Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway

Mountain Rose Herbs, my favorite hippie skincare and herb supplier is doing a very cool giveaway for the best herbal recipes of 2011. Check ’em out — not only do they have great ideas there and a killer prize, but these guys sell extremely high-quality, well-priced DIY skincare items. I use them to purchase all my butters and almost all of my oils, and they have some terrific tea blends too. Plus hardish to find items like Fuller’s Earth clay. Kicking myself for forgetting about an argan oil refill on my last order — ah well, at least I have an excuse to load up on some more fun stuff soon!

Cosmetics case MIA :(

I’ve been using the same Coach black leather makeup bag since like 2003, and I LOVED that thing. I got it for a decent price at the factory outlet, and it’s held up well and was the perfect size and dimensions to cram into even my smaller purses. I didn’t love how skinny items like pencils could slip out of the gap above the zipper closure, but it clearly wasn’t *that* destructive an issues since I’ve stuck by that same bag for so long. And now I have to bid it adieu!

I lost both it and an earring somewhere on Amazon’s campus Monday, and security found my earring but has no word on the makeup bag. It contained all my MOST IMPORTANT staples — mascara, concealer, *discontinued* lip balm, *also discontinued* mineral powder concealer, lip stain x2, my favorite comb, an adorable mini of Chanel No. 5 whose bottle I wanted to keep forever… sigh. But let’s focus on the positive — this means I have an excuse to upgrade and overhaul, right? Right!

For a couple years now I’ve been wanting a Stephanie Johnson cosmetics case. I spotted her stuff at a now-closed Bainbridge Island shi-shi spa/boutique, and I was in love because of the zipper pulls. No, seriously, take a close look: they’re two-tone and nicely woven, and the bag is elegantly piped, and — the details are just so clearly high quality. For several years now I’d been thinking I would splurge and get myself one of these, but I could never quite justify the purchase since I always receive so many crappy but free cases from various cosmetics promos.

No longer! Now I think I’m ready to take the plunge. (I will, however, wait until after Christmas just in case, since it’s totally on my list.) The Gidget case seems like a usefulness boost, too — the extra pockets might mean it’s harder to grab something in a hurry, but I think overall I’ll appreciate the ability to organize and perhaps hold a larger amount more efficiently. (God, is that Amazon talking? MUST… OPTIMIZE… LIFE…) Anyway. Gidget’s the bomb, it would seem. Here’s an inside view of the case so you can see what I mean.

However! I totally thought SJ had the “upscale makeup bag” market locked down, when Amazon’s recommendations helpfully directed me to the Apple & Bee line. Adorable and seemingly efficient, and in even better materials than the Stephanie Johnson line. Decisions, decisions. I’ll probably eventually wind up owning at least one of each, but for now I will wait and see what Santa thinks. Perhaps he can poll Mrs. Claus as to which item better holds her array of on-the-go cosmetics selections.

Either way, I’m using this as an opportunity to overhaul some stuff. I think I’m switching back to mineral powder concealers for a while, after using a combo of the above-mentioned PF plus Smashbox HD for a couple years now. They just break me out more, and I’m less and less patient with that, plus I’m wanting to shift back to more natural ingredients. And I’m trying Diorshow Waterproof for my next mascara — I had a *horrid* experience with Blackout, but this seems better and I’ll review either way soon. And I guess I finally have an excuse to dig up the beet powder and rose petal powder I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs years ago, and look into making my own naturally pigmented lip stains… I will DEFINITELY update about that, regardless of whether it’s a success or failure (& I’m kinda anticipating the latter). Either way, I’m hoping I can continue to look at this as a silver lining for a new beginning, even though I’m still bummed to have lost all my fave staples. Watch my old case turn up after I shell out $100 for a new arsenal!

Trouble in paradise

All the fancy accoutrements pictured here are from the real estate staging! Our stuff looks simultaneously nicer and less nice than that.OK, so we bought ourselves a brand new house. Like, a really nice one. Nice enough that I can’t afford to shop at Sephora ever again.  We’ve had a really fun and monumental beginning of the year, with the new home and a big move all right after a trip to Rio for a friend’s wedding (which my husband officiated). BUSY. And since we haven’t had time to fully unpack, I still can’t get to all of my toiletries or clothes! SO sad.

The funniest part of this house with its seemingly extravagant updates, is how  certain parts of it were built for fashion over function. Check out this magnificent master bathroom, for example — big glass-walled shower, big Jacuzzi tub w/ gas fireplace, two sinks. Deeee-luxe, right? But what you DON’T see here is that the enormous, heavy glass wall of the shower is held up with a tiny, nay, DAINTY dime-sized blob of mere silicone. Or that the Jacuzzi jets occasionally malfunction and scream on in the middle of the night like a banshee. Or that the shower contains a lovely assortment of multiple showerheads arranged at perplexing intervals and heights (…What did they have in mind here, exactly? Pint-sized/waif orgies?) but that the plumbing is such that one can’t actually make two (let alone all) of them work well at the same time, for, say, the purposes of dual showering with one’s sweetie or basking in the warm spray from multiple sources. And the *worst* part to this beauty diva is that there isn’t enough hardware for a bathroom that size — the only measley bath towel rack is way across the room from the shower, hung right over the heater so the towel blocks the warm air. And there’s only one hand towel ring, for two sinks that are a few feet apart.

Gatco Latitude II collection - Satin NickelThe fantastic part about these defects is that they gave us an excuse to buy some new bathroom hardware (at much expense and hand-wringing, but hey — gotta hang up your towel somewhere, and when we saw the terrifyingly-installed glass shower wall shake under the gentle pressure of a hanging towel being removed, we quickly chalked it up to a worthwhile expense, as opposed to the medical bills resulting from having been CRUSHED). So we selected this gorgeous Gatco Latitude II collection which seemed to be sturdy and of clean modern design, and which featured handy inclusions like a double towel bar (pictured left) or even a double toilet paper roll or a hotel-style towel rack and shelf combo. Once these babies arrive and we put them up, I’ll be SO happy to finally have somewhere to put my washcloth, hair towel, and hand towel. Plus a bunch of toiletries since Grant kindly condescended to get me some matching shelves for all my lotions and potions.

But what other troubles plague these spoiled brats, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you (since you asked). The lighting fixtures in our new master bath are kind of ridiculously designed — they contain these bizarre glass cover things that are SCREWED down over the hard-to-find tiny Halogen bulbs. And this is INSIDE the glass fixture casement part. So I need a tool that apparently doesn’t exist (a precision ratcheting offset screwdriver, say that five times fast) to get the dang casements off to change out the bulbs, five out of eight of which were dead. I managed to do ONE by hand, another one appears to have been seared by a power surge and fails to work, and the other three I just can’t get the screws off of. Oh, and I almost electrocuted myself trying, so we now have learned that this can only be done with the circuit shut off, i.e. during daylight, i.e. weekends only. And I think I broke one trying last time.

ANYWAY. None of that is REALLY “trouble” as the title implies. Just all the funny puzzling quirks of new home ownership. Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to get my home set up with all the hardware needed to really unpack those boxes marked “bathroom” and go back to primping in the style to which I’ve grown accustomed! (Way, way better, actually. Trading Sephora runs for Home Depot runs is totally worth it! Also worth it is ditching the manicured nails, not that I really had those very often anyway. But home improvement and nice nails do NOT go hand in hand!)

DIY goals for 2011

The time is now! For several years, I’ve been wanting to make my own naturally-pigmented lip stains. I had always assumed beet powder was the only option I had, but a cup of Tazo Passion tea recently reminded me that, in addition to beets, there’s also hibiscus, red cabbage, saffron, and turmeric. (How did I come up with this list, you ask? By thinking of all the things that stain my hands in the kitchen!)

I switched to using lip stains instead of glosses, balms, or lipsticks way back in 2006 when I met my husband, because he couldn’t stand kissing a made-up mouth. I started a long EDS thread about it in which many others chimed in, and I blogged some updates here. The conclusion was and still is that Vincent Longo stains are best, largely because of the wand applicator. So I’ll be using empty wand applicator tubes designed for lip gloss when I make my own stains.

Since my main complaint about the VL ones is that they’re too dark for my coloring and can be slightly drying, I’ll be making mine in softer shades and including moisturizing ingredients (I’m thinking glycerine and honey). They may not work out, but I already have 75% of the components I need anyway, so it can’t hurt to try!

In addition to stains, I’m planning on making new oil blends for facial and body moisturizers, plus a facial cleansing oil; and a belly butter for my pregnant pal; and taking another stab at DIY deodorant since Aromacreme isn’t back yet.

Chicken skin begone!

Look Ma, no bumps!In recent years, I’ve started to notice keratosis pilaris on my upper arms, and a teensy bit on my tush and the backs of my thighs. The latter two don’t matter AS much, since my hubby thinks my skin is smooth is butter (and it IS compared to his). But I really wanted to eradicate the arm stuff before my wedding!

For years I’ve used the blemish-clearing formulation of  St. Ives Apricot Scrub as a body scrub, in conjunction with a foaming shower gel and waffle scrub gloves and some DIY skin oil immediately after. That quadruple-combo usually helped, but only if I was REALLY regular with scrubbing and moisturizing, which I generally am not.

So I bought Diana Yvonne Lactic Acid 10% gel and Fruit Acid gel 15% combo, plus KP Duty by DermaDoctor and Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads.

Combining the above-mentioned products really did the trick. I eased in, using part skin oil and part one of the gels, and I would kind of try to homogenize them in my hands first and then apply. I would sometimes use straight KP, sometimes mix KP and a gel, sometimes wipe arms down w/ pad when I couldn’t shower. It all really helped!

My arms were lovely and bump-free for the big day, and not nearly as discolored/blotchy as the KP used to make them look. The Diana Yvonne products were fab — not chock full of propylene glycol like so many other AHA/BHA formulas. I now just do a little bit of any one of the above when I think of it or notice the stuff coming back!

If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t bother with the KP Duty. Pretty pricey and kind of stinky. I’ll use it now that I have it, but the Diana Yvonne was better bang for my buck.

The post-marital fuglies

Well, the big day has finally come and gone! The day was lovely, but now it’s time to get ugly. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t view marriage as an excuse to completely let myself go or anything. But this wedding has involved an INSANE amount of primping and stress and spending on our parts, and my new husband and I will both be pleased to relax a bit now that the show is over. (Though we DID both get spa treatments on our honeymoon!)

Non-beauty inevitabilities that I officially welcome back into my life:

Yellow teeth
— those Crest 3D WhiteStrips HURT! And my teeth look just fine all normal-colored, thank you very much.
Dry cuticles and unkempt nails — Sometimes you gotta be lazy!
Acne AND bacne — thanks for holding out for so long, epidermis! You can even throw some KP my way if you must.
Tan lines — gone are the days of swaddling myself in a goddamn cashmere wool wrap in 96 degree weather just to keep my back and shoulders line-free! OK, I still wear it sometimes as it’s great sunscreen and looks lovely — but I no longer feel OBLIGATED to wear it rain or shine.
Mosquito bites — I’m amazed you guys didn’t cover me in pink welts before the big day. Thanks, buddies! Have at it. I will tackle you with prescription-strength steroid cream and continue to catch you easily mid-flight.

Things I now bid adieu to for the foreseeable future:

Bustiers/corsets with boning — GOD PLEASE THE HORROR. I still have a scar from where it poked at me all night, from BEFORE the wedding! Boning is bullshit.
Spanx — I can finally both digest and breathe, to say nothing of going to the bathroom in a reasonable time frame.
Heels — OW.  At 5’11” I’m done with that discomfort for a WHILE. (Though I’ll probably dye and keep my 2.5″ Jimmy Choo and/or Angela Nuran wedding heels, and re-wear them eventually!) But as of right now, I can’t feel the outer edge of my damn big toes because of my wedding-day footwear worn for a mere 2 hours. *&^@$@#! heels!
Manis/pedis — I gotta start saving my money again, and plus, I kind of miss my OWN neglected polish shades! And no more dremel for a while. Nails on a chalkboard. And no more soaking my fingers in acetone for ages to get the tough gel polish off.
Makeup artists — I love being pampered and all, and Carina and Swink both did an amazing job — I just kind of miss looking like ME. I normally never do foundation or blush, my eye makeup never looks as perfect as theirs, and I’m just *used to* my own shades and formulations. Plus it took like a year to get my false lashes off, and a few real ones came with each cluster. QQ Owie!

Beta Hydroxy Standstill

I’ve been wanting to add a good beta hydroxy acid product to my regime, but I’m having a lot of trouble finding the right one. I’ve read before that salicylic acid (the main BHA in cosmetic formulations) is only soluble in alcohol or oil, and I’m not interested in using alcohol-infused products on my sensitive and dryness-prone skin.

So of course, I started keeping an eye out for BHA products that were oil-based instead… but I haven’t found a single one. Nearly every BHA product out there is chock-full of harsh alcohol that this picky complexion just won’t tolerate.

One BHA product I found which doesn’t seem to contain large amounts of either alcohol OR oil is Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Serum. However, this stuff is weaker than I’d like at only 1% salicylic acid, and the texture is kind of unbearable. It goes on incredibly sticky and the sticky feeling never really leaves you.

So my search has continued. I was thrilled when I found Devita’s Acne Solution Pads, since they claimed to be 3% salicylic acid but completely alcohol free, which is obviously a rare find.

I was a little skeptical, since I’d read those solubility claims elsewhere, and since I know witch hazel (the main ingredient in these puppies) can often be chock-full of alcohol even if it isn’t listed in the ingredients. But I figured that since they make a specific point of calling out the glaring absence of alcohol, then these must be safe.

And boy, was I wrong. I opened up the jar, and one whiff nearly knocked me out. These pads CLEARLY contain alcohol, and quite a lot of it — I haven’t been able to use them on my face at all. (I still use them to exfoliate after trimming my bikini area or shaving my underarms, because the BHA helps prevent ingrown hairs. But I had intended to use them on my face, and this is simply not an option.) Normally, being the consumer-hound that I am, I’d be more frustrated that these products are using deceptive marketing. But instead, I’m just still focused on finding a dang BHA product that I can use!

Years ago, I had used Aveda’s Botanical Kinetic Exfoliant, so I looked into going back to that stuff. But my older and now wiser self noticed that this stuff also has a high witch hazel and alcohol content, so that’s out (now that I know better). It would seem that everything in a toner-like consistency is completely off the table as far as alcohol concerns go. Continue reading “Beta Hydroxy Standstill”

With new territories come new… smells

Turns out, tagetes is STINKY! My package from Nature’s Gift arrived recently, and I mixed up a little vial of tagetes essential oil in a neem and avocado oil base. I started anointing dear Grant’s toes with it, and I was wowed by how smelly it is. Not like anything else I’ve smelled, and certainly not as offensive as neem, but very… strong.  It’s also a very bright yellow color, kind of like turmeric or saffron, and it does kinda stain the skin/nail bed.

I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of results we get. I specifically designed this toenail fungus treatment for Grant, because he can’t stand the smell of vinegar. So the normal vinegar bath method was kinda out of the question, if I wanted him to be a willing participant. Here’s hoping this vinegar-free method makes all the stink worth it!

Search for the Perfect C Serum

I’ve been wanting to try a vitamin C serum ever since I read about people’s glorious results on EDS.  But it’s a tricky substance: most C serums apparently oxidize really quickly, which means the highly unstable C “turns” and can actually do your skin more harm than good.  It can be really hard to find a C serum that’s stable enough to last through the whole bottle.

To complicate matters further, the base ingredients that help keep C stable are exactly the sort of thing I hate to put on my face.  (Petrochemicals and/or potentially irritating acids, to name a couple.)  One solution is to try making your own C serum in small batches, so you can control how fresh it stays.

This is above and beyond my normal level of DIY crafting, but I think I’m up to the challenge.  Thankfully, C is a little more forgiving than some other DIY actives, and I’m not that invested if it doesn’t work out.  This may be my first leap into varsity-level DIY, which should be fun!  I wonder if Maggie Bullock will seek me out again. :)

Tagetes to the rescue?

I’ve always considered myself fairly savvy with essential oils, but I’m learning more and more as I go. I had the basics down, but now I’m delving into some lesser-known oils, like manuka (below) and, this time, tagetes.

Tagetes is the oil from a type of marigold, and it has powerful anti-fungal properties. I’ve been trying to come up with an effective essential oil blend for toenail fungus for a while now, so that people can avoid taking those awful and side-effect-riddled oral medications. I had a mix of neem and tea tree, which is great for some other fungus-type problems, but which never seemed to do the trick for toenails.

But I was turned on to tagetes oil thanks to a couple of EDS members, and I started looking into it more. This stuff is renowned for killing fungi! Bye-bye, sad toenails. (Not my own, thankfully, but those of a certain someone close to me who was reluctant to wear sandals all last summer.) I’m hoping by this summer, that certain someone’s tootsies will be good to go, thanks to tagetes.