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!

Update on lies and oils, respectively

OK, I know it’s been WAY too long since I last updated. Home ownership is busy-making! As is trying to work full time while running a side business and writing a book and generally making an effort to cook more and decorate and yada yada. ANYWAY. Hi, I’m back! So what has been going on with me, you wonder?

  • I tried out a new lip “stain” – must remain in quotes because it is SO NOT A REAL STAIN SEPHORA. So annoyed it’s making me all capsy (cf Fug Girls). To be fair, they actually have many products in their Lip Stain category that I don’t consider true stains, but I suppose I’m a bit of a purist (since my husband is such a pickypants about kissing me with any discernible product on my lips). Anyway – “Cream Lip Stain” – a LIE!!! It’s a long-lasting liquid lipstick like you get from the drugstore, guys. And it’s icky and hard to get off and I’m returning that shit.
  • I ordered more oils! After my post-wedding resolution to quit spending so goddamn much on skincare and beauty, I did a good job of not buying stuff for a while. But then I ran out of stuff and my face got sad and long story short, I invested in some new purchases. I got an oil sampler pack from Garden of Wisdom, and I also shelled out for a big bottle of their nice organic argan oil that my skin and hair both seem to love. Check out my little three-pack — I love being able to sample different types!

The trouble is, they don’t use the best packaging — I hate a nice unrefined cold-pressed organic oil going into a lipophilic plastic bottle, and I hate that the ink on the shitty labels gets all over my hands. So I’ve started being crazy-weird about how I unwrap them, only undoing the bit around the cap so I don’t touch the ink — and I need to hit Zenith to buy some new glass bottles so I can decant my argan.

Aaaanyway, as you can probably see, I got a combo of Baobab, Kukui and Tamanu oils. I’ve already tried Tamanu and it’s fine, but nothing amazing — didn’t break me out and seemed to moisturize well enough, but I prefer the smell (or lack thereof) and consistency of argan which I now have too much of. Working on trying Baobab now — it’s clear and yellow and semi-thick, and so far seems fine but not resplendent. Will update once I hit Kukui!

How can we look “polished” on the go?

A friend’s recent Facebook comment cracked me up — she said on the first day of her attempt to dress a bit sleeker looking, she forgot to wear deodorant; this was proof to her that it was impossible for her to be “polished” no matter what she tried. I used to be much the same — i.e. a frizzy mass of imperfect skin, hair, makeup, and fashion. But I’ve found a lot of little “polished” tricks over the years.

The strongest example is with deodorant! During my Frazzled Summer Heat Wedding Gear-up Insanity I forgot deodorant approximately once per week, and keeping a stick in my car always made it melt, so I got a packet of DermaDoctor MedETate wipes. Even after that hectic season, I now always carry one with me and keep a couple in my desk at work.

And, now that I walk to work most days, and my hair sometimes loses its oomph or straight look while I work, I now have a crappy half-inch straightener (a relic from when I had bangs) in the bottom drawer of my desk. I’m also never found without my purse hook, which keeps my bag from drooping on the floor getting dirty or just looking sloppy.

In addition, I now carry a small cosmetics bag with every essential imaginable, so I can touch up anything that needs touching up on the go. (I don’t always use it, but the fact is that I COULD if I wanted to.) But I have this grandiose idea of the perfect interchangeable on-the-go kit, with little spots for mascara, tweezers, brow wax, you name it!

I’m a sucker for all kinds of products designed for gals on the go, like Trish McEvoy’s refillable pages, Too Faced’s Glamour 2 Go, and the above-pictured Dior Deluxe Travel Palette. I carry a little makeup-and-more bag that I keep stocked with pre-moistened glasses cleaning wipes, Similasan individually-packaged eye dropsHello Kitty Band-Aids, miniature Anastasia tweezers, a tiny Burt’s Bees comb, a combo nail file and emory board, my awesome O Hui compact, at least a couple retractable makeup brushes (including my über-fave Baby Buki),  a tiny sample mascara tube, hair ties, a sample perfume tube, tampons… all in my petite Coach makeup case which fits in my purse. Oh, and in the winter I’ll hit up a Whole Foods for a free sample of Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream, and carry that teensy tube around all season.

I’m curious to know if any other ladies out there have tricks to look more polished/together themselves — I doubt this post will get enough hits to really say, but I’d love to hear from you if you have any input! What’s your tip for staying smooth-looking even when life on the go leaves you frazzled?

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.

Powdered sunblock upgrade!

A few years back we had a blazing summer, and I got really into the idea of powdered sunblock. I tried a slew of brands (Peter Thomas RothBare EscentualsShiseido and Colorescience) but didn’t care for any of the  packaging or formulations. I even tried buying my own synthetic non-scratchy powder-dispensing brush that I could theoretically wash, but it was too big to fit in any makeup bags, and I tried making my own powder but I used the wrong zinc and it was all whitish… DIY fail. (Been meaning to go back to the drawing board, but no dice yet.)

Enter O HUI! My friend and fellow beauty bloggerette MeanJean gave me her compact, since she’s heading back to Korea soon and can replace it easily. This stuff is fab! The powder leaves only a very slight whitish cast that goes away almost immediately — it’s replaced Make Up For Ever as my everyday finishing powder, since I can kill two beauty birds with one puff.

Plus, this is the cleverest compact I’ve ever found. All the pictures I can find online show a totally different packaging than the one I have, so you have to bear with my silly iPhone home-shot image. It’s got the powder, then this plastic screen that flips closed (to protect the powder from the puff if you get it all sweaty/greasy wiping it on your skin) and then a  cavity for the puff and THEN the mirror. Thus, it can’t get all powdergunked, so it stays shiny and clean.  And it came with a really nice latex-y round puffish thing as well as a sealed spare.

I just love the stuff — I’m going to see if my local Asian supermarket carries it! I do wish I could find an ingredients list in English, but it’s been treating my skin so nicely that I’m honestly not that bothered, if you can believe it. Hooray for a skincare victory after many months of duds!

Tinted Moisturizer Roundup

In my desire to be more frugal and less cluttered, plus my pent-up need to sample new products after carefully avoiding changes in my skin routine leading up to the wedding, I have been systematically devouring all my Sephora samples. This particular experiment deals with the many vials of tinted moisturizer I’ve accumulated.

The first I tried was Smashbox Sheer Focus, which was fine but not amazing. Even their paler, more neutral shades still wind up looking really dark and *wrong* on me — I can’t always tell in which direction they’re wrong; I just know I don’t look like myself! This stuff was fine, but simply nothing special on my pale complexion. I do like the SPF though, and it didn’t seem to cause any angry skin reactions (besides slightly clogged pores, but I’m VERY sensitive to dimethicone and similar so that’s to be expected). Weirdly enough, it felt very greasy several minutes after application even though it was oil-free — can’t tell if it made my skin over-produce or what.

Next up was Perfekt Skin, which was perfektly lovely. The (tiny!) sample I had was in Radiant, which is a shade darker than I needed, but it actually went on just fine and wasn’t too dark or obvious around my hairline or brows (always the tells). It feels like a primer — suuuuper silicone-y — and it looks and feels fabulous on its own or under my HD Finish Powder (didn’t try under full foundation).

However, three minor cons: 1) It’s SO EXPENSIVE! Almost $60 for the full-sized tube! 2) Definitely caused some clogged pores, especially on and immediately around my nose. (Again, to be expected w/ me, but still — worse than other tinted moisturizers due to high ‘cone content.) 3) When I checked out the Sephora tester to see about the lighter shade, the pump had totally gross dried-up product in it, so I worry about freshness. The To Go size seems like a better buy if you’re not going to slather this on daily. Oh yeah, I lied: 5) No SPF. :( This stuff was still the big winner though, just in terms of awesome formulation.

Next up was Dr. Perricone No Foundation Foundation. I’d been wanting to try this for ages, even though it seemed too dark when I tested it on my hand. My suspicion was confirmed, as this was just NOT my skin tone. It also went on way sticky and tacky and uneven-feeling, and was obvious in my “tell” spots (brow & hairline). But I like the high SPF! Still, I felt like I needed to GOB it on to get good sun coverage — ew. Not for me.

Last up we have Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer — another one I’ve been dying to try. I had both a couple foil packets and a big sample tube of this stuff, all in Nude, which is the second-lightest shade — but it was too dark for me. However, that didn’t seem to matter as much upon application — it still blended and disappeared nicely, and really wasn’t noticeable on my skin. This stuff is quite pleasant and lives up to the hype, after all! Not wild about the chemical sunscreens, but beggars can’t be choosers — these were all free samples, after all. Laura was a close second based on formulation, but I wish there were smaller tubes out there.

So there you have it! I doubt I’ll buy any of these for regular use, esp. since I can just mix foundation and sunblock/lotion. But I might pick up a Perfekt To Go in Luminous for those big night out kinda moments!

Finally, an Aveda home run!

So Aveda finally came up with a new hair spray that really impressed me. This stuff is lightweight, firm, fast-drying, non-sticky, and more brushable than most hair sprays (with fewer fake-dandruff flakies). AND the smell ain’t too bad, and the spray seems to mist finer than some other nozzles. Hooray!

I also gave Phomollient a try before my wedding, and found it to be not horrible. (It didn’t seem as effective as the other, “industrial” mousse Carina had me use for my wedding ‘do, but it also left my hair less sticky when I touched it.)

Who knew Aveda would come to the rescue for my tresses? Certainly not me, with all my prior negative feedback to their new products.  For the first time in years, I bought a full-sized bottle of not one, but TWO hair products from them. Here’s hoping it earned me enough Pure Privilege points to finally not give a shit about whether they’ll expire someday.

Lip Stain Roundup

I sometimes feel like a bit of a chump for being a lip stain addict, because stains are probably the least natural cosmetic out there. (I’m sure some “natural” stains exist, but even the pretend-naturals like Tarte are chock-full of silly chemicals.) But ever since Grant started dating me, he has been horrified by the idea of kissing a glossy mouth. And I can’t say I blame him! Hence, Stain City.

Well, I’d never quite found the perfect product. The closest I’d gotten was Vincent Longo’s gel stains, but those shades are all way too dark for my fairer complexion — not into the Goth Lip look. Plus the packaging can be hell — while the wand applicator is great, I’ve had three tubes break in my purse and stain all of the contents. Ew! I’ve also tried TheBalm’s Stainiac, which is also wand based and is a bit lighter in pigment, but the formulation feels sticky and doesn’t last as long. And I’ve tried decanting Benetint and Lorac’s Sheer Wash into a wand tube, but meh.

I don’t care for balm-based stains like Laura Mercier or tarte, since the whole point is kissability; and most pen-style stains like Styli Style tend to dry out much faster than other packaging styles. I started an EDS thread to solicit others’ input, and it definitely helped, but I was still searching for better shades that were less Goth or garish. I’ve tried the in-between Stila brush-pen-balm-thing as well as the Sephora Lush Flush in 2 shades… what can I say; I leave no stone unturned!

But finally, here’s the good part! Today’s Sephora package brought me a new nude/beige stain by tokidoki that actually looks fab, even though nudes usually wash me out. (Sadly, though, this stuff tastes terrible!) And I also got both color combos of TheBalm’s For Keeps, so I can mix and custom blend colors that work better on me, and dilute them to soften the look. (Plus I simply adore the innovative formulation and charming packaging!)

AND, I now see that  a Josie Maran stain pen just came out, which I am, like, contractually obligated to purchase at this point. And I never did try the Givenchy stain pen. At least cosmetics companies have clearly realized that there is a market for stain… now here’s hoping we get some SUBTLE stains out of this epiphany soon! ‘Til then, a combo of, yes, ALL of the above will be what colors my lips. Grant certainly can’t complain that I haven’t tried to find a good kissable-yet-glam solution!

Stupid Cargo’s stupid new packaging

I’ve been eyeing Cargo’s stupid, long-winded new lip gloss (aka blu_ray™ High Definition Lip Gloss with Timestrip® Technology) for a while now.

Not because of the name or the stupid gimmicky time strip crap or the amazing BLU-RAY plumping power (WTF? There is absolutely nothing “blu-ray” about it), but because the Panama shade PERFECTLY matches exactly what I’ve been searching for in a gloss — just a shade darker and pinker than my lips, with no shimmer. But because my fiancé cannot stand kissing my beglossed lips, I haven’t been very spendy in the goopy lip color department. A free gift certificate, however, was just what I needed to push me over the edge and splurge.

Well, I must say I have mixed reviews. First of all, I preemptively hated the idea of the stupid time strip from the get go, and I was not wrong to judge this book by its cover. The whole idea is that it’s a ‘freshness indicator’, but here’s the thing — either this thing dips into your gloss to check its freshness, thereby breaking the seal and allowing germs IN and making it go bad even faster, or it doesn’t actually test the real product at all and is just a stupid extra hoaxy hoax hoax. Grr.

Beyond that, the packaging is just annoying… check it out! You get way less gloss than the tube size indicates, because the test tube with actual gloss is encased in an outer shell, from which it immediately became detached. And now whenever I try to open it, the test tube spins uselessly inside the casing, so I have to pull it out and look like I’m doing a science experiment on my lips.

Which I kind of am, because man, that plumping technology is WEIRD. And tastes BAD. And TINGLES. And doesn’t really plump, so is generally just kind of annoying all around.

Sigh. At least it’s minty (and at least it was free for me). One reluctant star.
*1/16/10 ETA — UGH! This stuff started to leak all out of the tube where the join is with the cap. I took it to Sephora to exchange it for a new pristine one, but 1) they’re all on clearance because I guess they’re no longer carrying Cargo products, and 2) the tube for which I was trying to swap it started leaking gloss all over too, even though the casing hadn’t come off. No wonder they’re being discontinued! Save your money.