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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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Product Review – Sephora the Smokey Eye Kit

I believe in purchasing quality instead of quantity when it comes to beauty products as well as clothing. Almost a decade ago, I received a major promotion that would require me to travel for my job teaching people about my company’s line of clothing, how to pair it with other pieces and how to merchandise it in the store. This required me to be very polished and I thought a makeover was in order. I visited the Trish McEvoy counter and left with a whole new palette of colors, and an arsenal of wonderful, high-quality brushes to accomplish most any look. I really feel that with the right tools, you can achieve wonders and often those wonders can be accomplished with a lower-end product. I use my Trish McEvoy brushes to this day, often with drugstore brands of eyeshadows, bronzers and lipcolors.

Thanks to Coutorture, I recently received Sephora’s Smokey Eye Kit – a cute metallic wallet holding Sephora’s idea of the tools necessary to achieve the proper smokey eye.

Like me, they saw the necessary tools to be brushes, not shadows. The kit contains four brushes, a brow and lash groomer, a tube of Sephora Brand Volume Mascara and a how-to card. I was interested in trying this – makeup styles come and go but a few trends (matte red lips with simple eyes and a smokey eye with lighter lips) seem to endure.

The case is well made, beautiful gray metallic leatherette with a black nylon interior that is made to not just be pretty, but to properly protect the brushes and make the kit easy for travel. The case does not have extra compartments, so it really is meant to only hold this ensemble. The left flap had a clear pocket to hold the how-to card.

The brushes are quite nice – larger than most kits have (almost “regular” size), nice weight in the hands, easy to hold and maneuver, and soft bristles. I have a Sephora Brand bronzer brush that I love; these seem to be of the same material and quality. Each brush has it’s name (small dome, all over shadow, etc.) so it is easy to know which tool .to use to achieve your desired look.

This morning I decided to try out the kit and follow the how-to to the letter to see how it actually works. Is this Smokey Eye Kit worth the $42 price tag? The appearance says yes yes yes, but will the experience match?

The kit says first step is to use the Allover Color brush to apply a shimmery light shade from brow to lash line, concentrating on the brow bone area. It also suggests the Sephora Brand champagne shade.

I do not have that shadow, instead I used my Pop Beauty shadow set for Brown Eyes – the sparkly beige shade. The shadow picked up pigment nicely without scratching up the shadow, application was good – these are not natural hairs in the brushes so the application wasn’t as perfect as say with sable/squirrel; but a very excellent job for a synthetic.

Next, I was to use a darker shade (again a Sephora Brand shadow – charcoal, was suggested) and apply with the Wide Crease brush from lash line up to crease. I chose to mix the dark brown and soft black of the Pop Beauty kit for my own version of a warm charcoal. This brush I wasn’t as happy with. The shadow didn’t seem to “grab” onto the brush and even with a very gentle hand, dark shadow flicked off the brush and everywhere – in my eye, on my temple, under my eyes. I knew it was not the shadow as that I had used it several times before with my Trish brushes. The size also was a bit awkward for my personal lid shape, and it was hard to maneuver from lash up, instead of from side to side. This ended up with me brushing away shadow and re-applying powder so I didn’t look as though I had been in a fight.

Next step was a tad confusing – the kit instructs to use the Detail Brush with a dark color and line both top and bottom of the eye AND to use the Sephora Brand black pencil (not included). It does inform you to make the line heavier on the outside part of the eye, but doesn’t explain HOW to apply the line and WHY to use powder and pencil. It also doesn’t explain how thick said line should be for either the top or bottom lash line. I tried applying my black shadow with the liner brush and it went on well, though faint. Again, this is an issue with synthetic brushes and powder. By moistening the brush (not mentioned in the kit but I know from past experience) I was able to get a stronger line of color along both lash lines. As for pencil, I used my Black Eye Definer from Body Shop, and just ran it along the lower lash line, for fear of ruining the line I made with the powder already. For a makeup newbie, I found this step of the directions confusing and if in the wrong hands, leaving a very 1980s raccoon-eye look instead of a smokey finish.

The next step was to take the Small Dome Brush and smudge the line you made, from lash up toward crease. This worked, and I really liked this brush – the angle was well done, the bristles were packed enough to give some oomph without ruining the finish. I have always done this step with my finger – this gave a far more refined finish and helped blend all the layers of color nicely.

The steps then instruct one to curl lashes (with the Sephora Brand lash curler, natch) and apply the Sephora Brand Volume Mascara (included). I instead used my Shu Eumura curler, and tried out their mascara. It’s not bad… not really volumizing (especially in comparison to my believed DiorShow mascara) but it applied well. It has a brush that has four mini combs to apply the product – I found it went on relatively well – few clumps but it was a bit sticky/gooey. It dried well, but to add a second layer of product, I definitely needed the Dual Sided Brow Brush/Comb (included) to separate my lashes.

Final opinion? This kit is an amazing value for someone who does not have the tools to achieve this look. For $42, you are getting decent quality of synthetic brushes, a decent mascara for day wear, and a great carrying case. This is a wonderful shadow brush starter kit for someone who is considering starting a brush collection or has none. The All Over Color brush is one you would probably use every day, and the Detail Brush is a very good tool to make your eye shadows double as a liner. By using other references for shadow application (check the net, some beauty blogs, and my favorite resource are the books by the late Kevyn Aucoin) you will be able to have steps that may be clearer and more appropriate to your lid shape and personal style.

And if you are considering investing in this, right now Sephora is having their Friends and Family promotion. Use code FF2007 at checkout (until November 21, not applicable in Canada) and you will receive 20% off your entire order!

Have a smokey eye day!

(all photos can be clicked to enlarge. I apologize for the quality – hard to photograph yourself with your eyes closed on a mediocre camera!)

Product Review – Second Base

I am not a fan of putting a camisole under everything. I find the look to be juvenile and that the added layer usually ruins the silhouette of most tops. I think that usually, if a top is too low cut to be worn without a camisole, you shouldn’t purchase it. Finally, very few women with curves feel comfortable (or have their clothes hang correctly) with extra layers.

But then, there are times when a camisole is a necessity and enhances a look. A wrap dress can be perfect for evening with its low v-neckline, but adding a hint of camisole can make this piece far more versatile and now appropriate for work or a house of worship. Some pieces are created just for a camisole, such as a recently purchased cashmere cowl-neck that is now in my wardrobe. Alone, one could even see the tips of a demi bra; with a camisole in the same color I have that needed modesty but the sweater’s silhouette is not affected. Camisoles are also great to have on hand to pair with sheer tops – I find that being a busty woman, fabric can look a bit sheer in the chest area and a camisole under the piece in the same color as my blouse or skin gives me the opacity I desire.

That being said, I have been dealing with my camisole needs with two pieces – a black synthetic cami from H&M that has adjustable straps (so I can adjust to accommodate different garments) and a stretchy black cami from Limited that I bought almost a decade ago and cut off at the bottom of the bust – this is used purely as a little bit of modesty at a neckline. Unfortunately this homemade demi-cami will roll up and show under fabrics and I often find myself pinning it to my sweater to keep it in place. The longer cami from H&M is okay, but I hate the extra length – it bunches and I get hot in the warmer months.

I recently was offered to review a demi-camisole from Second Base. I saw the Second Base demi-cami and thought, wow someone has been reading my mind! This accomplishes all that I desire in a camisole.

The demi-camis from Second Base are made of a lightweight modal/spandex fabric that looks great with all sorts of other fabrics – slinky synthetics, matte jersey, tee shirts and knits and even sweaters. Unlike my homemade demi-cami, the ones by Second Base have a band at the bottom that doesn’t cling, but it holds the cami in place all day. Some styles (like the black “Sarah” one I have) has adjustable straps so I can make it a higher or lower neckline depending on my top garment. Other styles like the “Meredith” is made to not only provide modesty at the neckline, but also cover your bra straps at the shoulder and the bra under the arms (great for floaty summer tops and dresses). The Second Base camis wash and dry beautifully, and they are also made in the USA.

Second Base demi-camis are designed with a large-busted woman in mind; I chose a size Large and it fits great on my size 14/38DD frame. It didn’t shrink with washing, and it feels like nothing on. It doesn’t cling to other knits and it doesn’t get linty like some cheap spandex blends. I really can’t find anything wrong with my Second Base demi-cami, and it has made me into a bit of a camisole convert. I have already worn it twice this week – once with the previously mentioned cowl neck sweater, but another time under a black scoop-necked tee shirt just to give a bit more opacity at the bustline.

Product Review – Afterglow Cosmetics

In the past year my skin has become quite sensitive. Hives, irritation and redness occur if I look at my reflection the wrong way so I have been on the lookout for beauty products that are free of known irritants while still making me… well beautiful!

Recently I was contacted by Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics and was very interested in trying their line. I have tried mineral makeup in the past with mixed results – some looked muddy on my skin, some made my face itch, and many seemed to get a weird ghostly glow in flash photography. Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics claims their line is free of synthetic dyes, preservatives and fillers; made with certified organic botanicals and even contains supposedly age-defying antioxidants such as grapeseed and pomegranate extract.

Afterglow Cosmetics was created by Kristin Adams out of need; she too has sensitive skin and found most lines irritated and caused her to break out. Afterglow Cosmetics is free of the following irritating ingredients found in other lines: paraben preservatives, bismuth oxychloride, synthetic dyes, talc, gluten, petrochemicals, cornstarch, FD&C and lake dyes, carmine, mineral oil, and GMOs. The line focuses on natural and organic ingredients, they never test on animals and their line is 100% vegan. They list all of their ingredients on their website and on the product packaging.

Wow, a product that is organic, vegan, free of weird ingredients and will give me a natural and beautiful look? Can’t wait to try it out for myself!

I decided to try out their Organic Mineral Foundation in Bisque, the Organic Glow Bronzer in Medium, and Natural Lip Gloss in Bella.

The packaging for the foundation and bronzer are similar to other mineral cosmetics lines – a tiny tub with a shaker cap so you can sprinkle a small amount into the cap of the tub, swirl the brush in it, tap off excess and buff onto the skin. The lipgloss came in a squeeze tube similar to Lancome’s Juicy Tubes. All packaging was well made, sealed nicely and was attractive and simple.

I tried the foundation with the traditional Swirl/Tap/Buff method with the Sephora Professional Bronzer Brush and found it went on well, didn’t get muddy, didn’t itch and seemed to blend nicely.

I wear C3 for L’Oreal True Match foundation and Beige in philosophy’s The Supernatural foundation and found Afterglow’s Bisque to be a hair lighter than these and a neutral (not too cool or warm) shade. Even though the color was a touch lighter than what I had chosen, it blended naturally and didn’t make me look ashen.

The formula gives a lighter coverage than Bare Escentuals – my freckles showed through, but it did even out my skintone. There was no weird shimmer to the line like many mineral products have, nor did it give me a false and matte finish. The more I layered, the more opaque the finish. The line suggested that those with dry skin mix the mineral powder with a moisturizer; I did that and found it went on well, ended with a nice soft finish and worked for spot coverage. This is a great choice for a lightweight sheer foundation or someone who is looking for a line that is gentle and humane, and I like the real variety of shades (seen at left and also available to view on the Afterglow Cosmetics website).

I was interested in trying out the Organic Glow Bronzer because I had tried Bare Escentuals’ “Warmth” and found it hard to use, dark and easy to get streaky (I admit, I am a klutz and I get ready each day over my bathroom sink with a limited amount of time). I also like the look of a bronzer on my skin as that I do not tan and am naturally pale. I have bought several bronzers over the years and have yet to find Nirvana. They are too muddy, too orange, too shimmery, too dark, too light.

This bronzer had a slight shimmer, but it didn’t make me look like a disco ball when applied (I used the Bare Escentuals Angled Face Brush). Again I did the Swirl/Tap/Buff method. It is not as dark or potent at B.E.’s “Warmth,” but it still was a bit hard to manage on a time crunch. It seemed to blend nicely, but after leaving the house my husband rubbed my cheek saying I had a line.

I liked the formula and the natural color better than the competitor, but still did not find Nirvana. However if you are looking for a mineral bronzer for fair skin, this is a good choice.

Finally, the lipgloss. Bella, is described on the website as a “medium cool berry pink.”

Honestly, when I saw the packaging, I thought I would hate the lipgloss. I don’t usually like tube applicator glosses and the color looked quite dark and opaque (more like a berry red instead of a pink).

I applied it… and the formula is different. Unlike a typical sticky goopy gel, this has a powdery/mineral finish and feels more like a hydrating lipstick. It gave shine – again, more like a hydrating/shiny lipstick than a traditional gloss. However unlike a typical gloss, it hadn’t disappeared after 10 minutes, my hair didn’t get stuck in it and it didn’t dry out my lips.

As for the color… I would describe it more as a “medium berry” hue. You can see it on me at the picture to left. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “cool,” more of a neutral pink that could work on most skintones. Anyway, it may not match the description, but I have fallen in love with it. It is unlike any other product I have tried – it slowly fades away like a lipstick, doesn’t leave lines, doesn’t bleed, doesn’t crease. It seems to hydrate my lips and keep them soft and the powdery feel is soothing. There is a slight simmer to the product, but this is totally wearable in the most conservative office environment.

All in all quite pleased with this line! Good quality, good ethics, good ingredients! Even better, if you are afraid to purchase the line, Afterglow Cosmetics offers samples of their products at very nice prices so you can try before you invest in a new beauty product!

Just for you Wardrobe Oxygen readers, AfterGlow Cosmetics has offered $5 off your first online purchase! Enter “OXYGEN” at checkout.

Product Review: Garnier Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream™

Wicked Beauty by Phyllis Bourne for Wardrobe Oxygen
The holidays seem to start earlier every year. It’s no longer a surprise to see bulbs twinkling on department store Christmas trees in August.

So by the time the festivities actually start, I’m exhausted from shopping all the early, door buster, biggest sales ever. Not to mention, overindulging in the treats and drinks of the season. The sales take a toll on my wallet. The parties and treats affect my face and my behind. While I don’t have any suggestions on battling short funds, big butt syndrome, I have found a ‘miracle’ cream that may make the season brighter.

garnier ultra-lift miracle sleeping cream reviewI’d been eyeballing Garnier Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream, an anti-age and anti-fatigue night cream, on the facial product aisle of my local Target for months now. I’m of the age where anything that promises overnight results is tempting. Finally, after catching a glimpse of my skin looking especially dull, parched and tired, I was desperate enough to cough up $18 and give it a try.

Garnier vows the cream will give you more hydrated and brighter skin after just one night. I woke up, the day after using it, with baby soft, moisturized skin. It didn’t look necessarily brighter, but the fine lines on my face were less noticeable. On the downside, the fragrance is off-putting, however it vanishes quickly and won’t deter me from continuing to use it.

So if your face is suffering from a case of too much holiday, Garnier Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream is the perfect year-round pick me up. It’s available at drug and discount stores.

Phyllis BourneA Harlequin romance author and former newspaper crime reporter, Phyllis Bourne writes to feed a growing lipstick addiction. When she’s not at the computer, she can be found at a cosmetics counter or her favorite hair salon spending the grocery money. She lives in Nashville with an understanding husband, who in one kiss can discern the difference between department store and drug store lip gloss. Check her out online at

Product Review – Jonathan Product Beauty Water Shower Purification System

How much would you spend for something that would give you better hair? Less frizz, more time between shampoos, extended life on your highlights and dye jobs and lots of shine to boot? What if this item also gave you softer skin?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I treated myself this birthday month to a beauty product. After a while of eyeing it at Sephora and remembering episodes of Blow Out, I finally succumbed and bought the Jonathan Product Beauty Water Shower Purification System.

Why did I hold off for so long? Well the $95 price tag scared me a bit. Come on, it’s just a freaking water filter; maybe I could figure out a way to jimmy-rig my Brita pitcher in my shower. And could a filter really make THAT much of a difference?

Then I thought about my bi-monthly visits to the salon where I get a cut and color touchup. I think about the hives I have been plagued with the past several months. I then think about how fabulous my hair is when I visit other states such as Maine. Oh, to have Maine hair… when I used to visit there each summer as a teen my hair was perfect Shirley-Temple ringlets without any styling tools or beauty products due to the quality of water.

So I took the plunge.

Two weeks later… that $95 was the best money I have spent in a very very long time. My hair has a shine I usually only see right after a salon visit (and it has been over my two-month mark). It’s soft, my scalp doesn’t seem to get greasy as quickly, my split ends don’t seem as noticeable, I need less or no product to get a decent look, I can straighten with ease and my curls seem more defined and less Kip Winger.

This morning I shampooed and conditioned as usual and when rinsing my locks didn’t feel squeaky clean – and I knew that was a GOOD thing. I let my hair air dry for a few minutes while I let the dog out and made myself a bowl of oatmeal. When I returned to the bathroom, my hair was in soft damp waves, not the stringy tendrils I usually find when I have let my hair air-dry sans any product. I took a simple wood-toothed brush and brushed my hair while drying it and ended up with faintly wavy hair with lots of body and shine. A round brush smoothed out the ends and bangs and I looked better than I used to after product, drying, use of a hot straightening or curling tool and some shine serum. Ten hours later, my hair looks almost exactly the same, not limp and greasy from products.

And my skin? After a few days, I have had hardly a hive. My skin feels softer and more supple, I have soft elbows and heels and I think my body oil seems to absorb into my skin better post-shower.

The filter comes with its own shower head, but I preferred to use the one I had; not a problem, my Bed Bath & Beyond dual shower head fit on the filter without trouble. I was also able to keep my shower caddy; the filter ended up sitting in the top bin of it next to my shower gel and shampoo!

The water in my area is known as being hard. Leave a Nalgene on your office desk over the weekend with a bit of water and you’ll have a faint white residue all over it by Monday and the bottle will smell like… a bit of chlorine, a bit of metal and the signature DC-area “water” smell. I have known this for decades, but never really put two and two together and consider how that water was affecting my skin and hair. Not all of you readers may have this same plight, but for those of you who do, I highly recommend this shower filter. May seem like a hefty purchase, but when you consider the value of your hair and skin and the amount you spend yearly on products to fix your limp/frizzy/greasy/fading hair and dry/itchy/scaly skin… well you might find this could end up being a savings!

Would love to hear from any of you who have used the Jonathan Product Beauty Water Shower Purification System or a similar product!

Product Review – Laura Mercier Flawless Face Kit

Laura Mercier Flawless Face Kit – I bought this kit completely on a whim. I had used the Laura Mercier tinted foundation a couple of years ago and didn’t like it. I found it to be a bit greasy and not really do much to change my skintone or complexion. The thing is, for years I have looked for products that would give me a truly flawless face – hide the circles, the bags, the zits, the redness, and pretty much give me a mask of perfection.

Funny how the older I have gotten the less I want to cover. Maybe it’s the pregnancy, maybe it’s taking better care of my skin, but I now find the heavy foundations to be fake and uncomfortable. I wanted instead to get a natural, healthy look. Laura Mercier always receives rave reviews so I figured I might as well try the kit…

The kit includes:
1.0 oz Foundation Primer (Step 1)
1.0 oz Tinted Moisturizer (Step 2)
Translucent Loose Setting Powder (Step 3 and 4)
0.21 oz Undercover Pot Shade #3
Secret Camouflage Brush
Camouflage Powder Brush
Velour Puff
Egg-shaped Sponge

This seemed super fancy to me, who usually works with foundation, one concealer and her ring finger. However I was in need of a change, and was loving the small sizes and good deal ($159 value, for $65).

The kit comes with instructions, telling you how to apply each product, in what order, when to use the tools. The first few times I used the kit I followed the instructions to the letter. Once I got the hang of the line, I modified the routine to fit my time and needs. I have occasionally switched out products with non-Laura Mercier ones (L’Oreal foundation, Make Up Forever powder) and have had success.

So I guess you guys can tell by me wearing this kit almost every single day exclusively that I LOVE IT!!! No, I do not get a flawless face from this kit, but my goal (and I think the kit’s goal) is to give healthy, natural skin.

The Foundation Primer is not drying, gummy or greasy. I currently apply it with my fingers all over the face. It does seem to help the rest of the products lay better, and last a bit longer through the day. The Tinted Moisturizer has grown on me – it does give more color and coverage than the Cover Girl tinted moisturizer I used this summer, and doesn’t feel greasy when combined with the primer.

The concealers are great colors for me – the darker one is a bit more yellow than my skin and almost the same tone I am (L’Oreal C3, Bare Escentuals Fairly Light). It is creamy, but not oily or too thin – blends great with a brush or finger (yes, I have returned to using the ring finger to dab on concealer). The darker concealer is used under the nose to hide redness, and around the mouth where I get occasional acne and have a bit of discoloration. The lighter color is perfect for the eye area – it’s a bit more dry than the darker one, but still quite easy to blend without tugging the skin. It’s a shade lighter than my skin, provides a very matte finish and can go on sheer or layer nicely for true coverage.

The powder is quite nice. I usually hate powders and find loose powders a mess. This one has a shaker container (just like Bare Escentuals); I tap it once on the included powder puff and it’s enough to set the concealers and mattify half my face. Second tap, the rest of the face is set. I am not matte, powdery or ashy looking – the powder just makes it all seem satiny and finished.

No shock, the brushes are nice quality. I just am far better with my hands than with brushes. The sponge is egg shaped but flat, which helps with getting around eyes and noses. Other than that, it’s nothing to write home about. The puff is soft and fluffy and gets the job done; I actually prefer the puff to a powder brush (my usual tool for applying loose powder).

I have been using this kit almost daily for a couple of months and I am not even halfway through any of the containers. I am tempted to order another one to have on hand for travel, but it doesn’t seem as though this kit is a Limited Edition. All the products are small enough to be able to go on your airplane carry on bag, which I LOVE. The bag it comes with is big enough to hold the whole kit, plus your lipstick, shadows, mascara and pencils. It’s also a well-made bag with a sturdy zipper and constructed of heavy plastic (no cheesy just-for-show bag here!).

The only con? It’s not cheap. However I think the finish, the look, and the quantity makes it worth the price tag. I chose the kit in Sand and found it perfect for my skin (though almost getting a touch dark since I have almost completely lost the bit of tan I picked up this summer). But really, this kit is pretty fab. It makes makeup application understandable, the products have not caused any irritation or breakouts, it’s travel friendly and gives my face a healthy look for many hours.

Product Review: Almay’s Smart Shade Butter Kiss™ Lipstick

Wicked Beauty by Phyllis Bourne for Wardrobe Oxygen
Ever wish you could walk into a drug store and select the perfect shade of berry, pink, nude or red lipstick – no guesswork?

I know, it sounds like something from an episode of the sci-fi classic cartoon, The Jetsons. However, thanks to Almay and their Smart Shade Butter Kiss™ Lipstick, the future is now.

Almay Smart Shade Butter Kiss Lipstick ReviewThere are twelve shades of this moisturizing lipstick, which fall into the skin tone categories of light, light/medium or medium. Unfortunately, there isn’t a category for dark skin, so I bought the four shades formulated for medium skin tones, which were surprisingly brown-girl friendly.

Each of the four colors lived up to their promise and indeed delivered a flattering hue of berry, pink, nude or red with a hint of both shimmer and shine. They glided on and left my lips feeling instantly hydrated in just one swipe – a bonus in the upcoming colder months.

There was only one con for me. Despite the initial great color payoff, the staying power isn’t great. The color faded within an hour and a half of application and definitely needed to be reapplied after two. However, at $6.99 a pop, you can afford to pack an extra tube or two in your purse.

Almay’s Smart Shade Butter Kiss™ Lipstick is available at your favorite drug or discount store.

Phyllis BourneA Harlequin romance author and former newspaper crime reporter, Phyllis Bourne writes to feed a growing lipstick addiction. When she’s not at the computer, she can be found at a cosmetics counter or her favorite hair salon spending the grocery money. She lives in Nashville with an understanding husband, who in one kiss can discern the difference between department store and drug store lip gloss. Check her out online at

Wicked Beauty by Phyllis Bourne: Product Review – Clinique Cheek Pop ™

Wicked Beauty by Phyllis Bourne for Wardrobe Oxygen
You don’t get to spend over 50-years on the planet without turning into a bit of a….well, a know it all. It’s an obnoxious quality, but like wrinkles, hot flashes and errant hairs sprouting from your chin, it comes with the territory.

So when I head to Sephora, I know exactly what I want. My list is in one hand, and my cell phone, filled with screenshots of products spotted on Instagram, is in the other. I’ve been a beauty blogger for years, and frankly, don’t want to be bothered with a sales associate. No matter how helpful.

Usually, I can shake ‘em with a firm, but polite, “No, thanks” or “Just looking”. But the friendly associate offering her assistance at a location I popped into during a recent trip to NYC wasn’t deterred so easily. Not even my middle-aged lady stink-eye stopped her from sticking to me like glue, babbling away about the virtues of every product I placed in my hand cart.


A review of Clinique Cheek Pop on Wardrobe Oxygen by Phyllis BourneMy initial shopping list completed, I started checking out the products I’d taken screenshots of – helpful sales associate still in tow. First up was Clinique’s Cheek Pop™ blush. Clinique was my go-to brand when I worked my first job after college. However, I haven’t revisited it much in the last decade or two. I tested the shade in my screenshot as well as a few more colors on the back of my hand. They looked fabulous, but I wasn’t sure. Clinique’s Cheek Pop blush is a powder, when I was hoping to finally find the perfect cream blush.

“I love that blush,” the yappy sales associate said.

My eyes rolled back in my head.

She continued. “It’s a powder that basically turns into a cream on your face.”

Now she had finally said something helpful! Next thing you know I was sitting in a chair while she tried several colors on my cheeks. This blush indeed turned powderless upon application. It also gave my cheeks a natural, youthful flush usually found on girls in their teens.

I ended up purchasing three shades. I also have a new favorite Sephora sales associate when I visit NYC!

Phyllis BourneA Harlequin romance author and former newspaper crime reporter, Phyllis Bourne writes to feed a growing lipstick addiction. When she’s not at the computer, she can be found at a cosmetics counter or her favorite hair salon spending the grocery money. She lives in Nashville with an understanding husband, who in one kiss can discern the difference between department store and drug store lip gloss. Check her out online at

Product Review: Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone Multipurpose Primer Lip Pencil

Wicked Beauty by Phyllis Bourne for Wardrobe Oxygen

“If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one item, what would it be?”

At least once a week, folks who are bored at work will ask this annoying question on Facebook. I work at home, and I’m a procrastinator. So I’m usually checking my timeline in the middle of the day when the question pops up. And like the question, my answer is always the same.


It’s my item of choice, regardless of whether I’m hypothetically stranded in the middle of nowhere or safe at home. I love lipstick! Stop by my house and you’ll find it everywhere. There are tubes peeking out of my overflowing cosmetics bag, residing on my bathroom vanity, night table and sometimes even the kitchen table. In fact, the only place you’re unlikely to see lipstick…sigh…is on my lips. Sure, I swipe on a coat of red, pink or berry lip color every morning. I even carry a tube of the same shade in my purse. However, I rarely, if ever, remember to touch-up or reapply it.

A review of Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone Multipurpose Primer Lip Pencil via Wardrobe OxygenI bought Urban Decay’s Ultimate Ozone Multipurpose Primer Lip Pencil in a buying frenzy at Ulta. When I pulled it out of the bag, all I could think was, “What in the heck did I buy this for?”

Urban Decay claims the thick-barreled, clear pencil will hold lip color in place, prevent feathering, correct mistakes and fill in lines. So I tested it out with a lipstick, that while the color is fabulous, it disappears from my mouth quicker than a box of Krispy Kreme donut holes brought to an office on a Friday.

The pencil kept my lipstick in place through two-cups of coffee, lunch and well into the afternoon – all without the dryness of long-lasting lipstick. There is a slight tackiness to it when initially applied, however it isn’t noticeable once you put on lipstick or gloss. This primer pencil is one of those products you didn’t know how much you needed until you gave it a try. It’s worth the seconds it takes to swipe on in the morning as well as the $16 price tag.

Phyllis BourneA Harlequin romance author and former newspaper crime reporter, Phyllis Bourne writes to feed a growing lipstick addiction. When she’s not at the computer, she can be found at a cosmetics counter or her favorite hair salon spending the grocery money. She lives in Nashville with an understanding husband, who in one kiss can discern the difference between department store and drug store lip gloss. Check her out online at

Recent Product Reviews

So I have tried a bunch of new stuff over the past month and have been a lazy bum and not posted my reviews! Well here you go!

So for my birthday I bought the Jonathan Product Shower Filter. I did a pretty extensive review on Wardrobe Oxygen and you guys have seen how my hair has been faring on this site. I do love it; wish I researched further to find a cheaper version, but all in all I am a happy camper. For those of you who are on MySpace, befriend Aquasana and get 20% off all purchases through them.

I also recently tried out foundation, bronzer and lip gloss from Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics. Again, did a pretty extensive review on Wardrobe Oxygen so stop by to check it out. All in all, pretty pleased. Doesn’t hold a candle to my philosophy The Supernatural powder foundation, but I think it gives Bare Escentuals a run for their money and I love the ethics of the company too!

Revlon ColorStay Under Eye Concealer – So I was in Annapolis at a friend’s house for a Superbowl party and I forgot she has three utterly gorgeous and fluffy cats… cats I want to steal and take home they are so darling but cats I am horrifically allergic to. Another attendee was also allergic so three of us headed to the local Rite Aid to grab some Benadryl. While there I decided to grab a new concealer as that the L’Oreal True Match in W1-3 is too light and the next color is too dark. I picked this one because… well because it was at the front of the aisle and the color looked pretty good and I have not been disappointed with anything from the ColorStay line.

Score for the NY Giants as well as for me that evening! This stuff is pretty fabulous! The consistency is a liquid, but a bit more tacky than the L’Oreal True Match. This is a great feature because it blends well, but really does stay in place. It is impossible to blend to the point of disappearing, which often happens with liquid concealers. The color has a warm base, but not so warm that it looks yellow on my skin. It also works to cover redness as well as the dark circles from fluffy pretty kitty-cats, other allergies and late nights. It really is ColorStay – the product lasts far longer than most concealers I have used – I think it’s lasting power and quality is better than MAC, Clinique or Trish McEvoy (department store concealers I have used in the recent past). Oh, and not a single issue with breakouts or clogged pores since using!

Only negatives? Well the color is named Light Medium, but it’s more like a light shade of Medium… a hair darker than expected. Worked for me because I think I am paler than I really am, but be very careful when purchasing this product so that it isn’t too dark on you. Second negative is the packaging. It’s one of those click for product tubes, which often annoys me because you waste product. On top of that, it is a sponge applicator and the sponge is NOT soft. I tried the sponge on my face and I felt as though I was rubbing my skin with a Brillo pad. I now click to get the amount I need, rub it onto my finger and then onto the skin. Sort of ruins the aspect of the sponge applicator and seems not as sanitary as a soft sponge or brush applicator.

All in all… good buy for the price, worked in a pinch, best color and coverage I have experienced in a long time but not exactly Nirvana. Would consider repurchasing if I don’t find a better alternative.

MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel – Well I only got two days of this product to try out, so I can’t be sure of the end result. However after two days I saw a marked difference in my skin so it seems to be worth the buy.

The product is a two-step process: one moist towelette is used to rub the peel all over your face. You smooth all over your face until the towelette is no longer damp. It doesn’t burn, but you can feel some sort of action taking place (tingling, tightening). After this, you use a second towelette and follow the same steps. This towelette seems to have a calming/neutralizing formula on it.

From the website:
What it is formulated to do:
Formulated to improve skin firmness, tone, and texture, Alpha Beta diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boosts skin density and vitality, and reduces pore size and breakouts, as it gently restores radiance to the skin, with a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Delivers cumulative benefits and optimal results with daily use.

After two days of this, I saw less fine lines around my eye area, and my skin looked clearer and more radiant. I can only imagine what 30 days would do. This line is NOT cheap, but I think 30 days of this would end up making your skin look as it would after a really good spa facial. By doing it every day, I think it could end up being more beneficial than a one-stop facial, or at least continue the results of the spa visit. I didn’t find it to be too caustic, my skin never burned and there was minimal redness (could easily leave the house minutes after use). The sample I got was in foil packets; I am happy to see for the environment’s sake that these pads are not always individually wrapped but instead in one tub (reminiscent of the Almay makeup remover pads I used as a teen).

Ivory Lavender Moisturizing Body Wash – So I used to sell The Body Shop at Home and no longer do. There goes my deal on body washes and such! After I ran out of my stockpile of Satsuma shower gel, I got a bit desperate. My local grocer is a small co-op that doesn’t have an entire beauty aisle like the chains, so my selection was some overly-smelly products from Dial and this beaut.

I am not one who loves the smell of lavender outside of an eye pillow or day spa, but when I smelled it in the store, it smelled very subtle and not at all like a grandma or herb shop. And really, the price was under $5 and I was down to washing with *gasp* bar soap!

So… I really like this stuff. The scent is so nominal, it could be mistaken for unscented (except the smell is enough to make it not have that weird chemical “unscented” scent). It isn’t “pure” or very natural (ingredient list: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Sulfate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Lauryl Alcohol, Fragrance/Parfum, Decyl Glucoside, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, DMDM Hydantoin, Lauryl Glucoside, Tetrasodium EDTA, PEG-14M, Citric Acid, Green 3, Red 33, Green 5.), but very few shower gels these days are. A little goes a long way – great bubbles that puff up nicely in the bath poof or even as a makeshift bubble bath. Doesn’t dry out my skin, doesn’t make the hives happen, doesn’t leave any film or the tight feel some products do to my winter bod. And really… this big bottle is only $5!

I should have a few more next week… lots of samples and goodies from the holidays!

Product Reviews – Almay

I was at CVS near work buying a birthday card for a coworker and it was the week before Bonnaroo so I was roaming, seeing if I could find any beauty product that may make my trip more terrific.  Almay products were on some deal – buy one get one 50% off or something.  I needed waterproof mascara, so I figured might as well do Almay.  And their foundation that goes from white to color has always fascinated me – did it really work?  Or was it like mood lipstick that was green in the tube and fuchsia on every person, regardless of skintone?

Almay One-coat Nourishing Thickening Waterproof Mascara – It sucks.  Can I end the review now?

I guess I should explain WHY I think it sucks.  It doesn’t clump, it does leave lashes feeling relatively soft even though it is a waterproof formula.  But it smears, it flakes, it makes my eyes itch and blur and burn.  This wasn’t just when I was sweaty at Bonnaroo, this was 30 seconds after applying it.  I went to use my regular makeup remover and it wouldn’t come off, just smear everywhere.  I couldn’t see, I took out my contacts and they were coated with the mascara.  In all my years, I have never had such an experience.  I had to throw away my contacts because I couldn’t get the mascara off of them, yet I still had raccoon eyes.  I had to scrub with makeup remover and then almond oil to get off the mascara.

The masochist I am, I tried it again.  While on vacation.  WTH was I thinking.  Yet again, I experienced pain, blurred vision, destroyed contacts and raw skin trying to take off the mess.  The tube was left in the hotel bathroom’s trash can.  FAIL.

Almay Smart Shade Anti Aging Foundation/Makeup – This stuff is AWESOME.  Seriously, I haven’t enjoyed a drugstore foundation since L’Oreal True Match, and that love affair fizzled when my skin went from durable 20-something (and early 30-something) to  mid 30-something who has gone through pregnancy, birth, lack of sleep and too many tanning beds in college.  It no longer seemed to blend and disappear like it used to.  I ended up switching to powders, creams, and tinted moisturizers because regular foundations looked too obvious on this new face.

I chose the anti-aging mainly for the higher SPF, but figured if L’Oreal True Match sits weird on my skin, maybe I am of the age where the anti-aging products will be kinder to me.  Dunno, but this stuff pretty much rocks. When it comes out of the tube, it’s a weird grayish white color with teeny specks in it – sort of reminds me of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream.  I tried rubbing it on a piece of fabric and it stayed the weird white/gray color.  I rubbed on my hand and it blended pretty well.  Rubbed it on my face and it blended GREAT.  Seriously, this stuff disappeared like a tinted moisturizer, but covered like a classic foundation.  Layering a bit more would cover small imperfections.  I tried it with both my Redpoint and Laura Mercier concealers over it, and it didn’t get weird or cakey.  It lasted all day, and I couldn’t feel it on my skin.

This stuff isn’t great in the extreme heat, but it’s a fabulous daytime foundation for work and errands.  I can easily put it on, a bit of bronzer and some mascara and feel polished.

Oh, and I got the Light Medium color for my tone.  This color worked pre-Bonnaroo and even after when I ended up getting a bit of a tan.  I usually wear Light Medium shades in most brands, often find foundations to be too yellow or too pink.  This wasn’t either – it was a beige color that disappeared and evened my skin tone.  WIN!

Product Reviews – Clinique

When I was in Middle School, I was invited to the birthday slumber party of a girl who I had become new friends with. I didn’t know her circle of friends but was thrilled to be invited to her party.

As soon as I entered the house I knew I wouldn’t fit in. These girls were wearing full faces of makeup, had clothes I had only seen on the pages of Teen magazine and just looked so… sophisticated. Gosh, they even wore silk nightshirts! We were told we would be doing makeovers on one another and to bring our beauty products. I had a couple Revlon lipsticks my mom had discarded, a tube of Almay One-Coat mascara and a gray Cover Girl eye pencil, these girls has Kaboodles full of products from Clinique and Estee Lauder.

After the initial shock of these “adult” girls, I ended up having a great time with them and a couple I am still friends with to this day. However there was one girl there who was a total jerk and snob. She was very mean to most of us, and decided I would be her target for the whole evening. She teased me about my “baby clothes,” my “tacky makeup,” my “ghetto school” that I attended. I went to the bathroom and her Kaboodle was in there. I opened it up and it was overflowing with fancy cosmetics, perfumes and nail polishes. I grabbed a little green pot of lip gloss and stuck it in my pocket. I knew it was wrong, but I felt as though I was getting back at her in some way for doing that.

I felt so bad about what I did; I never used that lip gloss. I also never threw it away until I was packing up for college five years later. I held on to it, a totem representing how I let jealousy and one person affect who I was as a human being.

And, I never could use Clinique.

A couple years ago, Mr. Allie and I registered at Macy’s for our upcoming wedding. They gave me a goodie bag in thanks. Most of the bag was full of ads and stupid tips on how to register (ladies do NOT put where you are registering in your wedding invitations! Taaaa-cky!) but there were a few samples at the bottom. One was a tiny shimmery white shadow in that well-known green marble case. Clinique. I was almost afraid to open it. It took me over a week to even try it on my face and it ended up being the highlighter shadow I used on my wedding day and it finally got me to realize that Clinique is brand just like the rest, and that I am no longer the little girl at that slumber party.

So after that long spiel, here’s some products I have tried out lately:

Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey – Well I just HAD to try this; people rave about this product as being the “must-have lipstick for all skin tones!” I am such a sucker for beauty products that gain cult-like status. As with many other “must-have” beauty products I ended up a bit disappointed with this product.

Yes, this is a color that could work the fairest or darkest of complexions. In the tube it is a dark plummy black color that looks almost like purple-tinted dried molasses. On the lips it is very sheer dark berry hue – think tinted lip balm level of color. However unlike a tinted balm, the more you apply of this product, the more saturated of color you get. Though it gets darker, it never looks cakey, dark or extreme. You could easily have a swipe or two for day, and add a few more swipes before going out to make the look more appropriate for evening. It maintains its soft, sheer balmy consistency no matter how many times you apply it.

The color is pretty and flattering. The formula is soft and sheer. It lasts about as long as a classic lipstick. That being said, no angels started singing when I put this on my lips. I found the formula to be almost exactly like Body Shop’s Sheer Lip Shine, which even has a slightly similar packaging (and has a slightly lower price). So if you are looking for a sheer plum lipcolor that feels as nice as it looks, this is a good choice. Does it have to be in your cosmetic bag or else you are unchic, uncool and without the very prettiest lips possible? Notsomuch.

Clinique Colour Surge Eyeshadow Duo in Like Mink – This duo came within a palette from the bonus that Macy’s was offering recently. I had read glowing reviews about this color duo and was thrilled to have it in the bonus as that it has been discontinued. One shade is a champagne-tinted sheer off-white and the other is a sparkly bronzey chocolate color.

(wow realized somehow the rest of the review for this product disappeared… here you go…)
The colors are extremely flattering; though they are sparkly they are perfect for day wear.

The light color is very tightly pressed which makes it hard to get product on the brush, or even the stiff sponge applicator that came in the palette. I had to actually scrape the top of the shadow to get pigment. However once I applied the powder, I found it to be very sheer, flattering and a great highlighter that wouldn’t turn silver in sunlight or flash photography.

The darker color is far more metallic and didn’t have the pigment issue – in fact it is almost too soft and I would end up with quite a lot on my brush and face even with a gentle pat to the block of color. Slightly messy, but I could deal as that this color could go from a subtle sparkly tan to a deep bronze-chocolate dependant on how much you applied. Neither creased, faded or got weird through the day, and seemed to last the normal amount of time for a traditional shadow. The darker of the two worked well when wetted; I used a slant brush to apply as liner and it didn’t irritate and lasted through the day. It is unfortunate that this duo has been discontinued: though the formula is strange (maybe that’s why they were in a palette and discontinued), the colors and level of shimmer/sparkle are perfect basics for most women’s cosmetic collections.

Clinique Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick in Beauty – Again, this is an item that came in the bonus from Macy’s.

Beauty is a mauvey browny pink color – one of those colors that Allure magazine would claim would look amazing on every skintone. Reminds me of a slightly darker and glossier version of Nars’ Dolce Vita. It’s one of those shades you can apply without a mirror and know you won’t end up looking like The Joker. On my pale, cool skin it is quite flattering and a great day shade, but it may be too cool or pink for a warm or much darker skintone.

It feels creamy on the lips and does seem to last longer than a traditional lipstick, but isn’t one of those super-long wearing formulas. This is the middle ground I enjoy – my lips feel soft and natural, the color lasts through a cup of coffee, and when it does actually wear away it does it in a natural way so weird spots of color aren’t left in the wrinkles and around the rim of the lips. It doesn’t feather or stain, and my lips don’t get dried out from wearing it. As for the soft shine, it is very soft to the point that it just seems creamy, and not at all shiny or glossy. If you are looking for a glossy lipstick, this isn’t it. However, it is an excellent lipstick to have in your purse for day wear that will compliment most makeup looks and colors of clothing.

Clinique Liquid Face Soap (Mild) – This came with a bonus from Macy’s. Not the type of cleanser I would usually purchase for my sensitive skin. It is a clear, thin gel that has a very mild fragrance. It foams up a lot – something I usually steer clear from due to my skin. It does a great job of removing all makeup and dirt from the skin. It claims it is mild and for dry to combination skin; I found it not as drying as most foaming washes, but still a bit too drying and harsh for dry skin. Also, it tastes terrible! Oh gosh, I don’t mean to eat my face wash, but some residue ended up on my lips and it tasted like the stuff you put on your nails to discourage biting them.

Really, this stuff is… fine. I think there are far better products in your local drug store, and much better products in practically every skin care line on the planet for dry or combination skin. I used it for a week and it caused slight irritation and tightness through the day… I don’t get that with Dove, Olay or Cetaphil. However the small bottle will be great for travel so I’ll toss it in my linen closet to take on my next vacation.

Clinique 7 Day Scrub Cream Rinse-Off Formula – From InStyle’s Best Best Beauty Buys: A perennial favorite of doctors, this ultrafine scrub “won’t irritate skin and washes off cleanly without any residue,” N.Y.C. dermatologist Jules Abadi says. It has just the right amount of granules to provide a gentle but thorough pore cleansing, says L.A. dermatologist Ronald Moy.

This product is a white cream with small grains that feel a bit like sugar. It’s like a gentle version of the Neutrogena Advanced Solutions At-Home Microdermabrasion System. It spreads well, scrubs without scratching or hurting my sensitive skin (even under my nose), and rinses so easily and completely. It is a decent product and my skin doesn’t react to it in a negative manner. My skin is happy to have a slightly coarser exfoliant than what I had been previously using – my skin feels soft and seems to have a glow.

Again… no angels sang when I have used it. It’s nice, it’s good, but to me it’s like Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara – a Godsend for some, whatever for a few others, and ick for the rest. I recommend you get a sample from your nearby counter before you purchase to see if it’s worth your fundage.

Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel-Lotion – This stuff doesn’t work. It isn’t a good replacement for my Clean & Clear gel that caused my hives. In fact, I wonder if it makes my zits worse. I got a little bump on my jawline and put the product on before I went to bed. Woke up and it was bigger and turning white. Put more on it and kept makeup away. By lunchtime it was poppable. Came home, did some steaming and manipulating and added more of the gel-lotion. By time I was getting ready for bed it had turned into a blackhead that felt deep like a wart and hurt like the dickens. The next morning, I had bumps all over the area, pretty much where I had applied the product. I used tea tree on the bumps and the redness dissipated but it didn’t help with shrinking of the zits. However, they all came to heads and popped on their own without any irritation.

I know many of you suggested tea tree – I know tea tree, my husband is an organic natural guy and I worked for the Body Shop for years. I know that tea tree helps with irritation and redness for me, but it doesn’t help little bumps shrink. Neither Clinique nor tea tree do what the Clean & Clear used to do. Le sigh. Will keep searching…

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!

Drugstore Beauty – Recent Product Reviews

Gosh it has been a while since my last beauty review! I have been pretty busy the past few months, so in general I have been sticking to my makeup “uniform” (Almay Smart Shade foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, NARS Orgasm blush, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis, DiorShow mascara). However, I have tried a couple new items, and all the ones below can be found at your neighborhood drugstore.

In my last beauty review, many of you sang the praises of Revlon’s Lip Butters (sorry Disqus issue has the comments missing). So much so, I went out and purchased one (Berry Smoothie). You’re right – it feels amazing on the lips, it hydrates, and it gives a pretty pop of shiny color. It’s hard to explain this product – more like a creamy sheer lipstick than a tinted lip balm – I find you can wear one layer as a soft stain, or build for more pigment so it almost ends up looking like a creamy almost-opaque lip gloss. I like Berry Smoothie which is a neutral mauvey-rose color that is like my lip color but better. I can put it on sans mirror and know it will look great. These aren’t long-wearing lipcolors, but they don’t leave a stain or ring on the lips and keep my lips feeling hydrated and smooth.

Since purchasing Berry Smoothie, I have also added Lollipop, Fig Jam, and Cherry Tart to the collection. Lollipop is a bright, almost neon hot pink that has been my go-to bold lip color this spring. Fig Jam is a bit too brown for my skin and makes me feel like my ‘90s self, but I think it would look gorgeous on someone with more bronze or brown of a skintone (I sometimes mix with other colors to make them more day-friendly). Cherry Tart is by far my favorite – with my fair skin it makes me feel like Snow White, or possibly Blair Waldorf (her makeup has been pretty awesome the end of this past season). Soft, shiny, lush, not sticky and a gorgeous sheer red.

The only issue I have with Revlon Lip Butters is that like real butter, they melt. My Lollipop was in the outside pocket of my bag on a hot day, by time I got from my office through the Metro to my home, it had softened enough that the stick of lipstick had disconnected from the tube and smeared on the inside of the cap (I now wear it with a lip brush). The Berry Smoothie did the same thing, and now is a bit messy to use. Cherry Tart I keep in the deep dark recesses of my purse and will only twist up the bare minimum to apply to help preserve the product. This issue is enough that I hesitate purchasing another during the warmer months.

I succumbed to the hype and bought a BB Cream. While I like my Almay foundation, I prefer a lighter weight product come summer. I was at CVS getting allergy meds for Emerson and grabbed a tube of this on the way to the register. I chose Light/Medium.

At first, I hated this stuff. It felt cheap on the skin, looked greasy, and disappeared within an hour or two. Then I tried it without my Philosophy Vitamin C/L’Oreal Youth Code serum cocktail and it worked far better. It’s a bit heavier than a tinted moisturizer, but not as thick or heavy as a traditional foundation. My best luck was to apply it to very dry skin, while still damp apply my concealer over it, let it set and dry completely before applying any other makeup. By doing this, I like it better and wear it a couple times a week. However, I hate going without my “cocktail” and prefer to be able to use a second sunscreen for the best coverage. So while I learned to like the Garnier BB Cream, I won’t be buying another tube when this one runs out. In fact, as the weather gets warmer and my face gets greasier, I may stop using this product all together.

I have never been a huge fan of tinted moisturizer – I have tried some of the most popular brands and don’t get the hype, finding my skin to look just the way it did prior, just a tad more greasy. Garnier’s BB Cream provides more color and coverage than a tinted moisturizer, but isn’t heavy or as opaque as a foundation. It isn’t the best choice for one with oily skin or is prone to being uber sweaty in the summer, but is a great alternative to foundation for those with dry or normal skin.

I have used Maybelline’s Ultra Liner since college. While many find a brush for liquid liner to be messy, I work better with it than a felt tip. However Ultra Liner is very shiny, very black, and as I have gotten older I find it to be a bit costumey on me unless I am purposely doing a retro-inspired look. I wanted a liquid liner that was easy for me to control, didn’t have a shiny finish, was not black, but not a lighter brown than my eye color. After reading a ton of reviews (and seeing it was on sale at and they had double cash back with Ebates) I chose Maybelline Line Stiletto in Brownish Black.

Fan. Big Fan. This is exactly what I wanted. While it is considered a felt tip, it’s a long and flexible tip that holds a lot of pigment. The formula is thinner than Ultra Liner, but it’s not watery like other brands I have tried. The color is a dark brown with a slight gray tinge which makes it look more natural. It’s a soft matte finish, dries quickly, doesn’t irritate my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, doesn’t flake, and washes off easily with CeraVe come the end of the day. A very thin line right in the lash line just makes my lashes look fuller, a slightly thicker line provides drama that is still appropriate for the office, the daytime, and a day when I am not wearing a bold red and a smirk. Did I mention I am a big fan of Maybelline Line Stiletto? Because I am. Big fan.

It’s… fine. Very low pigment which is great for a fair-skinned lassie, but makes it hard if you actually want to look bronze or use it as blush or contour. No sparkle, which is something that makes me happy. Top doesn’t screw on, so it’s not something you can pop into your makeup bag. However Rimmel Natural Bronzer doesn’t crumble away like many bronzers; I expect it to stay intact for me to reach pan based off of usage, not disintegration. However, I am not feeling the love for the actual product like I have for higher-end brands like Cargo, Tarte, and Laura Mercier.

Have you tried any new drugstore beauty products?  Any you love and think I should try out?  Let me know in the comments!

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Beauty Products Worthy of a Second Buy

Beauty products are fun. It’s always exciting to tear open your bag from CVS, Ulta, or that box from Sephora and play with your new stash of goodies. I have a drawer in my dressing table, and each morning when I open it, I feel as though I am looking at a toy chest. Will I do a smoky eye today? A flushed cheek? Maybe just a lip stain. The options are endless!

If you feel this way, you probably also encounter what I often do – buyer’s remorse. That metallic teal liner that you have never worn, a foundation that the folks on Makeup Alley say is near-Holy Grail but makes your skin look sallow, a moisturizer that made you break out, a curl defining cream that make you look as though you instead bought a Jheri Curl.

When I find an item that not only is used to completion but deserves to be re-purchased, it’s a time to celebrate. Below are items that I have either recently re-purchased, or purchased and love so much, I know I will be buying a replacement as soon as this one is empty!

Ole Henriksen Pure Perfection Night Crème
A couple months ago, I purchased some almond oil after reading online that it can help condition and strengthen lashes. I applied it at night, and one night I applied it all over my face in place of regular night cream. I went to bed with a greasy face, but woke up with soft, plump, happy skin. I decided to make a switch from my meh night cream (freebie blogger swag not worth mentioning) to almond oil.

As the weather got colder and dryer and more mean, the almond oil wasn’t cutting it. I was getting the dry irritated skin under my nose, waking up with a tight face, and my skin looked a bit haggard. Right when I was losing the almond oil love, I read this post on Capitol Hill Style. As soon as I finished the post, I ordered myself a tub of Ole Henriksen’s Pure Perfection Night Crème. As that I ordered it on Amazon and have Prime, it arrived two days later.

I have been using this cream since Christmas Eve and have seen a marked improvement in my skin. When I wake my face doesn’t feel greasy, nor is it tight. The red, dry, irritated winter skin I get under my nose and around my mouth is history. My skin feels soft, and has a nice glow to it that is unusual to see during the coldest and darkest part of the year. No breakouts, no irritation, just happy comfortable skin that looks a bit more youthful.

The formula is thick, but not heavy. A little goes a long way, so I will have this orange tub in my medicine cabinet for many months before it needs a replacement. It is to be used on the entire face – even the eye area (recommends Ole Henriksen’s eye cream OVER it, five minutes after application of the night cream – I am using up the eye cream I currently have). So far, so good. This is my first time trying Ole Henriksen’s line but after this experience, it won’t be my last.

Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer – SPF 30
When I ordered the Ole Henriksen night cream, Amazon suggested I also try this moisturizer for daytime. I hate to admit this, but I have been living off trial-sized moisturizers that I have gotten as swag, samples with my and Sephora orders, etc. I know Roc gets pretty good reviews for having a good concentration of retinol, and I loved that it was SPF 30. What the heck, I added it to my Amazon order.

I really like this cream. It’s thick, but it soaks in well if you take your time. A dab on the forehead spread around, a dab on each cheek, a dab on the chin, some for the neck and décolleté and blend in. After just a couple minutes, it is soaked in and you can apply your makeup without issues.

Since I started using the Roc moisturizer the day after starting the Ole Henriksen cream, I can’t really tell how much of an impact it is making. My skin feels more hydrated than it was with my other random moisturizers, yet my makeup doesn’t slide off my face. No breakouts, no irritation, no redness. I think my skin looks better than it did a couple weeks ago, but again not sure if it’s the night cream, this moisturizer, a combination of the two, the removal of holiday stress, or just using a new regimen. Even if the retinol isn’t helping with dark spots, dryness, and wrinkles, the moisturizer is a wonderful consistency and seems to agree with my face more than any other moisturizer I have used. It feels luxe, as though it would cost much more and not be a drugstore brand.

Almay Smart Shade Anti-aging Makeup SPF 15
I bought this in June on a whim. Loved it. You can read my original review here. When my tube ran out, I bought another. And last month, I purchased my third tube ( I wear Light/Medium year round).

This foundation really does change to match your skin perfectly. If you don’t blend well you may end up with weird little tan streaks, but I use very little and blend well and it completely disappears, evening out my skin better than any tinted moisturizer, but doesn’t give as heavy of coverage as a traditional foundation. It sits right between both types of products, doesn’t irritate my contacts-wearing eyes, wears well all day, doesn’t cause breakouts and I can practically apply it with my eyes closed and know it will look great.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage
This is my Holy Grail of concealer. Other brands need not apply. I tried Laura Mercier concealer for the first time when I bought her Flawless Face Kit. I loved everything in the kit, but OBSESSED over the amazing concealer. Before I even finished the travel sizes in the kit, I bought myself a full-sized version of the Secret Camouflage.

I wear SC2 – it is one shade a bit lighter than my complexion, one a bit darker and more yellow. I can mix them together for a custom color – I use the light around my eyes to cover dark circles and it blends great, doesn’t tug at my skin, doesn’t look ashy, and really helps hide most anything. The darker color is great for covering zits, redness around the nostrils and these weird little stretch mark-like thingies at the edges of my lips. I use my ring finger so it warms the concealer and makes it easier to blend, but I have also used a small brush to tap a little concealer on a blemish and make it hide well under foundation. When I have time and it’s a special event, I will use my Laura Mercier concealer brush to lightly apply and layer the Secret Camouflage and this will give really amazing coverage without looking obvious.

I am almost finished with my second compact of Secret Camouflage (first one purchased early on in pregnancy with Emerson – a compact lasts over a year) and am tempted to buy another already so that I can have one in my purse for post-work touchups. When people comment on how rested or young or fresh I look, I always tell them it’s thanks to Laura Mercier!

DiorShow Mascara
I have tried Maybelline Great Lash and don’t get the hype – it separates and doesn’t clump but it hardly makes any impact. Lancome Defincils isn’t bad, but it’s nothing to write home about. Benefit Bad Gal is meh. Tried tubing my lashes with Blinc Kiss Me and wasn’t a fan. Tried Lash Blast, Voluminous, 2000 Calorie, Falsies and found them good, but not great.

I want lashes that stand out. I want them thick, lush, dark, long, luscious. Even for day, I want my lashes to make some impact.

I buy the newest “sooo amazing, like false lashes!” mascara… and then I go back to DiorShow. DiorShow is expensive, and I can’t just pick it up my next time to the grocery store or Target. A tube of DiorShow doesn’t last as long as other brands – it seems to dry up faster. It has a pretty strong rose scent – not an awful scent, but I prefer my makeup to smell like a whole lot of nothing.

However it goes on great – no flaking, no clumping, no irritating my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes. It’s thick, coats each lash, makes them really thick and gorgeous while separating and elongating. It wears all day and gives me the look I crave.

DiorShow is worth it. I do balance it out by using a drugstore brand for day (currently using Maybelline Falsies) and saving it for more special occasions, but I can’t find anything to replace or compare.

Revlon Colorstay 12 Hour Eyeshadow Quad in Neutral Khakis
This isn’t my second time buying this, or even my third. I am currently on my FIFTH palette in this exact color story. It really is THAT good.

The ivory shade is matte and makes the perfect highlighter. I apply it with my ring finger to my brow bone and inner eyes to make me look awake. The khaki has a gold sheen that is still very wearable during the day. It is an excellent basic lid color to be worn on its own or as a base for other colors. Wet it and it’s a brassy shade that is really fun for evening. The olive is extremely wearable and I have often done an olive smoky eye with this shadow. Again, wet it and it makes a more intense color (and can easily replace liner). The brown is a lovely chocolate with very little shimmer to it. When I lost my brow color on the Metro, I have been using this and think it’s a perfect fit. It also is a great color for contour and when wet, can replace a liner.

My standard day eye is with this palette. I apply the ivory with my finger to brow bone and inner eyes. I then use my Trish McEvoy Brush 45 to have a soft wash of the khaki over my lid. Trish McEvoy Brush 29 dips into the chocolate and I swish it back and forth into the crease of my lid and in the outer corner of my eye. Finally I take my Trish McEvoy Brush 41 and swipe the chocolate lightly along the lash lines. And then as mentioned, I also use Trish McEvoy Brush 32 to feather the chocolate into my brows to fill in the sparse parts.

The khaki color seems to crumble very easily and it is usually gone before any other color. However the rest of the palette is near-perfect, lasts until you hit metal, and the compact is well made and can handle being toted around in a bag without cracking or popping open. And finally, it really DOES last for 12 hours, even if you are like me and constantly rubbing and fiddling with your eyes. Major major win.

Trish McEvoy Brushes
I almost didn’t mention these because I have only purchased them once. But the sign of a quality makeup brush is that you DO only need to purchase it once, and you never lack for a different brush.

In 1998 I treated myself to a makeover at the Trish McEvoy counter in Nordstrom and went a bit buck-wild. I left with a ton of brushes. To this day, I still use every single brush they sold me. The brow brush is perfect – not too stiff, not too soft, fills in brows without leaving obvious lines. Brushes 45 and 29 are my LIFE – they will make cheap shadows look expensive and give the perfect wash of color (brush 29 seems custom made for the crease in my lid, though I have talked it up to friends who have also purchased it and feel it was actually custom made for THEIR eyes). The M20 Face Blender is a perfect blush brush that captures the apples of my cheeks without making me look like a Dolly Dingle Doll. Brush 11 is a great way to take a dark shadow and make it a liner – it really is able to wiggle into the lash line for a very clean, precise look.

The brushes are well shaped, feel good in the hand. The bristles are animal hair, and tightly clamped to the handle and never shed. I wash them with baby shampoo and let them air dry and 13 years later are still like new. Trish McEvoy makeup brushes aren’t cheap, but if you don’t need to purchase another brush for over a decade – it’s money well spent.

Frederic Fekkai Luscious Curls Cream
I am on my third tube, and that says a lot. Those of you with hair like mine probably have had medicine cabinets like mine overflowing with creams, pomades, sprays, gels, balms and lotions all claiming to be able to take limp wavy hair and make it into soft, shiny spirals. Many work… for a while. Most fail, making hair greasy and heavy, or crispy.

Frederic Fekkai’s Luscious Curls Cream succeeds IF I let me hair air dry. If I wash and condition my hair, apply a marble-sized dollop to my hair, scrunch and leave it alone, I end up with beachy waves and pretty spirals. The wave and curl lasts all day and often looks even better after a good night’s sleep. No heavy smell, no greasy locks, and surely no crunchy crispy ramen noodle locks.

However if I try to speed up the process with my hair dryer (even with diffuser and on low heat) I end up with really awful hair. It’s greasy, limp, frizzy, and looks as though I am Jon Bon Jovi circa 1984.


Neutrogena Body Oil
I am addicted to this stuff. I used it in high school, but soon switched for various creams and lotions and potions from popular college stores like The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works. When I graduated from scented lotions to actual perfumes, I switched to very general lotions from the drugstore (hello Lubriderm).

I believe pregnancy brought me back to Neutrogena Body Oil. My nose was extremely sensitive, and I had PUPPS causing me to seek ANYTHING that would stop the incessant itching. Neutrogena Body Oil has a very light fragrance (believe it is sesame but smells like honeysuckle to me) that doesn’t compete with my Burberry London, but still seems to calm me and make me feel fresh and feminine. The oil seeps into my skin beautifully and I get a bit of a Mandy Moore-like sheen. I glop it on and put on my terry robe and give it time to soak in and my skin is forever thankful.

Once I decided to try out the CVS brand. Ew. The fragrance is NOT the same. If I could get linen spray and candles in the scent of Neutrogena Body Oil, I would. It feels and acts and smells more luxe than you would expect from Neutrogena. The body says it is, “A sensual experience” and I would have to agree.

Dove Ultimate Beauty Care, Original Clean Deodorant and CertainDri
I don’t want to smell like a baby, a cucumber, a grapefruit. I don’t want to smell like someone else’s idea of energy or spirit. I also don’t want to smell like sweat. I sweat very easily, and need a product that will not only deodorize, but also slow down sweat production. I have so many brands of deodorants and antiperspirants – too many to count. I have found many work… for about two weeks and then stop. Many more irritate my skin. Almost all, once I get a bit warm start smelling so strong I get nauseous and it overpowers my perfume.

I finally found the perfect combination. Most nights (when I remember and am not too exhausted) I apply CertainDri. Then I use the classic Dove Deodorant in the morning. With this combination, I don’t smell, I don’t get red and bumpy (don’t use CertainDri after shaving), and I don’t smell like fruit, flowers, chemicals, or teen spirit.

Dove DOES have a smell, but it sort of reminds me of the scent of Neutrogena Body Oil – very light, fresh, feminine, subtle. I prefer it over the unscented version which I don’t think works as well and has a weird unscented sort of chemical smell.

As for CertainDri, it is the only thing I have found that really helps with sweat production. It doesn’t stop it all together, but it keeps me from having wet blouses and helps with odor. Sometimes it will sting a bit when applied, but that’s usually because I put it on too soon after shaving or showering, or it’s the end of the bottle and uber-concentrated. I have used it off and on for years without any issues, and especially find it a Godsend during humid sticky DC summers!

What products have you used and used and used again? Do you have any Holy Grail products that you just can’t live without?

Product Reviews

As promised, a few more product reviews based on goodies I have tried recently:

Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara – So I finally caved and tried this mascara. It hasn’t gotten the best of reviews, but I am a sucker for the cute Benefit line, and we all know I am addicted to mascara.

Not worth it. So glad I got a travel-sized bottle. Doesn’t give half the volume, separation or lengthening of Cover Girl’s Lash Blast or most drugstore mascaras. Major disappointment. Only good things – no weird smell that some mascaras have, no flaking or smearing, not a ton of clumping and no irritation. Great day mascara is you want a simple look, but really then go buy yourself something like Lash Exact or Great Lash.

Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo – So I have been wanting a dry shampoo for a while. I color my hair and am prone to damage at the ends and oil at the roots. Thought this may help extend the time between actual washings and improve my hair quality and looks.

Dry shampoos may be great, but this one is not great for me. It would be amazing if you had blonde or light brown hair – on my black-brown tresses it looked white and a tad dull, even with a small amount being used and brushing it through the strands.

However, the product did make my hair look fresh, it has a lemon scent that is very strong upon application but fades quickly to a subtle fresh scent that lasts, a little goes a long way, the squeeze bottle is remarkably easy to use and control, and I can run my fingers through my hair without any product depositing on my hand.

I would purchase again if it came in a variety of shades. I do like it enough to invest in a different one that is made for dark hair, and will continue to use this product when in a pinch.

Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Fragrance – Okay, I didn’t use it but my sister has. This season, my sister received a gift from one of her work clients that had an Elizabeth Arden gift certificate and small bottles of a couple of their fragrances. She has fallen in love with Green Tea, and I must say if she hadn’t claimed it first, I would too (I love my sister and may look like her, but I don’t want to smell just like her).

The scent is quite lovely, and not obviously green tea like many cheesy scents from places such as Bath & Body Works. It is elegant, subtle, feminine and fresh. A wonderful day scent, and a good choice for a woman who finds that too many fragrances are heavy, intense or cloying.

The Body Shop Coconut Hand Wash – Handwash is handwash, right? Notsomuch, especially after trying this one from The Body Shop. I used to use whatever was on sale at the grocery, or Bath & Body Works when they were having a sale on their Antibacterial line. I purchased this because A. I love The Body Shop and B. I love coconut.

The scent is fresh, not heavy. Smells like fresh coconut milk instead of the toasted smell in many product lines. The product is typical handwash thickness, pearlized and lathers lightly but cleans very well. Not only does it leave a slight trace of the yummy coconut smell on the hands, it also keeps my hands remarkably hydrated, hives-free and soft. My husband and his friends do not find the scent to be too strong or girly, and have even mentioned to me how they like how soft yet non-greasy their hands are after using it.

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser – Bought in a pinch when I ran out of face wash, I am now in love with this product and plan on repurchasing when it runs out. No weird smell, doesn’t dry out the skin yet doesn’t leave it feeling filmy. It takes of all makeup, even waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner. No eye irritation, no breakouts, and the price is lovely.

This isn’t the best product for severely dry skin, but I must say it is very gentle for it was the only thing that didn’t hurt when my hives spread to my face. One pump seems to be enough to get off a normal day’s worth of cosmetics and grime. On occasion, I mix it with a face scrub for the cleansing and exfoliating properties at once. My husband loves it too, and says it hasn’t dried out his skin or caused any breakouts with his acne-prone skin.

Product Reviews

I have recently tried many new products and have been a bit lazy in providing reviews so I’ll try to fit as many as I can remember in this post!

Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot Pre-foundation Primer. I received this as a sample, and didn’t try it for a couple of weeks. I have my Smashbox Photo Finish, and even that primer I only use for special occasions when I need my foundation to last longer or be more durable (long days, hot days, days when I will be photographed after two Grey Goose and tonics…). I just never saw the real need for a primer on a daily basis, and I didn’t really like the feeling of “something” on my face all day. I had tried primers over the years from Smashbox, Paula Dorf, Laura Geller and Benefit and have liked them okay, but didn’t see such amazing results that I felt this step needed to be added to my daily routine. I also didn’t like the feeling of a layer, tightness, or heaviness that many of these provided.

The Napoleon Perdis primer doesn’t feel like other primers. First, it looks, smells and goes on like a lotion. It didn’t get tight, it didn’t feel obvious, it didn’t smell weird and it didn’t take too long to dry. I applied liquid concealer and powder foundation over it, and both applied nicely – glided better than on just moisturized skin yet still looked natural and slightly sheer (which I like – want to show off my freckles). Three hours after application, my makeup still looks as fresh as it did at application, my face feels naked (which I love) and when I touch it, it feels the same as if I was without primer – soft, natural. So far, so good!

Cover Girl LashBlast Mascara. I am a sucker for Drew Barrymore. Love her, and love her new Cover Girl ads and am a sucker enough to buy something simply because her face is associated with it. However, I have been burned far too many times buying the drugstore wonder mascara that I would find to be nothing short of bleh (hello Great Lash and Volume Exact). Mascara is the one cosmetic I would want on a desert island, and I am willing to pay for what I know delivers length, volume and separation (hello DiorShow). However my DiorShow ran out and I was in desperate need of a new mascara and had to go to Target anyway…

Hey, this stuff ain’t bad! The large orange brush does look a bit ridiculous, but once coated with mascara, it looks similar to the DiorShow Unlimited brush – four-pronged rubbery bristles. The bristles pick up the product well, add it to the lashes without much issues with clumping and layers nicely for thick dark lashes. It lasts all day, doesn’t irritate my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, and washes off with normal face cleanser without leaving black smudges on my towels or under my eyes. I have read other reviews that say this product doesn’t hold curl, but I haven’t had an issue as that I use my Shu Eumura curler before, and see the curl stay as well as it does with most any other mascara.

This by far is my favorite drugstore mascara so far, I think even beating L’Oreal Voluminous (which is awesome but gets gummy and/or dry in just a few weeks).

Revlon ColorStay Soft & Smooth Lipcolor in Rich Raisin. Ladies, I think I have found my 2007 replacement for Revlon’s LipGlide in Rum Radiance. This product is amazing. I have tried the ColorStay lipcolors before and have liked the feel, but the color has always been a bit strange (too pink, too fake). Rich Raisin looks to be a dark brownish-red in the case, but comes out with a nice copper sheen over a dark wine hue. This color works with my warm-toned clothing as well as the cooler hues in my closet. It is far longer wearing than a traditional lipstick, but does require reapplication after drinking/kissing/eating. However unlike a traditional lipstick, it evenly wears away still leaving some color pigment. Reapplication is nice, and not rough or dry like most long-wear products. Also unlike most long-wearing lip colors, this product does not seem to dry out my lips. The color is not a classic red or wine shade, but easily can work in the same situations (I have used it to create quite the pinup look and found it matches almost all the rube and garnet-hued holiday clothing in my collection).

Darphin 8-Hour Nectar. You all know I try to budget my beauty products… I am not made of money and have a mortgage and student loan to wrestle with every month along with all the other bills and necessities of life. I received this as a prize from a contest at Beauty Maverick (head over there, she has a very fun blog and some awesome contests this month!) and it is the only way i would be able to afford this product.

What an AMAZING gift this oil is! The product is supposed to firm and minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles, restore natural radiance, suppleness and resilience for overall youthful-looking skin. And yep, this product delivers! The instructions say to add a few drops to skin and neck in the evening, massaging in a downward direction. I feared putting an unknown oil on my face, but it product is light, absorbed quickly and felt heavenly (and smelled just as good – an herbal/lavender and ylang ylang/day spa sort of scent). I also put a drop on the tops of my hands that are starting to look crepey, dry and miserable from the cold weather and my on-again, off-again hives and sensitivity to almost any hand cream.

I woke up, my skin looked as though I had gotten 10 hours of blissful sleep, not the measly four I tossed and turned through. No reactions, no breakouts, no greasiness. I hardly had to tone my face when I woke, my skin felt ready for the day. And my hands? I think the product actually HEALED my hives! The hives are on my wrists and forearms, but my hands are soft, hive-free and look as healthy as they did in the humid summer.

When this runs out will I fork over $150 for another bottle? Not likely with my salary. However I would be scouting out an equivalent or similar product from a different line because I am so impressed with the results.

Neutrogena Body Oil. The catchphrase for this product is “No moisturizer can touch this experience.” You know, I think for once, the marketing execs got it right. I LOVE this stuff. I used to use it in high school, and then dropped it for fruiter smells, and then fancier brands. Recently with this bout of hives, I have been simplifying my routine and trying products to soothe, hydrate and not inflame the skin. On a whim, I bought my first bottle of Body Oil in over a decade (it was on sale at Target).

I use it daily now. The very subtle scent is feminine, clean and compliments my perfume. I apply it post shower to wet (not even towel-dried) skin and immediately put on my bathrobe to let it all soak in. My skin feels like silk, even 12 hours later. My hives don’t react to it and the scent lingers nicely. The skin also looks healthy, slightly glowy a la Mandy Moore. The ritual of marinating myself is very feminine and decadent. As I mentioned before on this blog, the dog does like the taste and will try to lap it off my legs, I recommend everyone to steer clear of your pets until this product has fully absorbed. It isn’t as intensive for the super dry parts of my body like elbows and knees, but I don’t mind using Body Shop Body Butter or another heavy cream for those spots post-oiling up my bod. Even without that final cream step, my skin is touchably soft and happy in the cold weather with just the Neutrogena Body Oil.

More to come! I know I’ll probably be getting some goodies for the holidays and also have received a bunch of yummy samples that need to fit into my routine!

Product Reviews – Face and Foundation

Here’s a few beauty products for the face that I have tried recently. A few scores, very few misses!

Benefit's You Rebel LiteBenefit Cosmetics You Rebel Lite SPF 15 – I never tried the traditional You Rebel, but received a sample of You Rebel Lite just as I was considering switching out my beloved Philosophy The Supernatural Canvas powder foundation for something more sheer and summery.

You Rebel Lite is the perfect color for me – it is a hair darker than my skin, and a hair more yellow, so that combined with being a tinted moisturizer, it made my skin have a natural looking glow, hid redness while letting my freckles and skin shine through.

I haven’t had much luck with tinted moisturizers – I have bought many of the “must have” brands and found that they were so sheer they completely disappeared, and so moisturizing they left my face looking like an oil slick. You Rebel Lite is thicker than many tinted moisturizers – the finish was more like mixing 2/3 foundation with 1.3 moisturizer, than the opposite combination I often have experienced. As for the grease factor – I really hate when cosmetics give me a shiny look, and You Rebel Lite is NOT a matte or even slightly dewy finish when on (I did look as though I had just finished an hour on the stepper, I looked so greasy and sweaty). However letting the product settle in, the shine transformed into a fresh dewy look, and a very light dusting of translucent powder made my skin look wonderful – fresh, as though I had on no makeup and was just blessed to not have acne, dark circles or broken capillaries. For those with dry or normal-to-dry skin, this could be a very nice choice. I just find it very odd to have a company sell a tinted moisturizer in only one color – gosh knows we women are not all the same shade!

Cover Girl Smoothers Tinted MoisturizerCover Girl Smoothers SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer, Light To Medium – I liked the Benefit tinted moisturizer so much, I decided to go out and purchase one. Since You Rebel Lite wasn’t quite Nirvana for me, I went the drugstore route. I had heard great things about both Cover Girl and Neutrogena’s tinted moisturizers, and CG was half the price…

I am pale, but I wanted a hint of color so I went with the Light to Medium shade. The formula is oil-free and has SPF 15. Sounded perfect!

Eh, it’s… fine. It’s thin –I can hardly tell it’s even on my skin. I guess if you REALLY want the no-makeup look, this is a good choice. However, I really can’t see much of a difference. I even put it on one side of my face and checked out my reflection in daylight and under a bulb and couldn’t see much of a change. I think I will keep searching – I do want the sheer look but I want it to at least look as though the product accomplishes something.

Philosophy The Supernatural Airbrushed Color CorrectorsPhilosophy The Supernatural Airbrushed Color Correctors (Light) – In layman’s terms, this is a compact of three creamy concealers. It comes with a little brush, but I find application is far better with a finger. The concealer trio comes in Light, Medium, and Dark. I chose Light and almost wonder if I should have gone with Medium: the lightest of the three shades is positively ghostly on me, the middle hue has to be blended with a touch of the darker for under-eye circles and the darkest is the perfect shade to cover redness or acne.

However the formula is so great and these two colors are so blendably perfect, I didn’t want to let go of the compact for even a minute while having to exchange at Sephora. The consistency is great – slightly more creamy than a stick, but the thickness and tackiness that makes a perfect concealer that lasts through the day. I use it over tinted moisturizer or liquid foundation and everything blends beautifully. It even pats on nicely – no need to yank at your skin to have a seamless look. I haven’t had any issues with breakouts, irritation, creasing, or fading from a sweaty hot day. I even tuck this compact in my bag for long days and it does a better job of touchups than any powder or cream-to-powder compact I have ever purchased. I am very very impressed with the philosophy cosmetic line so far – this, their The Supernatural Airbrushed Canvas powder foundation AND The Present clear makeup are all products good enough that I will probably replace when I run out.

Make Up For Ever High Definition Microfinish PowderMake Up For Ever High Definition Microfinish Powder – I usually despise translucent powders. They aren’t really translucent and they end up making me look like a geisha or overly matte and powdery. I like low muss, low fuss. So when I received this powder, I ended up not even opening it for a couple of weeks. It came in a tiny sample package reminiscent of testers of mineral foundation (how many of you have ended up getting that mineral foundation on your clothes, your sink, your floor, and everywhere but the darn brush?). Well the Benefit You Rebel Lite was making me look a bit like a greased pig one hot day so I decided to try this powder.

Woah, this stuff is GOOD! I tapped a small amount in the cap (the mini sized packaging has a cap about the size of a quarter) and dipped my Bare Escentuals Angled Face Brush into it and lightly tapped it on my skin. No HINT of powder anywhere, yet suddenly my skin was… well not quite matte, more like natural. Looked soft, touchable, not greasy, but not overly matte. I took the powder with me to work and did a touch-up at the end of the day. Reapplication didn’t make it cakey or powdery – again I got that perfectly fresh look to my skin. The powder kept my oil at bay far longer than my MAC Blot Powder or The Supernatural Airbrushed Canvas. The product claims to offer an airbrushed finish and diminish the look of fine lines – I didn’t really see that, but then I only used it on my T-zone to mattify and smooth. However this product gives me a FAR more natural look than Bare Escentual’s Mineral Veil, and I think it would be more forgiving to darker skin tones.

I think I will have to splurge on the full-sized package to get through the humid Washington DC summer. This stuff is pretty darn fabulous!

Product Reviews – Benefit and Philosophy

Philosophy’s The Present Clear Makeup: Wow, I thought I knew primers until I tried this stuff out! Most primers seem to do very little on my skin – make the foundation last a bit longer, give a more even finish to the skin, reduce the look of pores. Nice, but nothing shocking. Often I find my combination skin getting oilier in the T-zone and dryer on the cheeks when wearing one. I use them because they do help… but keep it for special occasions like long days, nights out where I may dance and sweat, or events where I will be getting my picture taken.

The Present is not sold as a primer, but is used by many as one. From the Sephora Web site:

The Present is a “clear makeup” for perfect, airbrushed skin. Formulated to be used as a last step prior to any makeup to form an invisible barrier that “seals in” moisture for chronically dry skin and active ingredients from treatment products while keeping out harmful environmental elements by acting like an invisible band-aid. It also contains lysozyme, a natural antimicrobial agent to keep skin radiantly “clear.”

The directions tell you it can be used in place of a moisturizer, but you would have the have awfully oily skin to find it helpful in that role. You apply it to your skin and wait two minutes to start applying cosmetics. Unlike some primers that make your skin feel as though it is shrinking or coated with… well a primer, The Present feels like nothing.

That is, until you start to apply your makeup. Using fingers to apply concealer, I found my skin felt rubbery and slightly gummy. Instead of my concealer almost being absorbed by my skin, it sat on top and was harder to blend. I found less product went further when used over this primer and it really seemed to attach to the skin.

My skin didn’t feel tight, heavy or greasy as the day progressed, and The Present seemed to prevent shine in the T-zone better than sans primer. I don’t think it kept my skin looking freshly made up after 12 hours, but it did keep my makeup on longer than without a primer, and without the weird side effects of many other primers on the market. Though it claims to hold in moisture, I didn’t feel that my skin was any happier or more hydrated with use – in fact I found my skin dried out in my sensitive areas such as around my nose. I also ended up with a bit of breakout around my mouth – something I haven’t dealt with in months. I doubt it was due to The Present, more due to being a ball of stress – however it didn’t keep my skin “in the clear” any more than my usual routine.

I am still not a primer addict after using The Present, but I do think this is one of the better ones I have tried. Philosophy has yet to let me down!

Benefit’s Bad Gal Blue Mascara: I adore Benefit – they make high-quality products and have the most clever packaging and marketing! When the Bad Gal line came out it seemed MADE for me! I love thick lashes and smoky eyes. I recently tried the traditional Bad Gal Lash and wasn’t impressed. It doesn’t flake, it doesn’t irritate, it gives a lusher look than many drugstore brands, but the brush made clumping common and the final result wasn’t any better (or even as good) as my current fave (and cheaper choice) Cover Girl LashBlast.

The Bad Gal Blue claims that the indigo hue will make your eyes look more white and intensify your eye color (for me, should make my brown eyes look more gold). Honestly, it just looked as though I was wearing purple mascara. The indigo color is just as bright as the packaging (and the picture here), people a couple feet away asked if I was wearing colored mascara. As a 33-year old woman in Corporate America, my goal is not to relive my middle-school years when I used green mascara on one eye and blue on the other to match my blue and green rugby-striped oversized tee from The Gap. My very dark brown eyes still looked dark brown, my eyes looked the same shade of white that they always look, and my lashes weren’t any more wonderful than when I use other mascaras.

Benefit’s Pink to Please a Woman… Gold to Get the Guy Palette: Unlike the majority of makeup addicts, I don’t get psyched over a palette of cosmetics. I like to take my lip gloss in my bag for touchups, I usually only like 50% of the colors in the kit and the ones I do love seem to run out too fast (and usually can’t be reordered individually). I received this kit when I won the most awesome contest at Mythbuster Beauty, a most awesome blog. I almost considered re-gifting this compact without even opening it because of my dislike for palettes, but decided to open it and see if it was something I could play with.

Well this palette has changed my mind about palettes! The palette slides out of a stiff cardboard sleeve, which keeps it from accidently opening up in a bag. Inside is three lip glosses and three eye shadows, surrounded by the most adorable pink gingham packaging (love love love me some Benefit packaging!), a handy-dandy mirror plus an applicator that is lip brush on one end and shadow sponge on the other. The applicator is nothing to write home about – scratchy and small, but it makes it convenient to toss in the purse for mid-day touchups.

The colors are surprisingly suitable to my pale, “Winter” complexion. The light gold shadow works as a shimmery highlighter and goes on like a gold-tinted ivory. The medium gold has a bronze undertone; applied with a brush it gives a lovely daytime glow, with the sponge applicator or applied wet it is a very dramatic metallic look. The pink shadow is something I would not usually wear, but a light dusting on the lids is quite pretty and combined with the gold, it makes a lovely coral-bronze color that I found fun and flattering. The quality of the shadows is very nice – they layer well, last through the day and I had no issues with them creasing.

As for the glosses, they are pretty colors and sheer enough to look good on most anyone, but nothing to write home about. They do coordinate with the shadows nicely to give a beautiful look when worn together (I find the Nars Orgasm blush a nice compliment with its slight shimmer and pinky-peach hue). I like the fact that two of the three shades are colors in Benefit’s regular line so if I got addicted to it, I could easily replace the product.

This is an adorable and very wearable palette – looking online I see it is $30; I find that to be quite a deal considering the quality and quantity of product inside. The girly colors are right in line with the spring trends, if you want a makeup pick-me-up, this wouldn’t be a bad purchase!

Benefit’s Her Glossiness Lip Gloss in Next Question Please: Another goodie I won from Mythbuster Beauty. This gloss is described as Golden Berry Shimmer, and it is a golden-flecked warm red color in the tube, more of a shimmery coral-berry color on the lips. The tube is bigger than many glosses out on the market (more like the size of a tube of mascara), with a sponge applicator. (picture not of the color I am reviewing)

I find the texture to be good – sticky enough to survive a cup of coffee, but not annoying. It smells like a combination of berry candy and plastic when first applied, but the smell soon dissipates. It is sheer; Sephora’s Web site suggests to use this over lip gloss for strong color or alone just for shine. I like a lighter colored lip, and found the color on its own to be just as strong as my beloved Revlon Super Lustrous lip glosses (and found it to last a bit longer than Revlon as well). The gloss is formulated with jojoba oil – I usually find these natural ingredients to be more hype than significant to the product, but I do feel that my lips stay softer and happier through the day with Her Glossiness than my other lip glosses.

At $16, this gloss is not a rip-off and it comes in a variety of colors that would be flattering on most skin tones. I like this enough that I may actually buy another when this one runs out!