Monday, November 29, 2010

Mom Knows Best: Top Anti-Aging Tips!

If you're anything like me, you're probably taking one of your biggest sources for makeup and skincare advice completely for granted.  For years I dismissed her advice, not on purpose, but because really, who pays attention to that sort of thing till they're twenty-something?  Now I'm discovering that my mom knew what she was talking about all along.  She knows more about makeup and skincare than I do, knows which products work and which don't, andddd (drumroll, please!)...knows how to prevent signs of aging and has the wrinkle-free skin to prove it (whereas I'm two months away from twenty-three and can already detect the beginnings of fine lines plus a scarily deep forehead wrinkle).  I definitely need some preventative action.

I sat down with my mom this weekend and actually listened to her best anti-aging tips.  Now I get to pass them on to you!

Sun Protection
Her first suggestion is the easiest and the most important: stay out of the sun.  We've all heard a million times about the dangers of tanning and sun exposure, but listen up because they are 100% true.  Avoid the sun whenever possible and especially try to avoid it between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, when the sun's rays are most direct and intense.  Yes, even in winter.  This also goes for tanning beds.  Just don't.  Buy a bronzer and get some good self tanner if you can't stand being pale. 

Whenever you do need to venture outside, always always always apply sunscreen that's at least SPF 30.  A lot of foundations contain SPF 15 these days, so chances are you're halfway there already!  I'm extremely careful about which sunscreens I apply to my face; I honestly never found a traditional cream formula that I really liked.  Then I heard about Peter Thomas Roth's Instant Mineral SPF and became instantly hooked.  It's a mineral powder sunscreen that you simply brush on!  No messy cream, no annoying reactions with your makeup, just a quick wave of the brush and you're instantly protected from UV rays!  Best product ever.

Another essential product to prevent signs of aging is a moisturizer.  Skin needs to be hydrated, especially if you have dry skin, but also if your skin is oily, too.  Surprised?  So was I.  Turns out, all skin types need a moisturizer.  There are about a gazillion brands and types available, so choosing what's best for your skin can definitely be intimidating.  One of the most popular moisturizers that works for all skin types is Philosophy's Hope in a Jar.  It feels thick and luxurious, but still remains lightweight.  Friends of mine who struggle with acne and dry skin alike all seem to agree that this is one of the best moisturizers out there.  If you'd rather have a drugstore option, Aveeno's Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer is pretty decent and probably your best bet.  Plus, it's SPF 30!

This is where it gets intense, with treatments specifically designed to prevent wrinkles and target those that already exist.  My mom is most impressed with Dr. Denese's Advanced Firming Facial Pads.  You wash your face, then use one of these miracle pads before applying your moisturizer.  They contain enzymes to exfoliate, smooth out fine lines, and even shrink pores, leaving you with younger looking skin and preventing future wrinkles. 

Triple Strength Wrinkle Smoother also by Dr. Denese provides a more concentrated approach to solving and preventing wrinkles; you just apply the cream where you need it most.  For me, this is definitely my forehead.  When I use this product, I can almost feel my skin tightening.  It's serious stuff, but not at all harsh for even the most sensitive skin.

Perhaps most important treatment of all is a great eye cream.  Again, Philosophy makes the best with their Hope in a Tube.  It's useful for both eyes and lips and is specially formulated to target fine lines in these particular areas.  Also, when applying any sort of product around your eyes, make sure to use your ring finger.  This also prevents unnecessary tugging and wrinkling on the extra sensitive thin skin around your eyes.            

In short:
To treat and prevent wrinkles in your twenties, the best things you can do are: stay out of the sun as much as possible, wear sunscreen, invest in a great moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated, and start using an intense eye cream.  Even if you aren't concerned with wrinkles at the moment, it's still a good idea to take preventative steps.  Baking in the sun or the tanning bed definitely won't do your skin any favors and moisturizing simply makes your skin look better at any age.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mascara Review! Sephora's Advanced Lash Booster

Is it my imagination or have my eyelashes gotten longer?  This Advanced Lash Booster mascara from Sephora's eponymous house line of cosmetics contains a special lash growing serum right along with the mascara formula.  I've previously blogged about trying out a commercial eyelash growing serum here, but unfortunately that went as I expected and I've been using it, um, intermittently at best.  But an eyelash growing serum contained in a product I'm going to use on a daily basis anyway?   Genuis! 

I've been using Advanced Lash Booster almost a month now, and while I can't tell yet if my eyelashes have actually grown, this mascara certainly makes them look longer.  The formula lengthens, curls, and never, ever clumps.  It's pretty similar to Sephora's Atomic Lash but with a little less curl and tremendously more length.  I can't decide which I love more.  But these Sephora mascaras are, without a doubt, the best I've ever purchased.  You can't go wrong with either.

This lash growing serum within a mascara concept mostly got me wondering about other cosmetics that serve a dual purpose.  For example, I see different foundation formulas offering up anti-aging properties and acne fighting components.  Do these actually work?  I can't imagine that an anti-aging foundation could replace intense retinol and vitamin creams, but it couldn't hurt, right?  I'm definitely intrigued.

What sort of dual purpose products have you tried?  What have been your experiences?       

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revlon's Fire and Ice Lipstick (plus vintage advertisements!)

If you've been following this blog, it's obvious I'm a mascara junkie.  However, I haven't really written much about my other cosmetic obsession: red lipstick!  I've learned most red shades suit my skintone, so I can generally just grab a random red lipstick off the shelf at Target and be good to go.  Which is exactly what I did this afternoon when I spotted Revlon's classic Fire and Ice lipstick repackaged in a lovely vintage inspired tube.  It's gorgeous!  

This color is legendary and universally flattering.  It was first distributed in 1952 and has been popular ever since.  I frequently hear women complain they can't pull off red lipstick, but Fire and Ice looks good on nearly every skintone.  It was even a favorite of the late celebrity makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin.

The print advertisements for Fire and Ice were also groundbreaking.  They featured model Dorian Leigh with matching red lips and nails alongside a quiz: "Are You Made for Fire and Ice?" (Sample questions included "Do you secretly hope the next man you meet will be a psychiatrist?" and "Does gypsy music make you sad?")  Revlon is even attempting to recreate the ad featuring Jessica Biel.  Here's a comparison:

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any quiz this time around.  Oh well.  

Purchasing Fire and Ice instantly put me in mind of this 1960 Revlon TV ad for the brand new color Berry Bon Bon.   I cannot even begin convey the amazing-ness that is this commercial.  You'll have to watch for yourself.

Applying Fire and Ice didn't exactly leave me with "the excitement, the dazzle, the feeling of champagne!"  But it was enough to cheer me up a little after a difficult day.  Seeing this glamourous set of lipsticks right alongside matching nail polishes definitely made me happy. 

What do you think?  Do you love red lipstick (and the vintage advertisements!) as much as I do?  Are you afraid you can't pull off red?  Have you ever wanted to wear an ankle bracelet?! (Another pressing quiz question from the 1952 ad!)              

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter Complaint: Chapped Lips

It's that time of year again!  Seasonal changes can cause major shake-ups in your skin and hair routines.  Winter weather hits and suddenly your skin is dry and flaky, your hair is a static-ky mess, and your lips are chapped and painful.  But don't fret!  Getting rid of chapped lips easy! 

Take note: the information provided here is for mild occurrences only.  If your chapped lips are severe and/or chronic, you might want to seek a physician's advice.  There are prescription treatments available and it could be indicative of something more serious than a winter annoyance.

First, exfoliation helps tremendously.  Dampen the edge of a washcloth and rub it over your lips until they're smooth.  This gets rid of the dry flaky skin less painfully and way more effectively than biting your lips (yeah, we're all guilty of it sometimes).

After you've exfoliated, apply a thick layer of one of Philosophy's super moisturizing Lip Shines before bed and leave it on overnight.  I swear, you'll wake up with brand new lips.  This is a whole level up from the likes of Chapstick and Carmex.  They come in about a million delicious flavors (I'm partial to Red Velvet Cake) and release new flavors pretty frequently.  And since they've dropped in price, they're now only ten dollars!  I've tried other products but always go back to this one to treat my chapped lips.  It really works.

Now that your lips are no longer chapped, the final step is prevention.  You could keep using your Philosophy Lip Shine, but I personally can't stand that kind of thick lip gloss texture during the day so I prefer to use lip balm.  This is when classic cherry Chapstick comes in handy.  Burt's Bees is also extremely popular.  Whatever lip balm you like, the key is to choose one that is moisturizing and sun protecting.  Lips are more susceptible to sunburns so try to pick a balm that contains SPF. 

Lip balms are everywhere and generally pretty cheap, so it's super easy to experiment.  This winter I'm trying out the Smooth Spheres line from eos.  The packaging is clever and fun, the application couldn't be more perfect, and it does a fantastic job of keeping my lips smooth and hydrated.  Plus, it's all natural, smells delicious, and is only three dollars!  Who could ask for more?  This company is genius.                        

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Never Look Tired Again!

In these busy times, sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice in order to get more things accomplished.  It's no big secret that one of the biggest give-aways that you're tired and not getting enough sleep is the appearance of your eyes.  But even if you're exhausted, there's no reason to look like it!  Here are some useful ways to appear more rested when you've had four hours of sleep (or less).

If your eyes are puffy, reach for an eye cream or serum that contains caffeine.  Caffeine naturally reduces swelling, which will make your eyes look wider, awake, and overall more rested.  I like Garnier's Nutritioniste Skin Renew Daily Eye Roller, seen at right.  As the name implies it works best when used daily, but I've also found it effective with more intermittent use.  You apply it with a roller ball to cool and soothe the thinner skin underneath your eyes; this alone leaves me feeling more awake and refreshed.  Store it in the refrigerator to get extra fast results.  The coldness will also work to reduce swelling.  

To reduce the appearance of dark circles, choose a primer or concealer that is brightening, or a product that reflects light.  Make Up For Ever and Urban Decay make great brightening primers, which can be applied over the dark circles first and increase the effectiveness of your concealer.  I think the best light reflecting concealer available is Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat.  It was specially developed to cover up dark undereye circles and goes on smoothly like a tinted moisturizer.  It's expensive, but lasts a long time and is SO worth it.  This product is magic.

Urban Decay makes a great more affordable concealer in a pencil format; it sounds odd, but the product goes on like a thick cream and dries matte.  Since it's a matte finish it won't reflect light, but it definitely covers up the dark circles and lasts throughout the day.  At a little more than $5, CoverGirl's Fresh Complexion Concealer is the best bargain.  It's a liquid formula that blends really well with your foundation.

If you want more than one concealing option, Benefit offers up the best variety of products in a neat little package with their Confessions of a Concealaholic palette.  It contains a brightening primer, other specially formulated eye brighteners, and a myriad of different concealers so you can experiment and determine what works best for you.

Another trick to looking more awake is to line your lower lashline and inner corner of your eye with a shimmery pale or white eyeliner.  Make sure to blend it well, though, otherwise it can look a bit unsettling.  The same shade can be applied on your brow bone, just beneath your eyebrows for extra brightening effects.  Again, it's most flattering if you blend it.  A stark white line is not the ideal here.  This technique can take a bit of practice, so I don't recommend it if you're running late and have never tried it before.

Finally, applying a shimmery neutral eyeshadow and curling your eyelashes can open your eyes even more.

Worried you won't have enough time for all this?  I swear, with practice it can take less than ten minutes to look awake and pulled together, even when you're exhausted.               

Monday, November 15, 2010


I’ve previously blogged about my desire to duplicate NARS’s rich purple Daphne eyeshadow and I finally figured out a decent copy that costs around $7! I combined CoverGirl’s single eyeshadow Purple Pop with the middle fuchsia shade in Rimmel’s Dark Angel palette. Purple Pop is more blue-based, while Dark Angel has more red pigments. Neither eyeshadow has as much of a matte finish as Daphne, but together the shade is pretty close, even if it's difficult to tell the colors in the picture below. 

The two looked good when I applied alternating layers on my eyelids, but I decided to see what happened when I crushed the solid powders and combined them together as loose powders. I’m not usually a fan of loose eyeshadow powders, but I wanted a way to apply both colors at once and save myself some time (switching back and forth between colors got old fast).

The verdict?  I really, truly hate loose eyeshadows.  There is purple pigment all over my room now.  Loose eyeshadow gets everywhere.  Fortunately, it's the perfect Daphne color!  I didn't expect this experiment to turn out so well!  Understand: I'm usually terrible at this sort of thing.  Even with projects as simple as crushing and combining eyeshadows.  But it was a success!  It looks way better than applying alternating colors.  I'm inspired now and want to mix more eyeshadows!  The possibilities are clearly endless.

Have you ever made your own shades?  What colors would you most want to duplicate?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DIY exfoliating face mask

After a few too many stressful weeks in a row, one of my girlfriends and I felt we desperately needed a night to chill out and relax.  We'd been talking about doing some DIY face masks since summer, and decided this would finally be the perfect time.  We chose a recipe from the wondrous Beauty Bets that simply mixed one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of orange juice. 

The baking soda is said to fight acne and exfoliate skin, while the acidic enzymes found in orange juice supposedly tighten pores and brighten your complexion.  I've previously written about some expensive exfoliators and why they're worth your money, but I've honestly never tried a homemade mask like this before and wanted to compare results.  I don't expect it to be as fabulous as ExfoliKate, but maybe this is decent enough to cut down my ExfoliKate usage to once a week?

The recipe made enough for the two of us, so we gathered around her bathroom mirror and each applied a thin layer over our faces.  It hardened and started to flake off after about fifteen minutes, so we rinsed it and inspected for results.

Immediate impression? My skin feels ridiculously smooth and clean.  My whole face feels tighter.  My friend is similarly pleased with how smooth her skin feels.  We're both waiting to see any differences in acne.  A word of caution, though: I'd only recommend using this at night before bed.  My cheeks turned a bright shade of pink, which does happen sometimes when I exfoliate too much.  I applied some moisturizer to calm my skin down a bit, and that seemed to work well.

Ultimately, I think the baking soda may have been a bit too harsh for my skin, so this isn't something I'd want to use on a regular basis.  Maybe next time I'd use less baking soda (I seem to recall us pouring in a lot more than a tablespoon to make the mixture less liquid...oops).  But it was fun to try and I was really impressed with how much it smoothed my skin.

What are your best DIY skincare recipes?  I'd love to hear them!  If you try this mask, let me know what you think of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Worthy Investment: Exfoliators

No matter what sort of products you apply to your skin, from foundation to anti-aging serums, it won't do a bit of good unless your face is exfoliated.  Simply washing your face isn't effective enough at removing the top layer of dead skin cells that settle on your face and dull your complexion.  I write a lot about cheap versions of products you can find at the drugstore, but exfoliators are one product on which I think it's okay to spend  extra money.  While these products are definitely an extravagance (and so far have pretty much been Christmas gifts from my generous mother), the results are truly incredible.  Until recently, exfoliating systems such as those discussed here have been available only at spas and your dermatologist's office.  So yes, these are pricey, but are even more expensive when done by an aesthetician.  Think of these as bargain versions of spa facials or microdermabrasions you can do in the privacy of your own home without the hassle of appointments and inconvenient business hours. 

The first exfoliating system I fell in love with was Clarisonic.  This incredible gadget was developed by the man responsible for Sonicare toothbrushes.  Clarisonic is a cleansing brush that rotates 300 times per second!  It deep cleans your skin, removes up to six times more makeup than washing your face alone, and reduces the appearance of pores.  I've been using mine about a year now, and I can definitely see a difference.  My skin is smoother, my pores look smaller, my foundation goes on better, and my skin has never felt cleaner.  It sounded gimmicky at first, but the hype is to be believed.


Another exfoliator I adore is Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate.  First, it smells AMAZING.  The scent is fruity and spicy and for some reason makes me think of Christmas (weird, I know).  ExfoliKate was developed by skincare expert Kate Somerville herself, and the results are purported to be exactly like getting a facial at her L.A. spa, but in less than a minute.  That's how long it takes for the fruit enzymes in this product to break down those dead skin cells and leave your skin looking polished and smooth.  ExfoliKate has improved my complexion possibly even more than Clarisonic.  I use it two or three times a week and leave it on for about a minute (sometimes two if I'm feeling really hardcore).  But therein lies the danger: don't be tempted to go all "more is more and therefore better!" with this stuff.  My mom left it on for about ten minutes and it took a couple of days for her sensitive skin to recover.  Seriously, about one minute is all you really need to get amazing results.  It's that powerful..       

What do you think about exfoliators?  Do these really seem worth the money to you?  What sort of extravagant beauty products are you willing to spend more money on?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lipstick Rescue!

The lipstick was brand new.  I'd purchased it for my Halloween costume (Joan from Mad Men- I needed lipstick that would flatter red hair!) and had been wearing it even after the party was over.  The color was also flattering for my blonde hair and subtle, perfect for days when my favorite red lipstick was just a little too much.  I wore it to a fundraising event where I volunteered and kept it tucked in the pocket of my jacket throughout the day.  A few hours later when I needed to reapply, I discovered my lipstick looked like this:

Nooo!  There is also lipstick gunked up inside the cap : (

What to do?!  I found this new kit from Sephora that can save the day!  It's an empty lipstick palette to fill with your own colors that comes with a tiny spoon and silicone cup.  You just scoop your messed-up lipstick into the silicone cup, follow microwaving instructions to melt the lipstick, and pour into one of eight wells in the palette!  This is also ridiculously useful for getting that last bit of lipstick out of the bottom of the tube so it doesn't go to waste, or for mixing and creating your own shades.  I can't wait to rescue my fallen lipstick and get the most of out my favorite Chanel red that's nearly gone.


What do you think about this innovation?  Is it genius and something you'd like to try?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Mascara! Review: Sephora's Atomic Volume

I got a gift bag from Sephora this week that included lovely trial samples of mascara, eyeshadow, and tinted moisturizer.  I've never actually used tinted moisturizer before, so I'm excited to try it out and give my skin a break from the Bare Minerals I wear daily.  The eyeshadow colors are Pink Beige and Swimming Pool, which are pretty self explanatory.  I'm not sure I can pull off the blue so much, but the beige is gorgeous and just the right mix between subtle and shimmery, which I really like for daytime.  But first, I couldn't resist trying my new mascara!

The first I sampled is Sephora's Atomic Volume.  The applicator boasts a sort of "brush within a brush";  both a brush side and a comb side to "create maximum volume and extend eyelashes from root to tips."  It promises to deliver these results in just one swipe!  At $15 a tube, it's about twice what you'd pay for a drugstore mascara.  Is it worth it?

Photo credit:

First impression: Oh my gosh.  This could be the mascara I've been looking for.  It may even be better than my beloved Rimmel Sexy Curves.  They were so right about the one swipe.  My lashes looked instantly longer.  There is absolutely no clumping to speak of.  My only gripe is that it doesn't really thicken my lashes; mascaras I typically use make it look as though I have a million eyelashes. While Atomic Volume doesn't seem to do this, it does lengthen the eyelashes I have like nothing else.  I'm truly impressed at the results I got from just one coat of mascara.  I curled my eyelashes after applying the mascara early this morning (which is a bad, bad thing to do, I'm a horrible example) and now, at 4:30 in the afternoon (nine hours later!), my eyelashes are still perfectly curled.  I even got a few compliments on how much longer my eyelashes looked.  This mascara is definitely a keeper. 
Next up to try is Sephora's Lash Extension mascara.  It's formulated with one of those lash growing serums I wrote about in my last post.  I love that the serum is in a product I use daily anyway; this is going to be way, way easier than remembering to apply RapidLash every night.  Expect a review soon!