Branching out from my usual sources

I’m a big Sephora fan, no doubt. I’ve also enjoyed shopping for beauty products at Nordstrom, and of course I get some of my stuff from EDS and my hippie-dippier ingredients from Mountain Rose and Nature’s Gift. But lately I’ve found that shopping at bigger retailers is surprisingly un-scary! I was eyeing my go-to eye cream online, and there were no good shipping deals from the manufacturer’s site or QVC where they often sell their stuff. But Amazon had a great deal! I emailed the seller just to be sure, and they confirmed that it was a fresh shipment, too. So I went for it and was very pleased with the price point. (Go here if you want a similarly great deal.)

And just last month, on a trip to Texas, I lent a friend some Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction pads to calm her breakout—her skin had freaked out in the humid Dallas climate. She loved them so much she asked me for a referral, and when I Googled them, the Amazon price was way lower than the Sephora price! AND the Amazon shipping was free.

Look, some of you lovelies know I used to work for Amazon. But I worked in Kindle, and thought of them primarily as a tech company plus a place to, like, research for the best headphones and flash drives. I don’t actually order through them all that often for more “normal” items. But I’m totally going to start checking them for skincare deals, and I’ll be watching my lil’ widget to see what kinds of products it starts suggesting. (If it doesn’t get smarter soon I’ll have to hard-code it to offer y’all up beauty deals.) I think as my tastes mainstream a bit more, I’ll start to find better and better deals from the big A.

And lest it not be said, those complexion pads are GREAT for acne, and also help with wrinkles and age spots! Just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll get mad flaky and dry—you may wanna start with the sensitive formula and work your way up to the full thing.

 

EDITED TO ADD: I actually received a totally gross-looking shipment of these pads. The top foil was punctured and the product was clearly contaminated, even though it’s largely alcohol based. However, I wrote the seller to complain and they immediately refunded my money, without me having to harass them or send the product back or anything. I was then able to salvage what seems to be clean and safe to use product—it really was just the top seal that was disgusting. So overall, even though I wouldn’t expect it to show up like that from Sephora, I had a good skincare shopping experience with this Amazon seller, so I’ll be trying that out again soon for sunblock.

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!

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!

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

Holiday beauty bounty

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m a spoiled girl. My husband‘s entire family is tuned into my taste, and I took home a fascinating haul of fun products this year. In addition to receiving to bra clips and bejeweled makeup brushes, I got a gadget from my MIL that I’d never even HEARD of before — the InStyler! You sort of have to watch the videos to get how it works or even what it is.

But it’s awesome! Since I got a new haircut right before my trip, with much shorter layers that can occasionally be hard to tame, I’m looking forward to putting this sucker to good use. (However, apparently it can short out easily if you wrap the cord around it or just bonk it around too much, so you must treat it gently.)

My other neat beauty treat from an aunt and uncle was Sephora’s latest Lash Stash. This sucker had loads of formulations I’ve wanted to try out, including Hourglass Film Noir and Blinc Kiss Me. Another cool difference from prior Lash Stashes is that this kit contains both a coupon for a free full-size tube of your fave version, and a surprisingly great tarte eyelash curler.

Oooh, and not to forget, I also got a heat-protective glove so I stop burning myself while styling my hair. All in all, I feel quite lucky that I have some fun gifts to try out which will actually be good blog fodder too, heh heh. Look out for more in-depth reviews on all of these items soon!

YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara review

When my prior tube of mascara ran out, my sudden overwhelming urge to switch to gray instead of black lashes nudged me towards this much-hyped mascara. When my Sephora VIB coupon came around, I figured it was time to take the plunge.

Pros:
-The Sublime Grey color is nicely neutral without being too blue or brown of a grey, and is infused with just a bit of shimmer.
-It smells exactly like the Rose Petal doll of my childhood, which is lovely and nicer than the Hauschka or Aveda rose scented mascaras.
-Despite the bushy brush I’m able  to easily get to the roots of my lashes and thoroughly cover up the blond base.
-It’s fairly easy to remove, and if you smudge it’s easy to correct, but it doesn’t come off at the *first* hint of water. It takes a few seconds of warm water and a bit of friction to break through the outer layer and start removing it, so you’re safe in a normal drizzle.

Cons:
-It does smudge a bit, obviously more easily than waterproof options. I wouldn’t trust it in the summer heat — definitely not coming to Brazil with me in February.
-The grey color is actually a bit lighter than my taste — I’d prefer more of a true charcoal-y shade. This stuff works OK if I’m not doing a smokier or darker eye look, but it’s not bold enough for some of my holiday party looks.
-$30 per tube — not like I’ve never ever spent that before, but a bit ridiculous given how often mascara should be tossed.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised, but I do feel the need to still keep a black and/or waterproof formulation on hand. I doubt I’ll repurchase, but I’m glad I gave this a whirl.

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!)