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This is 40: My Winter Skincare and Beauty Routine

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This is what 40 looks like… and my skincare routine mentioned below after a couple hours of wear and no touch-ups. Mascara, liner, a bit of matte taupe shadow and Revlon BalmStain in Romantic.

After I shared a selfie last week on social media, I received a bunch of questions asking how I take care of my skin. I’ll admit I get tempted by new and shiny products and reviews on blogs, but I’m trying to stick to my current routine because it works, and for the first time in years my winter skin is happy and hydrated.

Night Skincare Routine:

  • Garnier Clean + Nourishing Cleansing Oil – I use this almost every evening. Two pumps in dry hands, rub on dry skin, and then rinse off. Okay, you don’t “just rinse;” rinsing isn’t that easy and you will be left with what feels like a film of oil on your skin. Trust me, this isn’t a bad thing. Unlike other drugstore-brand oil cleansers, Garnier doesn’t clog my pores and it does remove all my makeup, even mascara and liquid liner. I emulsify and rinse with tepid and blot (don’t rub) my skin dry.
  • CeraVe Cleanser (Normal to Dry) – I use this from time to time, just to switch things up. I’ve used it for years and like how it’s budget friendly, gentle, and cleans thoroughly without stripping. Once or twice a month and after a day where I wore hardcore makeup, I’ll use it with my Clarisonic, and then follow up with the Garnier oil cleanser.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream – I keep trying other brands, get disappointment, and return to this product. No irritation, absorbs nicely, makes the skin feel soft and I think helps with wrinkles and dry skin.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – Again, I try other products and come back to this one. It works, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn’t make my skin angry. I apply this after the eye cream to my entire face, neck, chest, and the top of both hands.
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads – I don’t use these as often as I did in the fall and early winter because the rest of my body has gotten so pale it looks fake. But I do it sometimes if I have an event to go to, I’ll use in place of the Neutrogena serum. I wear a dark bra, and wipe it on my face, neck, and chest inside the lines of the bra for an even finish. Then I take the almost-dry pad and wipe down my arms and tops of my hands to give a touch of color and then wash my hands.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Youth Regenerating Skincare Serum – I’ve written about this many times before. I’ve tried other serums and they don’t compare. I can’t clearly explain what this does but it makes my skin happy. Two pumps, on face, neck, a bit on chest and leftover on tops of hands.
  • L’Oreal Collagen Moisture Filler Cream – This is a day/night cream but it hydrates nicely without being greasy or clogging pores. I find the heavier night creams cause breakouts and this doesn’t but it still keeps me from cracking or getting red and miserable in cold weather. And how can you resist a decent cream under $10? I run on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.
  • Random Hippie Clove and Vitamin E Cream – I got this at a local shop made by a local artisan not online. But it’s a cream made with Vitamin E, cocoa butter, clove oil, and has a consistency that’s a mix between Chapstick and Vaseline. I rub it on my lips and sometimes I rub it under my nose if it’s red and raw, and I rub more on my hands and around my cuticles.
  • Water – I have a Kleen Kanteen next to my bed. I fill up, drink half, refill, and then sip on it while I read before bed and at times when I wake up. Water is a necessity to happy skin.

Morning Skincare Routine:

  • Water – I finish the Kleen Kanteen before I do anything else. Water, water, water and then more water!
  • Fish Oil – I take one Fish Oil pill first thing in the morning, and another when I get home from work. I often deal with dandruff and psoriasis in winter; taking these help greatly and make my skin and hair look better too. These don’t make me burp salmon; they’re big but I don’t have any trouble swallowing them.
  • Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for years. I apply it with a reusable cotton round. It’s way more gentle than traditional witch hazel, and smells great too! This is all I use to cleanse my skin in the morning.
  • Neutrogena Eye Cream – Same eye cream from the evening
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum – Same serum from the evening
  • L’Oreal Revitalift Day Moisturizer SPF 30 – This is the first time using it but my winter skin really likes it. It’s far too heavy and greasy for the summer, but right now my skin sucks it up and it leaves a dewy finish that works well with foundation for a nice healthy day look. I rub on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.

My Basic Makeup Routine:

  • L’Oreal True Match Concealer – I don’t love this, but it gets the job done. I like how lightweight and creamy it is because it doesn’t crease or look weird over my fine lines and creases. I dot under eyes, under the nose, around the mouth and on any zits. Then I tap, not rub until it’s blended but still visible. I use Fair Light Warm, the warmer color balances my dark circles better.
  • Revlon ColorStay Foundation for Normal/Dry Skin and Jojoba Oil – I put the tiniest dot of jojoba oil into my palm, then add foundation and mix. I then apply with my fingers. The jojoba oil was an idea I got from my beauty guru friend Sarah and it gives a dewy finish without causing the makeup to slip away throughout the day. For the foundation, right now I’m using Fresh Beige.
  • Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder – I sprinkle a bit of this in its cap, and use the MAC 190 foundation brush (much softer than others I have used yet still has a precision edge) and apply it under my eyes, between the brows, and under the nose. If I want a very finished look I’ll apply some elsewhere – the forehead, the chin, over the lips (helps lipstick stay). I don’t have to work hard to blend, and it doesn’t leave a powdery or overly matte finish. The yellow tone really helps to cancel out my dark circles and redness under the nose.
  • NARS ‘Orgasm’ Blush – I am not committed to this blush. When I turned 30 I bought this blush for the first time. A couple years ago I decided it was too warm and too sparkly and switched to creams, to pinks, to all sorts of things. But this winter I am embracing my paleness, and liking a dewy face, and the subtle shimmer and peachy glow of ‘Orgasm’ feels right again. I apply with a fluffy blush brush (not sure the brand, it wore off the black handle), smiling and applying just below apples of my cheeks and up towards my temples. A very tiny pat on the top of the nose and one on the chin.
  • TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier – A reader told me about this product and I have been a fan ever since. Thanks to a six-year-old who finds my dressing table utterly fascinating, this compact fell on the floor and the product crumbled. So now I shake the compact, carefully open, and tap my finger on the mirror to get the right amount of product. A swipe on each cheek bone, a dot at the inner corners of my eye, a tiny bit below the brows (VERY tiny bit) and a bit at the bow of my lip. This gives a very natural highlight that just looks like healthy skin.
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Brow Mousse – It comes with a brush but I prefer to apply it with my Trish McEvoy brow brush because it’s shorter and stiffer and I have more control and it doesn’t look like I put liquid liner in my eyebrows. Dash dash dash from center to arch, then draw the end. I then go back and dash dash to fill in, and then use a brush to brush the hairs up, then in an arch. I wear Rich Brown.

The rest really varies on my mood. Sometimes I wear shadow (and don’t have any I really love and swear by right now), sometimes I don’t. I have mascaras for thick drag queen lashes, waterproof mascaras, lengthening mascaras. I do always curl first (I use Kevyn Aucoin’s lash curler), it makes a difference. And if I wear liner, it’s Maybelline Line Stiletto in Brownish Black; it’s not too shiny or black for day, it can do a very thin precise line right at the lashline, or get bigger for a cat eye. Mucho love for it. And as you know from my outfit posts, I switch up my lips all the time.

I’d love to hear from you as to what your favorite skincare and beauty products are. Some of my favorite products are recommendations from readers and your Holy Grail may be a HG product for me or another reader!

Ask Allie – My Beauty Products

I am not a beauty blog, and I don’t claim to be an expert. However, after mentioning my beauty routine in a previous post, I have received many emails and comments wanting to know more about what beauty products I use. Today’s post will be about my medicine cabinet.

Though we had our house remodeled over two years ago, we still don’t take showers in the new master bathroom. There seems to be some place where it’s leaking, and we need to seal it properly… and just haven’t gotten around to it. So while I use this bathroom for getting ready in the morning and before bed, I actually take showers in the hallway bathroom. So my medicine cabinet only holds the items I use at bed, in the morning, and when doing my hair post-shower:

A. Get My Hair Did

  • L’Oreal EverPure Smooth Frizz-free Serum. I bought this… wow maybe two years ago? I bought it when I ran out of my BioSilk serum, and that I milked a travel-sized bottle for a couple of years. I don’t wear this often because I think it usually makes my hair look greasy, not shiny. However, it’s great when I’m past due for a hair trim – I’ll add it to the ends before letting it dry.
  • Pureology Texture Twist. Sometimes I love this stuff, sometimes I hate it. Lately I have been adding a veeeery tiny bit to damp hair, scrunching and letting it air dry. It’s very sticky, so it keeps curls curly when it’s humid out. I don’t like it for much else because it’s so thick and sticky and makes my hair feel strange.
  • Frederick Fekkai Luscious Curls. This stuff rocks, this is probably my fifth tube of this product. A pea-sized amount, scrunch, let hair dry and you have lovely soft, shiny waves and curls without any stickiness.
  • Jonathan Create Motion. It’s a cream gel, so it has the best of both products. Not too heavy, not too light, not too sticky. I got this as part of a Birchbox-like program that is now defunct, and since I don’t use it every day this tube has lasted me almost two years. It’s worthy of a re-purchase, I like that it gives more hold than Luscious Curls, but does a similar thing. I also like using it before blowing out straight, and it helps hold any heating tool styles.
  • TRESseme Heat Tamer Spray. I don’t use this as often as I should. It gets rave reviews online, and I got it when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. Many YouTube beauty vloggers swear by this product, I find it sometimes makes my hair too soft.
  • Salon Grafix Spray Powder Shampoo. I have reviewed this before. This is my third bottle, I like it so much.
  • Jonathan Product Silky Dirt. I bought this for me, my husband took it over. He adores this for a soft hair look and he loves the regular Dirt when he wants a mussed look.

In the far right corner is Jonathan Dirt, a replacement brush head for my Clarisonic Mia, and a bottle of bath and Body Works body lotion from a hotel (sometimes use it as a hair styling product). Far left next to the serum is some Sally Hansen hair remover – every 2-3 weeks, does a great job of getting rid of the ‘stache without irritation or redness.

B. Hydrate!

  • Some random tube of a hydrating mask. I don’t know the brand offhand, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t think it accomplishes much but my husband loves masks and uses it.
  • CVS Night Cream. It’s a cheaper version of RoC.
  • Olay Beauty Fluid, SPF 15. I ran out of moisturizer while in Vermont and picked this up when I went into town. It’s light, it has some SPF, it’s fine.
  • Olay Definity Eye Cream. I like this eye cream because it doesn’t leave the skin greasy; it really absorbs quickly so I don’t have to wait before applying makeup.

C. Washing Up

  • Clarisonic Nourishing Face Cleanser. It’s gentle, it’s creamy, it doesn’t strip the skin but I am not in love. Doesn’t take off makeup and is very pricey for not wowing me.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. My husband picked this up because he too doesn’t like the Clarisonic cleanser. It tastes terrible, it’s hard to rinse off, but boy does it do a great job at removing makeup. This stuff can even take off waterproof mascara and liquid liner.
  • Clarisonic Mia. I bought it as a birthday present to myself but was never immediately wowed. After a recent article on Un Femme d’un Certain Age I started using it again, either with face wash when I haven’t taken off my makeup, or alone on clean skin. It does make products like the Clarisonic face wash work better, and hopefully it will help my skin texture and clarity.

D. My Eyes! My Eyes!
I wear contacts. Here’s my case, here’s my solution (I ran out so am using my travel size for now).

E. Get My Nails Did
I am not a big nail person, I never wear polish on my hands and often go sans color on my feet. These are the basics – polish remover, clear topcoat to maintain a pedicure, and a lovely sheer pink that will make nails just look healthy and complete without color. I usually keep any colorful polishes in my dressing table.

F. So Random
This tumbler from my kitchen holds all the little random things in one place:

G. Brusha Brusha Brusha

  • My husband uses a Sonicare, I kick it old school with a cheapy toothbrush. I should switch to a Sonicare, but I just ENJOY a regular toothbrush. I have one here, one at work, one in the bathroom downstairs. I brush my teeth 4-5 times a day and replace my brushes regularly.
  • Dental Floss. Yep, I floss. My dentist is very proud of me.
  • NTIs. Nothing sexier than a couple with matching mouthguards to prevent tooth grinding. His and Hers.

H. Holy Grail

  • Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. This stuff is awesome. I sometimes use this after cleansing to calm my face, I use it in the morning to remove dead skin and leftover moisturizer. If I accidently put on eye cream before my contacts, I use this to remove it so I won’t goop up. I also use it as a body refresher, wipe my décolleté and back of neck to feel fresh when dashing out of the house. My husband also uses it as a toner. It’s gentle, it’s a pleasant scent, and it’s natural. Score.

Next to the witch hazel is one of our three toothpastes. This was from Bonnaroo (travels well, won’t explode in heat – think it’s Colgate but when I went to peel off the safety packaging the whole label peeled off). We also have some tube of Tom’s of Maine that is almost gone, and a new tube of Crest 3D White because my husband believed the hype. It’s new, so I don’t know yet whether it will take our coffee- and wine-loving chompers to pearly white-ness… will keep you posted.

J. Got Sweat?
Does one household really need four different deodorants? Guess so. I switch between Dove formulas for day (find if I stick with one too long it stops working). For night I was using CertainDri but it seemed to stop working so I switched to Dove Clinical. The Dove is almost out, so I’ll go back to CertainDri until the bottle is empty and go back to Dove. The yellow is Arm & Hammer, my husband switches between that and the blue Dove.

And when you turn around from the sink you see the bathroom’s second door. I didn’t want this door. The bathroom is half in the master bedroom, half in our office. The contractor and my husband thought a second door would be useful if we used the office as a guest room, if we tried to sell the house. We never use the door – there’s furniture in front of it in the office and it’s a waste of space in the bathroom that could be used for a proper cabinet. So this is how I use it:

 

This over-the-door rack was originally purchased for the powder room on the main floor. I envisioned umbrellas in the basket, lightweight jackets and such on the hooks. We don’t have a closet on the main floor, so figured this would be a great alternative (we have a coat rack near the front door that is always overflowing). When I realized this bathroom has no wall space for a proper cabinet, I put this here for a “temporary fix.” Two and a half years later it’s still here. Usually there’s towels hanging there, but I took these pictures on laundry day.

In the top are all the things that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet:

  • Listerine
  • Hairspray (Elnett and Jonathan spray)
  • More contact lenses (the big box of more is in the linen closet in the hallway but I keep one box of each at the ready)
  • Diffuser (came with the dryer)
  • Brushes (two are missing from this photo – one is in the other bathroom, and one has disappeared because Emerson finds brushes to be playthings)

While the hooks hold damp towels, they also hold all my appliances:

  • Remington S9950 Shine Therapy Moisturizing and Conditioning Digital Ceramic Hair Straightener. This one was favored by many beauty vloggers back when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. I don’t think it gives my hair shine, but it has a thermostat so I can control the heat level and I like how narrow it is – does a good job with making waves as well as straightening bangs without a weird bump at the hairline.
  • Hair Dryer. This one sucks and burns my hand if I use it too long, but I won’t buy a new one because this one gets the job done. When it dies, I will buy a new one.
  • Vidal Sassoon 1 inch Curling Iron for Fine Hair. It has a tight clamp so it holds fine hair in place. Can control the heat level and a cord that never gets all twisted up. Not bad, though if it dies I want to replace it with my sister’s – whenever we travel I use hers (think it’s a Conair) and it’s awesome.
  • Charging cord for my Clarisonic Mia.

Oh and yes, photobomb by Emerson who was using her potty as a cave for her bath toys.

Whew, are you still here? Still reading? I am impressed! So that’s my bathroom in a nutshell. Not a lot of fancy, fun, and glamorous things but things that get the job done. Still need to get a proper day moisturizer and face cleanser, but I’m frugal and wait until the current bottle or tube is completely empty. So keep sending me your recommendations, I am noting all of them and they will help me when I do finally purchase!

 

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Lip Gloss Review – Bare Escentual Buxom Lips, L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail

Bare Escentuals Buxom Lip GlossBare Escentuals Buxom Lips in Dolly: I know that glosses are on their way out and the new (old?) thing is lipsticks and stains. Call me old fashioned or dated, but I feel my face was MADE for smoky eyes and a glossy lip. So though the world is purchasing sticks of products, I am still looking for Nirvana with a Wand.

My ultimate lip gloss is not MAC’s Lip Glass. I like enough tackiness to last more than 15 minutes but would rather have it wear off than be all in my hair and teeth. I like shine, but I don’t want to look as though I have patent leather lips. I don’t want sparkle – a touch of shimmer is fine but plain shine is best for an office environment. Finally I want that perfect nude/mauve/pink/taupe color that is me only better.

I think I have found the closest to Nirvana with a Wand with Bare Escentuals’s Buxom Lip Polish, in the shade of Dolly. Seriously, I am loving this stuff…

PROS:
• It has a menthol tingly formula but smells like cake batter
• My lips don’t get dried out – in fact I think this product hydrates and protects!
• It is shiny in a sophisticated/classic way – no porn or teenager lips here!
• The wand is plump enough to give good coverage and shaped well enough for touch-ups sans mirror; the packaging is well made, study and attractive
• The color is natural yet enhanced, no sparkle, yet plenty of healthy cool-toned neutral shine
• It wears away gently, leaving lips soft and no ring-around-the-lips
• Color – a pinkish mauvey taupey shade – very similar to Nars Dolce Vita, but a twinge darker (one of those shades that looks good on 70% of the population)

CONS:
• It lasts a max of two hours and that is without licking lips, eating, talking or moving
• Supposedly it plumps your lips – yeah have never experienced that (but never have seen it work with DuWop Lip Venom or any of the other plumping products on the market)

Yeah, pretty obvious from this pro/con list that I find it a worthwhile purchase even though it doesn’t last too long or turn me into Angelina Jolie. It’s just an elegant, comfortable and enjoyable lip product that does what I have been wanting for several months.

L'Oreal Infallible Lip GlossL’Oreal Infallible Never Fail Lipgloss in Coral Sands: I am a sucker for L’Oreal – for years I have found their products to often be just as good as department store brands, and I usually have luck with colors even though there aren’t testers at my local Target or CVS. Their concealers have been a staple in my train case since high school, and I never have issues with breakouts or irritation with their formulas.

On top of that, I have been a sucker for long-wearing lip products since I got busted using my mom’s credit card in 9th grade to order Lasting Kiss from an infomercial. To have long wear, gloss AND L’Oreal in one product, I thought I very well may find that Nirvana with a Wand.

Notsomuch.

The color Coral Sands was very pretty for weekends or days when I want a lighter lip. The color is more pale than what it seems in the tube – on my lips it almost clear, with a slight tan/peach hue. There is a bit of shimmer, but nothing a 14-year old would get excited over. Very wearable for pale complexions and those who want a light nude lip.

The packaging is meh – the wand is large and triangular and floppy. If you press too hard the wand will bend and cause a bit of a mess. Not great for mirror-free touch-ups. Also I can tell that the slightly hourglass shape of the tube means I will have a hard time accessing the last bit when I beginning to run out (HATE that). And it claims to have a mirror, but the mirror is just a super shiny bottom of the package that doesn’t really show anything (remember the mirrors in Barbie furniture? Yeah, about as good as that).

As for the formula? Not very smooth going on – ends up applying very thin. It’s very sticky when first applied, but seems to dry in a strange manner. It does last longer than most glosses, but loses it’s shine and thickness. The product dries my lips out to no end, leaving them raw and chapped. It also doesn’t wear away well – it feels as though it is still on your lips but is gone except for some weird globules in the corners or at the bow.

PROS:
• Lasts longer than traditional glosses
• Decent price tag
• Neutral color that can work for day/office

CONS:
• Feels gross
• Doesn’t stay in place
• Dries out lips
• Bad packaging

All in all pretty worthless. I’d rather tuck my Buxom Lips in my pocket for discreet touch-ups after lunch than deal with grody lips all day.

Listening to Life with a Capital L

In 2004, I got fired from my job. I was managing a very busy, high volume and high profile shop and was also a trainer for new managers for the company. I took off a long weekend before the holiday rush to do some planning for my wedding that following summer, and recruited a couple managers from neighboring shops to cover shifts for me. I returned to the shop to find that not a single deposit had been made in my absence, the safe overflowing. I gathered up all the bags, dashed to the bank and deposited them before the mall opened. When the next staff member arrived that evening, I headed to the back to reconcile the deposits. Just as I noticed one deposit slip was missing the phone rang. It was the corporate office.

People were questioned, people were suspected, and one stopped showing up to work mysteriously but the money was never found. And while everyone knew it wasn’t me who took the money, I was the store manager, a leader within the company, and had to set an example. After the holidays (of COURSE, had to have me to get through the Christmas rush), my boss came to visit, gave me a hug, and handed me my walking papers.

I drove home in a daze.  I was a great employee, I’ve always been proud of my work ethic.  And now I had been fired from a job I poured all my blood, sweat and tears into.  But I soon realized this was a GOOD THING. I was free! I had worked in some aspect of retail for over a decade and it was wearing me down. That Christmas all the gifts I received from my loved ones had one thing in common – they were designed to reduce stress. It was clear I was near my breaking point.  I would work 20 days in a row without a break, I’d leave work at midnight and have to be back at 5am and had an hour-long commute. I was getting varicose veins and living off Mountain Dew and venti Frappucinnos. I wasn’t doing what was best for me and my future so Life with a capital L intervened.

Instead of spending those six weeks unemployed with a bottle of wine by my side, I celebrated my freedom. I wallpapered our bathroom with my dad’s old playbills from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I cleaned out my closet, my attic, and every drawer in the house. I went to the gym. I planned the rest of our wedding (and was even more diligent about having it all be on a budget), taught myself enough HTML to make a “bio” for my TheKnot profile, and I got my nose pierced.

2004-02 alison and karl

February 2004

No matter what company I worked for, how liberal or creative or funky, dress code always stipulated no visible tattoos or piercings other than ears unless for religious purposes. So hells yeah Life with a capital L, give me freedom and give me holes in my face! I went to the place where I got my tattoo, I knew they did piercings and I knew the place was clean.  It hurt like hell. It hurt more than when Karl and I got all cutsey college grunge couple and together went to get our cartilages pierced, and it hurt more than all the times I self-pierced my ears in high school (even more than the time I pierced my ear with a safety pin and it got stuck in there for two weeks and got infected). But screw The Man, I was now a badass face-pierced woman.

Until a week later when I was drying my face with a towel, the stud got caught in the terry and the nose ring was yanked out. I tried to get it back in, Karl even tried, fighting back bile as the nostril got inflamed and began to bleed, but no success. The next day I was at the door of the tattoo parlor before it opened but the piercer said it was too late; the hole had already healed and they’d have to pierce through scar tissue to get it back in. And I thought the original piercing was bad, this pain almost made me faint. But dammit, I am going to be a badass with my nose ring!

Funny, that “badass” nose ring didn’t seem to even be a blip on the radar of those companies who interviewed me during those six weeks of freedom, as I received a few great offers and took one at a firm only five miles from home. A week into working there I made mention of my nose ring in a conversation with colleagues and they all looked at me in surprise, none of them had noticed I even had one.

A couple months later, I was on the phone with a client, my elbow on the edge of my desk, twirling my nose ring when I lost my balance, my elbow fell off the desk and my hand yanked the stud right out of my nostril. Just as Life had intervened when I was fired from my job, I felt Life with a capital L was doing so again.

Alison, you don’t need a nose ring to be a badass. Don’t try so hard, just be.

I often get caught up in the need to define my personal style. How can I spew fashion advice when I don’t have some covetable wardrobe or enviable and defined personal style? What a hack. If I just had some cooler clothes, if I created a more minimalist wardrobe, if I dieted down to a size easier to fit and shop, if I got an edgy haircut, a new pair of boots, a new designer bag. And then I think of those months of the nose ring. That nose ring didn’t make me any cooler, in fact few even noticed it. What made me badass during that period was making lemonade out of that big lemon of losing my job. Seeing it as an opportunity, not a failure. Taking advantage of that forced staycation, doing things I had been meaning to do and jumping on ideas that came to me while brushing my teeth or driving to the gas station. The nose ring wasn’t badass, but the reasoning behind it was. I didn’t have to wear my badass on my sleeve or on my face, I didn’t have to try so hard, I just had to be.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. If you’re trying to impress, I can tell you right now you’re failing. Cool comes from inside, from confidence, from knowing yourself. And when you know yourself, listen to yourself, and believe in yourself that’s when personal style shines. And that my dear, makes you a badass.

Let’s be a bunch of badasses in 2015, shall we? Let’s own this life, and let’s do it for our badass selves.

Reviewing a Classic – L.L. Bean Summer Boatneck Pullover

The other week I was watching American Idol with my sister and mentioned I wanted Randy Jackson’s shirt. “Why is it so hard to find a crisp white cotton sweater with navy or black stripes? I want the classic French sailor look, stripes starting at the arms and chest.” She told me L.L. Bean carried what I wanted.

I know, I know, I have a lot of striped knit shirts already. The thing is, none of them were classics, and I wanted a classic. Something that would be stylish now, and a couple years from now.  I envisioned such a top with jeans on weekends, tucked into my yellow pencil skirt for work, or with hot pink ankle jeans come spring. Something heavier weight than my basic cotton tees, something with heft, that could stand on its own and not look like some run-of-the-mill tee shirt.

And this shirt from L.L. Bean seemed to be it. Boatneck, bright navy stripes on a crisp white ground, stripes starting at the right place, spaced just so. The price of $39.95 was also appealing, as I saw similar tops from trendier brands starting at $75.00 and going up to $150.00.

As always, L.L. Bean shipped quickly, and the item in the bag looked just like the item on the web. Nice heavy cotton knit – not a sweater, but not your typical tee. Well crafted, stripes lining up and the right length of sleeves. The only problem is that this shirt is cut like an L.L. Bean shirt.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with L.L. Bean, but their line isn’t known for being slim, trim, and trendy. This top has a very straight cut… and looks best untucked.

Thank you Talbots for the use of your fitting room for this picture

At first I considered returning it, it looked lumpy and dumpy tucked into my yellow pencil skirt, boxy with my red cropped pants.  The stripes start right at my largest part and make me look like a linebacker.  Then last weekend I threw it on in haste with a pair of jeans and my riding boots… and liked the effect. I wore it to the mall, the perfect experiment for the quality of a knit item.  At a mall a shirt is yanked off  in a fitting room, tossed into a pile on a bench, yanked back on in haste to head to the register or next shop.  This shirt held up beautifully, maintaining its shape.  I threw it in the wash with other knits, tumble dry medium and it came out looking exactly as it did from the shipping package.

Today I am wearing the Summer Boatneck Pullover again, and still loving it.  It’s not shaped for modern styles, it’s not really that sassy tucked in, but it’s a wardrobe classic at a reasonable price with famous L.L. Bean quality.  And I still think it will look pretty sweet with hot pink ankle jeans come spring!

Fit: I purchased a Medium Regular, knowing that L.L. Bean’s knits run large and don’t shrink in the wash.  If it came in Petite, I think that would have been a better choice for me and more versatile/tuckable.  This top is available in regular and women’s sizes, and along with this classic navy on white choice, it also comes in navy with white stripes, or light blue or pink with white stripes.

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Review: e.l.f Cosmetics

Who can resist makeup for a dollar? I have been trying for months since I heard of e.l.f Cosmetics (www.eyeslipface.com). I am the type who could drop some serious cash at Sephora (online or the shop), The Body Shop, a MAC counter or store or a fun cosmetics website without blinking. However lately I am trying to be good and frugal – I buy new cosmetics when what I have runs out (or gets snagged by the airport security checkpoint – ladies do not forget that Ziploc baggie with your next flight!). I research my choices so I don’t have to buy twice. I am trying to purchase quality, not quantity.

But Christmas is around the corner, and I love buying fun and frivolous mini gifts for my friends. Good excuse to try out e.l.f Cosmetics! And if I am purchasing for friends and the prices are at or near $1 each, well can’t I treat myself too? So here are my reviews of the two goodies I purchased for myself:

Hypershine Mini Lipgloss Cell Phone Charms
How darn patootin’ cute is this? For $5 you get eight different lipglosses and a cap with a string that loops around the slot on all cell phones that lets you loop a cord. What girl wouldn’t want this for a night out when real estate in an evening clutch (or your pocket) is at a minimum?

The cap holds onto the glosses quite well and doesn’t get loose after switching colors. It’s sorta awkward to apply gloss (the applicator stays attached to the phone), but the convenience outweighs this issue.

The gloss feels more like a balm – not very sticky and seems moisturizing. A more natural gloss look. It holds decently for a non-sticky balm. The fragrance varies from Tinkerbell cosmetics sweet to almost smelling a bit like Play-Doh, though all scents are quite mild. The problem I find is that none of the colors are similar to what I usually wear. They are all pretty sheer, the red leaves a flushed pink look to the lips, the bronze is pretty over a brownish pink liner or lipstick. I found the purple and silver shades to be a bit too extreme for my natural lip look, but could be very fun for a night out or over a dark colored lipliner or lipstick.

In general, a fun purchase for $5 and a convenience for a night out, but nothing that will replace my current favorite glosses for every day wear.

Wet Gloss Lash & Brow Clear Mascara
For years I have been using the Body Shop Clear Mascara to tame my wild brows and keep my brown brow powder in check. I have gotten to the point where I am wiggling the brush like mad trying to get enough gel to get the job done. Time for a replacement! Even with my discount with The Body Shop (I am a consultant), I can’t beat $1. Already purchasing from e.l.f., might as well add this to my shopping cart!

Do note the description and title states “wet.” I had the fear that I would apply this mascara to my brows and look false and weird. No worry. It does show a bit more than the equivalent from The Body Shop, but does not look shiny or wet on the brows. It does a better job at holding brow hairs in place, without being stiff or sticky to the touch.

When applied to the lashes, it does add some gloss and a darker shade. Nothing extreme, but more definition than going au naturel. I am the type who wears heavy mascara when washing the car; I don’t believe I will be using this for my lashes any time soon.

There is a special brush on one side for lashes, and one for brows. I like this, so when I do choose to use it on lashes, the brush won’t be full of brow powder (my Body Shop brow gel soon looks beige from brushing over brow powder).

I find this to be an EXCELLENT buy.

Customer Service:
I found the site to be slow and a bit awkward. You can sign up and make your own account, yet my account wasn’t recognized for over a week.

I received a acknowledgment email soon after placing my order. In the email, it said due to high volume it could take up to 3-5 weeks to receive my order. And five weeks it was. I was so concerned, I placed an Outlook reminder on my computer for exactly five weeks from my order placement so I could call to complain. My order arrived the day before my Outlook reminder blinked.

The order arrived via US Post in a white padded envelope. A white glossy flyer encouraging you to order again, and your packing slip.

After placing my order, I receive almost weekly emails from e.l.f. offering free shipping and percentage discounts. I considered taking advantage for a few more last-minute gifts, but due to the slow delivery, I chose not to. I do plan on checking back in when my next makeup necessity is out of stock – for their prices and decent quality I can afford to replace a basic and invest in a splurge!

Giveaway – L’eggs Profiles (CONTEST CLOSED)

I believe any woman can benefit from control garments. From hard-core cinchers to a bit of control on top of those tights, control garments can help women of all ages and sizes look more pulled together and polished in certain clothes and for certain events. However no one wants to spend an arm and a leg on something that isn’t a visible part of their ensemble!

Best of 2014: Beauty Edition

I tried a lot of different beauty products this year. Working a good portion of 2014 with one hand (and it being my non-dominant one), it forced me to switch up my beauty routine. I also had a decision to stop trying to look young. While I still baby my skin and use products to prevent wrinkles and discoloration, I allowed myself to enjoy makeup trends that may not be the most youthful. I’m not ashamed of my age, and don’t want to miss out on fun trends and techniques that better fit my personal style because I’m trying to look younger than my driver’s license. Speaking of age, maybe it’s being 39 or maybe it’s the toll 2014 has taken on me but I feel my skin and hair has aged dramatically this year and that too affected the products I’ve chosen and ended up loving. So without further ado, the best beauty purchases I made this year:

best beauty buys 2014

Garnier Fructis Texture Tease Spray

I don’t like polished hair. More than once I have gone to my stylist with a picture of Fearne Cotton in my hands. I like that slightly rocker/just had sex tousled look but my hair is too fine, too slippery, too curly in places and too smooth in others to really make it work. I’ve tried all sorts of products to make hair look dirty and it just makes my hair look… dirty. I saw this video on Tammy’s blog A Loyal Love and decided to give Garnier’s Texture Tease a try. The pricepoint is low enough that if it’s a fail I won’t have too much buyer’s remorse. Well no remorse, I LOVE this stuff. It makes my hair look messy and dirty but in a sexy way, not an unshowered way. I can still manipulate my hair and it doesn’t look ashy on my dark tresses. I can’t make it work Day 2, it gets really gummy, but it’s still a favorite when I want to make next-day hair look purposeful or have a bedhead look.

Revlon ColorStay Foundation

I raved about the whipped version last year, well this summer I got the combo/oily skin version and it’s my jam, even more so than the hydrating version. I wrote about it here, but it deserves more rave.  It’s a touch thinner in consistency which I think gives a more natural feel. I also find the colors to be slightly warmer in the oil free version, better matching my skintone. This stuff stays put all day, through crying and sweat and allergies and rain.

TIGI Bed Head After Party Smoothing Cream

This product is great for smoothing the ends of my hair. When I curl my hair it can look a bit Shirley Temple; if I gently brush it out with a wood-bristle brush (love this one), it makes it natural eaves but the ends (especially when I’m in need of a trim) can get fuzzy. I put a tiny amount, smaller than a pea on my finger and rub it on my finger tips and grab each curl and smooth it. This will separate the curls without making them look greasy and helps them keep their shape. I also like it on the ends of my hair when I style it straight; it keeps humidity and frizz at bay and adds a touch of weight to keep the look polished.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pads

I wrote about these here, but I don’t think I properly explained the awesomeness of these little pads. I was reading Man Repeller this early fall and she made a comment about how her dark circles were more prominent which meant her summer tan was fading. It was an aha moment and I realized I looked so exhausted because my tan had faded, making my lifelong undereye circles stand out. So I used one of these pads that night and the next morning I looked well rested for the first time in weeks. Not only that, when I use these pads, my skin is happy and it seems to clear up the little bumps I get on my chin. I don’t use these more than twice a week or else I look like a Real Housewife; I usually use them on a Friday night so the change in skintone isn’t as obvious to coworkers, and then another used on Monday night will keep the glow going with a subtle fade through the days. I use one pad, I do my face, being sure to swipe up into my hairline and over my ears, then get my neck, and do the whole décolleté using my bra straps and cups as a template. I then take the pretty-much dry pad at this point and do quick swipes over my hands and forearms. Then I wash my hands very well, apply my regular eye and night cream and go to bed. I don’t look fake, I don’t get streaks, and my skin is happier for it. Heads up, you can get 50-packs of these pads on Amazon for much cheaper than other sites; if you shop at Beauty.com (which I love because great GWPs and free shipping and cash back on future orders and combo your order with Drugstore.com) you can often get one of these pads as a free sample at checkout if you’d like to try before you buy.

OGX Coconut Water Conditioner

Another item I have already raved about. This was the only product I used to cleanse my hair until about mid-October when the weather finally went cold and my hair went from full and wavy to limp and straight. Still, I use this as an actual conditioner on my ends and Karl uses it as the sole cleanser on his hair. Great price, great smell, look forward to using it again as my main hair cleanser this coming summer!

e.l.f. Studio Mist and Set

I raved about this before but it really is a phenomenal setting spray for your makeup and the price can’t be beat. I received a similar spray from MaryKay during a partnership with them and while their setting spray works, smells better and has a finer mist and better quality bottle, it doesn’t compare to e.l.f.’s in regard to holding makeup in place through EVERYTHING. I keep the MaryKay for the work week and e.l.f for long days, nights out, and the summer heat and humidity.

Revlon LacquerBalm in Enticing

Revlon’s Just Bitten BalmStain in Romantic has been my go-to for quite a while, and I regularly use many other colors and consistencies of these chubby lip crayons from Revlon. But none held my heart like Romantic did… until Enticing. Enticing is a more intense, higher pigment red with a glossy finish. I like it alone for a more polished version of bitten lips – red, glossy, but not too perfect. However it is an awesome product layered over a matte lipstick or stain. I love the Revlon matte lipsticks and will wear Enticing over them to increase the pigment and add shine without losing longevity; Enticing will wear away gently and naturally leaving the lipstick below and preventing a ring around the lips or completely bare lips come the end of lunch.  You can see this combo when I was featured at Style IT.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse

I wrote about this product here, and it is still my favorite brow product. I no longer use the brush that came with it, feeling that it gave too harsh and obvious a line; I now use my Trish McEvoy 32 Eyebrow Brush because it has shorter, stiffer bristles letting me get in color without a harsh obvious line. This color stays put until I wash it off with soap and it looks very natural.

Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder

Yep, I tried the contouring trend that was hot this year. I didn’t want to look like Kim Kardashian or someone from the ‘80s, but wanted to try a more subtle version. Everyone had been raving about this powder and I found it new on eBay and decided to try it (you can also find it on Amazon). I watched a couple YouTube videos and did contouring… and looked ridiculous. Completely lovely for a photo, but insane IRL. However, I really came to like the Banana powder. On a normal day, I apply foundation and then use this over the foundation under the eyes and it diminishes puffiness and darkness without looking cakey or false, and I think it does a better job than concealer. I apply it with the MaryKay Liquid Foundation brush because I had it and it was clean when the powder arrived in the mail. And I continue to apply it in that manner because the brush is soft and fits under my lower lashes nicely while blending the powder beautifully.

So I’d like to hear from you, what were your best beauty buys of the year?

Thursday

Black stretch v-neck from Banana Republic, white twill cuffed cropped pants from Casual Corner, black leather thong heeled sandals from Mossimo, multiple skinny silver bangles from Ann Taylor Loft, black leather and silver necklace from Chico’s.

Hair is weird. In the shower I was considering loose messy waves and the front feathered out. Yeah, I watched Jessica Simpson’s stupid new video and was slightly inspired. So I added Frizz-Ease Dream Curls Spray, blew hair straight letting it do as it pleased, twisting some pieces. It ended up looking damaged and gross. I continued blowing, using a paddle brush, that made some difference. I then blew the front with a round boar bristle brush and then applied bioSilk so it didn’t look as much like straw…. not my best hair day.

Makeup is L’Oreal True match foundation in C3, MAC Studio Stick concealer, Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer for color and powder, a bit of Nars Orgasm blush. Eyes is the ivory shadow from Revlon’s ColorStay Neutral shadow quad, then The Body Shop’s 08 (Granite) in the lids and along the lash line. lashes curled via Shu Eumura and two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black applied. On lips is Sally Hansen’s diamond lipgloss in a hot pink (the label with the name fell off).

Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!





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Wednesday


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! :) Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! :)

Wednesday

Black ribbed crewneck sweater from Chico’s, black Tahari suiting trousers, long gray necklace from Target looped three times, black Enzo boots.

Hair is on it’s third day, blown straight where bedhead was.

Makeup was done in a jiffy as that I lolled in bed too long reading for my Book Club. L’Oreal True Match foundation, Nars Orgasm blush, a bit of khaki shadow, a thin line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on top lash line, L’Oreal Voluminous mascara and Body Shop Lip Tint.

Monday

Candy pink merino v-neck from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from J. Crew, black suiting trousers from Ann Taylor Loft, black city boots from Aldo, silver cuff and dangle earrings.

Hair is not done – alarm accidently set for PM instead of AM. Brushed out the curls, hit a straightening iron to the top to remove bumps and accepted it.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation and concealer, Nars Orgasm blush, Revlon Lipglide in Sheer Raspberry, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in neutral – ivory on the lid, khaki on the crease. L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black. Pretty basic and quick.

Wednesday


Black scoop tee from American Apparel. Black and white sequined skirt from Marshall’s. Black peep toe heels from Steve Madden. Silver hoops and silver cuff bracelet.

Hair curly thanks to Suave/Redken wanna be products for curls and a curling iron for the unruly pieces.

Makeup is L’oreal True Match foundation, The Body Shop concealer, Chanel pressed powder, Physician’s Formula Magical mosaics bronzer. The Body Shop shadows in Granite and Soft Black to have a subtle smokey eye. Two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black. On lips is Sally Hansen lipgloss in Lilac over The Body Shop’s lipliner (on whole lip) in Beech.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Raspberry merino v-neck from Ann Taylor Loft. Denim trousers from Ann Taylor (just came in the mail yesterday!), two anthracite and bead necklaces from Express. Black Enzo boots.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation, Chanel concealer and powder. Nars Orgasm on the cheeks. On the lids is Champagne Pink shadow from the Body Shop on the lids, Crown Jewels shadow from L’Oreal in the crease and along the lash line. On the lips is Maybelline lipstick in Ripe Plum.

Hair is straightened with the iron, touch of spray wax on the tips.

Wednesday

Black stretch v-neck sweater from Banana Republic, white denim skirt from Ann Taylor Loft, red stone necklace from a boutique at the beach, black leather strappy thong heels from Mossimo.

Hair is Suave Professionals Healthy curls shampoo, conditioner and mousse. Unruly pieces curled with iron.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation, MAC Studio Stick concealer, Physican’s Formula Magical Mosiacs bronzer in light, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in neutral – ivory in the inner corners and along brow bone, khaki on lid and along lower lash line. lashes curled thanks to Shu Eumura, two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara and thin line of black Ultra Liner from Maybelline on the top lash line. On lips is L’Oreal’s Endless Kissable Shinewear (without the extra gloss) in color 530.

Monday

Indigo silk knit v-neck sleeveless shell from Ann Taylor, white bootcut stretch jeans from Caslon/Nordstrom. Turquoise necklace from Target, beaded thong sandals with short wood wedge heel from Seychelles. Silver hoops and cuff bracelet.

Hair is second-day dirty, the front blown while dry with a round brush.

Makeup is L’oreal true Match foundation , MAC Studio Stick concealer, Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer in light. A touch of Nars Orgasm on the cheeks. on lips is L’Oreal’s Glam Shine gloss in… gee I do not have the color in front of me but it is a red with a pinky-orange cast. Like a reddish coral. Eyes is Revlon’s ColorStay quad in Neutral – the ivory in the inner corners and on the brow bone, then lashes curled and covered with L’oreal Voluminous mascara in black and a line of Maybelline’s Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line.

Saturday


Tibetan Buddhist Meditation seminar at the Smithsonian with my mom and husband. Wanted to be comfortable, would be sitting and meditating for six hours.

Black heavy knit wide-leg yoga pants from Champion; more like ponte than a regular knit. Black scoopneck shortsleeved tee from American Apparel, charcoal v-neck shetland sweater from L.L. Bean, gray New Balance trainers. Over it an orange crinkle silk scarf from Banana Republic and a red suede car coat from Target.

Same with previous day, washed hair night before, air dried, curled some pieces in the AM and applied Jonathan Dirt.

Makeup minimal; L’Oreal True Match foundation, Chanel pressed powder, Nars Orgasm blush, L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black, Body Shop Born Lippy balm in Passionfruit.

Friday

Turtlenecks are nice and safe and work-appropriate, especially when they are a size XL and in Ann Taylor you are only an L.

So I wore my salmon merino turtleneck from Ann Taylor, my curvy fit bootcut jeans from Gap (jeans are the norm on Fridays at my office), black boots from Enzo and that’s about it.

Hair was washed and conditioned with L’Oreal Professional Kiwi Coloreflector, then a bit of Sexy Straight Hair Shine On! and Nexxus Texxtur combined and dried with a round brush. Another day where I switched the part for the heck of it.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3 and concealer in W4-5, Chanel pressed powder applied with a big brush (color Natural), Smashbox Soft Light in Tint applied with the same big brush. Eyes is the Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral – ivory on inner corners and brow bone, khaki on the lid, and chocolate on the crease and along both lash lines. Lashes curled and L’Oreal Defining Voluminous mascara in black applied. Revlon ColorGlide Sheer lipgloss in Sheer Burgundy on the lips.

As you see, I forgot to take my picture at home, so you can see me in my 1999 Saturn and see my makeup in natural light.

Thursday

Purple silky jersey wrap top with kimono sleeves – Mossimo for Target (2005). Black spandex camisole from Victoria’s Secret. Denim trousers from Gap. Purple bead necklace from Express.

Hair is on it’s second day, blown while dry to get the kinks out.

Makeup is L’Oreal true Match foundation in C3, concealer in W 1,2,3; Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint, Physician’s Formula bronzer in light and then a touch of Nars Orgasm blush on the apples. Eyes is The Body Shop shadow in Lilac on the lid, Trish McEvoy shadow in a dark dark purple in crease and along lash line. L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black, e.l.f. lipgloss in a shimmery purple.