5 Minute Cuticle Care

A salon manicure can be a fun, pampering experience. Unfortunately, it also takes time and money. Thankfully, there are many, many products available for the at-home DIY manicurist.

Here are a few of my favorites:

True Blue Spa Disappearing Act Instant Cuticle Remover literally works in seconds to remove rough, ragged cuticles with minimal effort. I find the applicator tip fairly awkward and prefer the tried-and-true orange stick. There really is no substitute for a good cuticle remover. It is an essential part of any manicure and there are many drugstore and high end brands to choose from. I just happen to like this one.

You could stop there, but if you have one more minute to devote to your hands and nails today, then by all means get yourself some of this: True Blue Spa Just A Minute 60-Second Manicure Scrub. This product is a bright orange, citrus-smelling, sugar-based exfoliating scrub. It only takes a minute to plop some on your hands and then rub rub rub all over, concentrating on your cuticles and nails. It also contains shea butter for additional moisturizing. Your skin will be soft and smooth and your tips clean and beautiful! You could even skip the cuticle remover and just use this alone. I've done that and it works well.

Both True Blue products can be found at Bath & Body Works Stores or Online. [Note: they are on sale right now for Buy 2, Get 1 Free.]
For every day prevention of dry cuticles and hangnails, I start with Lippmann Collection Cuticle Treatment (a.k.a. cuticle oil). It contains jojoba and coconut oils. I use this religiously every night and have noticed a big improvement in number of hangnails. It is a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way. My only major complaint is that the brush doesn't reach all the way down to the bottom of the bottle so can be difficult to get every last drop.
A normal person might stop there and just go to sleep, but I finish by applying a healthy dollop of cult-fav Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter. We know how much I love all things lemon, so this one is a no-brainer. It is a very thick, very moisturizing butter and I smear it on my hands and elbows. That way I can enjoy the lemon scent as I drift off to sleep while the cream moisturizes all night long.

So there you have it. Using all four products in succession, I estimate would take 5-6 minutes. You could then finish off the manicure by shaping the nail with a file and then applying polish. Or, you can skip the polish and get on the rest of your life. Either way, doesn't it feel good to show your hands some love? I think they deserve it.


Olympus Korean Spa Part 2

Ah... so you're back for more, eh? When we left off last time, I was somewhat stunned and delirious after the body scrub so it was good that there was a short break before heading into the 50 minute massage. Pre-massage waiting occurs in the lounge area which features squishy couches and low brain-power magazines.

The massage was great, but I won't say much about it because it was a pretty standard massage. My only complaint was that the massage room was a little cool. It was good, though, really good. The combination of scrub + massage left me at an almost dizzying level of total body relaxation.

But it turns out that having other people scrub and massage you works up quite an appetite. As mentioned previously, the spa restaurant is exclusively Korean cuisine. I personally love this because how tiresome is the usual "spa food" of salad with a side of salad?

The first item on the menu is Sundubu jjigae, a thick spicy stew with tofu. This was my order as I was too relaxed to read any further down the menu. A big bowl of steamy soup was the perfect compliment to my warm, glowing exterior. It also didn't require much chewing, which seemed like a lot of work.

Just to give you an idea of the time involved, I had now spent 3.5 hours at Olympus and hadn't even visited half of the spa. More specifically, the heated rooms were beckoning. My plan was just to sample a few, get the idea, and then maybe think about heading home. This didn't happen.

The heated rooms are awesome. There are at least six rooms with different themes and different temperatures. They are named (Salt, Sand, Charcoal, etc.) and each room supposedly has unique health benefits. I'm not sure I believe any of the hand-waving health benefits, but ultimately, it doesn't freaking matter because they feel goooooooood. There is a whole range of temperatures from slightly chilly to very, very hot and one can rotate between them for hours. And, that's essentially what I did for another 2 hours.

After basking in the warm oven of the Salt room and cooling down in the Cabin Room, I made the very difficult decision to put myself back together and head on home. With a hearty sigh of contentment, I put on my sunglasses and left the protective walls of Olympus.

In summary: I had a great time. You should try it. Don't worry about the naked thing. Drinks lots of water. And try the restaurant. I'll be going back sometime soon.

[One final note: if money is tight, you don't have to go all-out with the services. A day pass is $35 and it will be the best $35 you ever spent. Pinky swear.]


Way Better Than Work: Olympus Korean Spa

I'm on vacation this week. Yay! Forgoing travel in the interest of saving money, I decided that my vacation would be a week at home to do whatever I want.

The first item on the agenda was to acquire a massage. And, since this was my vacation, I wanted to be a little more adventurous and check out some place new, different, exciting. Olympus Spa was just waiting to be discovered.

This was a good choice because the aptly-named Olympus is amazing. Seriously, I think I'm a changed woman. There are so many things to explore: the hydrotherapy bath area, the "earth energy" heated rooms, a tea room, and a Korean restaurant. The basic daily rate for the spa is $35 and that gets you access to the baths, saunas, and heated rooms. Additional services cost additional money. I chose the Refresh Package which includes use of the facilities, Body Scrub, and Body Massage.

Oh, and I should probably tell you now, the spa is women-only (customers and staff) and it is nude.

But don't get freaked! The naked thing is not a big deal. I am far from a beach-body and I felt completely comfortable walking around in only my little hair bonnet. It turns out that nobody else has a beach-body either, which is a nice reality check. In the heated rooms area and the restaurant, you wear spa-issued robes (suspiciously similar to hospital robes).

OK, so let me get to the amazing services. You arrive an hour before your appointment for a quick shower and long soak. After softening up in the pools and saunas for at least 30 minutes, it is time for the Body Scrub. This starts out with you laying on your front, then one side, then the other side, and lastly on your back. They don't use salt or sugar scrub products, just soap and mittens the texture of the rough side of a kitchen sponge.

And, boy, do they scrub....thoroughly. They scrub areas that you would never even think about scrubbing (behind ears or under arms) or would even be able to reach. The scrubbing alternates with rinses of warm, warm water. I laid there like a baby thinking that I probably haven't had someone give me a bath since I was, well... a baby. After 35-40 minutes of continuous scrubbing (including a final gentle facial scrub), there is an all-over wash with soap and a final hot rinse. The baby analogy is actually fitting because my skin is now baby-soft. Everywhere. Soft as a baby's bottom [the gold standard for soft skin].

Since this post is already long, I'm going to leave you hanging, desperately wanting to hear more about the rest of my day at the spa. Because there is more. Much, much more...


That's One Vain Little Robot

OK, so this isn't strictly beauty related, but I have to share this: newly released pictures from the Mars Lander! Says someone who knows about these things: "Precisely at 7:53PM EST, the "Phoenix Mars Lander" touched-down on the desert-like surface of Mars. Since its launch on August 4th, 2007, the spacecraft has covered more than 680,752,512 kilometers, traveling at average speeds of around 120,000 km/hr."

But what is kind of funny is that if you look at a gallery of the photos taken by the Lander thus far, you notice that many of them are photos of itself! The photo above is a picture that it apparently took of its own foot, much like those of us here on the Beauty Couch are often taking pictures of ourselves and our own feet.

Only it's a robot.

And it's on Mars.

No, not a close-up of my skin. It's the surface of Mars.

And I don't want to hear any "logic" about how it is photographing itself to see if it deployed correctly, because I just don't have time for that kind of sensible thinking. This is a beauty blog, after all. I'm just waiting for pics of the Lander re-applying lip gloss. Or maybe it can stop gazing at itself long enough to get busy exploring new worlds.

Speaking of which, I have some work to do...

Happy Memorial Day!

P.S. This is my favorite song. Enjoy!


OPI Retro Fun in the Sun: Swatches!

At long last, here they are! It turns out that they are more sheer than I had hoped and required 2-3 coats for a lasting impression. All colors have a slight shimmer.

Lemonade Stand By Your Man is a bright, sunny golden-yellow. I'm not sure it works with my skin, but for someone with a darker skin tone or a (dare I say it!) tan, I'm sure it would look amazing.

Lemonade Stand By Your Man, 2 coats, indoor lighting

Lemonade Stand By Your Man, 3 coats, indoor lighting

See Ya Later, Sailor! is a shimmery pale blue. This one is the most sheer of all the ones I tested. I was excited about this one initially, thinking that For Audrey had inspired a new love of blues for me. But, sadly, this one I'm not falling for.

See Ya Later, Sailor!, 2 coats, indoor lighting

See Ya Later, Sailor!, 3 coats, indoor lighting

Peach-A-Boo! has been described as an apricot shimmer. It is probably the most wearable of the bunch, the most appropriate for a conservative work environment, for example. My husband liked this color on me but I felt kind of "eh" about it.

Peach-A-Boo!, 2 coats, indoor lighting

And, saving my favorite for last: Give Me A Coral Sometime. It is less shimmery than the others and the color is a little more intense. I can easily see this one making an appearance on tips and toes at the beach this summer. I like it so much, this is my second application of it within a week's time.

Give Me A Coral Sometime, 2 coats, indoor lighting

So there you have it. The other two colors in the collection not featured here include Sit Under The Apple Tree (a light, apple green) and Calendar Girl (a bright pink-red). I passed on them because I'm not really into green nail polish and I wasn't sure that Calendar Girl looked unique or interesting. I might not be missing out, however, because it looks like Calendar Girl and Give Me A Coral Sometime are almost indistinguishable!

So what do you think, gals? Which of these are you taking to the Beach Blanket Bingo?


Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock

It was really nice this past weekend. Really, really nice. On Sunday, J. and I went to a local street fair. But before leaving our apartment, we dutifully lathered ourselves up with sunblock like very responsible adults. Our sunblock of choice for the day was Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 55 ($8.99). It comes in a variety of other SPF strengths (up to SPF 85), but we just happened to have the SPF 55. It was on sale at Costco. I very faithfully use sunblock, but usually I end the day with that unfortunate contaminated feeling, as if every pore on my body is full of sticky, smelly chemicals combined with grit picked up from every surface I had contact with during the day. In a word: Ew.

My first observation about the UltraSheer was that it doesn't smell icky. It has a little bit of that sunblock-y smell, but I only noticed it right out of the bottle. Amazingly, once it was on my skin, I didn't smell it at all. It bills itself as a non-greasy formula and I honestly have to agree. It absorbed quickly and completely and I didn't feel like I had on a gross "sheen" of product. It also isn't sticky. Ultimately, after spending 3 hours in the hot, blazing sun, I had no traces of any redness or exposure at all. I can verify that J. did not as well. The UltraSheer was a success.

The most impressive thing of all about the UltraSheer, I am somewhat embarrassed to say, was that I was able to go to sleep at night without washing it off. I was too tired last night and postponed my shower till this morning. Usually I wouldn't be able to tolerate the post-sunblock contamination enough to be able to sleep, but when I found that it wasn't a problem, I declared the UltraSheer a definitive winner.

You can find Neutrogena UltraSheer at your local drugstore or at


Product Lust

Time for a new feature on The Beauty Couch, one that occurs almost daily in my mind: thinking about things that I want. I have a journal that I carry around with me to help with this. The process is very simple: whenever I see something that I'm interested in, I jot it down.

I highly recommend this. Haven't you ever had the experience of standing blankly in front of a display at the drugstore or Sephora or wherever thinking,
I knew there was something I was interested in...now what was it? Only to leave the store in a dejected and disappointed state without finding the one thing that would solve all your beauty woes?

Well, the radical and ground-breaking suggestion of making a freaking list might solve that problem forever. Although, now I've noticed that I leave the store swearing under my breath because the store didn't carry the object of my obsession. But, I think that's a far better problem to have.

Long-winded and rambling aside aside, here is an product from the most recent Sephora catalog that I'm very interested in:
Sephora Brand Sun Safety Kit ($25).

It contains a bunch of neat-o stuff ("must-have, trial-sized sun essentials") to try out and fall in love with. All of them contain at least SPF 15. And, $21.50 from the sale of each kit gets donated to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So you can feel good about that as well as the fact that you are protecting yourself from the deadly sun. The Sephora Sun Safety Kit is available now online.

I hope you are writing this down...


OPI Retro Fun in the Sun

I had to show off these gorgeous shades I got in the mail this week, just in time for the Eighty-Two Degree weather we had in Seattle today. You knew I wouldn't be able to resist for very long, but at least I limited myself to only 4 of the 6 tempting colors. See...it was almost as if I was saving money. Right? Right?

Do not question my pathetic rationalization. I won't listen.

(from L to R) Give Me A Coral Sometime, Lemonade Stand By Your Man, See Ya Later, Sailor!, Peach-A-Boo!

I've been wearing Give Me A Coral Sometime for a few days but didn't manage to snap a pic before it started to look less-than-fresh. And I don't want to show you anything less than perfect. That's how much I care.

You can get OPI Retro Fun In The Sun at
8ty8beauty.com ($4.48 each) or at Head2Toe Beauty.com ($4.75 each). Or you can come over and borrow mine. Seriously... what else have you got to do?


I ♥ Chanel Gazelle

The posting has been a little slow this week because I've been in a cranky mood and didn't want to poison my lovely blog with any spill over. Today was particularly bad-mood inducing; but, in the spirit of Opposite Action for Emotion Regulation, I'm going to blog anyway.

And, in doing so, I will think back to last Friday when I left work early and celebrated at the Chanel counter. There, I located and purchased for my first ever Chanel Glossimer in Gazelle and a Lip Liner in Natural. I've been seriously lemming for the Gazelle since I saw it on Karen at Makeup & Beauty Blog.

It is, indeed, divine:

I would describe the color as a mild coral with golden shimmer. On me, it ends up looking more like a shimmery coral-ish nude. I've been wearing it every day for a week and can't get enough . It applies easily and, dare I say it, actually has some lasting-power. The liner is lovely as well, but Gazelle is the real star.

I've been resisting the much-beloved Chanel products because they are just so damn expensive (I bought the Gazelle with a left-over Christmas gift certificate. Thanks, Dad!). But with Gazelle, I'm afraid I've unleashed a beast.


Yet another NOTW

OPI Black Cherry Chutney from the India Collection...love it!

Indoor light without flash

Indoor light with flash

I did my nails last night before we went to see Iron Man (who thinks Gwyneth Paltrow looks good as a redhead?). Anyway, I wanted to have pretty nails to cheer myself up while I was working yet another Sunday. As luck would have it, I ended up seeing a very sweet woman in the emergency room who works as a nail technician. As soon as she said that, I was thinking "Thank god my hands looked presentable!" as if it mattered. Then again, I did see her sneaking glances at my mani...


I'm a winner!

I have to send a big THANK YOU to the ladies at Beauty Snob who picked my Mother's Day story as the winner to their Chanel No. 5 Mother's Day Giveaway.

Chanel No. 5 is the one and only perfume I've ever known my mom to wear. My grandma, too, for that matter. I received the perfume yesterday and I can't wait to give it to Mom. Thanks again, ladies!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's was my submission:

My fondest memory of my mom is a little silly, but when I was in junior high/high school mom drove a really beat up minivan because we couldn't afford a new car. In the middle of the cold, ohio winter the power window on the driver's side broke and wouldn't go up or down. One night, we were going to go through the drive thru at Wendy's to pick up a late night snack but couldn't because of the broken window. So my mom turned the minivan around and backed the minivan through the drive thru so we could order from the passenger window. We could hardly order because we were laughing so hard.


Nail Of The Week

I've been in a creamy mood this week, following the recent metallic fest. I'm sure I'll be back to the shiny-stuff before too long, but for now I'm working the Lippmann Sarah Smile and China Glaze No Name Yet.

Lippmann Sarah Smile
Indoor lighting without flash

It took 3 coats to make that lovely, opaque pink cream. I have a few Lippmann polishes from the Nordstrom Spring Trend Show Material Girl Gift Set haul. This is actually a nice color for a more classic look and I like it on toes as well. My problem with Lippmann polishes, in general, is that they chip and peel very easily on my nails. I have tried them with a base coat (Creative Nail Design's Stickey) and on my natural nail and 1-2 days of wear is all I get. It's disappointing, one would expect more from a $15 polish.

China Glaze No Name Yet
Indoor lighting without flash

Close-up of China Glaze No Name Yet

This is not part of my personal collection, but struck my fancy at the beauty salon today (I treated myself to an almost-end-of-week pedi). Cream colors are going to continue to be big for summer in any shade, but brights and pastels especially.

Speaking of brights, I'm really looking forward to trying out the new OPI collection: Retro Fun In The Sun. It includes six new, saucy colors in shades of apricot, apple green, lemonade, turquoise, coral and pink-red. Those funny things on the bottle are elementary-school style ponytail holders (retro, remember?). I hope the colors are indeed as opaque as they appear in the picture. I've heard some rumors that they are more sheer. OPI Retro is available for purchase on 8ty8Beauty right now.

I might just be placing an order tonight...


Ciao Bella! Cleo Body Cream

This is one of my all-time favorite body creams. Cleo is an Italian brand with a whole line of creams, soaps, and bath gels all featuring the magical ingredient of yoghurt. I have sampled the Karité and Cherry body creams and found the Karité scent to be light and neutral. It was my favorite of the two. Cherry was sweeter, did not smell like cherries, but I didn't find it offensive. Some reviewers have described the scent as "plastic-y" which I just don't get.

Nevertheless, the scent of the product is
completely secondary, in my mind, to the amazing moisturizing properties. I have very dry skin, especially in the winter months, probably a combination of not drinking enough water (there, I admit it!) and taking really hot showers. I also have mild keratosis pilaris which tends to worsen if I'm not disciplined about moisturizing.

After applying the Cleo cream just one time, my skin was significantly softer, smoother and felt amazing. Seriously, I was repeatedly feeling various body parts because I couldn't believe how soft they were after just one use. The texture of the cream is light and fluffy,
it absorbs quickly and is minimally greasy. It isn't terribly expensive, selling for $5-8 on drugstore.com depending on sales. You do have to pay for shipping, but I think it's worth it. A jar lasted me at least a month with fairly heavy usage.

If you're looking for a new cream, consider giving Cleo a try. I tried it on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. As a final note, I have also tried the Cleo liquid hand soap which is nice but nothing special and one of the bath gels, which I would not recommend. The Cleo cream is definitely the stand-out star of the bunch. Ciao!


Mother's Day (T minus 7 days and counting)

You haven't forgotten about Mother's Day, have you?

I love buying gifts for people, I truly do. While relaxing on the Beauty Couch, I was thinking about how buying beauty-oriented gifts for people isn't always straightforward. Even for people you know well (presumably like your mom), it can be hard to decide what makeup or skincare products they might prefer. It gets even harder with mothers because, generally speaking, they are older ladies and have more sensitive, aging skin. Plus, a lot of the fun makeup isn't necessarily appropriate for dear old mum. For example, it is generally a good idea for ladies of a certain age to stay away from shimmer eye shadows as the shimmer tends to settle into fine lines around the eyes and make you look older. See? So many things to consider.

Well, just in case you have forgotten all about Mother's Day (Sunday, May 11th), here are some last-minute ideas.

Sephora: Free shipping on orders over $50 & Free gift wrapping. Place an expedited order by May 7th for it to arrive by Mother's Day.

Not a shimmer in sight as far as I can tell in Sephora Brand Mother's Day Blockbuster Palette ($60) includes 12 eyeshadows, 4 blushes, 2 powders, 5 lip glosses, a mascara, plus brushes and applicators.

Macy's: Free Mother's Day Shipping with $100 purchase. Ends May 5th (better hurry up). Promo code: MOMSDAY.

More mom's should wear lipgloss, in my opinion. Similar to shimmer shadows, lipstick also settles into fine lines in the mouth and adds years. Some light, sheer gloss is perfect for mom for spring! Clinique The Kisser's Mother's Day Set ($25) includes four mini lip glosses in Lilac, Apricot, Grapefruit, and Raspberry in an adorable pink floral bag.

ULTA: order by noon CST on May 6th for UPS 2 day shipping or noon May 7th for UPS next day shipping.

For the more adventurous mom, Stila Gift of Glow ($45) includes Stila Sun SPF 15 in shade 01, Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Gold, Lip Glaze in Brown Sugar, Deluxe Sample Smudge Pot in Bronze and 1 mini eyeliner brush. Nice!
Bath & Body Works: place order by noon May 8th for guaranteed delivery (express charges apply). B&BW is a good all-purpose gift site with lots of pre-packaged gift sets for mothers-in-law or other people you might not know so well. They come in a variety of sizes and price ranges, which is helpful as well if you're on a budget.

Get mom's tootsies ready for sandal weather! True Blue Spa The Perfect Pedicure (on sale $19.75) includes Shea It Isn't So shea butter foot cream, Seal the Deal Base/Top Coat, Toe The Line Smoothing Foot Scrub, toe separators and a nail file.

Nordstrom: Free shipping on orders over $200 (not very generous of them). But you can check out all the Free Gifts With Purchase including one from Estee Lauder for any purchase over $37.50 which looks mighty nice.

I've been eyeing this for weeks...
Elemis 'The Spa Retreat Traveller' Set ($125) includes too many things to name and comes in a very chic travel case.

Lastly, if none of those options look appealing, consider the always-appreciated Spa Gift Certificate. In all honesty, that's what I'm getting my mom. If you don't live near you mom or aren't privy to the hip spas where she is, try SpaFinder.com which searches for spas all over the world. Plus, you can buy gift certificates directly from them for participating spas.

And no matter what you send your mom for Mother's Day, don't forget to call.


F.O.T.D. featuring Wet n Wild i-Sparkle

Remember a few weeks ago when I was whining that I couldn't find the WnW i-Sparkle palettes anywhere? Well, do not mourn for me because they have been officially hauled! I never did find them at a drugstore but swapped them from a lovely woman on Makeup Alley, all four of them, practically unused.

And...they are beautiful. Behold!

Can you believe these lovelies came from a drugstore? Wet n Wild, no less: the cheapest of the generic makeup brands. Plus, don't you just adore the petal motif? Somebody is getting fancy over there.

The featured palette of the day: City Lights.

Basically I used the large petal shade on the entire lid, the background shade on the brow bone, the small flower shade for crease and lining and the large flower center for inner eye highlight. Usually people use a white or champagne shade for inner eye highlight, but I like the funky twist of blue.

Some close-ups on the eye:

I rounded out the look with Bare Escentuals Warmth for blush and Bare Escentuals Sheer Joy lipstick (and the usual Clinique High Impact Mascara).

I think I look kind of sassy here.

I'll continue to experiment with the WnW palettes this week and let you know how I like them. I'm loving the copper-y shimmer of City Lights (again with the metallics...).

What do you think?


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