Nifty Little Thing: The Tweezerman Petite Manicure Set

I've had my eye on this little kit for some time, but it wasn't until I started nail rehab in earnest that I decided to go for it. The Tweezerman Petite Manicure Set ($20) contains the three tools needed for basic nail grooming in miniature size: nail file, cuticle/hangnail trimmer and pushy/under-nail cleaner.

Coming in at a diminutive 3.5 x 1.5 inches, the plastic carrying case fits all three items neatly and securely. No rooting around the bottom of a giant purse looking for that nail clipper you knew you threw in there at some point -- not any more. The small case is easy to find and even easier slip into an already crowded day bag. Or, keep it in a gym bag or in the desk at work. I'm sure you can think of a dozen places where this little guy would be useful to have around.

Although there are similar manicure kits available at drugstores, this one is priced a bit higher for good reason. All of the instruments are high-quality Tweezerman products, known for their durability and precision. And, indeed, the cuticle trimmer is sharp and exacting for snipping off those pesky hangnails before they cause major damage. One downside is that having this kit around makes it tempting to start to nip away at more of the cuticle than is helpful. So a certain amount of restraint is needed with the mini mani kit! Another nice feature is, with the exception of the file handle, the products are metal and can easily be sterilized in the oven or boiling water.

I would say that, in order of frequency, I use the file > under-nail cleaner > pushy > trimmer. This seems effective to keep my tips snag-free and on the way to a full recovery. Incidentally, nail rehab is going well and I'm encouraged that in another week or so I will be able to do a nail of the week (NOTW) without shame.


Big Discount on RBL Bath & Body Products

Although already well-known for a line of fantastic and unique nail polishes, Rescue Beauty Lounge also carries some very luxurious bath and body products. With unique scents such as Citrus Vert, Spiced Floral and Wild Rosemary Pamplemousse these lotions, scrubs and body washes are anything but ordinary. Unfortunately, they are usually extravagantly (and prohibitively) priced. But! In honor of Mother's Day, RBL is offering a 75% discount on all Rescue Bath & Body products, now through May 10. Just enter the discount code "mom" at checkout.

Since I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, I can't help but notice the absolutely beautiful label design on these bottles. Like the Citrus Vert Anti-Bacterial Hand Wash ($42) shown here, all of RBL body products are just too pretty to hide away under the sink. I would save these for a special occasion or put them in the bathroom before having people over to add that special touch for your guests.


Glamorous Gifts: Mother's Day 2009

Good Lord. Is it Mother's Day again? Didn't we just have one of those last year? Two weeks from today it is officially Mother's Day -- May 10, 2009 for those of us in the U.S. I believe the U.K. has it in April, so I'm sorry I was of absolutely no help in choosing a gift for your Mum if you happen to live there.

But, back to Mom. What Mom in her right mind would not love a beauty gift? Here are a few of my current favs:

Stila My Mother, My Hero ($38) -- Now, how sweet is that name? This limited edition kit from Sephora contains four products sure to make their way into Mom's regular routine: a sheer plum lipstick, a thickening mascara, a shimmering bronze eye shadow trio, and an illuminating finishing powder all tucked into a very cute brushed-gold clutch.
After looking at it in person, and I can verify that the clutch is actually cute and not chintzy looking, so that's a plus. There is a slight concern over the age appropriateness of the shimmering bronze eye shadow trio since I'm not sure how many Moms over 45 or so would go for that. But, I could be wrong (it's been known to happen).

Anastasia Five Item Brow Kit ($65) -- Even if your Mom isn't a big into the beauty products, chances are she might benefit from a bit of brow grooming. Unfortunately, as women age, the brows tend to get thinner, lighter and less pronounced overall. This can lead to a general wash-out look that doesn't do anyone any favors. So even a minimal-makeup Mom would appreciate this kit from the eyebrow master, Anastasia. It is similar to the All About Brows Kit, minus the matte highlighter, and will easily set right those lackluster brows.

Clinique Lash Power Mascara Bonus Set ($19) -- With a double-ended eye liner pencil with two shades of brown, a long-wearing mascara, and a hydrating cream that acts to reduce the appearance of puffiness, darkness and fine lines (and a bonus lipgloss!) this kit has everything Mom needs to really play up her eyes at a very budget-friendly price. [Sorry, no good picture for this one.]

Philosophy Amazing Grace Fragrance Layering Gift Set ($60) -- If your Mom is more of a scented bath kind of gal, definitely check out this kit featuring Philosophy's best-selling fragrance, Amazing Grace. Let Mom pamper her skin with the exfoliating buffing wash, followed by the moisturizing firming body emulsion and finish it off with a spritz of spray fragrance. Delicious!
Bliss Spa Lemon + Sage Set ($80) -- For any lemon-lovin' Moms out there, try these rich, moisturizing products for skin that is smooth, silky and smells of fresh citrus. Mmmmm. Plus, save $15 on gifts for mom at Bliss when you buy 1 body butter + 1 scrub + 1 shower gel (any scent!). Use code SAVE15. Offer ends 5.11.09.

Whatever you finally settle on for your Mom, don't forget the other Moms in your life: mothers-in-law, friends who are new mommies (as in, everyone I know), sisters, aunties and grandmas. And if you are a mom, don't forget to treat yourself -- it's your day after all. We all know you deserve it.


Spring Trend: Purple Eyes

In addition to coral lips and icy gray eyes, another hot makeup trend this Spring is purple eye makeup. Whether using shades of purple, lavender or violet, putting a wash of purple on your peepers is an easy way to punch up your look this Spring.

All shades of purple, from sheer and shimmery to dark and smoky have been spotted on runways and celebrities. Stunning beauty Natalie Portman was spotted at the Oscars with violet eyes to match her violet Rodarte dress.

Reflecting on this for the past few days, the thing that I never appreciated before is how flattering purple shades are on every single eye color. Typically, folks with green eyes are recommended purple shades -- since they are color wheel opposites, this works to really make the green pop. However, as seen on Natalie here, brown eyes look especially deep and alluring when surrounded by a lavender hue. And probably most surprisingly, baby blues also benefit from a bit of violet, as seen here on Amy Adams (see more details of her look here). The lavender definitely adds additional coolness to the pale eyes, but in such a way as to really make them stand out. Kind of surprising, isn't it?

If you are interested in trying this trend, there is no shortage of companies with purple offerings these days in a wide range of price points. Target darling Sonia Kashuk has an Eye Shadow Quad in Vivid Violets ($10) with several shades, both matte and shimmery, to play with. Stila offers an Eye Shadow Duo in Orchid ($20) with both a light and darker hue. DuWop Violet Eyes Palette ($32) contains five shades of violet shimmer, lilac, deep purple, silver shimmer and a black-violet cream liner. Or try Benefit's Creaseless Cream Shadow ($19) in Aubergine or Get Figgy.

If the whole idea is a little intimidating, start with a sheer, shimmery wash of color over the lower lid up to the crease. Skip liner to keep the look simple and fresh. Alternatively, try using a deep purple shadow as a liner by wetting the brush prior to application. Lastly, if feeling particularly daring, try an entire smoky eye look using only shades of purple. Get ready to be noticed!


Would You Pay $225 For This?

My previous disbelief over the price of the Clip-In Hair Extensions has now officially been surpassed by the outrageousness of tonight's offerings on QVC. Shown above is the Rock & Republic Bronzer/Highlighter Duo with Crystal Compact which can be all yours for a mere $225 plus $8 shipping. It also comes with a kabuki brush.

I'm kind of amazed that in today's economy, they would offer something like this. It just seems completely crazy to me. Over $200
for a compact?!


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 4/24/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

Meredith at Daily Dose of Coffee ponders an interesting question: are male and female acne really all that different? Find out more!

Beauty Anonymous
brings you Sonia Rykiel Summer 2009 Makeup Collection.

Family portrait in your future? Visit The Beauty Couch for some tips on how to apply makeup for fabulous photos.

brings you Beauty & Awareness: Check out Meilily's swatches and photos of OPI's Breathe Life lung cancer awareness nail polish!

The Informed Makeup Maven raves about Nude Vs Red lips, Nailene, The Best Bronzers, Softlips; reviews Jenova mascara and invites you to join her facebook group. Most of all IMM really wants your opinion for a chance to score a Covergirl makeup pack!

Jamie and Mother Blogger of Girl-Woman-Beauty-Brains-Blog discovered a plethora of earth-friendly products for Earth Week: Tees for Change, Kiss My Face (plus a giveaway), and much more.

Boutique Flair reviews Vichy's popular Noraderm Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care lotion.

Good news for fans of Stila! Beauty Junkies Unite finds out after a month of bankruptcy rumors, the makeup brand has been sold and should be back in business soon!

Makeup Files is celebrating its first blog anniversary! Come celebrate with us by entering the huge birthday bash beauty giveaway worth over $100 dollars!

eye4style wants you to get glowing - from the inside out! Click here to enter her Glowelle giveaway.

GIVEAWAY ALERT! The Anti Hair Slave is giving awaythe entire Soft & Beautiful StyleProtect Collection all you have to do is leave a comment to be entered.

Looking for the latest giveaway.. Addicted to Lipstick is having a Kiss My Face Giveaway where she's giving away organic lip shines and lip shimmers.

Monique at Beauty Girl Musings reviews the new Olay Pro X Protocol Starter Kit.

See what Fabulous Over Forty product she is so happy she found in NYC!

Butterflydiary has fallen in love with Amala Organic Beauty, a line she feels can cryogenically freeze her skin's age.

Melissa of The Makeup Divas reviews the new Prescriptives Motor-Eyes Instant Action mascara.

Alison aka. Advice Sister Alison of The Advice Sisters offers a follow up on the Avon Clinical Derma-Full X3 Facial Filling Serum It is really a Miracle?

Lipgloss Break has partnered with Noah's Naturals to Giveaway a Selection of Products from their Skincare Line. Enter to Win!

makeup loves me has some news about this next episode of gossip girl! and no, it's not dorota's secret...

Only one week left to enter the giveaway hosted by More than a Pretty Face for all nine shades of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics' newly launched Lip Tar collection. Lip Tar sold out at its launch at The Makeup Show in NYC last month.

The girls over at Beauty in Real Life let you in on Bobbi Brown's new Nautical Collection. Check it out here!! And while you are there don't forget to enter their Pureology Giveaway!!

Beauty Beast reviews both limited edition scents from the new Kohdo Wood fragrance collection by Jo Malone.

Face Candy shows you some makeup brushes that are eco-friendly.

Beauty411 loves Kate Somerville's newest product, ExfoliKate Body Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. Check out her review here!

In honor of Earth Week, Spoiled Pretty is hosting a week's worth of green giveaways. Enter to win eco-chic sunglasses...and beauty booty from Cargo PlantLove, John Masters Organics, Samy, Tarte, Zoya, Kaia, and Burt's Bees!

The Shades Of U is GIVING AWAY prizes from Aminogenesis Dermascyne Wrinkle Arrest and Health Dropz Beverage Booster! Enter to win!


The Beauty Couch Gets a Makeover!

As may be obvious to regular visitors of The Beauty Couch, the site has undergone a major makeover! Thanks to the help of Chic & Sassy Designs, it should now be easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye.

If you experience any quirks, non-working links, or difficulty posting comments, please let me know through the contact form. Positive feedback is appreciated as well!

And if you are interested in updating your own blog, contact Chic and Sassy Designs Designs.


Return to Origins Recycling Program

As I happen to live in a recycling mecca, recycling is a part of daily life. Amazingly, single-family homes in Seattle recycle 64% of all of their garbage (compared to the national average of around 30%) and it is increasing every year. Unfortunately, many areas around the country lag in what can be accepted in their recycling programs. More specifically to this blog, most community recycling programs don't include cosmetic packaging (such as compacts or lipstick cases) because they do not recognize the materials they are made from.

Thankfully, the skincare company Origins is now offering a home for all those empty containers with the roll out of their Return to Origins Recycling Program.

"Now you can bring your glass and plastic jars, bottles, tubes, caps, lipstick covers, etc.--regardless of brand--to your nearest Origins retail store or department store counter nationwide (except Nordstrom). All returned packaging will be sent back to a central location where products will be recycled or used for energy recovery."

Did you catch that part about regardless of brand? That's pretty cool. As an additional incentive, Origins is offering a free sample of your choice of one of their high-performance skincare products when you bring in the empty containers. Pretty swell.


Lippmann Collection Hard Rock

As part of nail rehab, I want to be sure to treat and condition my nail beds as well as the cuticles. My favorite nail treatment for strengthening and conditioning nails is Lippmann Collection Hard Rock ($18). When my nails are in good shape and things are going well, I rarely keep them natural for very long. But when a little nail rehab is needed, I reach for Hard Rock.

Hard Rock is a strengthening and hardening clear polish that can be used as a base or top coat. After applying, there is an immediate improvement in nail strength, which is awesome. I don't know what magic Deborah Lippmann put in the formula, but it stops peeling and breaking cold. Traditional nail hardening formulas contain formaldehyde to cross link the keratin protein in nails. However, Lippmann products are completely free of formaldehyde, so it must be something else that makes the nails noticeably feel stronger. Another thing to love about Hard Rock is that it dries super fast, so I can slap on a coat and go about my business without much down time. It dries clear and shiny.

There are a few downsides. For one, it is pretty expensive for a top or base coat. In terms of wear, it tends to chip and peel a bit after three days, which is kind of a bummer. The nails maintain the hardening effect, though, so it's not a big deal to reapply. But this poor durability doesn't a good base coat make, so I tend to use it solo.

Ultimately, Hard Rock is a specialty product that probably isn't worth the price unless weak, peeling nails are a significant problem for you. If you are in the category and have tried other products, I would highly recommend Hard Rock. It would be useful in the post-acrylic nail-growing-out phase as well. Overall, Hard Rock works well to strengthen nails with obvious immediate improvement for relatively little effort. From nail superstar Deborah Lippmann, we'd expect nothing less.


How To... Apply Makeup for Photos

Faces 4
Recently a friend requested a consult on applying makeup for a photo shoot. She was having some family photos taken and, naturally, wanted to look her very best.

Inspired, I combed the web and makeup books for tips. The basic principles are similar to wedding makeup -- since 2/3 of what you do for a wedding is for the benefit of the pictures anyway. As a guiding rule: in order to withstand the bright lights and flash bulbs, makeup has to be exaggerated in real life to look natural on film. If it looks like too much in the mirror at home, then it's perfect. Now that's clear, here are some finer points:

All beautiful faces start with beautiful skin, so be sure to cleanse properly and moisturize prior to starting. Even if you don't normally wear foundation, consider using it for this since it creates an even, blank canvas. It is important to make sure that the foundation is a good match and be sure to blend down onto the neck.

Shine is the enemy of photography. Dewy skin is attractive in real life, but in photos it will look like an oil slick, so keep skin matte. Tarte Peaches & Cream foundation would work well here. Use translucent powder lightly over the foundation, paying special attention to more oily areas like the forehead. If your skin is especially oily, consider a mattifying primer like Benefit Dr. Feelgood under foundation. Take powder to the studio for touch ups.

Eye makeup should, at a minimum, include black eye liner and black mascara. Again, the idea is high contrast so even if you always wear brown mascara, it's time to pick up a tube of black. Maybelline Lash Stiletto would be a good choice since it is relatively cheap, adds crazy length and is black as sin.

For a more sophistication, photos are a good opportunity for sexy eye makeup using 2 or 3 different eye shadow shades. At a minimum, experts recommend defining the crease with a dark color; this adds definition and depth to the eyes, especially important for pictures. Unsure of where to begin? Try the Lucky editor two minute smoky eye for an idea.

Even if blush is not normally part of the routine, you must wear blush. Otherwise, you will absolutely look washed out and sickly in the photos. For my friend, we did both an application of matte bronzer to the temples, cheeks and jawline and a robust application of a rosy blush.

Lips will fade into oblivion if not defined (do you sense a theme here?). Use a matching lip liner and lipstick to really pump that pucker. The danger is in going too light rather than too dark. If the thought of wearing something other than a neutral lip terrifies you, try a light berry color, which tends to be pretty universally flattering. It would be OK to use gloss as well, but since most glosses are pretty sheer, layer it over a more saturated lipstick for best results. Take the chosen lip product for touch ups.

Once finished, the overall look should be more street walker than school girl. To check your work, take a few shots with a digital camera. A camera provides a much better way to assess the efficacy of your makeup than looking in the mirror. If needed, add more blush or more eye liner and take another picture.

One last point is that if the pictures being taken are black and white, then even more contrast is needed. And just in case you are wondering about my friend, I can only assure you that I saw the proofs and she looks amazing!


Total Beauty's Worst Concealers Ever

As part of the recent Lash Stiletto giveaway, several people expressed interest in recommendations for an excellent concealer. This is always a good topic for focused examination, although it doesn't come up much on The Beauty Couch because I pretty much tend to stick with MAC Select Moisturecover Concealer.

But, as requested, I am investigating a few new concealers and will be reporting on them shortly. In the meantime, check out what concealers to avoid according to the reviewing masses of Total Beauty. Although the list includes my beloved Moisturecover, I'd just like to point out that its current rating is 7.4/10 -- which I hardly think is a terrible.


Defining Disappointment: Revlon Beyond Natural Defining Eye Pencil

There aren't many negative reviews on my blog because it generally bums me out to write one. When there are so many fun and awesome products out there, it's just kind of hard to get excited to write about something less than stellar. But, in the interest in advising when to spend and when to save your pennies, I feel that I must report on the lackluster performance of Revlon Beyond Natural Defining Eye Pencils ($8).

The Revlon Beyond Natural Line is a collection of lip, face and eye makeup designed to enhance natural beauty while avoiding an overly made up look. Intrigued, I picked two of the Defining Eye Pencils on a 2-for-1 special at Ulta. They are short, thick pencils and my goal was to create a nicely defined and subtly smoky look for daytime. The colors I chose were both shades of brown: the chocolaty "Dark Brown" and the bronze-y, "Brown." "Dark Brown" is a perfectly respectable shade, but "Brown" really made my blue eyes pop. Initially my hopes were high for these guys as they were easy to apply -- the pigment gliding on without any irritating tugging on the delicate eye tissue.

The problem came later as the color slowly disintegrated off my face throughout the course of the day. It was more than half gone by lunchtime, and essentially none remained by 5pm. Ever hopeful, I tried layering the liner over Urban Decay Primer Potion for additional staying-power insurance. But it was no use, even UDPP could not keep this stuff on my face! So after a week of valiant efforts to make it work, the Beyond Natural pencils have fallen by the wayside in my makeup bag. This is especially disappointing because it's not like they are exactly cheap; $8 for drugstore eye liner is a bit much any way you slice it. Combined with the fact that this is a crappy product, well, there's just no excuse for that.

Granted, pencil eye liner has less staying-power than liquid liner. This is a given. But plenty of other pencil liners put this one to shame. As an alternative, I suggest the Sephora Brand Slim Eye Pencils ($5). They are cheap, come in a ridiculous number of shades (including seven browns!) and are much more durable while still being easy to apply. I have used these for years and they are great. They aren't found in a drugstore, but they are at a drugstore price and they easily beat the Revlon disappointments.


Product Lust: Pop Beauty Nail Glam

Pop Beauty is a U.K. brand known for eye-popping colors and a punchy attitude. You likely have seen their trademark Eye Cakes back when they were carried at Sephora (they aren't any more, sadly). But it only recently came to my attention that they make a whole line of killer nail polish known as Nail Glam ($14).

With over two dozen vibrant shades, Nail Glam is amazing! According to Michelle at All Lacquered Up, the formula is incredible to boot. Colors like Berry, Lilac, Mandarin and Sparkly are just about too bright to believe. Seriously, every single one of their colors is bright, saturated and beautiful. This is definitely no army of pale pinks.

The only problem (besides the fairly robust price) is that while it is still possible to find POP products in-store at Ulta, the nail polish is only sold online in the U.S. Even my beloved, while selling other POP products at waaaaay deep discount-- Hello, $7 Eye Cakes -- doesn't carry Glam Nails. So my soon-to-be rehab'd nails are going to have to wait patiently until I decide to fork over the shipping or until someone (anyone!) starts carrying these in stores. *fingers crossed*


A Beauty Couch Confession

OK, so here goes. . . My name is Kyl and I bite my nails. And sometimes my cuticles.

Grossed out? Yeah, me too. Nail/cuticle/finger biting is a really disgusting habit and embarrassing to admit. It used to be a bigger problem for me, but I managed to turn it around a few years ago.

However, recently I've had a major relapse. The real problem is that, like many nail-biters, I'm fairly anxious. So everything will be going along fine in the nail department, and then something stresses me in my life, and all bets are off. It's a total bummer.

The only thing that has ever helped me may be a bit counter-intuitive, but it works: I'm going to start getting regular manicures again. Due to efforts to save money, I dropped salon manicures months ago. An at-home mani works for a while, but eventually things deteriorate -- cuticles start to look scraggy, the nails are uneven and not nicely shaped. Or worse. At that point, thoughts enter my head like My nails already look horrific, so what's the harm in just biting off that stray. . . And off we go.

In her amazing book, Rescue Your Nails, Rescue Beauty Lounge founder Ji Baek details a twelve week Nail-Biters Anonymous Program. Critical elements of this program include regularly soaking hands and nails in warm oil (mmm...) and weekly manicures. I was encouraged that the program that helped me works for others. It may seem odd that when nails are looking their absolute worst is when they benefit from a good, quality manicure. At least for me, however, a fresh manicure with a shiny new coat of polish is a beautiful thing. Even if the nails are short and the skin around them is a little worse for the wear, the last thing I want to do is screw up the polish by biting. It's kind of a magic charm, if that makes any sense.

It is going to take time for my nails to grow back to a satisfying length and for numerous hangnails to heal. I'm not expecting a miracle after my first manicure back on the no-biting program, but this has been going on for too long and I just can't take it anymore. It's not going to be cheap, necessarily, but once things have stabilized I can hopefully move back to an at-home regimen without resorting to my vile ways. Wish me luck.

Anyone else struggle with occasional nail-biting? Any other tips and tricks you've discovered? Let us know in the comments!


Beauty News: High End Beauty Coming To . . . CVS?

You read that correctly. CVS, the nation's largest retail pharmacy launched an invasion of the high end beauty market with the opening of Beauty 360 stores in California and Washington, D.C. late last year. Beauty 360 stores are intended to provide access to specialty brands of skincare, cosmetics, men’s grooming and fragrance without having to go to the mall or a department store.

From the promotional materials:
The unique concept offers an upscale shopping destination for the multi-faceted, time-starved woman. Beauty 360 uses an experiential model of selling that is heavily focused on service and is conveniently located right in our customer’s neighborhood. Beauty 360 will feature a wide range of prestige and niche beauty brands ... Differentiating the stores from other beauty retailers, Beauty 360 will be staffed with trained and licensed professionals offering a unique suite of brand-specific signature services including mini-manicures, express facials, hand massages and make-up application.

While only two stores are up and running at this point, the company plans to open around fifty more in 2009, thirty of which will reportedly be on the West coast. Visit the website to preview some of the exciting in-house events as well as submit a request for a store near where you live.

As the pictures above seem to suggest, this is not going to be your ordinary drugstore beauty experience. The site in Mission Viejo, CA is described as "simple and elegant. Its ambiance is a blend of department store and spa. Halogen light throughout the store replicates the outdoors, leaving customers looking the same when they leave the store." And let's be frank, wouldn't it be nice to shop for luxury perfume and cosmetics while waiting for your prescription to be filled?

Even in this sluggish economy, women (and men) are still interested in high quality skincare and cosmetic products. In fact, with more women returning to the drugstore to cut back on costs, this might be an opportune moment for CVS to strike a major blow to specialty stores like Sephora or more traditional department stores like Macy's or Nordstrom's. Just think of how satisfying it would be to be able to be able to walk 10 feet to a selection of luxury brands when the regular drugstore offerings aren't cutting it.

All in all, I'll be excited to see Beauty 360. I'm keeping my eye on area CVS stores for new construction. So far I haven't seen any promising signs...but I'll keep my eye out.


SeSDERMA Natura Protective Lipstick

SeSDERMA laboratories is a specialty brand of skin care products produced in Spain. For the last 20 years, they have been in the business of creating innovative and effective products for a wide array of dermatological problems. Their claim to fame is being one of the first beauty companies to implement the use of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids in skin care products. Given that these gentle acids are fairly standard in many products these days, that is no small accomplishment.

At this moment, SeSDERMA's products are only available in a select few spas, beauty salons, ascetic clinics and dermatologists in the U.S. I recently had the chance to try SeSDERMA Natura Protective Lipstick with SPF 15 ($25). Without a doubt, this is probably the most luxurious lip balm I've ever tried. When applied, it has a very satisfying creamy feel. Due to its thick, intense moisturizing properties, I've had good luck using it prior to sleeping. That way, it hangs around to provide hydration to my parched lips all night long. The formula contains several soothing ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E that help with this. I also appreciate that it is not fragranced.

My only significant concern is not related to the product itself but rather the marketing; while it comes under SeSDERMA's Natura line of products, it isn't clear to me what differentiates Natura from the regular line. The packaging seems to suggest a more "natural" approach, but I couldn't find any documentation about that on their website. Additionally, the ingredient list includes some things that true natural/organic cosmetic purists might find objectionable -- namely, petrolatum is the first ingredient and ethylparaben is near the end. Granted, you have to make up your own mind on the issue of parabens and their questionable association with cancer. It doesn't bother me much, but I do know folks who are pretty anti. Others object to the use of petroleum products given its the association with the oil drilling industry.

Overall, I do really like this balm and find it to be very effective. If you don't mind the price, it is well worth your time -- especially if dry lips are a persistent problem. At the moment, the easiest way to try out SeSDERMA for yourself is via their website. There is free shipping to the continental U.S. which is always nice.

As a side note,
The Beauty Brains has a good discussion of the many problems with "natural" marketing with which I tend to agree.


Five Minute, Five Product F.O.T.D. featuring MAC Moon River

My intent with this F.O.T.D. is to really show off the Moon River Grand Duo I raved about yesterday. It is my firm opinion that if you are looking for the fastest way to every-day gorgeous, blush is the answer. Incidentally, Bobbi Brown agrees with me.

But, for some reason, blush is much maligned. I can only postulate that it is because abuses (like the horrifying 1980s stripe) easily come to mind. Eye makeup or lipstick can be just as easily misused, but people tend to be especially critical of blush. What did blush ever do you? Besides make you look healthy and more attractive than you would otherwise.

At any rate, I maintain that the only product you should wear every day (besides SPF, obvs) is blush. So here is my Five Minute, Five Product Face Of The Day. Notice how the blush works to not only beautify the cheeks, but really polishes up the entire face. The shimmer from Moon River is visible as well. Eyes and lips are relatively bare, but the look comes together and works.

In all fairness, I did go a little heavy on the blush because I'm trying to make a point here. While putting this together, I was reminded how easy it can be to create some glamour for yourself every day. Five minutes and five products are all you need.

Products used:
Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer in Shade 01
Bare Minerals All-Over Face Color in Warmth ($20)
MAC Moon River ($23)
L'Oreal Bare Naturale Gentle Lip Conditioner in Soft Petal
Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Natural Mascara ($18)


MAC Attack: Grand Duos

Although these have been out for a while, I haven't yet had the chance to write about the latest Mineralize Collection from MAC: Grand Duos ($23). If you recall, I fell in love with the Mineralize blushes of Sonic Chic last Summer and continue to wear them regularly. So I wasn't planning on investing in any of the Grand Duos; that is, until I saw them in the store.

As the name implies, each of the seven blushes in this collection has two different products baked into one. One half is a shimmery, marbleized tri-color mix and the other is a solid matte color. The two halves can be used together or separately depending on how you feel on any particular day. The collection contains shades of brown, rose, plum and pink to satisfy a wide range of blush preferences. The color is highly pigmented, easily blend-able and build-able. Plus, it sort of acts as a 2-in-1 product because the marble size adds a shimmery highlight without the need for a separate step.

From the promotional materials:
Soft shimmer, super-shine pearl in a pretty tri-colour veining to enhance and glorify cheekbones, followed with the pop and dimension of solid colour shimmer without an overly frosted look. A sophisticated but simple new way to get your vital minerals!

The collection includes:
  • Moon River Blue pink mélange / Pale yellow pink
  • Love Rock Gold violet mélange / Bright blue pink
  • Grand Duo Copper pink mélange / Plum
  • Light Over Dark Orange yellow mélange / Deep brown
  • Earth to Earth Purple bronze mélange / Yellow brown
  • Hot Planet Copper yellow mélange / Mid-tone plum
  • Intenso Pink gold mélange / Terracotta rose
I opted to try Moon River, a soft pink and blue-pink shimmer duo. Stupidly, I hoped that after trying it on, I would be convinced that it is similar enough to Dainty that I wouldn't need to buy it. Predictably, I was wrong and Moon River has made its way into regular rotation.

It is definitely the shimmer that makes this product for me. While the two sides can be used separately, I tend to just swirl them all together with one brush and then apply as usual. The result is a beautiful, flattering flush with a glamorous shimmer to really show off those cheekbones.

Overall, if you love mineral makeup and love other MAC Mineralize products, then Grand Duos is definitely for you. MAC blushes are not drugstore cheap, but they are very high quality and likely to last a long, long time. Stay tuned for an F.O.T.D. featuring Moon River...


The Problem With L'Oreal Lip Color

One of the only lipsticks I owned in my early 20s was a beautiful red from L'Oreal. I can't remember what it was called and it doesn't much matter anyway because somewhere along the way it disappeared.

Fast forward a few years and I became intrigued by the L'Oreal Colour Riche Made For Me Naturals ($7) collection of nude lip colors for women of different hair colors and complexions. Continuing my never-ending quest for the perfect nude lip, I happily threw Taffeta, a soft brownish-pink, in the shopping basket. When examining it later in my bathroom, I realized that the tube design had not changed at all since that red lippie I had years ago. In fact, I hadn't even thought of that red lipstick until the sight of the new one triggered that memory. I pondered, "What ever happened to that perfect red? It was a great color."

So I proceeded to open the Taffeta and try it on. And then it hit me: what a god-awful fragrance. An intense, flowery, overpowering scent unlike any other emanates from this lipstick. Even worse, after the lipstick is applied, the scent continues to linger and follow you around. Ugh. Once I smelled that fragrance, the memory of what happened to that fantastic red lippie came back in full force: I threw it away because of the smell. Apparently, during the intervening years, this unfortunate feature had been forgotten, but the olfactory memory was quite strong.

So, what's my point with all this? My point is that most other aspects of L'Oreal lip colors are great. The price is good, the quality is solid (not excellent, but perfectly good for a drugstore product), the color selection and availability is fantastic. But, the scent -- it has to go. Sadly, whenever I start examining L'Oreal lippies in the store, I remind myself of the scent and just walk away.


Beauty News: Budget Friendly Tips from a Pro

Since, like many, I'm always on the lookout for cheap but high quality makeup, an article in The New York Times today, "Beauty on a Budget: Advice from a Stylist," caught my eye. They take a trip to a drugstore with a professional makeup artist and have her select an entire makeup regimen for someone on a limited budget. In doing so, she lists all of her favorite products to check out, which is pretty cool.

I haven't tried any of the products mentioned except Neutrogena MoistureShine lip gloss. But I'm definitely going to investigate Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector on my next trip to the drugstore. According to this makeup artist, it "is practically an exact copy of the Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch Highlighter, which costs about $40." Wow.

Incidentally, a friend of mine once bought a Touche Éclat and within the hour accidentally threw it in a city trash can, without ever even using it. Double wow.


Would You By Tanning Spray From This Woman?

Sephora recently released its exclusive self-tanning spray developed by tabloid sweetheart Lindsay Lohan herself -- Sevin Nyne Tanning Mist ($25). Lindsay has had some serious spray tan mishaps in the past, so one could take the view that either (1) she's not the most trustworthy person to be developing a product like this or (2) she wants to correct past mistakes with one awesome spray tan. In my estimation, it could either be a total nightmare or pretty good.

My favorite part is that it is infused with extracts of Chardonnay. There's just something really comical about a well-documented alcoholic infusing her spray tan with wine, as if that was necessary.

At any rate, who knows, really? The relevant question is are you curious enough to try it out?


Product Review: St. Ives Exfoliating Body Polish

Boy, do I love a good scrubbing product. Recently I reviewed some lip scrubs, but I haven't yet reported on my new favorite scrub for the whole body: St. Ives Exfoliating Body Polish ($8). This stuff is so awesome, I could write a song about it!

What is fantastic about his product is that it performs both exfoliating and moisturizing functions perfectly. Some exfoliating polishes remove dead skin easily, but then moisturize by leaving a slippery film that can be offensive. This one does not leave any greasy feeling, but it does leave my skin very soft and, yes, polished. The exfoliation is provided by natural sugar crystals which are pleasingly effective. Another thing I like about it is that it lathers, so that's really satisfying. I've been using the Oatmeal & Shea Butter variety which smells delicious. It also comes in a few other varieties like as Mineral Therapy, Brighten & Glow and Collagen Elastin, none of which I've tried.

A word of caution, when first opening the jar, I was a bit shocked because the product is solid. Cold butter is the closest approximation that comes to mind. This is quite different from the slushy mix more typical of scrubs. The solid nature of it requires really digging the fingers in and breaking off pieces to rub on yourself. It is also a bit crumbly and some product is lost as it falls on the floor of the shower. But, once I figured out how much is needed to get a good scrubbing lather (not much, by the way), I was able to minimize this. At any rate, the solid texture is a bit confusing when first encountered, but just go with it because it's worth it. Incidentally, since a little goes a long way with this stuff, one $8 jar should last a good long time making it an economical and budget-friendly choice. It can be a little hard to find, for some strange reason. I eventually got my tub at Ulta (not available online, though) after looking in more than a few drugstores. It is available on and in case you don't have any luck in stores.

Since using this I have completely stopped moisturizing after showering. This is really an accomplishment and St. Ives Body Polish can take all the credit. Get some.


Beauty News: Science Attempts to Explain Why Women Love Makeup & Why Blush Works

I love when I come across a "science" article that confirms all my biases about makeup and beauty. Nothing like feeling that you have data for your irrational beliefs. Two studies recently caught my eye along this line.

The first is a report from Japanese cosmetics company Kanebo. In their "Cosmetics, Beauty and Brain Science Project," researchers examined brain regions that are activated when a woman contemplates her face with and without makeup. When observing without makeup, activity was detected in the caudate nucleus of the brain -- an area involved with emotion, learning and memory. The caudate is also rich in dopaminergic neurons which are often involved in brain reward pathways. The scientists in this study infer from this that when women contemplate their own faces sans makeup, they are anticipating the beauty enhancement from makeup application which then leads to a flood of pleasurable emotions and stimulation of the reward system. As one scientist describes it: "There is a mixture of expectation, encouragement and ambition. Make-up contributes to building relationships with others and feelings of pleasure in women."

I attempted to find a scientific paper detailing these findings but it does not seem that it has been published yet. It would be interesting to see the detailed methods of this research and as I hesitate to draw any firm conclusions. But, if the thought of makeup leads to dopamine release, then I guess I'm not far off when making statements like "Makeup is my drug of choice."

Next up is a soon-to-be-published study (Skin Blood Perfusion and Oxygenation Color Affect Perceived Human Health) from researchers in Scotland who recruited participants and showed them pictures of people of various ethnicity. Then the participants were asked to adjust the coloring of each picture, either adding more red tint (to simulate oxygenation) or blue tint (to simulate deoxygenation), after being told to make the person in the picture appear more "healthy."

Health, in evolutionary biology terms, is associated with increased desirability to potential mates. As discussed in the paper, women in particular benefit from the effects of slightly flushed skin because it is correlated with increased cardiovascular health and increased levels of sex hormones (both of which are desirable to potential mates). Unsurprisingly, participants in this study consistently gave the faces a slight increase in oxygenation to mimic this healthy flush.

Per the authors: "In the current study, we show that color associated with skin blood perfusion and oxygenation affects the healthy appearance of human faces. Attractiveness, thought to signal underlying health and strongly related to perceived health, is a major factor in human mate choice, particularly by men. It is likely, therefore, that the enhanced health appearance associated with increased skin blood color and oxygenation color has consequences for attractiveness and mate choice."

Thereby confirming that adding some blush to your face simulates the attractiveness of a healthy, glowing flush and can help attract that that guy (or gal) you've had your eye on. At least, in an evolutionary biology-primal sort of way. After that, it's up to you.


Spring Trend: Coral Lips

Spring is a time for the return of bright lip colors. Usually this comes in the form of punchy pinks, but an interesting twist spotted at Fashion Week this year was coral lips (as seen here from Cynthia Rowley). Before shuddering at the thought of Great Aunt Heloise's bright orange kisser ominously making its way towards your face, rest assured that the new corals are sheer, pretty and quite flattering. Plus, they look really good with a tan (from a bottle, of course).

While ladies fortunate enough to have creamy olive skin will look especially gorgeous in these shades, it is possible for other skin tones to pull it off as well. Fairer skins should lean toward coral with slightly more pink in them, while darker or tan skin is best with more reddish and orangy tones.

To complete the look, follow InStyle's advice by combining the coral lips with a golden eye shadow for an especially bold look. This can also be scaled back slightly by just adding a gold accent to the corners of the eyes, rather than covering the entire lid.
For those a little shy to try out the coral trend, stick with a sheer gloss like The Balm Balm Shelter Tinted Gloss ($19) in Girly Girl (coral shimmer) or Maybelline ShinyLicious Lip Gloss ($6) in Coral-Punch.

If your skin tone is darker or especially tan, try these more intense shades to rock the look: YSL Rouge Volupte ($34) in Orange Shiver (soft reddish orange) or Extreme Coral (bright coral red) and Boots No7 Stay Perfect Lipstick in Gay Geranium ($10) shown below.
Those with fairer complexions can try Cargo Botanical Lipstick ($20) in Evangeline (sheer vibrant coral cream) or Ageless (sheer tropical coral), or Cover Girl TruShine Lipstick in Coral Shine ($6) shown below.
A versatile kit that would look great on almost anyone is the mark Flip For It Spring Color Kit ($20) in Los Angeles. I'm a fan of these little compacts which contain not only the four lip colors shown below, but also two eyeshadows and a coordinating blush on the flip side.


The Beauty Couch Turns One!

The Beauty Couch celebrated its first anniversary at the beginning of March. I can't believe that I've been plugging away at this funny little project for a year already.

I thought that the only people who would ever be interested would be my own friends and family, but much to my surprise and delight, interest has grown way beyond that. All I can say is Thank You to everyone who stops by occasionally to see what is on my beauty radar. I am truly touched by the interest, comments and support.

Hopefully Year Two will be even better than Year One. A bunch of new and exciting things are waiting to be shared, but I haven't had time this week to get some posts cranked out. Soon, though, I promise. In the interim, in case you missed them the first time, here are a few of my most popular posts over the past year.

Product Review: Night of Olay Firming Cream
Vintage Makeup Looks
OPI Retro Fun in the Sun: Swatches!
How To... Maximize the Beauty Budget
Cream Blush Tips and Tricks
Wave Goodbye to Straight Hair


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