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.

Dark circle remedies

Okay, to be fair, most of us don't look like Reggie Wayne in eye black.I recently had a reader email me asking about good eye creams to help combat dark under-eye circles. Since the advice I gave her applies to most dark circle sufferers out there, I figured I might as well blog my advice!

Almost 100% of dark circles (especially in lighter complexions) are from other health factors like circulation, nutrition, diet and allergies, and not something that can actually be remedied with skin care. (I know that’s a bummer to hear, but it’s usually true!) If you’re not already a naturopath kind of person, booking an appointment with someone more hippie-minded like a naturopath or allergist can sometimes help you track down the source of stuff like that, since most naturopaths and natural-minded allergy professionals take a more comprehensive look at overall health, as opposed to only examining a target area.

For those of you in the Seattle area, I can also strongly vouch for Paula Zook at the Polyclinic Downtown. I first found Zook because I was sick of seeing derms who were all essentially crusty old men with obvious unsightly skin growths — i.e. not their fault, but they were far more concerned with cancerous biopsies than how to diminish wrinkles or fade acne scars. I set out to find a derm who was also  a *pretty lady* and Zook fit the bill. I think it’s important to be determined, especially if you have a PPO-type health plan that allows you to pick your own specialists. If you’re after dermatology with a somewhat aesthetics-related skew, then find someone you think looks nice with nice skin!

That said, there are also some great makeup tricks for alleviating that dark under-eye appearance. For starters,  Suresh urged me to ALWAYS apply an eye cream under eyes, to help hydrate the skin and plump it up so wrinkles aren’t as noticeable. Then use an illuminating under-eye thing like Smashbox Photo Op or (splurge) YSL Touche Éclat to the area including right up to under the eye — you can use a brush, but I often just do this with my fingers. Only after these touches should you use a normal concealer, and you can keep that one to the lower part of the dark circle so it doesn’t settle into the fine lines closest to your eyes.

Last but not least, I will give you *one* tiny skincare tidbit relating to dark under-eye circles — try an eye cream with caffeine. These don’t work for everyone out there, and I personally haven’t yet found a formulation that I always like. But there is some research showing that caffeine can help stimulate blood flow, so it helps for some milder cases of dark circles or tired-looking eyes. A few to try are 100% Pure,  Best Bath Store and Kiehl’s.

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!

Holy lashes, Batman!

Remember my Great Mascara Review from last year? Yeah, now that I found my Holy Grail Mascara, I thought I was all done with that noise. Well sadly, my HG is starting to bug my eyes lately — might be the lack of humidity now that heaters are going on everywhere — and I think I need to switch to a gentler formula for my overtaxed peepers.  After all, I DO spend all day staring at tiny text in an MMO in a de-humidified office.

Through absolutely no intention or efforts, I have wound up with the following generous sample tubes from Nordies and Sephora over the past few months (left to right), which I figured I might as well review briefly. None of these formulations are waterproof, so I wasn’t surprised that none of these were a huge hit, but what the heck!

One thing is for certain — the tiny, thin brushes from my Clinique Lash Power Mascara and my Smashbox Lash Detailer Mascara are way better for my peepers, so I’ve washed and saved those. Any new HG mascara will likely only be HG when applied with one of these phenomenal brushes!


Sephora Atomic Volume Mascara — Meh. Hard to apply and rubs/flakes off really easily. It was super dry and sticky-like to get on, like the (sealed in a bag) tube was old and dried out. Niiiice.

Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die For — Spiky ouchy brush, meh formulation, will still keep brush for use w/ other mascaras but not to be used at base of lashes. Owie!

Lancôme Defincils — Sometimes I like this, but I don’t care for this stuff most days. It goes on very spindly/separatey, without enough volume — as I’ve mentioned before, this looks weird on my superlong and weirdly-pointing lashes. Makes them look lanky, anorexic and confused — bad in both teens and eyelashes, turns out. If I use the superskinny Clinique brush, it looks better, but still not amazing. It does give great separation with few clumps though.

Sephora plain ole mascara — Immediately leaked all over my undereye when I ate spicy food and teared up a tiny bit (no actual crying). Also weird fibrous flakiness. Ew.

Smashbox Lash DNA x2 — Meh, dry formula, and the stupid brush doesn’t allow for precise application so you smear it everywhere. Does separate nicely and get fringe-y when applied w/ Lash Detailer mascara brush (part of Beauty Breakthroughs kit). But for a mascara that isn’t waterproof, this stuff sure is hard to remove! Harder than most waterproof mascaras!

Shiseido Perfect Mascara — Has the same icky glue-like smell as the long-lasting Too Faced Lash Injection, but this stuff also rubs off if you change your shirt. Pass! And what a stuck-up name, haha.

Clinique High Impact Mascara x2 — Meh. This stuff is fine, not phenomenal, just fine. Goes on fine, comes off fine, doesn’t stay amazingly long but then none of these non-waterproof ones do.

Lancôme Hypnose Drama — This stuff is just fine, not amazing. Annoying abnormal brush and slightly dry/clump-inducing formulation. Meh. 

Estée Lauder Sumptuous — This is supposed to be volumizing? It’s one of those length and separation but no volume mascaras that makes my eyes look FREAKY. Great for Halloween though!

Buxom Lashes — This stuff is also with a mean ouchy spiky brush, which makes it mega-hard to apply to the lash base. Applied with a skinny Clinique brush it looks fine, but otherwise, pass. Also, it seems to uncurl my curled lashes quicker than any other formulation!

And home sick on school pictures day, Smashbox Bionic Mascara. Ick. Just as tacky, thick, clumpy, and eye-goober-forming as I remember it.

So yeah, no big winners here, but not a shock given that these were all non-waterproof freebies. Back to the drawing board — curse my sensitive peepers!

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!

Sephora Favorites are kind of my new favorite

When I was living in Barcelona, I my friend who worked at the department store how to say "eyeliner" in Spanish. The answer? "Eyeliner" in Spanish pronunciation, i.e. "eh-yeh-lee-nurr". Lovely!Ohmigosh, Sephora is doing WAY more Sephora Favorites boxed sets this year! (Even if you ignore all the Halloween ones.) Or maybe they’re just doing more all at once? Either way, I’m obsessed.

I only *kind of* want this basics one, but I TOTALLY want this hair one, this new Lash Stash one, this eyeliner one, and maybe a couple others. And if these puppies go on sale after Christmas, well, maybe I’ll strike then! I just wish there was a way to link Sephora gift registries with Amazon gift registries. Ooh, like a lot. Like, I’m gonna go Tweet Sephora that idea right now!

I have solved Gillian Anderson’s biggest beauty dilemma.

She even looks like she has my same coloring here. (I think it's just a trick of the light, though.)Well, OK, her biggest beauty dilemma c. 1994-ish that her publisher allowed to be printed in some Cosmo or JANE interview. (Side note — why do I have such a freakish memory for stuff like this, but can’t remember the time-old question of where I put my keys/glasses/insert cliché noun here?) ANYWAY — so back when I was in high school, I read some trashy rag in which the lovely Scully actress said she was constantly searching for a lip gloss that was the exact same shade as her tongue. Well, Gillian, I may not be a redhead, but I’m a fair-skinned makeup maven with a freakish memory and I think I found your match.

Man, while I'm lukewarm about actual NARS cosmetics, I LOVE the black rubbery packaging. So sexy to the touch.It’s NARS Chihuahua — part of a limited-time free Sephora VIB bonus. I’m so glad I jumped and placed an order when this offer came through, because even though the NARS bonus had only two products (when the TooFaced and BeneFit promos had more), the two items are quite nice and the bronzer contains more product than I’ll ever go through in my lifetime. The gloss is described on the site as “Guava” colored, which I can’t really vouch for as I don’t recall ever seeing a non-processed guava. Plus aren’t there like a zillion subspecies, like with papayas? Whatever — it’s lovely, sheer, and free of shimmer. (My big obsession lately is shimmer-free gloss, for some reason.) And totally the color of my tongue.

Anyway, Gillian, here’s hoping this helps. Because you surely subscribe to my RSS feed. You’re welcome!

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. ^_^

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!