Getting Clean for the Cure

"What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds... a lump in her breast?!?"

This is the frame for the graphic novel
Cancer Vixen, written by cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto, about her experience with a breast cancer diagnosis. Inspired by her story and artwork, C.O. Bigelow has teamed up with Marisa to create a series of their signature products, featuring her artwork, to raise money for breast cancer research. They are available for a limited time at Bath & Body Works (online and in-store) with proceeds benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. C.O. Bigelow is also donating $250,000 to the cause.

Cancer Vixen Kit ($25, shown above) contains a sampling of several high quality C.O. Bigelow products including two of my favorites: Lemon Cream Body Wash and Cream.
The special edition Cancer Vixen Wild Berry Body Care ($12 - 14) series includes a cleanser, lotion and hand wash in a fresh wild berry scent. And, of course, you can also buy a copy of the book (including a autographed copy for a limited time) or just check out the preview.

I totally love the artwork on the Wild Berry products and I can only hope that the scent is as fun and interesting as Marisa herself seems to be. I've had good luck with Marisas thus far.


Celebrity Sighting: Deborah Lippmann!

I forgot to mention probably the most exciting part about the Nordstrom Fall Trend Show: Deborah Lippmann was there! In case you're not familiar, Lippmann is a celebrity "manicurist to the stars" whose client list boasts about every person in Us Magazine. She is also the creator of the Lippmann Collection of nail care and polish products.

She was the last bit of excitement at the end of the show and I honestly can't recall a word that she said because I was trying so hard to snap a non-blurry picture. She did say that her tips were sporting Rhapsody in White and that "white was the new black." She also mentioned the Material Girl Collection ($49) which they were selling at a discounted $25 during the show. Incidentally, I picked this up at the last trend show and love several of the products. Now I'm kicking myself that I didn't snag a few more for gifts at that awesome price.

After the show, Deborah made another appearance on the cosmetics floor and was answering nail questions. She was also a little cranky because they couldn't find her a headset microphone. I hovered around and hoped to get my picture taken with her. Alas, this was not meant to be, but she did look directly at me several times, making this the most authentic celebrity experience I've ever had. Also, her husband is cute.


Nordstrom Fall Trend Show: Smokey, Fresh & Juicy

Well, ladies, I am pleased to report that the the Cosmetics Trend Show was everything I hoped it would be and more. I got there early and scored a front row seat from which to document the catwalk action. There were three fall trends chosen by the makeup gods at Nordie's. I managed to snap a few pics that demonstrate each look, but the models were moving so please excuse any blurriness.

Black, Smokey Eyes
(I totally called this): smudge black kohl eyeliner around the eyes and pair with a matte complexion and muted lips. For day, keep the color close to the lash line and layer black, white, and silver shadows to give dimension. For a luxurious finish, use metallic gold accents and an opaque black shadow for a rocker-chic vibe. [Note the barely-there cheeks and eyes to go with this dramatic eye. To make a smokey eye work for daytime or a conservative work environment, skip the harsh blacks/greys and use softer browns to create a similar look.]
Fresh-Faced Beauty: skin is radiant with a sheer matte finish, with cheeks and lips giving off a warm glow in organic floral shades of feminine pinks and modern corals. The eyes sport a natural drama with burnished, bronze shadows to play off the bright hues from the rest of the face.
Winter Berry Lips: choose from a variety of hues including blackened cranberry and cherry burgundy to create a sophisticated, sultry look. Keep the skin matte, the eyes neutral and the brows manicured to focus on the lips.
This is the same model from the Smokey Eyes look but she has changed her lip color to a berry shade for a very high-impact, evening look.

While a smokey eye or a dramatic lip might seem intimidating, I would argue that they are actually easier to achieve and more flattering than a more conservative fresh-faced look. For example, if you are struggling with "skin issues," a striking eye or lip will draw attention away from blemishes and toward other features. On the other hand, the fresh faced look works because the skin is flawless and, if it isn't, any imperfections will be accented rather than disguised. If you think about it, it is actually much harder to achieve an attractive "no makeup" look. My point being: don't fear the drama.

At any rate, whether you choose to get smokey, fresh, or juicy, there is enough inspiration for everyone this season. Now go get gorgeous.


Low Maintenance Must Have: Sally Hansen Natural Shine

There are some beauty products that are so simply unassuming that their genius goes unnoticed. Sally Hansen Natural Shine Instant Nail Finish ($6) is one of these. On the low maintenance - high maintenance spectrum of individuals, I tend to fall out somewhere on the medium-high end. However, this wasn't always the case, and in my lower maintenance days, Natural Shine was in high rotation in a very minimal beauty regimen.

The name "Nail Finish" is a good description because it isn't a nail polish in the traditional sense. It essentially applies a shiny coat to the nails that mimics an elegant salon buff. It comes in clear or pink tint but even the pink tint is fairly colorless. In a matter of seconds, it will take your nails from dull to shiny and polished. A quick shaping with a nail file and you are ready to go.

Even better, because the formula is essentially clear, you can slap it on without much precision and there won't be any tell-tale stains. The best part is that it dries almost
instantly. Apply as you are leaving the house and it will be dry before you walk to your car. It comes in a small enough tube to carry in your purse or gym bag for a last minute touch up. For the truly low-maintenance, it is ideal because it wears off gradually without any identifiable chipping or wear. Thus, you don't even have to own a bottle of nail polish remover. But, if you did, that takes it right off.

This product is perfect for someone who would like to have nicer looking nails but isn't interested in investing time on a DIY or salon manicure.


Summer In The Shower: Qtica Lime Zest Home Spa

Zoya nail polishes are some of my favorites but did you know that the makers of Zoya (Qtica) also have a line of skin and body care? Recently I tried the Lime Zest Home Spa Kit ($18). It contains generous sample sizes of a sugar scrub, shower gel, and lotion with a color coordinated shower sponge.

While I tried the Lime Zest, Qtica offers a similar kit in at least nine different varieties including such intriguing aromas as Vanilla Wild Plum, White Tea, Lemon Dream and Mandarin Honey among many others. Knowing my penchant for citrus scents, the Lime Zest was a natural choice and a good opportunity to get out of my lemon coma. I love lemon, for sure, but sometimes it helps to mix things up a bit.

I've been using the Lime Zest for a few weeks now and it does not disappoint! The scent is bright and fresh without being overpowering. I love the burst of sunshine a solid citrus brings to the shower experience. Especially as the days get shorter and sunlight gets even more scarce, a touch of summer in the shower is always nice.

Beyond the scent, the products themselves are quite nice. The hair and body wash is thick enough to work up a good lather, but rinses away cleanly. Not surprisingly, the sugar scrub is my favorite of the three products. It has very small granules of sugar and it doesn't take much to get some really good exfoliation. It rinses away cleanly and does not leave a greasy film on the skin or on the floor of the shower. The sugar scrub is gentle enough for skin but tough enough for manicures and pedicures. Lastly, the delicious lotion is very hydrating and non-greasy. It absorbs quickly leaving only a very faint lime bouquet.

I'd love to try some more of the Qtica products and highly recommend them. They would make great thank you gifts or even stocking stuffers for the bath product junkie in your life. They are available online or at select salons.


Try Bare Minerals for $15!

I've been using Bare Minerals (aka Bare Escentuals) for several years now and it is really excellent foundation. Sometimes foundation looks like it is suffocating the wearer, but BE somehow allows the natural light of your skin shine through. I don't understand how this works, but it is truly "you only better."

At any rate, I highly recommend checking out BE. Now is a particularly good time because starting Sunday 9/28 through Saturday 10/11, Ulta is offering an introductory BE kit for $15.
Usually introductory kits for BE cost at least $60, so this is a great deal.

Each kit includes two foundation shades, translucent/setting powder (Mineral Veil) and a mini kabuki brush. This is smaller than the usual intro kit, but is is more than enough to try out Bare Minerals for yourself. My advice is to try to pick one up at an Ulta store so a sales associate can recommend the right shade. But, if you unfortunately live in an ulta-less area, the deal can still be yours. Use coupon code TRYBELIEVE at checkout on


Smokey Eye For Less

This coming Saturday is Nordstrom's Fall Cosmetic Trend Show. You might recall that the Spring Trend Show was one of the early inspirations for starting this blog. So I'm definitely looking forward to checking out a new season's worth of looks.

One of these looks I expect to be the smokey eye. I don't quite get how the "smokey eye" comes "in" again because it never actually ever seems to go "out." Maybe someone there can explain this to me. I have resolutely decided that I am not going to buy the Chanel Smokey Eye Quad that I drooled over during my last trip downtown. No matter how deliriously gorgeous it is. I just can't do it.

To comfort myself, I went searching for some cheaper, alternative palettes to achieve the smokey eye look you might crave. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few clocking in at significantly less than Chanel's outrageous $56.

So now that you have your cheap (or moderately priced) smokey eye palette, what are you going to do with it? Well, you are in luck because there are a zillion smokey eye how-to videos on youtube to reference. Some are better than others, this one is pretty good for a look that is simple and wearable.


The Dirtiest Clean: SweetSpot Labs

Sometimes I come across things that are just too intriguing to pass up. SweetSpot Labs on-the-go wipettes was one of these. As you can read on their extensive FAQ, SweetSpot Labs is committed to the singular purpose of keeping (how to say this...) your vagina clean. I know, it's super freaking weird. And, yet, they have gone to town coming up with a whole boatload of things that supposedly do just that via their elaborate "Intimate Grooming" ritual (a phrase they ridiculously trademarked, by the way).

I came upon their products while lurking about a boutique and, after receiving a surprisingly impassioned endorsement from the sales associate, bought a trial-sized pack of the SweetSpot wipettes . I went with unscented -- the other options being basil grapefruit, geranium lavender or citrus galbanum (seriously, what is that?).

The suggested uses for the wipettes include post-workout, pre-bikini wax, as "an alternative shower between yoga and a night out" and "the morning after refresher." Or, perhaps, between your 6 and 7 o'clock clients.

In the most basic sense, they are moist towelettes for your vag. It's hard to use more flowery language because, although they describe themselves as "luxury wipettes," that's pretty much what they are. Really, did the world really need yet another moist towelette? Even if they are "infused in a specially-prepared base formulated with the mildest, premium-quality, specially chosen plant-&-mineral-derived ingredients with essential oils to ensure maximum TLC while multi-tasking to keep bacteria at bay," they still seem unnecessary.

You can probably tell, I was rather unimpressed with these and fairly insulted by the whole idea. I did make a good faith effort to try the wipettes and experimented using them in different conditions and situations. They were not particularly "refreshing" and certainly did not provide a "pick me up." Usually I think of pick me ups coming in the form of a caffeinated beverage administered to my mouth, not my privates. But that's just me.

I'm insulted by the idea that women's private parts somehow need to be administered to in some kind of special way. The implied message here is that they are somehow inherently more dirty or unsanitary than other body parts and that is simply (1) untrue and (2) insulting. I imagine that SweetSpot Labs would likely deny that this was the case and insist that they are only trying to provide high quality, natural products for normal grooming. But, we've seen this before. Let's not forget that there was a time when Lysol was marked as a douching product. I'm not accusing SweetSpot Labs of trying to assault my girl parts with Lysol, but they are clearly in that tradition and I thought that it was one we had left safely behind.


Marvelous Minis

We just watched In Bruges the other night, a truly disconcerting movie in that I found it to be equal parts hilarious and disturbing. Definitely some parts were funnier than others, such as the following exchange between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson:

Ray (Colin Farrell): What are they doing over there? They're filming something. They're filming midgets!

Ken: (Brendan Gleeson) Ray... [Ray runs off] Ray, come on. Let's go.

Ray: F*** off, Ken. They're filming midgets!

This is related in that I recently came across some very intriguing small-sized products that I thought were worth a mention.

The Tweezerman Petite Manicure Set ($20) is only 3.5 x 1.5 inches but contains all the necessaries for a manicure on the fly (nail file, cuticle/hangnail trimmer, pushy and nail cleaner) in a cute carrying case. I can think of so many uses for this: travel kit, stocking stuffer, thank you gift, emergency kit for a desk, purse, or briefcase, and camping just to name a few. It only has a little bit of pink on it so it might even be tolerable to a guy.

Anastasia Mini Brow Kit ($25), available exclusively at Nordstrom, includes my three favorite things from the Anastasia All About Brows Kit in miniature size: tweezers, clear brow gel, and the brow highlighter. I have some reservations about how easy it might be to use mini tweezers, but in a pinch it would work.
The Bourjois Mini Volume Glamour Mascara ($8 at Ulta but currently on clearance sale for $2 at Sephora) is a little gimmicky, but nevertheless cute. Essentially a charm for your cell phone, this is perfect for both the girl-on-the-go who loves to re-apply mascara and the girl-on-the-go who always forgets. Attach it to your cell and never again have an excuse for lackluster lashes. It's actually pretty good mascara, too.


Benefit Full Finish Lipstick

I first heard about Benefit's Full Finish Lipstick ($18) at the end of July and I've been on a quest to find it in Lady's Choice since then. Finally, finally, my makeup wish was granted and I hauled this baby home from Sephora. Whereas Benefit's Silky Finish lipstick is more sheer, the Full Finish formulation applies more like a traditional lipstick with a very saturated matte color. The texture is great as it goes on smoothly and doesn't feel too thick on the lips.

It is available in nine different shades but I am completely in love with Lady's Choice. It is a gorgeous pink that is neutral and flattering without being too girly-girl. Amazingly, it also makes my incredibly thin lips look full and luscious (well, at least fuller). I have no idea how this works, but it is nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.

My one complaint is that it is not terribly long-lasting so there is room for improvement in that regard. But with a color and finish that fantastic, and tube that incredibly cute, I'm actually going to enjoy reapplying a few times a day.


All Buttered Up

After passing by many times in the past few years, I finally sat myself down in a chair at butter London for a "Butter Me Up" manicure. Butter London is a Seattle-based company that set out in 2005 to bridge the gap between high-end and low-end nail salons. Their goal is to provide moderately-priced, fast, hygienic manicures and pedicures using non-toxic lacquers and treatments. They describe their style as "British elegance with a hint of rock and roll" with details such as naming the lacquers in British slang.

What is clear from the start is that this is no ordinary manicure experience. Upbeat Beatles tunes saturated the air as four nail technicians diligently worked their dry manicure magic. There were some clipboards to fill out with name and requested service but it wasn't at all clear what to do with the paper after it was completed, so that could have been more organized. The manager's desk was at the back of the tiny shop and once I made contact with someone, they fit me in right away.

The "Butter Me Up" manicure takes 20 minutes and costs $20. It is the usual manicure routine except that they pride themselves on offering waterless treatments. The nail technician explained to me that the idea is to provide a more hygienic experience by avoiding the usual water tubs and bowls where bacteria can linger. So instead of soaking your hands in water, they just apply the cuticle remover directly to dry skin that has been washed with an alcohol based sterilizer.

After shaping and buffing the nails, I chose the color
Aston (as in Aston-Martin) which can be described as taupe mixed with mauve. I've heard complaints on MUA about difficulties from the square shaped bottle, but the nail tech denied having problems with it. The polish was applied just a bit too thick in my opinion and took a long time to completely dry even with the "quick" topcoat. The 20 minute treatment promise seems to be true, but that doesn't count drying time. Overall, my butter London experience was satisfactory. They do seem to fulfill their mission of providing a fast and affordable manicure with style. The color selection of lacquers is fantastic and the Beatles music is a big improvement over the usual salon soundtrack.

inside lighting, no flash
inside lighting, with flash
Butter London has three Seattle locations, including one at Sea-Tac airport. The can also be found in the terminals in the Sacramento Airport and Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. The airport idea is grand, I'd love to step in for a manicure during my next 3 hour layover.


Tarte Lip Couture

Whilst passing through Sephora today, the Lip Couture lipstick collection from Tarte Cosmetics caught my eye. It is a limited edition set that includes four full sized lipsticks and a mini lip liner all contained in a cute purple quilted box. Adorable! The versatile lip colors will be flattering on most skin tones and the liner is neutral enough to be used with all of them. The four colors all have uplifting names:

• Eden: nude beige
• Utopia: warm mauve berry
• Aura: deep brick red
• Paradise: sheer peachy-nude

The lipsticks also contain a whole boat-load of supposedly beneficial natural ingredients to keep your kisser soft and smooth. They are also paraben free, phthalate free, mineral oil free, sulfate free, propylene glycol free and fragrance free (which I think would make them pregnancy safe). The best part of this collection is the price: $32. Seriously, four trendy lipsticks + lip liner for less than $50 seems like a value to me. The lipsticks alone usually cost $22 each. It looks like other folks are hip to this collection because it is sold out on the tarte main site, but still available at



I haven't ranted recently about any products that piss me off, but here's one that has done so over and over again: Stila Convertible Eye Color ($20). Stila claims "this versatile, dual-ended eye color wand is a sleek, pen-shaped makeup ace that has an eye pencil on one end and a smudging tool on the other. Twist the middle and there you have the perfect coordinating eye shadow ready for application."

All of that is technically true. What they don't tell you, however, is that the eyeliner is extremely soft and produces an uneven, raggedy line that essentially must be smudged. For a product that claims to be so incredibly versatile, it seems that a neat, consistent line that did not necessitate smudging should be possible.
I've been using this product in Onyx for way longer than I should considering how much I detest it. Onyx comes with black liner and white shadow in the wand. In theory, the combo of the black and white is good, but in practice, it just doesn't work for me. I would rather have a dark grey or dark purple shadow. The starkness of the white next to the black is severe and I can't make it work in any satisfying way. Admittedly, there are many other color combinations to choose from, I just happen to find Onyx particularly disappointing.

More complaints include the fact that the eye liner has zero staying-power and will essentially dissolve on your face as the day goes on. And if you somehow get away with
not smudging it to start, rest assured that it will smudge the hell out of itself whether you like it or not. Probably by the time you drive to work. It will then continue to migrate all over your face throughout the day until every trip to the bathroom becomes a painful and hideous reminder of why you have sworn so many times to stop using this horrible, horrible product. I'm going to go throw it away right now.


Product Lust: Chanel Smokey Eyes Shadow

In 1997, I went to see the flop Addicted to Love with my mom. After this, Mom was convinced that I should adopt Meg Ryan's look from the film. We went out that afternoon and bought a black and grey eyeshadow palette (Revlon, I think) and shortly thereafter I obtained some chunky blond highlights. My makeup skills were pretty rudimentary back then so I doubt that full Meg Ryan magnificence was ever achieved. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

Anyway, I was reminded of that little episode when I feasted my eyes on
Chanel's Les 4 Ombres Quadra Eye Shadow palette ($56) from the new Smokey Eye Collection. With shades of black, grey, pewter, and silver, this palette has me lusting for all the incredibly sexy looks it could inspire. The timing of this collection is also perfect after we were completely bombarded with all of the smokey eyes on the runways at the recent Fashion Week (see Carolina Herrera and Catherine Malandrino just to name two). The price for the Quadra is completely insane; it is Chanel after all.

Looking back, I'm still somewhat amazed that my mom became so impassioned about me adopting this look (this is highly unusual for her). But I went looking for some photo stills from the film to remind myself, and I must admit, it was a pretty good thing Meg had going on in those days.


mark Flip For It Palette

Remember looking through Avon catalogs as a little kid? I remember thinking that they were the most glamorous things, full of all kinds of undiscovered treasures. Somewhere along the line, however, Avon lost its appeal and was forever relegated to "grandma" status.

mark is Avon's attempt to reclaim some of that early fascination. It features a full line of cosmetic and skin care products targeting a young and hip audience.

I don't remember where I heard about the mark Flip For It Palette, but I knew that I had to try it. This incredible product features seven (seven!) different products for creating a coordinated and flattering full face look with one single compact. Even more amazing is the price. Each compact contains two eye shadows, a blush, and four lip colors for a single price of $20. Did you catch that? $20. Fact.

There are three varieties of the Flip For It: Sydney, South Beach and London. I have been using the London Palette for a few weeks now and I am wholly impressed! The London palette features shimmery golden taupe and matte violet eye shadows/liner, peachy-pink blush, and four lip colors (two creamy matte and two glosses) in shades of mauve. This palette was initially designed for Spring 2008, but these colors will glide on into Fall without difficulty. There is a video demonstration of the palette that was on mark.girl but can now be found on youtube.

The eye shadows are particularly impressive. The golden taupe is absolutely gorgeous, pigment rich and beautiful. The matte violet is not as saturated and can add a subtle wash of color, or can be used slightly wet for a more intense application (this especially helpful in using the violet as a liner). The blush is more pigmented than it appears and is best applied with a light touch.

FYI: these swatches are applied fairly thickly to represent the color at its most intense.

The lip products in Flip For It are also pretty. The two upper shades are matte and the two lower are glossy. Makeup conventional wisdom holds that the absolute perfect lip shade is one that matches the color of the inside of your lip. If that is true, the upper left hand color is a perfect match for me. I'm not sure that I'd be satisfied only wearing this color for the rest of my life, but it does look very natural and pretty.

You can see from the lip product swatches that they are not intense. They are best used to provide a gentle wash of color for a polished look that is not overdone. My one complaint is about the texture of the upper matte shades: they are a little hard and require some firm pressure to actually scoop up some of the color.

All in all, I am quite impressed with my experience with mark thus far. I do not have another palette in my stash that beats this one in terms of price, versatility, and ease of use. It is especially perfect for travel and conserving valuable suitcase space. All that for $20, what's not to love?


NOTW: OPI Tickle My France-y

The last swatch from my OPI France haul is Tickle My France-y. I totally loved You Don't Know Jacques but France-y is a close second. It is a creamy, pinky nude, completely opaque at 2 coats and perfect for a conservative work environment. Yes, it is neutral and some folks might find it not very exciting, but I think that it is an original, unique spin on a basic idea. Very, very pretty!

Top photo is indoor without flash. Bottom photo is outdoors without flash.


Fashion Week From The Floor

Image: The New York Times

The New York Times has a cool article by a writer who went undercover with the CND team to prep and paint model's nails in the recent Fashion Week shows. I'm super envious of her experience, how fun would that be? You can read all about it here:
I'm Down Here, Up To My Eyes In Cuticles. There is also an accompanying slide show.


I ♥ the lip scrub

Looking for fresh inspiration, last weekend I took a trip to Ballard to finally check out some of the little boutiques that I've been meaning to check out for, let's say, years. I was lurking around duque salon (a very chic and fun place if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood) when I stumbled upon this adorable display:

I've heard about the lip scrub by Sara Happ in various places but had never tried it. Once confronted with the totally precious packaging of little chocolate brown boxes with ivory ribbons, however, I could resist no longer. There are several varieties available and I chose Almond Creme. The price tag was, admittedly, exorbitant: $25. I can hear you gasping. Initially I had the same reaction but ultimately decided, in the interest of providing new and interesting content for this blog, to go for it (do you see the sacrifices I make for you?!).

And, let me tell you, I'm really not sorry. This stuff is awesome. Not only is it super fun to use, but it works great, tastes great, and smells great. My husband even tolerated a trial and didn't complain that much about it (which really is a compliment). It is hydrating, smoothing and yummy all at once. I've tried other lip scrubs, but this is a head-and-shoulders above the rest. Yes, it is expensive, but a little bit goes a long way, so I expect this jar to last me for at least the next few years.

The story behind the lip scrub is enough to make you sick with why-didn't-I-think-of-that envy. But, hey, I won't begrudge Sara Happ her success. She's come up with a great product that is compelling me to endorse it's completely absurd price, something which I am loathe to do. But, there you go.

Here are some close-up pics of this magical stuff:

My lips have never been happier. My advice: go get some today. Seriously, it's definitely worth skipping lattes for the next 2 weeks.


Total Beauty's Preg-O Woes

Have I mentioned recently that everyone I know is pregnant?! OK, maybe not everyone, but more than a few. So when I stumbled over this article on Total Beauty, it seemed appropriate to post it for any of the soon-to-be mothers reading my blog. (Hi Meghan!). Enjoy.


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