed out to buy a new one is because it dries up in the blink of an eye. Why, Benefit? 

Ren Bio-Retinoid Anti-Aging Concentrate: Yet another sample from their best-of kit, and yet another product I'm going to have to buy one day. This was hydrating enough that I didn't need a moisturizer after using it. I'm not sure whether my skin was just dehydrated or if it's that powerful, but within a week of using it, I noticed the fine lines on my forehead had all but vanished. Brilliant.

VO5 Total Hair Recovery Advanced Hair Treatment: This stuff has been in and out of my life since I can remember actively having a hair regimen that involved more than shampoo and conditioner. I always come back to it when my hair is feeling brittle or over-processed, and it always does the trick. Best of all? It's cheap. It works, it's widely available, and it's cheap. I can overlook the generic packaging, no problem. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

August Hits and Hell Noes

Since I've started blogging, I've tried to start my existing monthly favorites on a high note. Alas, August has, quite sadly, been a bad month for me in the realm of beauty and skincare. I typically research everything before trying it, but I suffered from a case of "ooh, new and shiny! I should try it!" Big mistake. Lesson learned. And then there was another epic fail from (I thought) an unlikely source. Doesn't it suck when products you love betray you? Without further adieu, let's crack on with the Hell Noes first so I can at least end the month on a positive note.

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum: Now, I don't have deep wrinkles, but I've had a lot of sun damage from failed teenage attempts at tanning and nonexistent sunscreen use until my twenties, so I'm trying to prevent the damage from creeping up on me. I've used RoC's products in the past and was just finishing up a sample of a Ren retinol serum, so I decided to try it. It smelled lovely, which should have been my first warning, and it stung very minimally for a retinol serum. The next morning, I was absolutely covered in cystic acne, the skin around my nose had peeled, and my face itched like crazy. I hate wasting money, but I wouldn't wish that violent a reaction on anyone, so the bottle immediately went into the trash. Never again. 

L'Oréal Infallible Eyeshadow in Sultry Smoke: The Infallible line is designed to be long-wearing, and I'd heard they were a good dupe for the much-blogged-about Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill range. I applied my normal Milani primer, let it set, put on my new eyeshadow, applauded myself on creating the perfect smokey eye in two minutes, and went to lunch with my mom and uncle. We'd been out for maybe an hour when I popped into the bathroom to see… nothing but a few faint, gray smudges in the creases of my eyes. In an hour, the eyeshadow had literally vanished. I don't know if that shade is wonky or if it's the whole range, but I don't plan to waste my money finding out.

Dial Yogurt Vanilla Honey Nourishing Body Wash: I'd just finished off a Suave Naturals in Milk and Honey and couldn't find it again, so I shrugged, figured this couldn't be vastly different, and came home. Wrong. You know the smell of Dial liquid hand soap? This smelled exactly like that tinged with sour milk and man-sweat. And I don't mean the guys who somehow smell absurdly good after a five hour run. I mean nasty, "go bathe or I will hose you in the back yard like a smelly dog" sweat. Even if I could overlook the smell, it left a strange film on my skin after the shower that was the opposite of nourishing. I'm not a shower-in-three-minutes gal, either, so I know I washed it off. Hell no, Dial. Just… Hell no. 

Revlon Photoready BB Cream: Yes, you read that right. The very product I raved about last month is on my Do Not Want list. When I first purchased it, I was having a dry skin phase due to prolonged illness and sleep deprivation. Now that my skin's gone back to being oily, this stuff breaks me out like a bitch. After my RoC incident, I attributed the pimples to a prolonged reaction, but I used it the first of August and was still breaking out the twenty-first (the last day I used the BB cream.) Since I've stopped using it, despite having my… ahem… monthly visitor, my skin has cleared up considerably, and that's the only change I've made to my makeup and skincare routine. Dry-skinned ladies, you will love this stuff, but if your skin is remotely oily, no bueno. 

And now for the products I did like. I swear I'm not totally negative!

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo: This is the stuff I used to combat my monster break-outs. I've almost finished the tube up, and I'm definitely going to be buying it again. It's something of a cult product, so doing a full review on it is pointless by now. The gist of it is that it's a combination of benzoyl peroxide to treat acne and LHA to gently exfoliate the skin. Its hype is well-deserved. This product helps when nothing else will.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair: I use this every single night without fail. It helps clear up those pesky red spots zits leave behind in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of months, and it improves general clarity of the skin. It's expensive as all Hell, yes, but because you literally use a pea-sized amount for your entire face, it lasts forever. I've had mine for six months and have only gotten through a quarter of the smallest size they offer, so it's good value for money. 

Nivea Olive Oil and Lemon Balm: I ran out of my Fresh lip balm sample and, even though I loved it, I wasn't prepared to drop that much money on a lip balm, so I grabbed this little guy at CVS. It's amazing. Olive oil is one of the most brilliant things ever. I keep it in my nightstand drawer and slather it on before bed, and my lips are still hydrated when I wake up.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MWA Gets Intimate

…No, not that way. About a week ago, I was invited to join an online forum for the lingerie brand Intimacy. The premise is simple but fascinating: a panel of women will be sent in-store as mystery shoppers as well as communicate with the lingerie Powers That Be about our experiences both with Intimacy and our general bra needs. 

I'll be upfront now; we will be receiving a complimentary lingerie set as well as coupons. That means freebies. What it doesn't mean? Dishonesty. If I think the quality of something is crap, I will say so. If I go into the store, and they're rude to me, everyone will hear about it. It's sad that I have to put up such a disclaimer, but I received a very nasty e-mail from one of my painfully few readers complaining that bloggers need to only discuss products they pay for themselves. I disagree. I think when something is sent for consideration, it's considered and, if the blogger is honest, reviewed with an unbiased, open mind. 

That bit of nastiness out of the way, more about Intimacy for those who are scratching their heads. They're not the most recognizable name in the industry, a title held by Victoria's Secret, but their reputation is growing. With locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, and New York (just to name a few), their claim to fame is fit. 

You can pop into a store for a professional fitting, or if you know you're going to be traveling near an Intimacy location at a certain date, you can even make a reservation online. Why am I babbling about this? 

Because fit is everything. Last year I lost a few pounds, dropping from my usual size 6 to a 4, and realized none of my bras fit properly. Annoyed, I measured myself, used an online calculator, and then ducked into Nordstrom's lingerie section for a second opinion. My math was right. I don't wear a 38C anymore; I wear a 36B. 

I learned about Intimacy later and have since spent a few hours drooling over their online wares in addition to the occasional in-store grab-and-go shopping spree. (You know the ones, where you tell yourself if you're running really, really fast, the shopping doesn't count.) I have had positive experiences in the past, but things can change, so I'll try to keep a completely open mind as if I were a new shopper. I'll be updating on the project sporadically and always, always with total honesty.

I'll be back soon with August's Hits and Hell Noes. (Sadly? More Hell Noes this time than Hits.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Battle #1: Mattifying Powders

In your left corner, you have Rimmel's Stay Matte Powder in Translucent. Raved about by bloggers and vloggers alike, this contender is widely available and wallet-friendly. It claims to keep skin (with or without makeup) shine-free for five hours. While it claims to be translucent, it has a very slight amount of color to the powder, but it offers no real coverage.

In your right corner, the new kid in town, Urban Decay's De-Slick Mattifying Powder. It comes in in solid packaging with a hefty price tag to match. Saleswomen at both my local Ulta and Sephora stores claim it's the best of the very best when it comes to keeping the skin matte. It has a faint purplish-white color that doesn't translate to the skin.

Round One: Fight! (Yes, I ripped off Mortal Kombat. Kudos if you caught the reference right away.)

I checked my local forecast to ensure I was going to be testing the two on days with almost-identical conditions, and then I went to work. My dewiest foundation is my Revlon BB Cream, which I usually have to blot within an hour to keep from looking shiny (this is my only complaint about the product), so I decided it would put both products to the test in the best way. I applied the BB cream as usual, gave it a few minutes to sink in, and dusted my face with Rimmel's Stay Matte. Instant matte finish. I was pleased. 

The first hour rolled around. No shine. Hour two, nothing. By the third hour, I noticed a sheen on my forehead and down the center of my nose where I get oiliest. Did it keep me shine-free for five hours? No, but it bought me an extra two hours, and when the shine did come through, it looked more glowy and less greasy. I'll try it with my other foundations to see how I get on with it, but all things considered, I'd give it a 7 out of 10. 

Round Two: Fight!

On Friday, it was Revlon BB Cream vs. Urban Decay De-Slick. Aside from a few eyeliners I adore and an eyeshadow primer I loathed and threw out, I don't actually own many UD products, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I slapped on my BB cream and powdered my face, and then in the rush of grocery shopping, doing laundry, feeding animals, work, and a massive migraine, I forgot to check my makeup. 

Imagine my surprise when I went to the mirror five hours after applying my makeup and found only the tiniest bit of shimmer on my nose and cheekbones. It looked like I'd applied highlighter instead of like I had oily skin. Urban Decay's powder gets a solid 10 out of 10 from me, and I will definitely be looking into more of their products. They seem a bit pricy initially -- $32 for a powder, really? -- but you pay for quality, and that's exactly what they provide.

In other news, I managed to annoy into submission convince my friend Trista to get a blog, so check her out!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hits & Hell Noes (July Favorites)

Once upon a time, I had a goal of making two blog posts a week. That… never happened. July shaped up to be a stupendously busy month, hence taking so very long to post anything at all. Oh, well. It happens, right? I do have a few other posts already half-written, so hopefully I can set a more attainable goal of one post a week and stick to it. Anyway, on with the show. Here's what I've loved (and hated) in July. 


1.) Chanel Les 4 Ombres in Mystic Eyes.* I received this as a gift from a friend, opened it up, thought it was pretty, and… never used it. I recently unearthed it in my makeup drawer and thought, "Hey, I should try this!" And it's awesome. They're all shimmery shades, which might be off-putting to some, but the glitter is so finely milled that it doesn't make the eyelids look like disco balls. I especially love the champagne and bronze shades. They're easy, go with everything, and last well thanks in part to my next favorite.

2.) Milani Eyeshadow Primer. I've tried Urban Decay's Primer Potion, Too Faced's Shadow Insurance, and Benefit's Stay Don't Stray. Because I have slightly hooded eyes, they just don't work. Imagine my surprise when a little tube of six dollar primer from Walmart kept my shadow on for over eight hours with only the very first hints of creasing in sight. In the summer. That's impressive. 

3.) Lancôme Hypnose Star Mascara. I received this sample free when I ordered a pair of shoes from Nordstrom, tossed it in my makeup bag, and sort of forgot about it until a day I was rushed and had to leave the house sans makeup. I fished this little tube out, slapped it on, and I really, really liked it. I have short, straight lashes, and this formula -- or maybe it's the brush -- curls them and makes them look much longer than they actually are. Even better: my mascara lasted all day in 102 degree weather with nary a smudge in sight. I'm definitely going to buy a full version of this when I use the sample up.

4.) Blistex Deep Renewal Lip Balm. I have perpetually dry lips all year-round, so I try a lot of different lip balms. Some of them are awful, some of them are pretty good, and then there are the rare few I rave about. This is one of the latter. It smells amazing, tastes yummy, has SPF 15, and actually moisturizes the lips. I recommend it to everyone.

5.) Neutrogena Age Shield Face Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 110. Yes, you read that correctly. SPF 110. I'm so pale I've managed to get sunburned through a car windshield, something that's supposed to be impossible, so I don't play around with sunscreen anymore. I slather this on without fail before leaving the house, and I haven't burned since. It does go on a little chalky, but it blends in after about five minutes. I recommend waiting at least ten minutes to apply any foundation since the product can pill up a little, but otherwise, I have no complaints. No sunburn, no breakouts, no problem. Well done, Neutrogena. 

6.) Revlon Photoready BB Cream.* Ah, BB creams. Everybody and their mother owns at least one. Being of the sensitive-oily skinned variety, I typically approach BB creams with all the caution of a hunter stalking a man-eating lion in the wilds. I worry they could make me greasy, and then there's my usual problem -- the color range. When you are so deathly pale that cinematic vampires look dark compared to you, finding a drugstore color match is unheard of. Then, after complaining directly to Revlon about their lacking foundation range, I received this guy. I was dubious, but the shade matches my pasty skin, and it has SPF 30. My only complaint is that I do have to touch up with powder after a few hours, but that's so normal for me that I won't stop using it over something that trivial.

7.) Givenchy Pi Cologne.* This was actually a gift from Tristan several years ago. I know what you're thinking. "Cologne is for guys!" Go and smell this one; I beg to differ. Pi is for everyone. The notes are Mandarin, pine needles, rosemary, guaiac wood, and benzoin (for those of you who didn't look them up on Fragrantica when I started blathering on about a man's fragrance), and it smells like a bottled summer evening in the woods. It's green, but there's a rich note to it that smells warm. Just go sniff it. Your nose will thank you. Your wallet may not.

8.) MAC Patisserie. As you can see from the tiny nub I have left in the tube, Patisserie is one of my all-time favorite lipsticks. It's a brownie-pink that goes on sheer and adds a hint of sheen rather than color. It's perfect for those hot summer days when not even die-hard red lipstick lovers like me are brave enough to run the risk of having our lippy trickle down our chins once the temperature rises over 100.

Hell Noes (Not pictured because I already threw them away. Far, far away.)

1.) Maybelline Expert Eyes Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover. I typically wear waterproof mascara, so I purchased the type that's supposed to remove waterproof mascara. I can't vouch for the regular formula, but this stuff is vile. It left a greasy film around my eyes and in my lashes. And? It didn't remove the mascara. Not one smudge of it came off. Buying budget-friendly eye makeup remover seems like such a good idea until you realize that you've chucked out the last five cheapies you've bought. Just give me the damn Lancôme Bi-Facil; at least I know it works. 

2.) Rimmel Max Volume Flash Mascara. I got this for free with my CVS points, so my only consolation is that I didn't pay for this atrocious thing. It claims to boost the volume of your lashes by a whopping fourteen times. I had to try it. My hands were itching to tear into the packaging. I tried it as soon as I got home, and all I could do was laugh. Seriously, Rimmel? What good is fourteen times the volume when the formula is so thick and gloopy that it causes your lashes to point downward like an arrow directing traffic into Hell? That's where this product went. Well, the landfill. Same thing. Hell no, Rimmel! Just... Hell no!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Chop + Algenist Mini-Review

After eight years of having short hair, I succeeded in growing it two inches past my collarbone. It was in good condition despite my obsessive coloring to cover my grays. The problem was that it simply wasn't me. As much as I love Duchess Catherine's long, glossy curls, they're prissy and high-maintenance in a way I'm not. So began the gradual rise and fall of my hair. 

I started with a lob (long bob to those who don't know the term), and I liked that. It was easy to maintain, and it looked fresher than my previous no-style style. Then the pink hair debacle occurred, which resulted in a shorter crop, documented back in March. It was super cute; I got lots of compliments on it, and it's still one of the best haircuts I've ever had. So cute, in fact, that when I returned to Salon Disegno to Martha's capable hands earlier this month, I was waffling between a simple trim and going for broke. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about women with short hair. They're sometimes perceived as being less feminine than women with long hair -- I was once rudely asked why I wanted "a butch cut" -- but I disagree. And I'm in good company. Halle Berry always goes back to her pixie. Winona Ryder had short hair throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, and then there's Audrey Hepburn. Need I say more?

In the end, with the phrase "go big or go home" in mind, I chopped it all off. (Okay, so Martha did. You wouldn't want to see the butchery I'd do to my own hair. Every Barbie I ever restyled had hair like Joan Jett.) With Gatsby-esque flapper styles in mind, Martha worked her magic and somehow created… me. I've been told by every member of my family -- and I agree -- that this is the most me haircut I've had. It's part Carey Mulligan-as-Daisy Buchanan and part Michelle Williams, and it's perfect. It's remarkably easy to style and cut with such precision that even the inevitable morning bedhead (think the unholy lovechild of Wolverine and Don King) can be easily combed into place.  

Martha is always brilliant at what she does, but she completely outdid herself this time. All the damage has been cut away, and if I ever decide I do want to grow it out, it will have a clean slate. I can't see that happening soon, though. The next time I pop in for a visit, I will be getting just a trim. 

Tada! There you have it, my adorable new crop and my… bright red, sunburned face, which brings me to my next topic. I was testing a sample of Algenist's Regenerative Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 20. With a retail value of $90 a jar, I had high hopes for the product. I'm diligent in my sunscreen use, so I know I applied it properly. In the amount of time it took for me to walk from the car to the salon and back out again, I burned. I was outside for a grand total of ten minutes, and the result equivalent to standing outside for an hour in my usual sunscreen.  I can buy eight tubes of Neutrogena SPF 110 sunblock for the cost of one jar of Algenist's failure. Thanks for the sample, but no thanks. Has anyone tried anything else in Algenist's range with success?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Save Your Cents

I normally conduct a great deal of research before I buy a product, so I'm fortunate in that I haven't used many things I didn't like let alone things that I absolutely loathed. 

But sometimes things slip in under the radar. 

1.) Take the Olay Moisture Replenishing Mousse Cleanser, for instance. I have combination/oily skin, but sometimes the products I use to combat my rosacea swing the pendulum in the direction of the Sahara and leave me flaky. I thought this Olay cleanser, which retails for the cheap and cheerful price of $7.99, would be the perfect solution. Olay is a reputable brand, and it promised to replenish lost moisture. What could possibly go wrong?

In sum? Everything

One use left my skin tight, flakier than before, and the next day I woke up with the skin of a hormonal high school freshman in the "before" segment of a Proactive commercial. Maybe it was a reaction to the mineral oil, one of the main ingredients. Learn from my mistake: save your $7.99 for a Simple cleanser if you're in need of a budget-friendly skincare item. 

2.) The next item on my list of "Things I Suspect Were Created By Satan" is actually the recipient of Allure magazine's prestigious Editor's Choice Award. Almay's Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads have been touted as being as gentle as water. The brand itself proclaims it's American's #1 brand for women with sensitive skin, and who doesn't want to believe the adorable Kate Hudson as she assures us the brand won't sting our eyes?

Let me tell you one thing about Kate Hudson: if she truly uses this product, she must have eyelids of steel or the pain tolerance of the incredible Hulk. My lids were hot pink and swollen after one swipe, and the pads didn't remove a trace of mascara for all the trouble they caused me. 

3.) And finally, please allow me to introduce you to the worst shampoo I have ever tried in my life. Meet Nexxus Color Assure Replenishing Color Care shampoo. Nexxus is a fairly upscale brand, so I was excited when I received this product to review. 

The bottle was innocuous, the scent inoffensive, and it felt like any garden variety shampoo in terms of lather and rinsing the product from my hair. Once my hair was dry, however, disaster struck. As always, I permitted my hair to air-dry, and I'm glad I did because my ends were so dry and brittle I thought they would snap off. Meanwhile, my roots were a hot, greasy mess. The first ingredient is SLS, which accounts for the dryness. The 50's greaser look taking place at the roots, however, remains a mystery. 

Long story short: products with 4.7 out of 5 stars may not work for you. Allure, the world renown beauty magazine, sometimes misses its mark in a big way, and sometimes it's better to wash your hair with a $7 sulfate-free shampoo than to buy a name brand. 

What are your most hated products everyone else seems to love?

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Hairy Situation + Blog Recs

Thanks to midterms, moving, and a rather nasty, recurring stomach bug, I've been MIA lately. I'm back now and have so many posts in the works that I may lose the few readers I have!

A few years ago, I, like many women, was once sucked into the trap of thinking blondes have more fun. My goal: pale, Cate Blanchett beige. What I achieved: brassy banana. The ends of my hair felt like straw, and the color was heinous. After a frantic search for help, I found myself at Salon Disegno in the capable hands of Kat and Martha. I entered the salon with frazzled, too-light hair and left with a punky, deep red cut. (I lost the picture in a catastrophic hard drive crash, or I'd show it off, too!)  

Flash forward a few years. My hair's been growing out, and it's healthy (due in no small part to Martha's continued expertise) when disaster strikes. I've vented about the Attack of the Pink Hair before, and anyone who has ever bleached their hair knows the havoc it wreaks. Adding insult to injury, I began to suffer from dermatitis, which required the use of harsh, tar-based shampoo to clear up my scalp. 

I think everyone knows where this is going. 

For my birthday, I decided to treat myself -- and my hair -- to a fresh start. As usual, I went in with no real idea of what I wanted. That's usually a disaster and can lead to unhappiness, but that's how much I trust the staff. I went in with shaggy, unhealthy ends and left with a cute, somewhat edgy asymmetrical cut that's much more me than long layers. 

The salon itself is elegant and modern without feeling cold. Orange (my favorite color), is the main accent, so I could be biased in saying it's one of the cutest salons I've ever set foot in. If you find yourself in the Lawrenceville, Georgia area, I suggest you check them out.

Below is an example of Martha's awesome work, as modeled by me (the paler of the two redheads.) Never let it be said that I lack courage; that is quite possibly the most awkward picture of me ever taken! But my hair looks great, and that's the entire point of the post!

If sarcasm is your favored parlance, take a gander at my unofficially adopted sister's blog, Quillimanjaro, which is geared toward writers, avid readers, and anyone with an appreciation for the written word. I'll warn you in advance not to drink anything when you go to read her blog, or you may end up wearing it. (You're welcome.)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drill, Baby, Drill! (Oily Skin and You)

I've heard from numerous gals lately who all have the same problem: they have that fresh-from-the-gym  shine when the most physically exerting thing they've done all day is get out of bed and wash their face. The problem? More often than not, the root cause of oily skin is... the skin is being stripped of oil.

This sounds counterintuitive, but according to an interview InStyle magazine conducted with dermatologists Jeannette Graf and Anne Chapas, "like attracts like. A cleansing oil adheres to the sebum deep inside pores, so both end up getting rinsed away with water."

Also recommended for those suffering from acne (or anyone who worries about fine lines): retinol. Dr. Chapas says, "Not only does retinol exfoliate and unclog pores, but retinoic acid actually binds to the sebaceous glands and limits their production of oil."

Shu Uemura makes some of the best cleansing oils on the market. At $31 a bottle, they aren't the cheapest product available, but I prefer to think of it in terms of bang for your buck. Because the oils emulsify on the skin, a little goes a long way, but Nip + Fab makes a similar product for around $11.

I use Origins Mega Mushroom Calming Cleanser ($28.50), which is rich in oils, RoC retinol (around $15), and CeraVe moisturizer ($13), and I've seen a dramatic improvement in my skin's texture, clarity, and oil production. Because winter weather does dry the skin, I recommend using a richer night cream or raiding your pantry. When nothing else stops my skin from peeling, olive oil works wonders.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

L'Oréal: Because You're... Pink-Haired?! (Updated!)

Hey, all! My goal of blogging twice a week got sidelined by the start of the spring semester. Now that I'm back in the swing of things, I've returned with a review of a product I did not get along with at all: L'Oréal's Superior Preference in 6R Light Auburn.

As I mentioned in my intro post, I have very prematurely graying hair -- it started turning silver when I was in 5th grade -- so I dye my hair. What I wanted? Rich, cinnamony auburn. What I got? Dark, blotchy, pinkish red. (Pictures will be up when I can shoot in daylight.)

It's horrific. I don't understand if the dye itself was bad, but I also noticed as it developed on my hair, the scent was much stronger than normal and made my eyes burn despite the bathroom door being wide open and the fan running. I use L'Oréal religiously and have used this exact color before with beautiful results, but it's put me off.

Recommendations, anyone?

As promised, here is the color my hair turned, photographed in natural light streaming in through my window. As you can see, it adds a lovely pink glow to everything it touches. It's actually not a terrible color, but it's not at all what I was going for. I want my hair to look like I don't color it, not like I have pinkish-red hair. Below the pinky one is a photo of how my hair looks in artificial, incandescent lighting. See, it matches my eyebrow! That is what I was going for. Alas, my hair doesn't look like that in natural light or under the harsh glow of fluorescents.

However, all was not lost! I spoke with someone from L'Oréal's tip line, and they were incredibly helpful and sweet, so the brand still earns major brownie points from me.