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!

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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!

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!

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?

Crawling back to Retin-A

I went off Retin-A close to my wedding, because I couldn’t guarantee a flake-free face for my big day no matter how careful I tried to be.

So why am I crawling back to my frenemy prescription now, when winter’s flaky dryness is just around the corner? Because I miss my best-ever pore cleanser! Sure, I don’t miss the flaky scaly feeling, but I’ve been in breakout city lately. (I think this is largely because I’m using crappier stuff to try and save money and not waste existing products and samples, plus I’ve been horrendously lazy about skincare and beauty ever since the wedding.) I want a faster track to clear skin, since I feel like pores that never used to get clogged are now exacting their revenge on me. Nothing has ever worked as well as The Big A in the past.

I’m not sure how long this fling will last, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a whirl now that no big important events are on the horizon. Hopefully if I get a bit more aggressive with the physical exfoliation, too, my angry pores will chill out by next year.

Here are the major tips I have for making Retin-A work for you!

-Don’t forget to amp up the sunscreen when using Retin-A! When your skin is unnaturally exfoliated, that newer tender skin is extremely photosensitive. Use a good high PPD option like Burnout.

-Wait at least 30 minutes between washing your face and applying the stuff! Even with the supposedly gentler microsponge version is still very prone to causing red, peeling, flaky skin if it’s applied while there’s still moisture in your skin. Plus, it’s more easily absorbed into the blood stream if you apply it on still-damp skin, and this can result in liver toxicity.

-Don’t ever, ever use it during the daytime! Because of the photosensitivity I mentioned in point 1, this is just a no-no. Retin-A is a nighttime only treatment, and your face must be thoroughly cleansed of it the next morning.

-Be consistent, but don’t be overzealous. Retin-A will always catch you in a bad cycle if you apply one day out of four. However, in the very beginning, it can be good to back off and go every other day — just make sure to be CONSISTENT about every other day, even if you’re a bit flaky or dry in the process. Every time you quit for more than a one-day gap, you’re setting yourself waaaay back on the Retin-A adjustment clock. Keep at it and you WILL get through to the happy skin phase eventually.

-Consider diluting or protecting your skin. If you find that your skin reacts poorly to Retin-A no matter how closely you follow these tips, then consider moisturizing with a very heavy/occlusive cream before applying the stuff, or consider diluting your Retin-A with a bit of heavy or oily moisturizer. (I actually found an oil- and wax-based balm called Surfer’s Salve that blends nicely with my Retin-A — I blend during the first few nights when my skin is getting used to the treatment, and then I ease off. And my dermatologist uses Cetaphil lotion.)

Best of luck to all of you beauties battling winter skin issues!

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!

Sample Time

So leading up to the wedding, I spent approximately a million dollars on beauty-related products and services and then received a bunch of gifts that take up all the space in our cupboards. So it’s time for a purge!

In addition to cleansing our kitchen of old dishes, I’ve decided to make my way through all the many, many, MANY Sephora samples I’ve amassed in recent months and possibly even years. (I used to use these up as swap gifts on MUA, but I’m too pressed for time to even swap anymore.)

So in the coming weeks, look forward to an insane amount of feedback on the many different little foil packets I’ll be busting into soon! First up will be a tinted moisturizer round-up, despite my fair skin – at least I’m doing it in the summer to try and check ’em out at my tannest!

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!

Powder power

Okay, I’ve talked about making a DIY version of a powder product before, but now I HAVE to do it! Check out Peter Thomas Roth’s two new sunscreens.  The first is an SPF 30 formulation that’s specifically meant for oily and/or problem skin, and it contains such additions as salicylic acid and “willow bark extract” (ahem: same damn thing, PTR), as well as the old standard antioxidant cocktail.

However, the new stuff ALSO contains powdered dimethicone, which we all know I’m not a fan of.  And can you blame me?  The stuff blocks pores like none other, so I don’t exactly consider it a wonder ingredient for a product that’s designed to alleviate oily skin and acne.  (Perhaps there’s something I don’t know here — maybe dimethicone in powder form is less comedogenic.)

The second new tube contains the same antioxidants and sunscreen ingredients (albeit in higher concentration), and no salicylic acid. And they’ve somehow packed butylene glycol in there.  But BOTH new versions contain bismuth oxychloride, which is a real bummer — it’s known to make some people break out in an irritated, bumpy red rash.  No thank you!

The old stuff I still have a tube of contains silica and the Antioxidant Trifecta, but no dimethicone or bismuth oxychloride.  It also has significantly less titanium dioxide (and less zinc oxide as well), and it’s WAY too dark for my skin tone so it’s pretty obvious.  I tested these two new ones on my hand at Sephora and they both seemed a bit paler, but it was tricky to tell.  However, the ingredient list in the old stuff is much shorter, which of course makes me happy.

Honestly, since they still share the same crappy packaging with the coarse, shed-prone brush and the cap that comes unscrewed, I’ll probably just concoct my own and put it in a synthetic dispensing brush that I found online.  I will update if and when I get around to actually seeing this through… now I just need some free time to clear out our storage closet!