Sephora gets some major nerd cred

I don’t always love what Sephora does, but I have to hand it to them. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some majorly awesome nerdy stuff they’ve done.

  • Passbook win! They were the very first store or service to successfully implement Passbook support with iOS 6, notify me about it clearly, and make it simple to integrate. Even Starbucks’s effort was behind Sephora’s in this regard. (To date, these are my only two Passbook items.) The extra bonus is that I no longer have to explain to Sephora reps how to look up my complicated email domain in their system!
  • Shopping by reviews. Seriously, guys, this one’s important for a couple reasons. I blathered about it here, but in a nutshell it allows customers to shop based entirely on the feedback of other users, with ZERO marketing input from Sephora. Seriously. Right now, it doesn’t even have a single image on the page view! And check out all that unused white space! I expect Sephora to tinker with this and probably ruin it in the coming weeks, so here’s my screencap for posterity:

Most online beauty presences aren’t into minimalism. This is definitely an anomaly even among Sephora’s other page views. Heck, I was badgered into adding as much noise as I have on this site because a professional beauty writer told me it looked boring and “needed more images”—and for her industry, I reluctantly admit she’s right. That’s why I find this so interesting. Amazon, for example, claims to be king of giving people data-based shopping, but they don’t allow one to simply search for things with a high review count until you’ve whittled down your results to a much narrower selection. If you trust the community of reviewers that a vendor has built, then being able to rely solely on them for shopping decisions is a stark contrast to most web storefront merchandising models.

So despite the fact that Sephora still uses Blogger for their professional company blog and that they create horrible Facebook-page-embedded auto-tweeting Flash-based clicky contests and that their “added item to basket” animation now takes a full fifteen seconds to trigger and their web text sometimes looks like this (right), they still win a pretty major tech award in my cold, geeky, stainless-steel-encased heart. Way to go, guys! Now let me search on active ingredient/ingredient category or on whether products have attractive and durable packaging  that makes a satisfying click noise upon closure, and I will love you even more. <3

Summer sun care update

My sunscreen of choice has shifted a bit over the past couple of years. I’ve got some strong and updated opinions kicking around, so I figured I’d weigh in and give a little update since it’s just now FINALLY summer-like here in Seattle! (Apologies to any of you who could have used this info in, like, May, what with the heat wave and all. We write what we know, and all I know is that it’s totally cloudy and overcast where I live right now.)

DEVITA. I still love me some Devita body block,  but my concerns remain about it being less apt at protecting (since the particles are soooo micronized and since the formulation is more like a lotion and doesn’t seem to stay on your skin in hot weather). So I like to mix this with other sunscreens, or use it when I know I won’t be out for long. What I still love is that it doesn’t make my pores feel clogged like many other mineral sunscreens do. It does still sting my eyes a tiny bit even if I just use it near but not right next to them—no one I’ve talked to knows why this happens, but it goes away after a bit so overall the benefits outweigh the ouch or inconvenience. Just wait a few minutes before you put on mascara! (Note: you’re welcome to spend too much on their facial formulation, but the body block is nearly identical and is much better value for your money.)


BURNOUT. The lovely ladies at EDS also turned me on to Burnout. I’ve tried their kids’ formulation. While it’s a bit dry, it doesn’t look as white as it comes out in the tube and its dryness is great at keeping oil at bay in the summer heat. I like to mix it with some Devita to thin it out and make it a bit more transparent. Sometimes I also mix in a little argan oil (I get mine from Garden of Wisdom, but this seems like a better deal) to try to make it more moisturizing. I recently used up the last of this tube (took me FOREVER, in a good way, and it stayed fresh ’til the end) so I’m about to order their sensitive formulation to see how that goes. I’ll update if there are any significant differences in how the sensitive stuff (blue writing and cap) seems in comparison.

O HUI. Back in the day I posted about O Hui’s compact powder sunblock, and I still love that stuff but only for REALLY intense sun days. The fancy little compact broke (waaah!) and the pale creamy off-white color does give me a very slight ghostly cast, so I only use it when I need extra protection and I also know my face will be sweaty/shiny—I brush this on instead of normal loose powder, and I use a short-handled very soft synthetic kabuki brush. Incidentally, O Hui seems like it’s getting a little easier to find online—but the only Amazon product I see that’s a powder sunblock is this one, which is described as being “white.” So no thanks. Still, seems like others will be able to share in my O Hui summer joy soon!

photo9

MYCHELLE (BOO!). I was on a recent trip to Dallas when I was forced to pick up a tube of MyChelle’s facial sunblock at Whole Foods. They’ve reformulated this at least once (and probably more like 3x; WTF) since I last tried it, and it’s much worse now—it clogs my pores horrendously. I’ve been using it up anyway, but this blog post has finally inspired me to click through to check out on my Amazon order so I can get some better sun care reinforcements in, stat. The new(est) MyChelle is dry, chalky, and generally sticky-feeling without being sufficiently moisturizing. Like Burnout but without the benefits. It seems to protect well, but yech—I plan to use this as a body block and/or husband block (he won’t know better unless he reads this post, heh—the proof is in the comment, honey!) to use it up since it’s also quite pricey. Weirdly, this actually looks cheaper on MyChelle’s site than on Amazon’s. Either way, avoid!


Upcoming: ELTA & NIA24. Lastly (I swear), I recently received some exciting sunscreen samples. My awesome mother-in-law stayed with us for the past week, and she brought me a sample of Elta sunscreen that her fancy DC dermatologist swears by. The stuff is nice and chemical-free just like I like, but it’s also tinted so it hopefully doesn’t give that chalky cast (or WAY too dark and orange a cast, *ahem, Dr. Perricone*). So I’m excited to try that out soon! I also got a small vial of NIA 24’s sunscreen from the Amazon vendor who sold me my magical Peter Thomas Roth pads. I’ve heard good things about NIA24’s sun formulation but I keep giving away my samples to more excited skincare nerds—no longer! This one’s mine! (And I promise to tell you all about it soon.)

Aaaanyway, I hope you lovelies are all surviving the heat wave one way or another. Stay protected out there!

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!

Ingredient awareness on the rise?

So I just saw a swanky J. Lo commercial for L’Oréal EverSleek products last night, and believe it or not, neither the celebrity nor the awkwardly harsh reading of the line “And nothing weighs me down…EVER” nor the creepy bronze latex dress is what most caught my attention. Nope, it’s the fact that a mainstream TV commercial for a mainstream drugstore brand actually made reference to the kind of uptight ingredient awareness that I thought only freaks like me cared about. Innnteresting. Watch it here:

I was just surprised. A few years ago, worrying about harsh sulfates and heavy silicones was kind of EDS and MUA territory, ya know? I mean, heck, my spellchecker doesn’t recognize “silicones” (but DOES recognize “spellchecker” unhyphenated. But not “unhyphenated.” I may be straying from the point here.) So it’s interesting to see this creeping into mainstream beauty awareness — here’s hoping that means that my own pet cause, sunscreen ingredients, can start to get some more traction too. Fingers crossed! And yes, I might break down and try a bottle of EverSleek at some point, though I’m betting my increasingly long mane would miss those silicones weighing it down. We shall see!

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!)

How to fill in overplucked brows

Step 1) Decide to buy a house.

Step 2) Become incredibly stressed out, overtaxed and insomnia filled with the details of said process.

Step 3) Completely forget to take care of yourself in any fashion, from brow plucking to shaving to basic feeding and cleaning.

Step 4) Decide to use your only free time to drive a long way to reconnect with important best friends who are pregnant and suffer from pregxhaustion so can’t travel to you easily.

Step 5) Voilà ! Your brows are now nice and busy and full and unkept. (Just like your legs, yay!)

In a nutshell, more beauty news/tweets soon. :) And I know “pregxhaustion” isn’t technically a *beauty* neologism, but it was so good I had to coin it here anyhow! xoxo

Testing out Julep’s “Fab 14” LED mani

Remember when I got my OPI Axxium gel manicure, and then it wound up sucking? Well, I never learn. Or rather, I learn to seek out better alternatives to what is fundamentally a good product idea with poor execution. Enter Julep!  A few months ago, I had seen someone Tweet somewhere about getting a UV gel mani from Julep. However, when I Tweeted them I got no reply, and I couldn’t find any such manicure on their websites. So I decided to use a normal, old-fashioned method of communicating.

I managed to find out that Julep’s service is actually an LED curing process, instead of UV, so your hands aren’t exposed to unnecessary wrinkle-causing rays. First yay! Second, they have a slightly more limited range for this process than for their normal manicure, but it’s a full 24 colors including classic pinks and neutrals plus blues/purples/browns and some seasonal shades. Yahtzee! That’s a broader range than Axxium, last I checked.

And lastly, even though you *do* still have to soak the mani off with pure acetone or have it professionally removed for a fee, they never ever use a dremel on the nail bed to prep it. (You hear that, rushy Sénsè tech? NEVER.) So that alone made me more willing to try it again. :) Plus, and here’s the real reason: I’m going to visit my two mothers-in-law for the first time since our wedding this summer, and they’re both always immaculately manicured and coiffed. So I feel like I have to play East Coast for a bit and look the part, especially since I’ll be showing off not one but two heirloom rings now. So my nails had better look the part! I’ll update with pics just as soon as I’ve had the treatment.

(Update: After a quick Google search, it looks like this process was pioneered by Shizuka in New York. Let’s hope it catches on at even more West Coast locations!)

PAX Beauty (and beasts)

Every year since like 2006, Seattle’s own Mike and Jerry of Penny Arcade have put on an increasingly massive video game fan convention. This thing started for fans by fans (as opposed to for developers by developers), and the turnout in fantastic. Both literally and figuratively. PLUS, my work is throwing a big party for our game’s expansion launch, so things are OFF THE HOOK for me this weekend.

I always see a lot of cosplay, creative hair and makeup, and crazy clothing at PAX (in addition to more handheld consoles than I ever saw in my two years working at Nintendo). The doors aren’t even open yet, and the geeks have already flooded the site — which is smack between my home and my workplace. Geeks get mad creative with their looks — I mean, how do they get those prosthetic Link ears to stay on? I have enough trouble with false lashes!

I’ll post pics later once I’ve caught a couple amazing fashion or makeup moments! But fow now, allow me to wax geeky on my own PAXed up beauty tricks. Geeky conventions are kind of an excuse to oomph up the goth/punk/nerd/rebel chic, which isn’t my usual look. But I leaned hard on Smashbox’s Heartbreaker liquid liner pen to ensure a nice firm goth-y eye well into tonight’s Wonder Girls concert.

And today seemed like the perfect day to rock my cement gray (“DWS”) Illamasqua nail polish. Slightly edgy and different, plus it matches my gray Aion shirt that I’ll be wearing to help promote the game and show my support!

In closing, check out the vid we made to promote our launch party tonight. Seriously, isn’t this adorable? Even if you’re not a gamer, you have to appreciate the creativity of the in-game dance moves! I cannot WAIT for this show. ^_^