The Beauty Couch's Most Popular Posts of 2009

Woman retouching her make-up

Since I'm in a "Best Of" kind of mood this week, I thought we'd cap it off by reviewing the Top 10 most popular posts of 2009.  It is still a complete mystery to me why some posts attract more attention than others, but all I can say is that I'm very grateful for each and every visit. So, here they are in descending order of popularity.


1.  Wave Goodbye to Straight Hair: Garnier Fructis Wonder Waves Enhancing Spray
8.  How To... Use Luminizer Part 1 and Part 2

My goal is to keep bringing fun, interesting and relevant reviews, tips and techniques in 2010. So stay tuned and Happy New Year!

 

MAC Attack: Warm & Cozy

M∙A∙C had some truly lovely holiday sets on offer, but thankfully I've saved my pennies because the just-released Warm & Cozy Collection is amazing. Warm & Cozy aims to celebrate the post-holiday return of the everyday neutral makeup. M∙A∙C is brilliant for releasing this collection just as many people are facing down the coldest days of Winter. Who wouldn't love to cuddle up next to a fire with your favorite person, basking in the ever-flattering glow?
"A fireside fantasy far from the maddening crowd is undeniably appealing. Seek refuge in the warmth, the glow of skin rosy with Refined Golden Mineralize Skinfinish, Shadesticks in Cuddle, Nurture and Snuggle shades, cozy as a mug of cocoa on a bearskin rug. Curl up with the cashmere kiss of Warm Me Up Lipstick or Light That Fire! Lipglass...Like being in a majestic lodge surrounded by all of life’s real comforts. Natural beauty, the way M∙A∙C makes it modern…Like going on retreat and communing with nature, it’s an earthly way to bring back what the city takes away, and a sensual solution to make life simple, but luxurious. Winter beauty begins here."
The only thing that could improve that contented picture would be a Snuggie/Slanket or some such backwards bathrobe, over-sized fleece thing. I'm only half-kidding here. While the model in the top picture looks awfully pretty with perfect au naturale makeup, she also looks naked and cold.  A Slanket would do her a world of good.  At least this one is wearing a sweater... kind of. 

Anyway, should we discuss the actual makeup? 

 

Beauty Bloggers' Best of 2009

 As promised, here are some links to other bloggers' "best of" lists.  Enjoy!

 

The Beauty Couch's Best Of 2009

Holidays & Occasions
Ok, well, this person looks absolutely nothing like me but we share an excitement over the rapidly approaching New Year 2010.

Thinking about the New Year inspired me to reflect on what products would constitute my "Best Of" for 2009. After taking many, many factors into consideration, I put together this little collection of my favorite products of 2009.  Maybe you missed a few of them along the way, so I hope you enjoy! (Click on each product name to go to the full review.)

Cosmetics
Foundation

Eye Shadow
Lip Stick

Best Palette

Hair Care

Nail Care
Remover

Polish

Bath & Body
Exfoliating Scrub

Product Most Fun to Use

Fragrance

Tools

Stay tuned tomorrow for "Best of 2009" lists from some of my favorite fellow beauty bloggers. 

 

Holiday Haul


It is always disappointing to go back to work after a long holiday weekend.  No matter how much you love your job, nothing really beats loafing around the house, eating too much candy and baked goods for days on end.  It might not be the world's healthiest thing to do, but I sure love it. It occurs to me, however, that loafing around the house on a long weekend is only fun because it is a departure from the usual routine. If loafing around was the usual routine, then maybe it wouldn't be fun at all.

Putting all of that aside, I do have some fun beauty related holiday gifts to enjoy as I re-enter the working world. I just have to share some of my amazing beauty-related gifts because I am just so psyched about all of them.

I was seriously lusting after the Philosophy The Winter Escape collection and was so happy to find it under the tree. The Melting Marshmallow body souffle is just as moisturizing and softening as I expected. Honestly, my hands are ridiculously smooth after using it. The accompanying Lip Shine is also delicious and super-duper shiny. It is way fun.  Lastly, the Peppermint Hot Cocoa shower gel smells exactly like one would expect and has the luxurious, foamy formula that I've come to expect from Philosophy. I will be undoubtedly be using these until they are completely empty!

 

Wet N Wild Natural Wear Lip Shimmer


Everyone and their sister is jumping on the natural cosmetics bandwagon these days. That's probably a good thing, but it often translates into higher prices for products of uncertain (or questionable) quality. It seems that even the ultra-cheapo drugstore brand, Wet n Wild has joined in the fray.  The Wet n Wild Natural Wear Lip Shimmers ($2) aim to nourish while adding some shimmery color to the lips.
This amazing lip balm keeps lips chapped-free with a brilliant shimmer and a beautiful hint of luminescent color. Certified by the Natural Products Association with the Natural Seal, its natural, healthy-for-you formula is infused with calming ingredients of vitamins and natural oils to keep lips moisturized and nourished. This conditioning and enhancing lip shimmer not only makes you look great, but is certified great for you!"

I picked up one of these a few months ago and haven't gotten around to writing about it until now.  However, I have been using it like crazy!  Of the nine available shades, I chose 106 (Spice) which is a deep magenta. While I was expecting a sheer color similar to the Burt's Bees Lip Shimmers, Spice ended up being a little more lipstick-like, imparting a deeper, not terribly sheer, color.  This may be a function of the shade on my pale skin (click here for a swatch of it on a deeper skin tone), but that was my experience.  My main gripe about this product is that, although it contains the word "shimmer" in the title, there is absolutely no discernible shimmer that I could see. But, other than that, I have really enjoyed using it. I think that it does function quite well as a lip balm -- definitely has that creamy, softening feel on the lips. But, while the product was nourishing and conditioning, it is neither luminescent nor creates a "hint" of color as described.  The level of pigmentation is such that I would almost consider it a moisturizing lipstick rather than a tinted balm.

Either way, if you are looking for a cheap, natural product that is gentle enough for daily wear, then WnW Natural Wear Lip shimmers might just be for you! And, at a $2 price point, it's not much to lose.



 

Glamorous Gifts: Last Minute Minis


Little mini kits are some of my absolute favorite things. They are sweet, compact, often quite affordable and make it easy to try a variety amazing products without over-spending. They also are perfect for those last-minute gifts still on your list or for a fun hostess or co-worker gift.

The Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava Kit ($18) contains a 1oz sample of the spray perfume, a 3oz soy candle in a glass container and a coordinating set of matches all boxed in a beautifully printed and read-to-gift box.  The featured scent, Hawaiian Ruby Guava, is a delicious blend of tropical fruit notes and coconut surf wax. The lucky recipient will certainly enjoy a momentary escape to a more tropical setting -- without ever leaving home.


Mini nail polish kits are a particular fave because, let's be honest here, how often does one really finish a complete bottle of nail polish?  I'd be willing to be that the answer is hardly ever. So, save some money on full bottles and splurge for a mini kit with a few colors. The Essie On The Go Travel Set ($20) holds two of their most popular shades (Wicked and Ballet Slippers) along with a ridge filler and a top coat. The shades in the kit are the modern-day neutrals of a pale nude and an inky dark shade -- perfect for any occasion.  Plus, the small bottles are particularly amenable to take along on trips for touch-ups.

 

How To... Hot Holiday Hair

Celebrity stylist Charles Baker Strahan helped us out with some styling tips using Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly collection a while back.  Now, he is letting us in on a few styling tips to create hot holiday hair looks. Being the resident star stylist for Herbal Essences, he recommends creates these looks using HE products, but I'd be willing to bet that your favorite volumizing or texture creating products will work just as well.

Voluminous Half-Up Style --  As seen here on actress Kate Mara, a half-up look is a style any girl can achieve and a beautiful way to open up the face. It's also a perfect complement to a strapless dress.
Spring 2007 - Around Smashbox - Day 2


1.  After washing, apply Body Envy Mousse to sopping wet hair for more even distribution.
2.  Separate hair into large sections, twisting each section. Flip hair over and use a diffuse to boost the natural volume at the roots, embracing the natural texture of the hair.
3.  Create even more volume than you think is necessary, as this will help to hold the hair throughout the night. To keep the volume from falling throughout the night, use a volumizing hair spray like Body Envy Hairspray to set the style.
4.  Backcomb the top layer, concentrating fromt he ears to the rise of the head to create more volume for additional hold.
5.  Control the height of the hair by pulling sections back from the ears to the back of the head, securing by criss-crossing bobby pins. Pull the section back from the other side of the head, covering the first side's pins.
6.  Pull the top section of the hair back, keeping the volume at the back of the head, and secure with a hairpin to conceal the bobby-pins.


Tousled Messy Braid -- This is as fun holiday look that is styled without being overdone. It is perfect for girls with curly to even mildly wavy hair or anyone who wants to embrace their natural texture. Rachel McAdams was sporting this style at the London premiere of Sherlock Holmes (as well as some killer red lips). Kristen Bell wore an elaborate version of the messy braid to a recent premiere as well.
Sherlock Holmes - World Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals


1.  After washing, build body by flipping hair upside down, using either the Tousle Me Softly Spray Gel for finer hair or Tousle Me Softly Mousse for thick hair, scrunching product throughout the hair. Use a diffuse to dry hair, creating texture.
2.  Once dry, leave the front strands loose, especially face framing layers/bangs.
3.  Either pull hair straight back or create a side part. gather hair to one side of the head and begin a loose, low French braid.
4.  Allow the braid to remain loose, embracing any pieces that fall out, giving the hair more texture.
5.  Leaving the last few inches of hair unbraided, secure the braid with a hair elastic and pink the hair under at the nape of the neck, hiding the end of the braid under your hair.
6.  Backcomb the loose, face framing pieces, and loosely pin them back into the hair, creating more volume and texture.
7.  For a more polished twist for a work party or holiday wedding, wrap the braid into a chignon rather than tucking the ends in, embracing the loose texture for a perfectly imperfect, ethereal holiday style. Feel free to accessorize!

 

Glamorous Gifts: For the Guys

They may deny it, but there is a certain amount of grooming that any respectable man engages in on a daily basis. It may only be teeth-brushing in the most extreme minimalist, but I'm guessing that shaving products, deodorant and body wash are involved for most of them at a minimum. Additionally, most are fairly disinterested in finding the best product available for their particular hair/skin/shaving needs.


This is something that we can help with, especially as the holidays provide an easy excuse.  Last year, I got my husband the Anthony Logistics Perfect Shave Kit ($50). He has pretty sensitive skin that is easily irritated by shaving, but since using this kit, I've noticed much less razor burn and general inflammation.  I tried to drag some a more detailed review out of him, but all he'd say was that he liked it.  In particular, the Shave Cream is his favorite and he even requested more when he ran out a few months ago!  So I highly recommend this kit if you are interested in helping a man in your life treat his face to some kinder, gentler products. There is also the Anthony Logistics Essentials Starter Kit ($40) which is a little bit cheaper and doesn't include the travel bag and towel.

 

Get a Perfect Nude Lip with tarte 24/7 Lip Sheers


Everyone loves smokey eyes for this time of year and they are such a perpetual trend that I kind of get tired of hearing myself mention it so often. But, there you go.  One of the problems with the smokey eye is how to compliment the bold look with the rest of your makeup.  Seen in magazines and on runways everywhere, conventional wisdom hold that you always pair a smokey eye with a nude lip.  Sounds simple, right?  How hard could it be to find the perfect nude lip?

Turns out, the answer is plenty and I have an arsenal of failed potential nudes in my stash to prove it.  Either the "nude" lip color ends up being essentially no color at all or it is too pale and makes you look completely washed out and weird. I think the ideal nude lip is one that is sheer, coordinates with your natural lip color and has just enough of a glossy-shimmery finish not to look completely flat.

 

Glamorous Gifts: Too Faced

If anyone knows how to put together a mean palette, it is the people at Too Faced.  They pack a ton of extremely wearable eye shadows, blushes and lip glosses into some incredibly petite palettes that are easy and fun to use. I got a very cute palette a few years ago as a gift and loved the heck out of it. It was great for travel and slim enough to carry around for touch-ups.

Unsurprisingly, Too Faced has some really adorable and appealing special palettes and gift sets out right now -- one of which is sure to please.  Starting out small, the Glamour To Go III ($20) palette is a great value. Now in its third edition, this popular palette has everything a gal needs to get holiday gorgeous on the fly. This pocket-friendly set features eight shimmery shadows, four lip colors and one universally-flattering, peachy-pink blush.  After your look is finished, it all folds up neatly to the size of an index card. Functional and fun -- what's not to love?


Next up is the French & Fabulous Palette ($29). Being a complete Francophile, I am a sucker for this thing based on the name and packaging alone (I did say "sucker" after all).  Once my eyes fells upon the "Pink Leopard" Highlighting Bronzer, there was no question of my lust for this palette.  Containing six eye shadows in charming neutrals (plus one bad-ass pink) and two  gorgeous bronzers, this palette isn't completely all-inclusive, but is sure to please ladies looking for a sophisticated, but sexy, look.

 

Review: Cover Girl Lash Blast Length


Back in August, Cover Girl launched the newest addition to their line of mascaras, Last Blast Length ($7).  A sister product to their popular, original Lash Blast Volumizing mascaras,  Lash Blast Length promises to give wearers their "longest lashes yet." 

Contained in a narrow tube with spunky yellow coloring,  Lash Blast Length features a thin, skinny wand and a new "Elasta-Nylon™ formula" that supposedly provides flexible, but flake-free hold.  Compared with no mascara at all, it claims that the brush + formula combo will give users an "80% longer lash look." 

Although my initial reaction to this product's claims was Well, we'll see about that, I have to admit that I am completely impressed with its performance. I really love the re-design of the Lash Blast packaging and I even like the wand. I have issues with the fat orange tube of the original Lash Blast because it takes up a ridiculous amount of space in my makeup drawer. Space is limited in my world, so anything that is more streamlined is good by me! Seriously, for that reason only, I would buy Lash Blast Length again.

 

Glamorous Gifts: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty by Carmindy


Are you getting sick of holiday gift ideas yet? Hopefully not because I keep turning up more cool stuff that I just have to share.  Today's idea is from the Sally Hansen Natural Beauty by Carmindy line and it has the added bonus of being very economical. 

Famous for her "5 Minute Face," makeup artist Carmindy has put together some kits that will help you achieve fast perfection without having to think too hard about it.  Each "5 Minute Face Kit" ($13) contains everything needed for a perfectly put-together look. The kits come in three different collections based on skin tones (light, medium and deep).  Each kit contains Luminizing Face Primer (can be worn under foundation or alone),  Fast Fix Concealer, Sheerest Cream Blush in a flattering shade, a coordinating three color Instant Definition Eye Palette, and a Natural Shine Lip Gloss.  The kits include easy-to-follow tips to help make the most out of the kit. The only thing needed would be a foundation (if you wear it) and a mascara.  All of that for less than $15 is amazing!

 

Glamorous Gifts: Little Lip Kits

As a stocking stuffer, a small token of thanks, or even "just because," nothing beats a cute little collection of lip balms. Companies seem to know this because there is no end to the number of absolutely adorable little lip kits available right now. Even the natural/organic brands are getting on board for the season and putting together some very appealing sets. Here are a few that have caught my eye...


Burt's Bees lovers are in luck as they have assembled some very sweet sets.  The Burt's Bees Lip Balm Purse Pack ($10) contains four beeswax lip balms and a reusable, canvas, mini purse. It comes in two varieties:
  • Classic Collection: four of the original Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balms
  • Mixed Collection: a Replenishing, a Honey, and two Beeswax Lip Balms
 
If something a little more sturdy and a little less cutesy is more appealing, then try the Bee Keeper Tin Gift Set ($10). It comes in the same two combinations (Classic and Mixed) only the canvas mini purse is replaced by a fun little tin. Either set is an easy way to keep someone special's pucker in good shape using soothing, natural beeswax. This is especially a good gift for the beauty-averse since the Classic kits contain no tinting or color of any sort -- just helpful, protective lip balm. 


 

Glamorous Gifts: Tarte

UPDATE!  Running through 12/13/09, tarte is having a Friends & Family Sale. Get 40% off on all tarte products when you use the code: FFDEC. Plus, spend over $25 and get a complimentary card case. Get free shipping with $40 and up!  So, peruse the beauties below and choose wisely!

It simply would not be a fitting Beauty Couch holiday run-down if I didn't gush over the dazzling deals from tarte. Love them!  Their holiday specials were awesome last year, but this year they have clearly taken our current economic climate (hate that phase!) into account by putting together some very clever deals. Seriously, if you want to stock up on some tarte products, now is the time to do it.

Let's start with a few of my under $25 faves...


Who wouldn't love to get either of these mini cheek stain kits?  These award-winning, long-wearing, good-for-your-skin cheek stains blend easily to create a natural glow.  These are miniature sized, but since a little bit goes a loooong way and they last forever, you will hardly even notice the small size. Plus, the mini size makes them much easier to tuck into a purse or gym bag.  Crown Jewels ($25) features three brand new, limited edition shades:

 

How To... Wear Red Lipstick

Ring in the holidays with some red, red wine lips. Not only are crimson lips super in vogue right now, but they are really fun and perfectly festive. As seen here on celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Rose Byrne, a red lippie can be worn with a vibrant outfit (like a purple satin gown) or with a more subdued look (white shift dress).

Drew Barrymore at the AFI FEST 2009 Screening of Everybody's Fine
Giorgio Armani Celebrates Cate Blanchett & The Sydney Theatre Company



All it takes is finding the right color and having the confidence to pull it off. Which is easier said than done, right? Here are some tips and tricks to ease up on the anxiety when going for this bold look.

 

Glamorous Gifts: Philosophy

During some of my holiday weekend QVC watching, I ended up catching several hours of a Philosophy promotion. In all honesty, it was pretty boring, but I think that's the problem with trying to promote delicious-smelling bath and body products on TV. There's only so much you can say about it. The real fun is in using it. Or, in gifting it.

Philosophy makes some really fun and unique products that are perfect for gift-giving. Who wouldn't love some luxurious, delicious-smelling bath and body products? Take a look at my favorite pics from their vast offerings.
For the angel on your holiday list, the Angel Cakes ($20) collection delivers classic vanilla angel food cake in the form of an 8oz. shower gel and a high-gloss lip shine. Plus, it comes in an adorable gift box that can be filled with keepsakes and holiday mementos. Whether for a young niece or a favorite co-worker, this gift set is sure to please.

 

Glamorous Gifts: Benefit Holiday Exclusives

I was trying to hold off posting about holiday beauty gifts until after Thanksgiving. Now that has passed, however, I'm about ready to burst with excitement over some of the amazing kits and deals that are out there. There are so many things to mention, it's kind of ridiculous.

For any Benefit-lovin' ladies out there, you simply must check out the amazing holiday kits they have put together this year. They would make some much-appreciated gifts, but I would honestly find it hard to part with any of them once they were in my tight little clutches! See for yourself and tell me that I'm wrong...

The Ford sisters have a way of creating blushes that seem to instantly become cult classics. Even people who aren't that into blush will be familiar with the virtues of Dandelion, Hoola and 10. Personally, I adore Benefit blush/bronzers, but at $28 bucks a pop, they definitely don't work their way into the budget very often. So imagine my thrill when I came across the Powderazzi Holiday Kit ($30) which contains three of Benefit's most beloved cheek shades: Hoola, Coralista and Dallas. They aren't full-sized portions, obviously, but with the high-quality pigmentation that is a signature of these colors, it won't take much to able to enjoy these warm and glowing complexion-enhancers for years to come!

 

NOTW: OPI Visions of Sugarplum

In addition to their 2009 Holiday Wishes Collection, OPI has released three Ulta-exclusive shades for the holiday season. One of these, Visions of Sugarplum, is this week's featured nail of the week (NOTW). Usually I try not to buy nail polish at full price because there are many discount websites out there. However, when I came across Visions of Sugarplum, I didn't want to risk not being able to find it online.

No kidding, this one is a real stunner. It's a darkened purple with gorgeous, iridescent sparkle. The color and sparkle combination makes it seriously jump off the nails. With its obvious eye-catching quality, it definitely won't be mistaken for a near black. Visions of Sugarplum is beautifully festive and would be a fun accessory to a holiday party outfit. The formula is flawless and the addition of the glitter makes it more long-wearing than other colors. While I'm always a sucker for purple polish, Visions of Sugarplum is already sure to be a prize of my collection.

See the other Ulta exclusive holiday OPI colors here.

 

How To... Spice Up Your Routine

Young woman biting into a chili
Stuck in a makeup rut and unsure of how to bust out without breaking the bank? Here are some quick and easy tips that don't require a big investment in time or money. Give one or two a try and see how they work for you!

-- While everyone loves the classic black, brown and brown-black eye liner, why not try something slightly more adventurous? Colored eyeliners are very trendy and will add an interesting punch to your usual routine. Swap out that tired brown-black for a navy, gray or burgundy liner. These colors are just different enough, but still appropriate for work environments.

-- And while we're on the subject of eyes, have you jumped on the smokey eye train? Not everyone can (or should, quite frankly) pull off a heavy-handed smokey eye, but most of us could stand to smoke it up a little bit now and again. Black and gray are always good, but if that's too intimidating, try a chocolate or purple smokey look. Currently eggplant is my favorite smoke color. Concentrate color just on the lower part of the lid, no higher than the crease, to create a look that is easy, pretty and appropriate for day.

 

Nail News: Wizard of Ooh Ahz Re-Release

I usually don't post about individual polish collections, but I can't resist sharing the exciting news of the re-release of the classic fave China Glaze collection, The Wizard of Ooh Ahz.
Click your Ruby Pumps and come travel with China Glaze down the yellow brick road to meet “The Wizard of Ooh Ahz”! China Glaze will take you to that special polish place…some where over the rainbow with these gorgeous glitter polishes!"
Colors in the 6 piece collection include (from left to right as shown in the photo above):
  • Ruby Pumps: An all time red glitter favorite!
  • Cowardly Lyin’: Gold frost with specks of gold micro glitter.
  • The Ten Man: Silver frost with specks of micro silver glitter.
  • Dorothy Who?: Blue polish with massive amounts of silver and blue glitter!
  • C-C-Courage: Purple Frost with specks of purple micro glitter.
  • Good Witch: Pink Frost with specks of pink micro glitter.
I've been meaning to pick up Ruby Pumps for a while now, C-C-Courage is looking pretty sexy as well. The Wizard of Ooh Ahz will be available in stores and online any day now. Get those holiday gift lists ready...

 

Shine by bliss at Sheraton Hotels

Staying at a Sheraton recently, I was surprised to find that the bathroom toiletries were made by bliss. The collection "Shine by bliss" is a line of amenities created exclusively for Sheraton hotels. All of the standard rooms come with the Mandarin-Mint shampoo, conditioner, bar soap and body lotion. In upgraded rooms for VIP guests, they also offer Shine shower gel and a specialty body sponge.

Given that most mid-price hotels offer generic "shampoo" and "conditioner" in their rooms, the Shine by bliss was an intriguing change. The Mandarin-Mint scent is fresh and pleasant, definitely leaning more toward the citrus than the mint. Most guests would probably find it to be refreshing and suitably inoffensive to men and women alike. However, the performance of the Shine by bliss products left something to be desired. Typical of hotel shampoos, this one stripped my hair of moisture and left if feeling dry and unruly. Even generous amounts of the conditioner did not correct the imbalance. The bar soap was fairly gentle, but again, too drying and harsh for use as a facial bar. My favorite of the whole collection was definitely the lotion. The texture was silky, it absorbed fairly quickly and provided adequate moisture to my travel-weary skin. I snagged an extra bottle of the lotion to bring home.

Overall, the Shine by bliss collection was a potentially exciting change to the usual hotel fare, but it disappointingly performs about as well as the usual fare. It would be much preferable if the usual bliss product line was included with Sheraton rooms -- the lemon+sage collection would suit me just fine. Unfortunately, for now, the lotion is great but remember to pack the shampoo and conditioner.

 

Fun Hair Finds

Last month I reported on some cool hair accessories that my obsessive internet-ing had turned up. It would appear that trendy, fun hair things are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Currently, I am obsessed with these Bumble & Bumble Buttonbands ($15). I saw them at the salon and (feigning admirable amounts of restraint) passed on the impulse buy. Subsequently, I've been regretting that choice ever since. Honestly, how cute is the indigo-trimmed ocean blue color? Or the violet-trimmed black with their little coordinating button details? The answer: freaking adorable. Plus, they are designed to be used alone or as a base for wildly creative embellishment. Watch the video to see an impressive amount of creativity inspired by these little guys.

Anthropologie often has very beautiful hair accessories. Unfortunately, they often run in the really ridiculous $30-50 range. However, the very pretty Teavaro Headband comes in at less than $20. Delicate clusters of black pearls nestling on distressed chiffon petals strike that perfect balance of polished but unfussy. The subdued blue palette would be very pretty on all hair colors.


I've been completely obsessed with the etsy shop, Jessie Beans, since randomly meeting the owner/creator at a local fabric store. She was wearing one of her creations and, when I complimented it, she gave me the address for the website. Unlike most of Anthropologie's offerings, Jessie Beans' amazing hair accessories are sold at ridiculously affordable prices. This one, with white ostrich feathers ($20) was exactly the kind of thing I searched for (unsuccessfully) for my wedding. But, even if formal nuptials are not on the agenda, she has plenty other offerings with intricate beading, beautiful pendant cameos and even more feathers. All are individually made by hand and perfectly executed without being overly done or cheesy. They are as beautiful, or even more so, than many Anthropologie hair accessories at 1/3-1/2 the price. Whether ornate or quietly simple, Jessie Beans' headbands have the added bonus of being completely one of a kind and unique. And how can you put a price on originality?

 

Product Lust: Holiday Fragrance Rings

Sorry for being M.I.A. for a few days, I was out of town at a (non-beauty-related) conference. It was great and the plane trip provided lots of time for magazine reading. That, in turn, inevitably lead to stimulation of massive amounts of product lust.

Everywhere I look I'm seeing gorgeous fragrance rings all ready for gift-giving. These cool little deals are over-sized, campy and sure to draw attention on their own. But, the secret is that inside they contain some very nice solid perfume already on-hand for a mid-party touch up. If you are looking for a fairly inexpensive, very cool gift for a girl pal this holiday season, then definitely consider checking some of these out. I am in love with the Michael Kors Very Hollywood ($40) version shown at the top left.

For a walk on the wilder side, there is the Kat Von D Solid Perfume Ring ($30) featuring a Gothic gunmetal flower. It comes with both of her signature scents, Saint and Sinner, in interchangeable pans. That way, you can decide which persona to adopt prior to a night on the town. Whichever one is ultimately chosen, the ring itself is sure to compliment any number of sparkly holiday ensembles.








For a similar, but cheaper, effect there is the mark Holidays Rock Solid Fragrance Ring ($18). It has a platinum metallic shade and contains the favorite floral-vanilla Rebel Rose fragrance. While we're on the subject, these rings are also a perfect way to try a new fragrance without committing to purchasing a whole bottle.

There are many more out there -- including the Marc Jacobs Lola Solid Perfume Ring ($42) that is just a bit too gaudy for my taste. But whether your taste falls more toward Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors, a perfume ring is sure to be a solid hit.

 

Worst Product Ever: Andrea Naturals Body Wax

It is not often that I run into a product that is truly egregiously disappointing, but my experience with Andrea Naturals Body Wax was a new low. My favorite products for home waxing are made by Parissa, but these can unfortunately be hard to find. Because I was 1) pressed for time and 2) desperately needing to take care of business before a romantic date last Saturday, I reached for Andrea Naturals Body Wax with Pomegranate and Cranberry ($11) at the local drugstore.

The experience was pretty much horrible from start to finish. First off, the wax didn't smell very good when it was warmed up -- a plastic-y odor that did not suggest pomegranate or cranberry. But the real problem came with execution. The wax is designed to be used without cloth strips. Ideally, the wax is spread on in a small area, let to cool briefly and then pulled off while still pliant.

Following the directions to the letter, what ensued was a complete catastrophe. The wax certainly did not pull up nicely in a neat little strip; in fact, it hardly came off at all! I pulled and pulled and really could not get it off my skin! It was crazy! The directions suggest using some baby oil or petroleum jelly to remove stray pits of sticky wax, but even this was ineffective and a complete mess. Ultimately, I was able to get all the wax off, but I essentially had to pick every little piece off individually (and scrape some of it off with a razor blade! Fact!).

To add insult to injury, hardly any hair was removed and my leg ended up tender and bruised. It has been sore for the past several days, reminding me of how mad I am about the whole thing every time I try to cross my leg. I'm going to try to return Andrea Naturals Body Wax to the drugstore from whence it came, but I was so irritated that I felt it was only fair to warn others about it. It makes me angry that a really miserable product like this kicks around probably only because it bills itself as a "natural" alternative to other waxes. Natural or not, I will not be trying any more Andrea Naturals products.


 

Trend Report: Defined Brows with Tarte EmphasEYES for Brows

Darkly defined brows are a clearly established trend for Fall/Winter 2009/10. Even though it is way too early to be planning your Spring makeup look, scenes from NYFW seem to indicate that strong brows will continue to be big in the Spring/Summer 2010 as well.

Nowhere was the strong brow trend more prominent than at Hayden-Harnett's Spring 2010 Fashion presentation. For this show, the tarte artistry team created a look "inspired by a nomadic journey through lava fields and desert landscapes" that featured "warm complexions with a strong, geometric brow and soft lip...The eyes remain muted with a major focus on the brows."

To achieve this dramatic look, they used a new tarte product: EmphasEYES for Brows High Definition Brow Pencil ($20). One of the problems with traditional brow pencils that that they are thick, unwieldy and produce obvious-appearing pencil marks that do not blend with the brow hairs. The effect is to proclaim "Look at me! I'm wearing brow pencil!" For this reason, I have been using brow powder as it creates a more subtle appearing. However, tarte emphasEYES for brows has made me re-think brow pencil and I am truly a convert!

First off, the product ingeniously combines a brow pencil and a spooley-style brush. I love when companies consider how people really use products and then try to make things more streamlined and efficient, which emphasEYES for brows clearly does. Not only that, but according to tarte, emphasEYES for brows is four times narrower than the average brow pencil available. I can't verify the four times thing, but it is definitely a very tiny little pencil. This eliminates the thick, obvious pencil marks that plague other brow pencil performance. Instead, the little pencil mimics brow hairs for the most natural effect. A few quick swipes with the emphasEYES for brows pencil followed by a quick brush out with the spooley and you have perfectly groomed brows in under a minute using just one product.

Tarte's emphasEYES for brows pencil is a real winner and I just can't say enough good things about it. My excitement in using it was completely unexpected because I was anticipating just another typical brow pencil, which this one definitely is not. It is thoughtful and ingenious and a good investment for the ongoing strong brow trend. It is available in two colors: Taupe (for blonde, auburn, lighter brown or grey hair) and Medium Brown (for medium to dark brown or black hair) with a price around $20.

Check out the graphic below for more details on how to create the dramatic Hayden-Harnett Spring 2010 look and the photo below for the finished product!


EmphasEYES for Brows is available at Sephora, Sephora.com and tartecosmetics.com.



 

Review: La Mer The Radiant Concealer SPF 25

La Mer, famous for its Miracle-Broth infused Crème, offers many other products for perfecting and correcting the complexion. Recently, they have added The Radiant Concealer with SPF 25 ($65) to the family.
This lightweight cream-to-powder concealer was formulated to instantly camouflage and ease imperfections. Tourmaline and malachite gemstones capture light energy to instantly conceal dark circles and blemishes. The Radiant Concealer SPF 25 optically erases imperfections to create a smooth even finish. A unique polymer mesh technology delivers buildable, diaphanous layers to create a crease-resistant flexible/breathable application. Skin stays naturally flawless all day. Helps protect skin with SPF 25. Available in three scientifically engineered translucent full coverage, skin-perfecting, radiance-enhancing hues: Ivory, Beige and Natural Warm."
I've had the chance to try a sample of The Radiant Concealer and it has several impressive features. First, the consistency is creamy thick, which in my opinion, all good concealers should be. It is the perfect consistency to both cover dark areas and to stay put where it is placed. Concealers that are too runny or liquid smear all over the face in a highly annoying manner. The Radiant Concealer nicely stays in place, making it better than 80% of other concealers out there.

Additionally, although the initial consistency is creamy, it dries to a powder finish on the skin. I appreciate this property because I think it enhances the staying-power. In fact, The Radiant Concealer has some of the very best staying power that I've experienced in my many, many concealer trials. The powder finish might not be the best for ladies with very dry under-eye areas, but those with oily or normal skin should find that it works quite well.

In terms of shades, there are only three colors available all on the pale end of the spectrum and women of color are sadly left out of the offerings altogether. I was sent "Shade 3 Dark" to sample, which was too dark for my complexion, but I used it anyway. Shade 3 definitely has a yellow-based tint which worked very well for hiding blue under-eye circles. I recommend trying the Radiant Concealer at a counter before purchase to ensure the proper match. Blending a little foundation on top of Shade 3 worked to more closely match my skin color. This revealed yet another great feature of the Radiant Concealer: it is very buildable and makes an excellent base for other products. The online reviews mention using it as an eyeshadow primer and I can definitely see this working. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite features -- SPF 25! All under eye concealers should contain some SPF since this area is so fragile and sensitive to sun damage and aging. La Mer apparently agrees with me and managed to stuff some in without any detriment on its ability to conceal. Excellent!

On the whole, I am very much impressed with The Radiant Concealer by La Mer and I recommend trying if it you have been perpetually disappointed by concealers. It is expensive, and so not a product to be bought without consideration. Nevertheless, it manages to solve the many frustrating problems of lesser concealers (runny consistencies, poor staying power, poor blending and no SPF) and emerges a true winner.

La Mer Radiant Concealer and other La Mer products are available at select Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and lamer.com.


 

Review: Lisa Hoffman Hand & Foot Butter

Continuing the tour of Lisa Hoffman products, I also have been using the Hand & Foot Butter ($36) from the Spa Bath Collection. The entire collection is numbered just in case you might get confused about which order to use them in:

  1. Bath Soak
  2. Body Wash
  3. Body Polish
  4. Body Cream
  5. Hand & Foot Butter

Already impressed by the Madagascar Orchid fragrance, the Spa Bath Hand & Foot Butter is just as beautiful as one would expect. All of the Spa Bath products are scented with Madagascar Orchid. Hand & Foot Butter definitely has a strong fragrance component, so if you prefer your creams a little more neutral, this probably isn't the product for you. I happen to enjoy the Hand & Foot Butter fragrance as it is a welcome alternative to the peppermint that is typically found in foot products. The peppermint is just too strong for my nose at nighttime, but the Hand & Foot Butter is perfectly pleasing and doesn't conflict if you happen to be wearing the Madagascar Orchid bedtime variant.

It has a dense cream consistency and applies beautifully. Although it is called a "butter," it isn't stiff or difficult to spread like some others. Overall, it is very luxurious and soaks in almost immediately without leaving a greasy feel on the skin. As far as moisturizing properties go, it is quite good. Typically I use it before going to bed and sometimes do the whole lotion + white socks trick for extra measure. In the morning, my hands and feet are notably softer. Containing shea butter, acai and grape seed oils for moisturizing and antioxidant protection, the Hand & Foot Butter protects as it perfects. I think it will be perfect for combating inevitably dry winter skin.

The packaging, again, is an exquisite, teal-colored jar with a polished top. It looks very elegant sitting on the night stand. Lisa Hoffman Spa Bath Hand & Foot Butter is definitely not on the cheap side of body products, clocking in over $30 on the Lisa Hoffman website. However, it is available from some other online retailers for less than $20. But, on balance, it is beautifully packaged and fragranced and performs amazingly well. For the expense, it definitely doesn't disappoint.


 

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Kyl
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