All About Michelle

Obama Inauguration

Those of us here in America are nearing the end of a truly historic day. I was listening to NPR while driving to work and couldn't help but tear up as they interviewed the crowd in Washington D.C. There were lots of different perspectives and angles from which to view the inauguration. Not to be excluded, the beauty and fashion world watched with rapt interest as well. But rather than on Mr. President, their focus was all about Mrs. O. And seriously, doesn't she just look completely stunning in this Jason Wu designer gown? I admit to being mildly obsessed with ever since the convention.

I've been combing the web today looking for info on how to achieve Michelle's polished and natural makeup look and so wanted to pass along some cool links that I found. First off, our old friend Total Beauty has a special feature on Michelle Obama's Beauty Secrets. The majority of the secrets are related to her various hairstyles, but the article covers some makeup tips as well.

StyleList blog has a nice interactive graphic about some of the products Michelle's long-time makeup artist and friend Ingrid Grimes-Myles, uses to create her polished and professional look. (Hint: lots of MAC!) Apparently at some point there was also some "controversy" about Michelle's severe eyebrows. Today was the first time I've ever heard anything like this (possibly because I can't imagine a bigger non-issue), but the Chicago Tribune describes it in detail complete with comments from Grimes-Myles on how she repaired this egregious mistake. Grimes-Myles has given other interviews with previews of the Inaugural looks that she had in store for Mrs. O. Daily Candy teased out some beauty tips from Grimes-Myles as well.

Also of interest, check out a great slide show of Michelle's daytime look from today on Huffington Post as well as an interesting article on why she represents "The New Sexy." Not to be left out, Allure has an interview with presidential makeup artist (since Nixon!), Lois Cassano, on how she makes presidents appear more presidential.

That's it for me tonight, I am off to bed to tend my own executive exhaustion.


Purple Rain! BeneFit BADgal Plum & Other Purple Mascaras

I've been on a complete BeneFit/tarte frenzy lately, haven't I? Well, it's going to continue because I have to rave about BADgal Plum mascara ($19). After lusting over it rather publicly (i.e. on this blog), it was generously gifted to me by some kind souls. All I can say is Bless them.

BADgal is everything that L'Oreal Panoramic Curl isn't and then some. Previously I had sampled BADgal in the store and loved it. So I was hoping that it would live up to my expectations once it was all mine. For some reason, there are times when a product that you think is amazing in the store turns out to be merely eh once you get it home. I blame it on all the chemicals, fragrances, and deceptive overly-flattering lighting. But moving on...

First of all, BADgal Plum comes in a HUGE container. I doubt that it actually contains any more product than a standard mascara, but it is rather commanding. One feels rather glamorous. putting it on. The brush is full and plush and does a good job of grabbing every little lash. One coat is definitely all that is required and it has a very respectable wear-time. I have yet to meet a mascara that looks the same in the evening as it did in the morning, but BADgal is as good or better than anything else. Most importantly, it definitely does not clump, flake or otherwise irritate my eye in any way.

The purple-ish tint is subtle and probably not something you'd notice if you weren't looking for it. So, in that sense, you could probably question why it's even necessary. But then you just open yourself up to having to answer all sorts of irritating questions like what it means to be necessary, especially when it comes to something as frivolous as makeup. That's a conversation I'd like to avoid, thank you very much. At any rate, variety is the spice of life, as they say. Whether or not BADgal Plum provides a significant extra pop to my eye color or whether it is just a useless gimmick, I love it nonetheless.

In a similar vein, apparently my prayers have been answered because there are several new drugstore mascaras coming out in purple hues. Both meet my under $10 standard for mascara, which means that once BADgal runs dry, I'll probably be checking them out.

Cover Girl Exact Eyelights in Black Ruby ($9)

Max Factor Vivid Impact in Burning Bordeaux ($9)

Almay Intense I-Color in Raisin Quartz is not new, but I can never find it to try out.


Tarte Vitamin Infused Lipstick

Although a lot of lipsticks claim to be "universally flattering," I tend to be fairly skeptical. It just doesn't intuitively make much sense to me that with all the different skin tones and lip tones in the world, that there is one shade that is good for everyone.

Well, I might have to revise that long-held belief now that I've met and fallen in love with tarte's Vitamin Infused Lipstick in Hatha ($22). This product is tarte's first foray into the realm of lipstick and they have really hit it out of the park! It is everything a good lipstick should be: easy to apply, creamy, moisturizing and reasonably long-lasting. Additionally, it is infused with tarte's usual blend of "skinvigorating" ingredients to nourish your lips as it beautifies them. Usually I don't give much credit to the amazing natural extract sort of claims, but I really do find that the Vitamin Infused Lipstick does not dry out my lips like other lipsticks.

Now, on to the subject of shade. Hatha is one of six available shades and it is best described as a golden shimmery rose. When I pulled it out of the package, my first thought was Oh yawn, but this was a complete underestimation. Hatha is probably the only shade of lipstick I've ever found that meets the fabled "your lips only better" standard. Admittedly, my lips are kind of naturally rose-colored, so it is not that surprising that it looks good on me. But, after studying it closely for a few weeks, I really think this shade would work on most people. It is neutral without being bland, and the hint of shimmer adds interest without being over the top. The color is very saturated, so it doesn't take much and the feel is still very sheer. Plus, it just feels fantastic on the lips: creamy and smooth, almost a lip balm consistency.

Overall, I'm a big fan of this lipstick, the formulation and the shade. are both perfect I do not particularly care for the bulky container and I hope that tarte considers revising this in the future. But, other than that, this is a quality product that I highly recommend. I will definitely be trying some other shades.

*I should mention that I got this lipstick as part of the Holiday Value Gift Set ($65) -- a little Christmas gift to myself. I haven't reviewed all the items here, but I will say that this kit is definitely worth picking up while there is still time. The cheek stain and the lipstick alone are to die for!


Product Lust: Benefit Girl's Night In!!!

My thirst for new products has been at an all-time low recently due to my amazing Christmas Haul. Playing with all my new goodies has been a frequent and very enjoyable activity. As a result, however, I haven't been scouring the net looking for new hot products. But, on a whim today, I checked out Sephora online and discovered this new release from Benefit: Girl's Night In!!!
Girl's Night In ($48) is a limited-edition, Sephora exclusive containing "all the products you need to create a classic Benefit beauty look." This kit caught my little eye because it contains several items that I have totally raved about in the past: the Talent Brush, Full Finish Lipstick in Lady's Choice, and Creaseless Cream Shadows in Birthday Suit (I haven't officially written about this one, but I've used it and it is excellent) and Skinny Jeans. Not to mention those campy magnets to beautify your fridge. It also contains "a custom lesson," whatever that means. This kit is further notable because the items are at a hefty discount. Just doing some quick head-math, I'm estimating the cost of these makeup items individually to be near $75 and this kit is $48 (+ the magnets!). In summary, it has all the makings of a truly excellent kit: all the products are winners (i.e. no space-filling duds), it's from BeneFit, and the price is right. Nice.


Leaving On A Jet Plane

Have I mentioned that I'm heading off to a beach vacation in the near future? I'm so excited, I can barely even stand it. But next to making the travel and accommodation arrangements, I've been obsessing over what I'm going to take! Clearly, I haven't decided yet, but I think some of these greatest hits may make the final cut:

Pond's Wipes. Excellent all-purpose wipes for removing daily grime and freshening up. This also frees me up to not take a facial cleanser. I don't think these wipes have to go in a plastic bag for the TSA, either.

Neutrogena Moisture Shine Lip Soother. This is a good vacation choice because it is easy to wear, contains SPF and is relatively cheap so if/when I lose it, it's not a big loss.

Physicians Formula Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer. I had mixed feelings about this product, mostly because of the funky smell (which I never got used to, by the way). However, there is a new product from PF that I may try out as an alternative: Mineral Wear Talc Free Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 15 ($13). With any luck, it will provide the same beautiful color minus the "organic" scent.
Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Sun Glow Bronzer. A bronzer is a definite must-have for a beach vacation. Since I'm trying to pinch pennies, this one will likely find its way into my bag.

Of course, I will bring plenty of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock. And a pedicure will certainly be in order, but what bright, sunny color to choose? Maybe OPI's Give Me A Coral Sometime or Elephantastic Pink, unless I can get my paws on the China Glaze Summer Days collection in time. And then that brings us to what eye, cheek and lip colors will be joining me at the beach. The Neutrogena Lip Soothers are great for the day, but isn't a sexy going-out lippie in order as well? I'm going to have to give this some more thought. More later...


Sneak Peek: Anastasia Highlighting Brow Kit

There is a new product from brow guru Anastasia coming your way and I've been lucky enough to preview it! The Highlighting Brow Kit ($32) is a versatile product that can do as much or as little as you ask. It contains two terracotta baked disks: one of Anastasia's amazing brow powder in three shades of brown and the other a trio of highlighting powders in shades of champagne, copper and gold. For basic use, the brow powder is used to darken, thicken, and fill in sparse brows. It has the same creamy texture that I really like about Anastasia's regular brow powder because it clings to the brow hairs for a lasting effect while still looking soft and natural. The highlighting trio can then be used along the brow bone to draw light to the area and create a higher arch. Both disks can be used wet or dry depending on the amount of drama you want.

But that is just the beginning! This product is great because it is able to go beyond the brows and provides opportunities for even more creativity in your look. For example, the brow powder can be used wet as a eye liner or used dry as a contouring shade for the crease. It could even be smudged on the lid for a sexy, smokey look. The highlighting powders can also be used wet or dry as eye shadows for an especially shimmery party look. Because it is so compact and versatile (and contains a mirror), it would be a fantastic travel palette. It is also fairly good value considering the amount and different shades of product that it contains.

I have tried out the Highlighting Kit for a few weeks now in many of the variations described above and I think it's a great product. I especially love the brow powder trio because the browns can be mixed and blended to create the perfect shade. The highlighting powders are high quality and work well, but are just a bit too glittery for my taste. I prefer the more matte Eye Lights pencil. But that is just a personal preference.

The Anastasia Highlighting Brow Kit is available now on Anastasia's website. It will also be available at Sephora starting January 29, 2009 and at Nordstrom at some yet to be determined date.


Product Lust: Benefit Coralista

Get a load of CORALista ($28), the new beach-ready blush from Benefit that is totally making me long for summer. This coral pink blush has just the right amount of tropical punch to perk up any dull complexion. Benefit has a knack for kick-butt blush, so it seems likely that CORALista will soon join the ranks of other all-time favorites like Georgia, Dandelion and Dallas. Some folks have described it as similar to the legendary NARS Orgasm, but without shimmer or glitter. All I can say is that I can't wait to try it!


Book Review: The 5-Minute Face

Even though it was published in 2007, I just recently picked up The 5 Minute Face: The Quick & Easy Makeup Guide for Every Woman ($15). The book is authored by Carmindy, whom we all know from TLC's What Not To Wear and as the inspiration behind Sally Hansen's Natural Beauty line of cosmetics (I'm a fan of the bronzer). The content of this book makes perfect sense if you've ever watched What Not To Wear. Every woman on that show reports that she doesn't have enough time to do makeup and Carmindy reassures them with "I'm going to give you a quick and easy five minute face that you can do and be out the door!" This always seems to persuade them, or at least, they are too polite to disagree with her.

So the 5 Minute Face is her thing and she decided to write a book about it. I really like her personal philosophy as it aligns with my own view of why I use makeup. Here is how she describes it:

When it comes to using makeup, I believe in using the right products in the right places to highlight your best features, instead of piling on products to re-create your face or hide perceived flaws. I don't believe that women are flawed or that there is any set standard of beauty they MUST meet.

The book covers all the basics of beauty: skin care, brow grooming, use of foundation, selecting colors for your skin tone and age, and special occasion looks. All of these are built upon the foundation that she lays out as the 5 Minute Face. Not to keep your guessing, the 5 Minute Face is essentially this: use foundation or tinted moisturizer to even skin tone, use concealer as needed to spot conceal, dust on a light powder to set, strategic use of highlighter, apply blush, line the lash line, apply mascara and add some color to the lips. She walks through all these steps demonstrating proper application with beautiful full page pictures. She also anticipates trouble spots and suggests solutions. A chapter on "Trends" describes how to take the basic 5 Minute Face into something more.

I found that I really liked this book for several reasons. One is that the color photography is beautiful and the pictures provide as much information as the text. The other thing she does that I really like is provide photographic samples of different makeup colors that she suggests. For example, she puts a pile a rosy pink blush next to a suggestion to use rosy pink blush. This is a nice detail because it shows that she is really attuned to the needs of the makeup novice. Once you are steeped in this stuff, you don't think twice about what a shimmery taupe or a berry red is, but for women not used to the lingo, the visual cue is very helpful. I also like her attention to makeup across the age ranges. Certainly your look should change as you age and as your skin changes and Carmindy provides good guidelines for how to manage those transitions without losing the fun. I also like the tone of the book. It isn't overly optimistic or giddy, but helpful and can-do. She makes the point that makeup isn't something to stress about. It doesn't have to be complicated to be effective as long as you remember that the goal is enhancing the beauty you already have.

This book is geared toward the makeup novice, but old hands will likely find a useful tip or two inside. It's definitely worth checking out, if not for purchase, then from the local library.


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 1/9/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

See what's happening in the beautiful blogosphere this week!

Beauty Junkies Unite spies Spring's "IT" color for lips from Max Factor, "Ms. Right" and then puts the new 2000 Calorie Extreme mascara to the test.

CaliforniaCosmetics showcases and reviews one of her favorite products The Body Shop Guarana Lip Butter.

Viva Woman finds out if mineral makeup is too drying and not suitable for all skin types.

Frappelattes covers a Spring 2009 makeup trend -- highlighting and contouring your skin with makeup for a flawless look!

New Year, new skincare! Beauty411 reviews the new Estee Lauder Time Zone Line and Wrinkle Reducing Moisturizer and is sponsoring a giveaway. Get the details here!

Beauty Anonymous reviews Kanebo's Coffret D'Or Noble Dressy Palette.

WIN a Yummie Tummie top to hold in your muffin top on A Mom in Red High Heels!

The Jet Set Girls are giving away a free workout download for your iPod from PumpOne. Now you can workout in your hotel room, office, or anywhere. Kick start your New Year's resolutions!

Fabulous Over Forty discovers a new rockin line of cosmetics. See what has captured her attention.

I Heart Heels chats with celeb stylist Lara Backmender. Read the deets on her path from attending Parsons to styling ScarJo!

Monique at Beauty Girl Musings has found a foundation that not only provides full coverage without feeling heavy, but is actually made with ingredients that won't irritate skin-- find out what it is!

Just breathe! eye4style has discovered the secret to gorgeous skin and it's oxygen! Check out her fave O2 infused skincare products!

Yummiebitez shares some tips about traveling with your makeup. Read what she brought on-board with her from her latest trip.

makeup loves me explores one of the prettiest and easiest trends for the chilly weather - iridescent eyeshadows!

Come on baby, do the Olivia Palermo/Whitney Port twist! Find out how at Beauty Blogging Junkie.

Check out the new Estee Lauder Spring Collection over at The Makeup Divas.


Overrated! Jo Malone Scented Candles

This isn't strictly beauty-related, but I have to share my experience with the famed Jo Malone scented candles. For those not familiar, Jo Malone is an upscale retailer of fancy scents. The scents come in various forms (such as bath products, candles and cologne) and have delicious sounding names, things like Honeysuckle & Jasmine or Wild Fig & Cassis.

I've wanted to try their products for a long time, but they are out of my price range. A $65 candle is not something that even seems remotely reasonable to me, I don't care how great it smells. But, my scented candle dreams came true when I won a Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom & Honey candle ($65) at the Nordstrom Fall trend show. With high expectations, I saved it for the perfect occasion, ultimately deciding to use it in my new closet so that it would smell nice when I got dressed in the morning. Good idea, yes?

Well, it was a good idea, except the candle totally sucks. I'm sorry to say, but Jo Malone has been a terrible disappointment. Not an unappealing scent or an overpowering scent, the thing essentially has no scent at all! Even after burning quite a bit down, I put my nose close and smell nothing. I can try to convince myself that there is a sweet scent of nectarine permeating the air, but there really isn't. And before you question my olfactory system, I can assure you that it is in good working condition and quite keen. The bottom line is that I can buy a plain white candle for $2 at the drug store. What you pay for in this luxury brand is the signature, supposedly high quality scent, and this one has nothing to offer.

I guess it's possible that my candle is a dud and the others are just as amazing as they purport to be. But since this will likely be my only experience with Jo Malone, I'm sad to say that they are terribly overrated.


Product Review: Night of Olay Firming Cream

Skincare is a funny business. It seems that slapping one word on a box can increase the price astronomically. Take, for instance, the difference in prices between your standard facial cream and eye cream, or regular cream and night cream. In both cases, the eye and night designations = big bucks. And, forget about finding a nighttime eye cream under $50.

I've been on a search for a good night cream after using up all of some deluxe sized samples of Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream ($125), which is great by the way. While using it, my skin looked amazing and I do believe that it reduced the appearance of some fine laugh lines. However, check the price. Enough said.

So began the quest for a suitable replacement. I won't bore you with the details of all the failures along the way, but Night of Olay Firming Cream ($7) is a winner. It is such an unassuming product, in its spartan box without grandiose claims, one might be tempted to pass it by for something flashier. That would definitely be a mistake. Night of Olay is thick, creamy and dense, everything a night moisturizer should be. My skin has truly looked amazing since I started using it. I've even been using less foundation because there are no unsightly red areas to cover. Plus, even in the cold weather, my face is beautifully moisturized without any dry areas. And should I even mention the value?!

A fair number of folks on Total Beauty dislike the smell of the product, so I should probably mention that. It does have a strong floral fragrance that is hard to miss. But I find that once it absorbs, the smell is gone and it doesn't really bother me. Typically I don't like strong fragrances in moisturizers, but this one I can tolerate. One funny thing is that my mother used Oil of Olay when I was young, and when I opened the jar for the first time, the smell was instantly recognizable from memories of good night kisses. So that's kind of sweet and probably why I find it less offensive than others do.

At any rate, I still can't get over the price:quality ratio on this product. One concern is that, although it is 100% oil-free and non-comedogenic, it may be too thick for those prone to oily skin and breakouts. I would encourage you to try it, though, just get it from a drugstore that accepts returns and keep your receipt. But, I'll bet that you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Spring/Summer 2009 Polish Preview

Now that it's January, we're most of the way to summer, right? Right?! Well, even if we aren't, it is close enough that some sneak peeks of Spring and Summer nail polish collections are finding their way to the world wide web. Get ready to start saving your pennies.

China Glaze Spring 2009 Collection is entitled
Romantique. It features 12 new shades, divided into two halves: warm and cool. This collection has been available for sale for a while now, but I'm just not really feeling it. The colors just seem so "eh" to me. But if you want a closer look, swatches are available from All Lacquered Up and Scrangie for your viewing pleasure.
Moving on, China Glaze has decided to redeem itself for Summer 2009 with Summer Days. I can't find any better pictures than this, but honestly, I don't need to. These look amazing! And the word on the street is that they will have a glass-flecked finish that is reportedly brilliant.

OPI continues to disappoint with South Beach Spring 2009. I don't know, maybe I'll change my mind when I see them in person, but these aren't really doing it for me. And, as usual, the OPI website is completely without any useful information about this collection.
If you want to drop some serious dough, check out the Chanel Spring 2009 collection. Wow. Both of these colors are pretty fantastic. Django (on left) is a beige pink and Vendetta (on right) is a dark violet. Both are available now online and at some Chanel counters if you want to shell out the $23(!) each.
There are a few others that I don't have images for. Katee on e-polishblog has an early pic of Essie Mesmerize Spring 2009 collection. Zoya has their Spring 2009 collection, Twist, available for pre-order now on their website. And, if you happen to notice, they have named a lovely violet cream color Malia, which I'm pretty sure is because they read my blog. Just kidding.
So which of these strike your fancy? Any? All? None?


Welcome to 2009!

Welcome back to The Beauty Couch and welcome to the New Year! I hope that everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve that was fun, safe and memorable. Of course, the new year is a time of reflection, planning, and of course, resolutions. I often have cause to reflect upon how it is that people make changes in their lives which is, without a doubt, a very difficult thing to do. If you are thinking about making a resolution or two, there are things that can increase your chance of success. Here are some casual suggestions adapted from basic principles of behaviorally-based therapies:

1. Don't just make one big resolution. Pick a few, enough to make a "hierarchy" of resolutions with some that are easier and definitely achievable. It's hard to keep going on a tough resolutions (something like weight loss, for example) if you don't have some early successes. So resolve to go to the dentist regularly, make the appointments, and experience the reward.

2. Whenever possible, monitor your progress by writing it down. There is so much scientific evidence that people who simply track things show improvement in whatever it is they are hoping to improve. For example, a basic strategy of weight loss is to write down every morsel of food that crosses your lips. This alone will decrease your caloric intake. When trying to save money, write down every cent you spend. It doesn't matter if your goal is to read more, drink less caffeine, get more exercise, call your mother more often, or whatever, write it down as almost anything is amenable to monitoring.

3. Create contingencies. If you are really committed to achieving your resolution(s), enlist the help of anyone you can to set up contingencies for yourself. If you are serious about quitting smoking, find a friend or family member who will keep you honest about it. Similarly, if you really want to get to the gym, set some dates and times with a friend who will meet you there. You are much less likely to bail at the last minute if you know you are letting someone down.

4. Reinforce yourself for progress. All animal behavior is based on positive and negative reinforcement. Harnessing the power of positive reinforcement can be one of the best things you can do to help yourself. Positive reinforcement is something that occurs after a particular behavior, that is subjectively experienced as good and will make it more likely that the behavior will occur again. Ideally this works best if the positive reinforcement comes as close as possible in time to the target behavior.

One of the reasons weight loss is difficult is that the reinforcement comes so long after the behavior happens. You don't get off the treadmill and see a change on the scale. It takes weeks, which makes it hard to keep going. But if you reward yourself after every workout by spending 20 minutes in the sauna or whirlpool, or using a special fluffy bathrobe or expensive cream or anything else that you find pleasurable immediately after the workout, you will be more likely to keep up a regular workout schedule while you wait for the pounds to drop. I once was a member of a gym that had a steam sauna. The only reason I ever worked out was so I could go to the sauna after finishing exercising. I went to that gym more regularly than any other one in my life.

5. Make a point to understand what works and what doesn't work for you. If you have a set back, accept it and move on. Even better, reassess what went well and what could have gone better. How could the setback have been anticipated or avoided? What would you do differently next time? Understand what happened and then try again. Long-term behavior change is difficult and often requires many starts and stops. For example, most people who eventually quit smoking have attempted quitting many times before it finally sticks. Don't wait till January 1, 2010 to start over.


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