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My Holy Grail Beauty Products

Many moons ago, I was a regular on Makeup Alley. There, members would often talk about their HG, or Holy Grail products. That mascara that dreams were made of, the moisturizer that truly did transform, the hair product that finally made tresses manageable. Many moons ago, I spent a ton of money at Sephora, CVS, and Nordstrom looking for my own personal HGs but rarely gave any product the time needed to truly get to know it. As I have aged, I’ve stopped with the manic shopping for perfection. Lack of time, lack of funds, and lack of thinking such items will be so life-changing. But with that, I’ve used products until I “hit pan” or emptied the tube, I’ve repurchased items if they have served me well, and given products time to really prove if they’re good for me. I’ve also learned that Holy Grail doesn’t mean a product that will change my life, but products that fit me, my lifestyle, my budget, and my personal style.

The other day as I was doing my face, I realized I do have plenty of Holy Grail beauty products. I have a pretty set skincare routine and makeup face, one that gets the job done, feels good, looks good. My HG beauty products:

My Holy Grail Skincare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Beauty Products for Skincare

  • DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – This stuff isn’t cheap, but I have yet to find a cheaper alternative that works quite as well. Garnier is fine, but when I splurge and buy DHC (or get a sample from the BlogHer conference, thank you Rakuten!) I realize there is no comparison. This product gets my skin clean, takes off all makeup (even that kohl that seems to reappear five minutes after cleansing and then again in the morning), leaves my skin feeling softer than before cleansing, never causes breakouts, and when I use it, the next morning my skin looks phenomenal – hydrated, plump, soft, even, dare I say younger? I’ve used off and on for five years and have wasted so much money trying to find a cheaper alternative.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser – I keep this in the shower as cleansing oil doesn’t work well in such a situation. This also does a great job of removing everything from my face without stripping it, though I sometimes need to do a second wash if I wore any primers or setting sprays. I like using this with my Clarisonic. It’s cheap, it doesn’t dry me out, no breakouts, not too harsh but effective. However, if I only use this and don’t switch every so often my skin does start to dry a bit. The best combination is me using DHC most nights and a wash with CeraVe and my Clarisonic in the shower 2-3 times a week.
  • Clarisonic Mia – I’ve gone through periods where I don’t use this, and times when I’ve used it daily. Over time I have found that my skin benefits from using it, but not too often. I like it best in the shower; I’ll do a quick wash with CeraVe especially if I’ve used primers and setting sprays, then do a second cleansing with CeraVe and the Clarisonic. It makes my pores appear to be smaller, makes my skin glow (and true glow, not scratched irritated red), and really gives me a deep clean. I buy replacement brush heads on eBay from well-rated sellers and always make sure to have an extra one in the linen closet for replacement.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense – I’ve now purchased this product six times, I love it that much. I have tried other serums, and they don’t compare – too greasy, ineffective, irritating. I still don’t know exactly what Youth Code does to improve my skin, but when I use it, my skin is happy. It’s a very light serum that absorbs quickly and plays nice with moisturizers. It makes my skin glow a bit, pores seem reduced, skin feels hydrated but never greasy. I use it morning and night under my moisturizer.
  • Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for over a decade and nothing else compares. I don’t wash my face in the morning, I just wipe it with this witch hazel. It smells nice, it leaves my skin feeling clean yet soft, and the price is very nice. Also feels good on a sweaty gross day; I’ll wipe down my neck, cleavage, behind my ears and feel refreshed.
  • Reusable Cotton Rounds – I am still using the same set I featured in this post, and they only get softer and more absorbent with washings. I store the rounds in an oversized mason jar (so hipster… well actually it fits nicely in my medicine cabinet), and I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door and put the used rounds in there. Zip it up when I’m down to just a few clean rounds and throw in the next load of laundry. Wash and dry in the bag, and shove back in the mason jar. I use these for anything that needs a cotton round or ball except polish remover. Better for the environment, and better for your wallet!

My Holy Grail Makeup Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Makeup Beauty Products

  • Revlon ColorStay Makeup – I’ve used both formulas of this product; since turning 40 I switched to the Normal/Dry version (my color is Fresh Beige) and I find it has as much staying power as the oil-free version. The color looks natural on me, it blends well, doesn’t cause breakouts or get weird around my eyes and you can’t beat the price! Best of all… it lasts. It lasts through crying, through humid DC days, through dancing and sweating at a concert, and I can put it on at 6am before heading to the office and still have a set face at 7pm for an after-work event.
  • Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic – This stuff is amazing, and many of you have purchased it after I reviewed it and agree. It’s that perfect soft red that looks good on most every one. It’s not a lipstick, not a balm, not a stain but a combo of them all that can be applied without a mirror, be layered without being sticky or gross, and it has a bit of a menthol feel to soothe dry lips. I feel like Snow White when I wear it.  I have Romantic in my purse, Romantic in my desk, and Romantic in my dressing table at all times.
  • NARS Blush in Orgasm – I’ve been using this blush for over a decade. It has a bit of shimmer, but it’s subtle and only gives my skin a bit of a dewy finish. The coral color looks natural, but isn’t too orange to clash with cool-toned lipcolors and outfits. I have a couple other blushes in my makeup drawer for different looks but I always come back to Orgasm.
  • Maybelline Stiletto Liner in Brownish Black – I have contacts, allergies, and rub my eyes often. Pencil liners always end up a mess on me, and as I have gotten older I’ve found glossy black liquid liner looks too harsh.  I went through a ton of liquid liners from department stores, Sephora, and yes Makeup Alley-highly rated liners and none really wowed me.  I tried Line Stiletto by chance and became a loyal user for many years. It’s a felt tip that is flexible enough adjust the width of the line and get in that tiny area next to the lash line. It holds up through rubbing and sweating and tears and all that jazz, you can reapply over it later in the day if you want a darker or thicker line, yet it washes away easily at the end of the day. I keep one in my purse and one in my dressing table; I replace every three months.
  • e.l.f. Makeup Mist and Set – This is by far the best makeup setting spray I have tried. A combination of this and the Revlon ColorStay and my face can last for 24 hours even in high heat and humidity. Unlike other setting sprays and primers, I never get breakouts or clogged pores from this spray. And it doesn’t hurt that a bottle is under $5.00!

My Holy Grail Haircare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Haircare Beauty Products

  • Rusk Thick – While I have a lot of hair, it’s relatively thin. A few spritzes of Rusk Thick before blowdrying gives me lift and body without it feeling as though I added anything to my hair. I keep trying different products and they’re always… fine. But Thick gets the job done without making my hair feel gross or look gross on Day 2. I’m on my third bottle in the past few years and I’ve learned to not waste my money on other products and stick with what works.
  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray – I raved about it in this post and I still adore it. I like messy rocker hair, and it helps me get that. I sometimes like full loose curls and it helps me get that. And when I am on Day 2 or 3 and want it to look purposeful and not greasy or limp, it helps me get that too.
  • Clairol Natural Instincts in 20 Hazelnut – While my stylist can give me the best color with depth, dimension and multi colors that look more natural and shiny, I’ll use Natural Instincts Hazelnut between sessions to cover gray and when my haircolor fades. It’s a bit darker than my natural brown, but I like that. I also like that this is a cool brown, not auburn or golden. It’s not the best on grays, but it’s a good in-between sessions color that isn’t completely permanent and doesn’t dry out or fry my hair.

My Holy Grail Body Care and Fragrance Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Body Care Fragrance Beauty Products

  • Neutrogena Body Oil – I love the smell, I love how it makes my skin look dewey and silky, and I love the ritual of applying it in a steamy bathroom post-shower. I tire of fragrances quickly, but not Neutrogena Body Oil. When I was pregnant it was one of the few scents that didn’t bother me; Karl would use it as a massage oil when my back bothered me and when I feel stressed I’ll take a bath and add some to the water for the aromatherapy as well as the moisturizing properties. Heads up, don’t waste your money on drugstore versions; they don’t smell the same. At ALLLLLLL.
  • Body Shop Coconut Body Butter – This stuff takes scaly alligator winter skin and makes it soft, silky, and happy. It’s great on sunburned, irritated, or sensitive skin; slather your feet in it before bed and put on socks and wake up with lovely tootsies. I’ve been using it since I worked for the company as a trainer 15 years ago.  I buy the jumbo tubs now and one lasts me almost a year.
  • Burberry London Eau de Parfum – I always wanted a signature fragrance, it seemed so feminine and elegant and stylish. This is not the fragrance I would have thought would be “the one” but for almost a decade it continues to be a scent I love and never tire of.  I wrote more about Burberry London EDP in this post.
  • OPI Nail Color in Big Apple Red – When summer comes I like to switch up and do the occasional fun color (right now wearing OPI’s Stop for Red), but Big Apple Red for two years has been my signature color. I don’t tire of it, it’s the perfect red that’s not too flashy, too mature, doesn’t look bad on my pale skin, and it’s a color that stops strangers on the street to compliment and ask the brand and name.
  • CertainDri – I’m a sweaty gal, and have tried dozens of natural, clinical, men’s, women’s, unisex, fancy, basic, and all kinds of deodorants but they all miss the boat (and usually leave me smelling like B.O. plus chemicals or B.O. plus baby powder or lavender).  CertainDri continues to be the one product that leaves me smelling just like skin.  If you used in the past and found it drippy and irritating, the formula has been updated and improved.  I swipe it on at night and then in the morning use a regular deodorant (usually Dove because it’s gentle, relatively effective, and the smell doesn’t make me want to hurl).

Now it’s your turn to share. Do you have any Holy Grail beauty products? Your favorite may be the one thing we’re missing in our lives, let us know what you love in the comments!


My Skincare Routine

A few of you have asked about my skincare routine. I am by no means an expert, but I am pretty happy with my current routine.

In the morning, I wipe my face with Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel. This gets off any sweat, non-absorbed night cream, and that little bit of mascara that ends up under your eyes even though you thought you got off all your makeup the night before.

Then I apply eye cream – I am currently using The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Eye Cream. I used to use it back when I worked for the company but switched to higher-end formulas and types with treatments for dark circles, puffiness, or aging. I got this as a free sample with a beauty purchase and I must say I am digging it again – it absorbs quickly, seems to reduce puffiness, and keep the eye area soft and hydrated.

I then take a scoop of Philosophy’s Vitamin C Turbo Booster and put it in the palm of my hand, and add two pumps of the L’Oreal Youth Code Serum. Mix together, and rub into skin until fully absorbed. I’ve been using the Philosophy powder for a little over a year and I think it has made my skin look better, and I think it also helps protect it from further damage. Once absorbed, I add my SPF moisturizer. Right now I am using Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair and like it – no irritation, not greasy, and SPF 30.

In the evening, I add two pumps of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil to my hand and rub over my face. I give myself a bit of a face massage during this, massaging upwards to get in the pores and boost circulation. Then I use Avene Thermal Spring Water to remove it. I spray the water on my face and use a cotton round to remove it. It usually takes 2-3 sprays to get everything off. I then apply the same Body Shop eye cream.

For years I have used ROC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream off and on, and always wonder why I stray. Reasonable price, doesn’t irritate, and I think makes my skin look better. Lately I have been switching between ROC and Arcona’s The Solution because I got it as a free sample and like it. I rub it in until fully absorbed, and then apply night cream. Usually I use Olay Regenrist (or the CVS version), but I also got a free sample of Caudalie Premier Cru which is ah-may-zing but not in my budget so I pamper myself with it once a week or so.

GOING GREEN: While you can use cotton balls, rounds or even sturdy toilet paper to apply skincare products, I highly recommend reusable cotton rounds – they work just as well, save you money and reduce waste.  Just toss in your laundry, they get softer with time.  You can find some great ones on Etsy.

Though this is my standard daytime and evening regimen, I do play with other products:

  • Clarisonic Mia and CeraVe: This is the combo my husband and I use in the shower. If I am showering at night or before going out, I will use this combo to do a deep cleaning.
  • Mary Kay TimeWise Microdermabrasion Kit: I received this free a couple months ago and do it once or twice a month to give my skin a glow.
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Mist: I keep this beside my bed to add some extra hydration, use it to set makeup or make my face a bit moist before applying foundation, and always carry it when flying to hydrate on the plane.
  • Vaseline: It is also beside my bed. I add to my lips before I go to sleep, and if I have dry patches on my face I’ve been known to slap it on them as well to heal as I sleep.
  • Toothpaste: I am allergic to salicylic acid, which is unfortunate because that stuff will clear up a zit like nobody’s business. Nothing else I have tried is anywhere as good… except old fashioned toothpaste. I’ll put a blob on before bed and wake up to a zit that is 90% gone.

What are your favorite skincare products?

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Elizabeth Arden SUPERSTART: Is it Worth the Hype? [Sponsored]

I’ve been using Elizabeth Arden’s PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum for several weeks and I like it. My skin seems happier, plumper, and has a more even look. When Elizabeth Arden sent me a bottle of their SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster I was excited… and a bit skeptical, because the claims made seemed almost too good to be true.

Elizabeth Arden 'SUPERSTART' Skin Renewal Booster Review Wardrobe Oxygen Over 40 Fashion Blog Elizabeth Arden’s SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster works holistically to restore the healthy look of skin’s surface layer, fortifying its natural ability to repair and renew and ultimately boosting the effectiveness of your other skincare products. Used before a serum and/or moisturizer, it boosts the effectiveness of your skincare products. So let me get this straight… SUPERSTART will not only improve the look of my skin and help it be stronger, but it will also boost the properties of my already beloved PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum? Um… sign me up!

I don’t mind a few extra steps in my skincare routine if I know that there will be positive results. I am a complete serum convert, have been using one under my moisturizer for over a year and have seen how a serum adds hydration and extra benefits to my skin’s appearance without adding greasiness or clogging pores.

SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster is proven to boost your skin’s natural defenses with its probiotic complex which optimizes skin’s microflora to strengthen its natural defense, support the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your skin) to reinforce the integrity of skin’s barrier, and boost the effectiveness of your skincare products by optimizing skin’s surface layer. 95% of women agree that SUPERSTART boosts the effectiveness of their skincare products.* SUPERSTART has been proven to boost the power of PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum from Elizabeth Arden, so I have added it to my skincare routine. Cleanse, SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster, PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum, then either my day or night moisturizer. I’ll be sure to report back what I think, but considering how being able to sample PREVAGE® Anti-Aging Daily Serum made me a convert, I have very high hopes for SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster.  Have you tried this product? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster and all other Elizabeth Arden products are available on their website, Macy’s, and Nordstrom. Learn more about the brand by visiting them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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*Based on US home use consumer test on 62 women ages 25-59 after 8 weeks.

Giveaway

What are you trying to fix or accomplish with your current skincare routine? Let me know in the comments and be entered to win a bottle of SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster!

Entry Instructions: No duplicate comments.You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.The Official Rules are available here.  This sweepstakes runs from 10/1/15 – 10/20/15. Be sure to visit the Elizabeth Arden SUPERSTART Skin Renewal Booster brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Best Beauty Buys of 2013

I bought a lot of beauty products this year. Maybe it’s getting closer to 40 or maybe it’s changing my makeup to change my personal style, but I did a lot of experimenting, watching more YouTube tutorials, and subscribing to more beauty blogs. Through it all I lost some money, but I found some real winners. Some of these have been mentioned before on the blog, some have better reviews now than they did last time I reviewed them, some were never before mentioned which is crazy since I love them so much…

Revlon Revlon ColorStay Whipped Foundation in Natural Beige
So good. So good I’m buying a second jar this week.  It’s rich and creamy but doesn’t slip off your face by lunch or even by 5pm. It blends really nicely, doesn’t enhance my fine lines and pores, stays all day and gives a natural finish. You don’t have to head to the department store to find quality makeup, and this foundation proves it.

BeautyBlender
So my friend Lexa emails me and tells me this is a “gamechanger” so I order one the very same day. And I get it and I feel meh for a week or so, then for some reason it kicks in and I understand the gamechanger status. It doesn’t rub everything away or rub product into your pores (which your fingers can do), it doesn’t leave a weird finish on your skin (which I find with brushes), it doesn’t soak up as much product as a traditional makeup wedge, and its shape makes it easy to gently blend around your eyes and nostrils. Also if you do any contouring, it does a good job of blending without muddying it or rubbing it all away. It’s not cheap, it takes a while to get the hang of it, but I gotta agree with Lexa, it is a gamechanger.

BareMinerals Tinted Touch-up Veil
Yes, I am still obsessed.  I have a compact in my dressing table, one in my purse, and one in my desk. I don’t use it as much in the winter, but in spring and summer I swore by this compact. I used as powder to set my face before leaving the house, at noon to powder a shiny nose, and at the end of the day to refresh my look for an after-work event. It doesn’t cake, doesn’t look false, doesn’t make the dry parts of my face look more dry, and doesn’t make me itch like other mineral-based products.

NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder
Sometimes I have a lot of fun with my makeup and the time to play with it. Primer, multiple concealers and contouring products, foundation, highlighter, blush… and even with proper blending I can look pretty made up. But then I take a fluffy powder brush, swipe it over this compact and cover my whole face and everything suddenly looks toned down, cohesive, natural, finished, polished, and pretty. It doesn’t dull any shine or dewy-ness, it doesn’t cake or get weird in lines and pores, it just airbrushes everything and makes my skin look pretty and it lasts for a couple hours before needing a touchup.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I reviewed this before and received many suggestions on cheaper alternatives. And I tried a bunch of them and sorry… they don’t compare. Other oil cleansers left makeup on my face, irritated my eyes, wouldn’t rinse off, came in a bottle that made a mess. DHC really sticks to makeup and dirt and oil and removes it from the face. It rinses off nicely, not leaving goopy eyes or greasy cheeks. A little goes a long way, and when I use it I have fewer bumps and a nicer complexion overall. While it seems to be best when removed with Avene, it still works great with regular water.

Reusable Cotton Rounds
Still using the same ones I bought a year ago and work even better after several washings. I keep them in an oversized mason jar on the back of my toilet, and keep a mesh lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom with the towels to hold the used rounds. When I’m down to just a few, I zip up the bag and throw it in the laundry with other linens. I don’t use them for nail polish remover, but use for makeup remover, toner, removing face oil, and anything else that will wash off without staining.

PSSSST
Still the only dry shampoo I like. Blends into my dark hair, doesn’t leave it gummy or overly fragranced. It works best if I put it in before bed and let it rub into the scalp while sleeping, but I can still put it in my hair in the morning (if straight/brushable style) and a few swipes of a brush will blend it nicely.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
Wrote about it before, but so good it needed to be in my Best Of list!  I use W.O.S. for the top part of my lid, Naked 2 on the lid. I will create a subtle smoky eye for day by adding Faint in the crease and along the lash line, a more intense smoky eye with Crave and a bit of Venus in the inner corners of the eyes, or wet a slant brush and use Faint or Crave like a liner. The shadows are the perfect color and last all day.

Two Faced Better than False Lashes
Good enough to mention twice!  It’s messy, it needs eye makeup remover to get it all off at the end of the day, but by golly does this product give me amazing lashes! Once you get the hang of it you can get full-on drag queen lashes, light fringy long lashes, or just a bit of oomph on the outer corners. I don’t recommend putting it on your lower lashes, I don’t recommend going to sleep wearing it, and you want a good eye makeup remover so you don’t have to rub to get it off, but it really does give you fab long lush lashes without falsies.

Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
I don’t even miss my Shu Eumura any more, this lash curler is fantastic. Can’t go on and on because it’s only a lash curler (and I already wrote about it), but it gives a natural curve, doesn’t pinch, doesn’t stretch out after a week of use.

ARCONA The Solution
I got a sample from Beauty.com and liked it so much I bought it… and I still love it. At night after cleaning, I put on eye cream and then choose some treatment before my night cream. Sometimes it’s retinol, sometimes it’s a sample I received, but every other night it’s The Solution. Two pumps and rub into the face and it keeps away little bumps, makes my skin glow, and I think helps keep my skin looking healthy and happy.

So what were your best beauty buys from 2013? I’d love to hear as many of the products I buy are from your recommendations. And stay tuned, I asked a few of my friends to share their favorite beauty products from 2013 and will be sharing them next week!

FYI I noticed that Beauty.com is having 20% off all BareMinerals products today, and if you first go through Ebates, you’ll get 4% cash back from Beauty.com (you also get 4% cash back from Ebates for Sephora, there’s no point to NOT use Ebates when shopping online!)

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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!

Friday Favorite: The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

body shop satsuma shower gel

From fall 2001 to the beginning of 20014, I was a trainer for The Body Shop stores. After many years in apparel and merchandising I desired a change. I was making a concerted effort to get out of debt, and it would be easier without temptation around me and the need to be dressed in the latest and greatest (hello all-black dress code!). And it worked, I not only got out of debt, but I learned a lot about skincare and ingredients, how to be profitable and philanthropic at the same time, and finally how to properly apply eye shadow!

When I worked for The Body Shop back in the early oughts, we would burn fragrance oils in an aroma jar at the front entrance. I learned quickly that a blend of Satsuma and Exotic oils would bring in customers from all over the mall, and it would be easy to sell them a jar, bag of candles, those two oils and much more. After two and a half years with the company I couldn’t stand the smell of Exotic but I never tired of Satsuma. After leaving the company I’d still buy the shower gel and glycerin soap bars. It’s a sweet orange scent that doesn’t get weird, isn’t too fruity or pungent, and is a nice pick-me-up in the morning. But with time I forgot about Satsuma and moved on to new brands and different scents.

When my arm broke, I realized simple things like squeezing shower gel onto a pouf or washcloth were nearly impossible. I went on a hunt for spray and pump products that could be used with one hand and came back to The Body Shop. I ordered a bottle of Satsuma shower gel… and I don’t think I’ll go back to any other bath products!

Not only do I love the clementine scent, I love how it doesn’t dry my skin. It doesn’t scent my skin, so no competing with perfume or lotions but it does scent the main floor after a hot bath or shower. Even Karl uses it! A little goes a long way; I bought a 25 oz. bottle in February and just hit the bottom of the label and that includes all the times I indulged in very bubbly baths. While it’s a perfect summer scent, I know I’ll love it in the colder months too. A little bit of sunshine with every shower or bath!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Why Didn’t I Think of That – Volupties

These days, there’s a subscription program for everything, from tee shirts to lip glosses to statement necklaces. And for a long while there have been subscription services for lingerie and underpinnings, but they weren’t that nice of quality and never fit plus size women. As a woman with larger curves, I often feel left out of such programs – they all seem great but they don’t offer extended sizes. We women want fun and flirty and fabulous things in our mailbox too!

Enter Volupties, a subscription service that offers high-quality pretty underwear for curvy and plus-sized women. For just $17 a month (shipping included), you will receive three pairs of quality underwear delivered discreetly to your door. Each month you will receive different brands, different styles, different colors.  They are constantly adding new brands and manufacturers to their collection, providing members on occasion with undies that are valued at over $20 each in select packages!

Volupties let me try out the program and I received three different yet all pretty and flirty pairs – a cotton bikini by Intimate Basics in a gorgeous teal color with fun stitching and bow detail, a fabulous lace hipster from Vision Intimates in a gorgeous shade of hot pink, and a racy gray leopard of a stretchy silky fabric by Jennifer Intimates.  All three are high quality – better than what you can find in a big box store and far more fun than what you can usually find in a department store in larger sizes.  Packages arrive wrapped in pretty pink tissue paper.

Volupties has subscriptions in three size combos, XL/1X, 2X, and 3X. They have a size chart on their site to help you choose the right fit, and make it easy if you need to change your size or cancel your subscription. If you are smaller, try their sister site, Splendies. While I love a great lipstick or trial size of skincare, sometimes a new fabulous pair of undies can transform your outlook even more!

And just for Wardrobe Oxygen readers, use code OXYGEN when you subscribe, and you can save $4 off your first month with Splendies and $5 off your first month with Volupties!

Note: While I was provided a free month, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.  I just think it’s a pretty fabulous program and am thrilled when companies recognize that plus size women deserve products to make them feel sexy and fabulous!

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Beauty Review: Colleen Rothschild Skincare

colleen rothschild skincare review - wardrobe oxygenRecently, Colleen Rothschild reached out and asked if the brand could send me a package of their skincare products. I hadn’t heard of the brand but said sure, why not see what it’s all about? I received their bestselling Radiant Cleansing Balm and Sheer Renewal Cream.

First glance, I wasn’t impressed. A cleanser in a jar? That seemed so messy and cumbersome, and what was up with the included muslin cloth? And the moisturizer didn’t have sunscreen. I’ll try, but this is NOT my scene.

A month later… it is my scene. I didn’t have to write about this, I wasn’t paid or required to in trade for the product, I just had to share how impressed I was and how my initial opinion was wrong.

For the past several weeks I have used the products daily and have seen a marked improvement in my skin. It’s happy! It glows, it’s soooo soft, no breakouts, no irritation, no red eyes, no itchy contacts. The only change is these two products.

The Cleansing Balm as I mentioned, comes in a jar similar in size and style to a body butter. Luckily, it’s easy to open and close with one hand. The muslin cloth is exactly that – a piece of white muslin with finished edges (and of course a logoed tag). The consistency is like a deep conditioning mask for the hair with an oily consistency (not surprising since it’s made from Loofah Seed and Moringa Oil). Scoop out a small dollop (seriously, this should look oily, not creamy on your skin, that’s how little you need), rub between your hands to warm it up and then massage it onto your skin. Take the muslin cloth, run under hot water, gently wring out, and put the cloth over your face. I press it to the skin and let it sit there until it cools. This is a really luxe moment. The product smells like a day spa – all aromatherapy herbal goodness. I breathe it in, eyes closed, and chill out. Then I wipe my face with the muslin.

It claims to remove all makeup, but I find few products really do and perform a two-step cleansing (I use this after cleansing with micellar water). It proves that the micellar water also doesn’t get everything off – the balm comes off with bits of mascara and foundation. I rinse the muslin a few times until I’ve removed all the product.

The Radiant Cleansing Balm is a really satisfying product for a number of reasons:

  • First, it smells awesome – it really is like a mini spa experience breathing in the scent, having that moment with your eyes closed feeling like you’re getting a professional facial even though you’re in a bathroom that needs a scrubbing, there’s three Barbies on the side of the bathtub staring at you, and you have toothpasteon your robe. Breathe in the scent, breathe out the real world.
  • Second, it really feels like self-care. It’s far more enjoyable than makeup wipes, micellar water, and most cleansers that burn my eyes. Afterwards, my skin doesn’t feel greasy, tight, doesn’t feel like there’s a coating on it… it just feels soft and clean.  I feel as though I’m really doing something good for me.
  • Third, it’s fun to look at the crap on the muslin. As mentioned, it removes that which micellar water doesn’t, and you see the cream with gunk in it. Some is recognizable like flecks of mascara or the color of my foundation, but some just looks as though it pulled out the gunk in my pores. If you like Biore strips, you too may find this part satisfying.

As for it being in a jar, it’s not the most convenient but I can’t imagine how else to package this product. I’ve become quite expert at closing the jar with one hand before rubbing the product and putting it on my face.

It’s really too bad the Sheer Renewal Cream doesn’t have sunscreen because it is awesome. Like the Cleansing Balm, the Cream has a day spa-esque scent, but it dissipates quickly and doesn’t irritate my eyes or skin. I use a blueberry-sized amount and apply over my serum. It leaves the most perfect feeling – it’s not dry, it’s not greasy, it just feels like velvet. It’s like an elegant version of how skin feels after applying many makeup primers. And like primers, it seems to help makeup glide on the skin and stay in place during the day.

Supposedly the Sheer Renewal Cream promotes new cell turnover to help minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles and I can’t prove it but lately my skin looks healthier, feels more springy, and I feel more confident going without foundation. A little goes a very long way, I’ve hardly made a dent in the tube and I haven’t been afraid to be liberal with use (I’ve even tried it on hands and elbows). I’ve been using it every night with a bit of almond oil over it for added sleepy-time hydration. While it’s perfection with makeup, I’ve been only using it days when I don’t wear makeup and apply sunscreen over it. If it came with SPF 30 or higher, I would be oh so psyched and likely have a Holy Grail moisturizer.

All this, and Colleen Rothschild skincare is cruelty free and free of parabens, SLS/SLES sulfates, Triclosan, formaldehyde, PABA, toluene, and benzene. All that and the products are made here in the USA. Colleen Rothschild offers free shipping to the US on all orders over $49, ships to other countries as well (details on the website) and is offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off any full-price products with the code OXYGEN20 (offer expires June 24, 2016).

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A Minty Miss – My Experience with StyleMint and JewelMint

If you follow fashion and beauty bloggers, I’m sure you have heard of JewelMint, StyleMint, and ShoeMint. These are celebrity-sponsored sites that offer a monthly “showroom” of pieces based upon your personal style.

You start by filling out a survey of your personal style – are you more Zara or J. Crew? If you’re getting a pedicure would you rather read InStyle or Cosmo? From this, the Mint site decides what from their collection is most appropriate to your taste and creates your custom showroom. The collection is updated each month, so you have new pieces to choose from.

The idea is fabulous – jewelry designed by Kate Bosworth and her stylish friend, shoes picked for you by Rachel Bilson, tees via the Olsen twins (and skincare via Jessica Simpson, though I won’t be discussing BeautyMint site in this article).

All of these sites are subscription sites – once you make your first purchase, your credit card is on file and you will be charged every month. You have the first five days of the month to dash to their site to say “skip this month” or else you will be charged the monthly cost ($29.99 for Style and JewelMint, $79.99 for ShoeMint).

Last year, I won a “gift certificate” to JewelMint. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to use it, and realized in essence it was just a free credit for the site. I went to the site, and wasn’t too impressed with the options – my skin doesn’t react well to rings not made of silver or platinum, I am not really an earring person, and I don’t like delicate necklaces. However, they had a green pendant on a longer gold chain that looked promising.

My JewelMint necklace

The necklace came quite quickly, and I was impressed with the packaging. A glossy mint green box with magnetic closure, the necklace was carefully displayed on a velvet-covered foam box insert. The packaging was so pretty and luxe, I felt I was getting an item from a high-end designer. Then I opened the box… and was underwhelmed. The necklace was… fine. The quality was average to below average – lightweight, a weird color of gold that looks fake even from several feet away, an odd length of chain. A stylish friend said it looked like a piece from Forever 21 and I had to agree.

My JewelMint bracelet

JewelMint has a referral program – get others to join with your custom URL and you get free credits towards more jewelry. I ended up acquiring four credits in 2011. Each month I would go to JewelMint to use my credits, and leave with nothing. Seriously, I could get free jewelry and couldn’t find a single thing I would actually wear. Last month I saw a gold link bracelet that looked promising and used a credit towards it. Again, the piece arrived very quickly, and in quite luxe packaging. And again the piece is underwhelming. While this bracelet is a better color of gold, it’s still lightweight, simplistic and should cost less than $29.99. I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers that pieces have turned their skin green and have broken in just a couple months’ time.

Even with my less-than-awesome experience with JewelMint, I was curious about StyleMint. I respect Mary Kate and Ashley’s personal style and taste. Also,the blogger A Girl in Boston had the StyleMint “Venice” tee and I liked how it looked on her. I also got an email from StyleMint for a discount on my first purchase so I decided to give the site a go.

Based on the size chart on StyleMint, I got a size 5/XL. With my shoulder, arms, and bust I usually err on the side of too big with tees to get a flattering and work-appropriate fit. While I felt the cut of the “Venice” tee would be cute with jeans on weekends, I was also hoping to wear it sucked into pencil skirts for an office-worthy ensemble.

As with JewelMint, the purchase arrived quickly and was wrapped with care. At first glance, the tee looked pretty nice – a soft lightweight knit that had a luxe, silky finish. Unlike cheapy big box retailer tees, there was care to have the stripes line up at seams. I liked the neckline – a slim hem that would look appropriate with a blazer or for casual wear.

The other night I tried on my tee… and it was huge. HUGE. The sleeves were so long they went past my fingertips, the neckline gaped and displayed a bra strap, and the swing cut made it look like a maternity piece. With all these Mint sites, returns are accepted but it cannot be worn, washed, must be in its original packaging, you need to contact them for a shipping label, and while shipping is free there is a $5.95 restocking fee.

I looked at the label – 100% cotton (though online it says 50% cotton, 50% modal), though it said to wash on gentle and lie flat to dry. I decided to throw it in the washing machine and dryer in hopes it would shrink. It did – not a lot, but enough to make it wearable. I was pleased to see that the color did not fade, and the knit held up nicely through the machines.

Me in the StyleMint “Venice” tee

Yesterday I wore this tee, and I like it… okay. It’s a beautiful color scheme, and a unique silhouette, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it for a tee sight-unseen, especially with the return process. The swing style is a bit too short to be flattering on most – even my sister agreed that a couple more inches would make the style more wearable (able to tuck in), and more flattering. It’s nothing dramatically awesome, and by looking at this month’s options, I don’t really know if any of them are. While the price is reasonable for a designer brand tee shirt, I don’t really consider StyleMint to be a designer brand, just associated with designers/style icons.  I would rank the quality and style to a store like Gap or LOFT.

These Mint sites are great if you have a pretty standard size or personal style and crave something new each month. However, they can quickly become expensive if you aren’t quick to manage your memberships. Unless you tell them otherwise by the 5th, these sites will charge your card each month, whether or not you purchase anything.

The cancellation process for these different sites vary – for StyleMint you need to call them during business hours, for JewelMint you can send them an email. I sent an email today and within a couple of hours, they replied saying it had been done. I was pleased to find it so simple, no attempt at wooing me back with discount codes, just a cancellation notice and request to rate the customer service experience.

I have not tried ShoeMint because I am a hard-to-fit person. I know certain brands fit me best, and prefer to have the ability to try the shoe on in the store.


Have you joined any of these Mint sites? What are your experiences with the product or the service?

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Showing the Love: Isaac Mizrahi Beauty

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

It’s no secret that I adore Isaac Mizrahi and have been a fan for years. I love his use of color and how his looks are feminine but full of fun and energy, and how he designs for real women. Researching for this post I found this quote by Mizrahi, “…One of my goals as a designer has always been to get my customer to look in the mirror the right way. I don’t want her to buy this because it’s a big fantasy, but because she will look in the mirror and think she looks good.” This goes right along with my thoughts on fashion and personal style and what Wardrobe Oxygen is all about, so when I was contacted by his brand I was uber psyched and asked if they would like to host a giveaway this month.

true isaac mizrahi beauty cosmetics

Issac Mizrahi recently teamed up with True Cosmetics to launch TRUE Isaac Mizrahi, a line of skincare and colorful makeup. “I am so happy to be launching a beauty line. I love color, and now I get to share my passion for it in this new and exciting way,” says Mizrahi. Housed in elegant gold packaging, the 144-piece collection is cruelty-free and infused with blends of green and white teas, marine algae, Vitamins A and E. I love that the shades are named after Mizrahi’s favorite Hollywood icons and New York locales.

The shadows in this line are made with a special ceramide complex that help smooth the eyelids so powder never creases, while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. I love the Eyeshadow Trios compact which comes in three color combinations for a bold runway-ready look. The Pure Lipcolor comes in eight creamy, long-lasting shades that will hydrate and protect your lips while delivering bold color. I’m partial to Audrey Red which would bring a much-needed pop of color to a gray winter day yet still look fresh come spring. There’s 20 shades of the Nail Lacquer available, and the formula claims to be water resistant, chip resistant, and fade resistant. While I’m a classic red nail gal, I’m drawn to the dark navy shade of Jean Blue.

If this collection sounds as good to you as it does to me, today is your lucky day. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their color choice of the Eyeshadow Trio, Nail Lacquer, and Pure Lipcolor. I think so many pieces from TRUE Isaac Mizrahi sounds fabulous but thought these three pieces would let anyone of any skin tone or type enjoy this prize. Enjoy, and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen + TRUE Isaac Mizrahi Beauty Giveaway

Shop My Closet – On Poshmark!

WardrobeOxygen on PoshmarkI’ve been saying for a while that I needed to get off my tuchus and sell all the clothes I don’t currently wear. While I may clean out my closet I do have a dirty secret… I have bins and bags full of clothes in my attic (and there were a couple full contractor bags in my home office). I regularly donate career wear to a charity and have Freecycled and donated all my maternity clothes and clothes that are in “well loved” condition, but the nicer stuff I’ve been holding on to.

No more. All this clothing is doing no one favors being boxed and bagged up in my attic. A couple weekends ago, my best friend came over and for eight hours we dug through three bags. All pieces were photographed, packed up, labeled, and ready to ship. While I have used eBay and a Shop My Closet blog in the past, this time I decided to use Poshmark. My friend Alyson has raved about it for a long time and many of you have told me you use it with great success. It seemed simpler than eBay too.

For the past two weeks I have been using Poshmark and I have become as big of a fan as my friend Alyson! It’s an app-based program; while you can visit Poshmark on your computer, to buy and sell you need to do it on your phone. As a seller, I think this makes the process uber easy – my pictures are already on my phone so I can easily upload them, write a quick description, and even answer questions and negotiate counteroffers. I’ve found the customers to be more… reasonable than on eBay. You’re not usually expected to offer 5,000 measurements for a $6 LOFT tee, people are super friendly and quick to share and comment, and while I have had a couple ridiculous counter offers (no, I will not sell that NWT original retail still in the store $250 item for $15), in general it has been a friendly and painless experience.

Tips for Selling on Poshmark by Wardrobe OxygenA couple of you saw on social media that I was on Poshmark and have joined to buy and sell. If you’re interested, if you use this link and code PMZYS you’ll get $5 off your first order and I too will receive a $5 credit (find me, I am wardrobeoxygen).  There’s no auction or bidding, you can counter-offer and some sellers (myself included) offer  “bundling” where you can purchase multiple pieces from a seller at one time and save on shipping ($4.99/order).  If you’re interested in selling on Poshmark, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Be Honest.  Like other selling sites, Poshmark has a rating system.  Buyers can give you up to five stars for orders.  It’s not worth it to ruin your reputation by trying to pass off replicas, lie about the condition of a garment, or its original price.
  • Provide Details.  Is it an XL but fits more like a L?  How did you style it?  If you recall the original style name or number or even color name, include it.  While Poshmark won’t let you write a novel, you can offer quite a lot of information.  The more details you provide, the more likely the item will sell and the more likely the buyer will get what she expected and leave you a favorable rating.
  • Take Good Photos.  I use my iPhone 6s and take the pictures in natural light near a window.  For Christmas I got this dress form; it’s not high quality (in fact I cracked the base the day my friend and I were on a Poshmark selling spree and it’s now held together with packing tape) but it gives a better idea of how an item will fit than lying a sweater on your bed or floor.  If you have a photo of you wearing the item, include that too.  I also search the internet for stock photos of the item.  A mix of all three is a great way to get an item sold.  Poshmark lets you upload four photos per item with the first photo being your cover photo.  I’ve found the most successful cover photos are those with me wearing the piece.  If you don’t have a photographer taking your picture in items for a blog, a mirror selfie in a well-lit room is still good (and you can cut off your head in the photo if you wish to be anonymous).
  • Stock Up on Free Priority Mailers.  Your post office has Priority Mail Tyvek envelopes and boxes for free; these are perfect for shipping out your orders.  Included in the cut Poshmark takes from your sales (20%, or $2.95 if the item sells for $5 or less) is a shipping label.  When you make a sale, Poshmark emails you this Priority Mail label.  You can order shipping bags and boxes from USPS.com for free but know it takes up to two weeks to receive your order.  If you have a post office nearby, grab a few to get your sales going.
  • Take Care with your Sales.  I fold nicely, wrap in tissue, tie with a bit of curling ribbon, and carefully slip into the box or bag.  I got a pack of cheap tissue paper; you only need 1-2 pieces per order.  The curling ribbon I purchased when I attended a baby shower where all presents were to be wrapped in blue.  That yet-to-be-born baby is now 5 and as you see in the photo above, there’s still plenty left even though every shower and birthday present since the shower had turquoise ribbon on it.  I bought some rolls of packing tape, and because I’m a dork like that, ordered some cheapy business cards from VistaPrint (this is a referral link that will give you $10 off your first order) that thank the buyer for her order, have my name and my Poshmark address on them.  The overall cost is minimal, but it makes the experience much nicer for the recipient.
  • Raise Your Rates.  Poshmarkers LOVE to counter-offer.  Consider this when making your prices.  It’s worth it to up the price a few dollars to be ready for a counter-offer (if you accept a counter-offer the item sells immediately to that individual).  Also, if you have stagnant items that don’t want to sell, you can then lower the price without too much heartache.  A plus to lowering the rate is anyone who “liked” the piece will end up receiving reduced shipping.
  • Be Quick with Communication.  If someone asks for additional details or makes a counter-offer, be polite and reply within 24 hours.  Since Poshmark is on your phone, it’s easy to quickly type in a response and move on with your day.
  • Follow the Rules.  Don’t accept sales through PayPal or offline.  Don’t try to sell used makeup or clutter Poshmark with items they don’t allow to be sold on their app (home goods, electronics, health and wellness products, used underwear and makeup).  Don’t label something a blouse when in fact it’s one of those belly wrap things that spam social media.  And don’t call something Chanel-esque or like Louis Vuitton – that’s a trademark violation and such names can only be used if the item is legitimately from that brand.
  • Be Part of the Community.  Share other people’s sales (I only share that which I actually like), follow other accounts, leave comments and reply to comments.  Poshmark is very social, and by being part of the community you’ll get a larger audience to see your closet, resulting in faster and more sales!

Are you on Poshmark?  I’d love to hear your experiences and feel free to share your closet in the comments!

My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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L’Oreal RevitaLift Review & Giveaway [Sponsored]

I’m a L’Oreal fan and have been for a while (I regularly profess my love for their Youth Code Serum, and have been pleased with many cosmetic and skincare products over the years) so when I was asked to review some pieces from their RevitaLift™ line I was excited. While I’ve had pretty good skin most of my adult life, now that I’ve hit 40 I’m seeing the effects of time on my face. Dry patches, fine lines and wrinkles, a loss of elasticity, and suddenly the occasional breakout, usually at that time of the month. I’ve learned with my skin and thanks to your comments and emails for the blog that no two people have the same skin story. L’Oreal has also realized this and created www.lorealskinexpert.com. L’Oréal’s goal with this site is to help consumers find the right solution for their unique skin concerns.  

loreal revitalift skincare review

Considering my specific skin story, L’Oreal sent me three products to try out – RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Eye Treatment, RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Day Lotion Moisturizer with SPF 20, and RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Intensive Overnight Mask. I received the products a month prior to the writing of the post, used every day without fail so I could provide as useful and accurate a review as possible.

L’Oreal RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Eye Treatment claims to, “Repair Wrinkles. Reduce Bags. Lift Eye Area.” It is a slender tube with one of those cooling metal caps. I know the point of these caps is to blend the cream into the eye area, but I find them hard to use and believe I give a softer touch with my ring finger. I didn’t even try the metal cap, and used the cream with my finger, applying every morning and evening before my moisturizer. The eye treatment is very creamy, almost slippery yet it absorbs nicely. I can apply and five minutes later put on my makeup without fear of slippage. L’Oreal claims that with this eye treatment, “In 1 week, skin texture appears smoother and skin tone is more even. In 4 weeks, wrinkles are visibly reduced.” I prefer the feel of this product over my regular anti-aging eye cream and think the silky texture prevented me from having to put in any effort to have it absorb, helping me not add any more damage or reduction of elasticity to the eye area. It’s hard to say whether my skin appears smoother or my skintone is more even, as I did a lot of travel, late nights, and soaking of the rays during the 30-day process. However, I like the consistency and lack of irritation, which I’ve been known to experience with many anti-aging eye products.

L’Oreal RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Day Lotion Moisturizer SPF 20 claims to, “Repair Wrinkles. Smooth Out Fine Lines. Fade Spots + Discoloration.” Combining the powerful anti-aging action of Pro-Xylane and Bright Active XP3 with broad spectrum protection against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, this product sounded like a perfect fit for my skin needs. Again, I really liked the silky, emollient consistency of the product. It glided over the skin, absorbed reasonably well for a product with sunscreen, and didn’t cause my makeup to slip throughout the day. Even with a bit too much sun one weekend, I found this product hydrating my dry patches but not leaving me greasy. I always choose an anti-aging moisturizer with a higher SPF, but this did just as good a job as my regular anti-aging daily moisturizer in smoothing out fine lines; as for spots and discoloration I didn’t see a change but again my environment and lifestyle the past month didn’t help the situation. No breakouts, even the week before my period, which lately is rare for a new moisturizer. If this had a higher SPF I’d repurchase it.

RevitaLift™ Triple Power™ Intensive Overnight Mask is my JAM! Seriously, I love this stuff and am so glad they sent it for me to review. If not, I likely would pass it buy on the drugstore shelf. It’s like L’Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense in that it’s hard to fully explain why it is so awesome. But that night after the jar arrived in the mail, I applied the eye cream, my Youth Code serum, and then this mask and when I woke up my skin looked as though I just got back from a week at the spa. Seriously, my skin looked as happy as it does after a really great facial. Plump, small pores, dewy, glowy, happy. The mask features an innovative ELASTI-FLEX texture that supposedly acts to mimic skin’s own elasticity. It’s also the first night treatment to combine concentrated super ingredient Pro-Xylane with botanical extract Centella asiatica to help improve skin’s firmness & elasticity overnight and visibly transform the look of aging skin. I haven’t used the mask every night, I switch it up with my ordinary night cream, but each night I use this I wake up with a happy face. When I got a bit of sunburn, that night I slathered this mask all over my face, neck, and shoulders and woke up with softer, less red, and less itchy skin. A little goes a long way; I’ve used it at least three times a week for a month and have slathered it from forehead to bustline and I’ve hardly made a dent in the jar. This will be a re-purchase for sure.

I encourage you to visit www.lorealskinexpert.com and find out the L’Oreal skincare products that are best for your unique skin story. Learn more about this new site, the RevitaLift™ line, and L’Oreal by visiting L’Oreal on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

Giveaway

In the comments below, tell me your unique skin story or a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card.  No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  • Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
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  • For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 9/17/15 – 11/15/15. Be sure to visit the L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift™ brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Over 40 Beauty: NuFACE Mini Device Review

Wardrobe Oxygen - NuFACE Mini Facial Toning Device ReviewOther than a tough year in middle school, I’ve had pretty good skin. I worked for a skincare company after college so I learned early the benefits of regular cleansing, polishing, and protecting. However, I was a sun worshipper and spent a good percentage of my college years inside a tanning bed. It seemed as though as soon as I turned 40 my skin changed. Suddenly I was dealing with dry patches, loss of elasticity, and wrinkles.

I’ve been using anti-aging skincare products for years, but they just didn’t seem to be accomplishing enough. I went to a dermatologist to get a full body scan (a very… exposing experience but one I recommend to get a very detailed check) and asked about Retin-A. Many of you had recommended it for improving skin. My doctor gave me a prescription, but informed me it would be at least six months before I saw results and in the mean time I would have to stay out of the sun and would deal with redness, peeling, and irritation. And then I found out my insurance doesn’t cover any of it and one tube would cost almost $200. It just didn’t seem like the right choice for me. I also don’t feel Botox or other injectibles were the right choice for me at this point in life. I figured it was a fact of life, this is my skin in my 40s, I just should baby it as much as possible.

Then I was reading Bobbi Brown’s interview with Into the Gloss and she mentioned NuFACE. I follow Brown on Instagram and she looks great – she doesn’t look 25, but she glows and looks healthy and well cared for. NuFACE is a device that sends microcurrents to the skin, helping tone the skin and lift jowls, contour jawline, reduce nasal labial folds and wrinkles, lift eye brows, and open eyes. NuFACE is almost $500 which is completely outside my pricerange right now, but I researched and many said the NuFACE Mini was just as effective and more than half the price. Around the same price as one tube of Retin-A, I figured why not try it? Selling anywhere between $160-$200 on sites such as Amazon, QVC, Ulta, and Sephora, I chose to buy it from Nordstrom ($199) knowing that if I had an issue with it I could easily return it.

This is a long but detailed video from when NuFACE Mini was featured on QVC and one of the few videos where the models aren’t 25.  It explains the difference between the original and mini and shows how microcurrents work.

The NuFACE Mini comes with the palm-sized device, a charging cord, a tube of their gel primer, and a laminated card with the general 5-minute daily routine to complete with the device. If you download their app (advertised in the package), not only will it send you notifications when it’s time to do your treatment (optional), it has videos for more elaborate treatments. To use the NuFACE, you must first cover that portion of your face with their gel primer, which has a consistency similar to aloe vera. The laminated card and videos on the app are very clear to follow.

I charged the NuFACE Mini for 24 hours before first use, and plug it in to charge overnight every few days. The NuFACE Mini is set to turn off after five minutes; when getting familiar with the device or if you wish to do the more elaborate just turn it back on and keep going (this is one of the things different between the Mini and the full-size version). You can safely use the device up to 20 minutes a day. The device stays charged for almost a full week, but I found it was best to plug it in overnight every Wednesday and Sunday to keep it ready to go.

nuface mini review - wardrobe oxygen

A screenshot from the QVC video; see how her left side of the face looks less puffy and the brow is higher?  Yeah, that’s exactly what I saw on myself!

If you use enough gel and stay far away from your eye sockets, there’s little to no feeling when using the NuFACE Mini. I have had a bit of a metallic taste in my mouth after using but it goes away pretty quickly. If you don’t have the gel or have a sensitive part of your face you may feel a slight pinch or twinge on the skin like a hair getting caught in a spring. You slowly glide the machine over your skin and the round metallic balls on the gel makes it very smooth and comfortable. When you do the more elaborate routines on their website or app, you may hold the NuFACE in one place for a few seconds, but again there’s no pain or discomfort.

So Allie, this is all fine and good, but does the NuFACE actually work?

NuFace Mini Before and After - Wardrobe Oxygen

I completely forgot I texted this picture to my friends back in March to show how it works.  So yes, there is a photo of the before and after.  I did my left side of the face in this picture, my forehead is all shiny from the gel you use with the device.

Yes, it does. It works really well on me. I can do one side of my face and it looks as though I have a half-smirk and have raised just one eyebrow. It reduces the furrows on my forehead, and makes my jawline more pronounced. My skin in general looked healthier, not so dry, not so flat.  The effects last for at least 48 hours. I recommend doing it at least five times a week keep the results; I would do the 5-minute treatment most days and when I had time, would go more in depth and do it for about 15 minutes.  But even five minutes fives times a week will be enough that people will ask if you’ve gotten more sleep, maybe lost a couple pounds, changed your makeup.  That subtle something different (unless your partner walks in after only doing one side and freaks out and wonders if you had a stroke).

The combo of the gel and the machine can cause some serious breakouts if you don’t clean very well afterwards. I was getting insane deep whiteheads around my mouth and I thought it was hormonal, I thought it was my diet, my new night cream. Then I was reading around online and found many other NuFACE users experienced the same. With a deep cleaning after use, the breakouts stopped.  So I NuFACE, wash my face at the sink with CeraVe, and then hop in the shower and wash again with CeraVe or a random facial scrub or wash sample I have, and sometimes with my Clarisonic.

If I wrote this post two weeks ago, I would end it right here. It’s great, the NuFACE Mini can be purchased at Sephora, Nordstrom, QVC, and plenty of other places. But I’ve been slow with my Over 40 Beauty posts and this time it’s a very good thing.

Because my NuFACE is possessed.

I used it fine for about three months. If you follow me on Snapchat, you’ve seen me snap myself using it and a few of you reached out for more details about it. I couldn’t rave enough; while $199 may be a lot at first, the results were better than all the random tubes and pots I had purchased over the years.

Then it seemed to lose its charge earlier than usual. I plugged it in; it ended up charging for two days straight. It wouldn’t turn on again. No light, no beep, nothing. I was pissed, how dare a $200 item break down after just a few weeks? I left it on the top of my toilet and figured that weekend I’d box it up and return it (this is why I bought it from Nordstrom after all).

I didn’t get around to it, and so it sat uncharged for over a week. Then one day Emerson was taking a bath in our bathroom and she starts screaming. I race up the stairs fearing the worst. “Mommy your machine started talking!” And sure enough, the NuFACE Mini was beeping the way it does when it’s in need of a charge. So I plugged it in again, excited it was working again. I waited 24 hours, tried it, and still it wouldn’t turn on. I left it there, plugged in to the charger. That night around 3am it started beeping. Beep beep, be-buh-la-la-beeeeeppppp beep. Beebeebeebeebebeeb… I went in and all the blue lights were flashing in different patterns. It was CRAZY! I unplugged it and it stopped… and wouldn’t turn on. I left it unplugged and went back to bed. That morning around 5:30 my alarm went off and I, half-asleep, wandered into the dark bathroom and sat on the toilet and the unplugged NuFACE started going bonkers again, lighting up the bathroom with blue strobes. I was no longer half asleep!  I turned it off and it was quiet for a few days… but then Monday night while brushing my teeth it started going off again.  I shared the insanity on Snapchat and saved the short videos from the app so I could show them to you.

My NuFACE is back in its original packaging and ready to go back to Nordstrom this weekend.  It’s been boxed up for more than 24 hours at the time of writing this and is still beeping, turning itself on and off, making crazy noises.  But I am exchanging it. I have to think this is a dud, and not all NuFACE Minis are possessed. And yes, it’s good enough that it’s worth it to try again.  I miss my NuFACE face.

So do I recommend the NuFACE? Yes… if you purchase it somewhere with a very lenient return policy. I hope yours isn’t possessed and I hope my future one isn’t as well. I will keep you posted.  If the next one isn’t a dud like this one I’ll provide more visuals (hopefully a video) to show how it works.

The NuFACE Mini is available at many skincare and department stores. Order at your own risk!

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
 
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
 
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
 
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Change for Good: Dry Brushing

While I was on disability, I went down a bit of an internet rabbit hole (well I went down quite a few because there’s not much else to do when hopped up on Percocet and on bed rest but let’s stay on topic). I was looking into natural looking and gradual sunless tanners (the results can be found in this post), but many articles and reviews I read discussed the importance of exfoliation before application, and a few recommended dry brushing.

the benefits of dry brushing

Oh yeah, dry brushing! I used to do that back when I worked for The Body Shop! I was a trainer for the company so I ended up trying every product we had including the body brush (FYI that painfully stiff natural body brush isn’t for lathering your back even though they advertise it as such) but when surrounded by hundreds of beauty products and being young and able to look fresh after six cocktails and three hours of sleep, I didn’t stick to much of a skincare regimen. But now in my late 30s and full of painkillers and chemicals from surgeries, the detoxification and skin improving properties of dry brushing sounded mighty appealing.

As I mentioned in this post, I read the eBook The 10-Day Skin Brushing Detox after seeing so many rave reviews for it online and purchased this $10 body brush. Once the brush arrived in the mail, I started dry brushing the very next day. I started with a very light touch – that brush can feel pretty scratchy on the skin! But with time, you find you can handle and even enjoy a rougher brushing and may adjust the method to your needs. I wake, use the toilet, and right away dry brush. If I wait, I end up having on clothes or moisturizer or sweat from walking or it just seems like a burden. But keep the brush in the bathroom (it has a loop, I hang it on the back of the door), strip, brush, and move on. Within a week it should be as much habit as brushing your teeth.

I start with my left leg, brushing from the tips of my toes up to my hips, the side, and then my rear. Then the other side. I then do my arms from tips (or cast), to shoulders, putting focus on my elbows which get dry. I then brush my neck from face down, circles from the middle of my breastbone out to my arms, light brushing over the breasts, brushing from below the breasts to the abdomen, counter-clockwise on the abdomen, then from the pubic bone up (over the “mama pooch” and post-baby stretch marks). Sometimes I do my face (light stroke on side of nose from forehead to chin, then three swipes from nose out, then other side), sometimes I just go straight to back of neck and shoulders, try to scratch as much of the back as possible, and another go at the bum to tackle the cellulite.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

The external benefits: Your skin needs less moisturizer – if you forget to lotion up after a shower it’s not that noticeable. Your skin will look more taut; I noticed this most on my thighs, hips, and upper arms. You will have a glow, thanks to better circulation, and that glow lasts all day. Fewer ingrown hairs and if you have Keratosis Pilaris it can help reduce it without inflammation. Many find their cellulite is reduced and it supposedly helps prevent spider and varicose veins.

The internal benefits: Many of us live pretty sedentary lives sitting at a desk all day and driving in cars. Dry brushing helps the body detoxify itself through the skin and the lymphatic system, something that your body may not do as well as it should with your lifestyle. Pregnant women are encouraged to dry brush to prevent swelling and edema. I find that dry brushing gives me a buzz that works like a small cup of coffee and helps me be motivated to go on my morning walk.

I’ve been dry brushing almost daily since June and my skin looks younger, firmer, and healthier than it has in years. I now look forward to it, and have increased pressure. Oh, and to go back to the original reason I started dry brushing, it does exfoliate the skin perfectly for an even sunless tan or to better absorb any moisturizer!

Have you tried dry brushing? What do you think of it?


Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. 🙂

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition - great gift ideas at different price points for all sorts of beauty loversFor the holidays, I gotta say I love receiving beauty gifts. It’s something I usually won’t spend money on, it’s something I can use almost daily to pamper myself, it’s that lovely mix of practical and decadent that makes a gift people will love. That being said, no one wants that cello-wrapped package of holiday scented lotion, shower gel, and body spray. Here’s some items that I would love receiving as a gift and I think your loved one would as well.

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition with products in all sorts of prices and for all types of people on your gift list

  1. Brushing Emerson’s hair is an ordeal, no matter what we do she wakes with the most insane tangles and her scalp is uber delicate and she freaks no matter how careful I am with picking apart knots. I saw an ad for the Tangle Teezer and took a chance. While she still cringes when we brush the underpart of her hair, it’s sooo much better. She is also better at brushing her own hair with the Tangle Teezer than with a standard brush. Karl liked it so much he got one for himself. We’ve had them for almost a year and they’ve held up great. Not just for detangling hair, this is also a good tool for brushing in conditioning treatments on wet tresses.
  2. Living proof sent me their Perfect Hair Day collection earlier this year. While I wasn’t a fan of the styling product for my type of hair and style, the shampoo and conditioner totally blew me away. Karl loves it even more than I; he started growing his hair this year (was to his shoulders before a recent trim) and won’t use anything other than his “Jennifer Aniston shampoo.” So much, I bought him bottles for his birthday and he’ll be getting more for Christmas. A lot of bloggers have been writing about Living proof and I’ve often rolled my eyes and been turned off by brands that saturate the blogosphere all at once… but sometimes those brands and products are as good as the raves in the sponsored post. This is one of them. This travel set is a budget-friendly way to try out the line or share with a loved one.
  3. I bought reusable cotton rounds a couple years ago to use in place of disposable ones to remove makeup, wipe off cleansing oils, and wipe on Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel each morning. I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door where I drop them, then zip it up at the end of the week and throw into a laundry load in the washer and dryer. They have only improved with time, and this past Christmas I bought my sister a set. It’s a great gift for the beauty maven, the eco-minded mama, and the frugal friend. I bought mine from the Etsy store Little Green Nest but there’s many stores on Etsy that sell these and you can likely find a set that perfectly fits your loved one’s style.
  4. Bliss’ Body Butter is legendary. Unlike Body Shop’s Body Butter which I positively adore but find it’s hard to apply from a tub, this body butter comes in a squeeze tube and is easy to use even with wet slippery hands post-shower. And though it’s not as thick, it’s just as hydrating. I personally love the classic lemon + sage scent, but they have a ‘naked’ version that truly is unscented (no weird chemical plastic scent). This is a little luxury that someone may find odd when they unwrap but will adore each time they use it and see how it transforms dry skin and rough elbows.
  5. Skindinavia sent me their primer and setting spray earlier this year, claiming the combo of the two will keep makeup on for 18 hours even in a hot sweaty Miami nightclub. Oh really? I totally took the products through the wringer – humidity, the gym, rain, tears… and well they’re right. This stuff is pretty phenomenal. The thing is, using two products together your face feels like rubber and when used often, I experienced breakouts. But yeah, this is a great combo for a special occasion. The primer is pretty intense and really makes everything stick to the face. The setting spray alone? A great regular product and works better than other products I’ve raved about and makes a primer unnecessary. I think it keeps oil at bay (and I don’t have the oil control version), and I look far fresher at the end of the day than I have with any other finishing spray. This is a great gift for the beauty fan as she may not have heard of this; also a great gift for a bride-to-be.
  6. I think this set from Deborah Lippmann is fantastic for the young adults (or the young at heart) on your list! Deborah Lippmann nailcolors are high quality and luxe, the two colors are a great combo – one that’s a good day color and incorporates current nailcolor trends but then a bottle that’s fun and festive. All in an adorable bag that is a gift in itself and all for less than $20.
  7. Last year I succumbed to the Sara Happ hype and bought the Clementine Lip Exfoliator. I know, $24 for a lip scrub? Just use a dry toothbrush, Allie! Make your own with some coconut oil and sugar! But gosh, this stuff is lovely. It smells good, it tastes good, it’s the perfect consistency and it’s sitting there in my medicine cabinet ready to use. This is a great gift because it’s likely something your loved one would never indulge in purchasing. Made in the USA, I’m partial to the sunny Clementine flavor, but there’s tons of other choices.
  8. Smith’s Rosebud Salve is a classic and a welcome stocking stuffer. It adds moisture, shine, and has a beautiful scent. Not just for your lips, it’s also great on cracked cuticles, burns, and some swear by it for diaper rash. It’s a great gift for tweens because it’s “cool” and used by celebs, but isn’t actual makeup but is welcome by folks of any age.
  9. You can’t go wrong with a tube of Burt’s Bees Lip Balm in a stocking or added to a gift basket. The classic Beeswax version is a safe bet, but they now have a ton of wonderful scents (I’m partial to coconut pear) that are still 100% natural and free of parabens, phthalates, and petrochemicals.
  10. Kiehl’s makes some of the best skincare and has been around since 1851 for a reason. This gift set has their iconic lip balm and hand salve in a travel-friendly size and it comes in a limited edition package designed by Peter Max. For those who don’t like lots of fragrance, this is a great choice – Karl and I both use both of these products because they’re neutral but effective.
  11. I SWEAR by Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. The more I use it, the more I love it and the more I realize no other dry shampoo can compare. No ashiness, no stickiness, no cloying smell, and it gives that perfect bit of texture. Sure I’ve used it when my roots are a bit greasy, but I mainly use it as a styling product. It’s that price that is hard to stomach for yourself, but a good price for a gift. Add some hair ties or a paddle brush for a complete kit that your friend will be thanking you for after a just few uses.
  12. Have you ever found a fragrance that you swear is perfect for you but just doesn’t work with your chemistry? I feel that way about kai. I smell it on others and swoon. I love that it’s a roller ball of essential oils, I love the minimalist look, the blend of feminine and sensual. I continue to love the scent (and love that they have home fragrance options), but realized it’s not for me. So I gift it and get to enjoy it on my loved ones. This gift set has the lotion and fragrance together in a white mesh bag and I promise will far more appreciated than another package of holiday berry or juniper breeze.