Overrated! Sally Hansen Extra Strength All-Over Body Wax

Sally Hansen is one of those stand-by drugstore brands that is reliably good quality for a reasonable price. I do take issue with the fact that I have never even once been able to find the Tracy Reese for Sally Hansen nail polishes in a store (oh Nasturtium, we would have been such good friends), but I've kind of resigned myself to that sad fact at this point.

Despite my general respect for the Sally brand, I feel obligated to report that my experience using the Sally Hansen Extra Strength All Over Smart Wax Hair Removal Kit ($10) was pretty disappointing and frustrating. And I'll tell you why.

First off, the reason I was even trying this is that my usual waxing go-to brand, Parissa, is unfortunately not available anywhere in my vicinity except via a 30 minute drive to Ulta. Typically, any reason to go to Ulta would be exciting for me, but things have been busy and I haven't been able to make the trip. Meanwhile, my legs keep getting more and more frightening. So it was in hairy desperation that I popped into a nearby drugstore and picked up Sally's kit. It looked to be a standard offering: microwavable wax, spatulas, cloth strips and soothing finishing oil (which for some reason, my brain always reads as "fishing oil"). The "extra strength" designation reportedly relates to its ability to eliminate hard-to-remove hair and the "smart wax" is referring to the fact that the wax is supposed to be able to discern ugly unwanted hair from nice skin. So there's that.

My biggest complaint is with the central ingredient, the wax. Obviously, wax is sticky and needs to be sticky in order to effectively remove the little hairs. However, this stuff was just absolutely beyond any sticky wax I've ever used. It was difficult to spread and cooled rapidly, requiring several more trips to the microwave than kits I've used in the past. The wax was additionally quite stringy and challenging to apply. Maybe this is the "extra strength" bit, but I don't know. The worst part, however, was the cleanup. It is a royal pain to clean this stuff up, both on yourself and on any unfortunate surfaces that it came in contact with in your bathroom. Even after rubbing the finishing oil on my newly waxed legs, there were still innumerable little bits of wax that have to be individually pulled off. I find this to be exceedingly annoying. It really made me appreciate Parissa's sugar-based waxing formula because it cleans up easily with only a bit of warm water. The Sally Extra-Strength wax laughs in the face of warm water.

In all fairness, this kit was quite effective at the stated purpose of removing hair. And maybe the ultra-sticky nature of it is required for hard-to-remove hair. Ok, I get that. But the clean up is ridiculous and, the worst insult of all, the instructions that come with the kit have exactly no information on how to clean this stuff up. No tips or suggestions on how to get rid of any lingering or spilled bits. I find this to be really inconsiderate of Sally Hansen. If the wax has to be extra sticky to be extra effective, then fine. But at least help me out by telling me how to clean it up. I guess the frustration of this mess is probably worth that 30 minute drive to Ulta after all. I won't make that mistake again. *Sigh*

Incidentally, my friend is a new convert to Moom so I may have to check that out -- even though it is expensive and seems even harder to find than Parissa. Strangely, she tells me that I'm the one who recommended Moom to her. If I did, I have zero memory of that. Weird.


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 5/29/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

The Informed Makeup Maven reviews Luminess' at home airbrush tanning system, Avon magix skin perfector; does summer Stila style and is giving away Diorshow Mascara and Maybelline Mineral Power Foundation!

Monique at Beauty Girl Musings shares her experience with the online shoe service, ShoeDazzle. Read about it here!

Boutique Flair reviews the Barielle 60 Second Mani-Pedi.

Meilily reviews Pacifica Avalon Juniper Perfume with exclusive product photos and shopping tips.

Beauty Junkies Unite goes to Kinara, gets a fab St. Tropez faux tan and gabs about it!

A Little More Beautiful has two great giveaways Urban Decay Primer Potion in Sin and Max Factor Lash Perfection Volume Couture Mascara ending on May 31st at Midnight and June 20th at Midnight! It's fast and easy to enter!

Beauty Anonymous brings you Visée summer 2009 makeup collection!

The Makeup Divas reviews Too Faced Locked Down Cream Eyeshadows plus the new summer lip bronzer in Pink Leopard.

Beauty Banter dishes on must-have tips for staying young in surf and sun!

Fabulous Over Forty attends a makeup class with Lancome artist Alex Sanchez.

eye4style is all lit up over Delirium & Co. Candles. Read her review here!

The Beauty Couch has thirteen tips for Simplifying Your Beauty Routine that will save time without sacrificing your look.

Lipgloss Break is running a giveaway for 5 White Sand Smudge Texture Cremes!

Addicted to Lipstick gives us swatches from the Mac Style Warrior Collection plus she tells us all about The New Mac Naked Honey Collection

Enter to win a Beautyticket.com $50 gift certificate at Face Candy.

Alison Blackman of the Advice Sistersattended the 2009 Fragrance Foundation FIFI Awardsr and created a celebrity photo albumfeaturing Paris Hilton, Marc Jacobs, Sean Combs, Queen Latifah, Ernest & Tova Borgnine, Lisa & Dustin Hoffman, Hilary Rhoda, and more!

Getting ready to hit the pool? Check out Beauty in Real Life's review on Redken's Color Extend Sun Collection.

image and style news shows us the top hairstyles trends for 2009

LA Pretty is giving away a Glowelle 7 day kit to two lucky readers. Glowelle is one of the hottest things in skin care, so don't miss your chance to try it out for yourself! Find out the details here!

Hot Beauty Health discusses her new love for eau fragrance Fresh Mangosteen and the top beauty health products for 2009.

Sweeten Up Your Visage with Elique Organic Skin Food.


Review: DuWop Prime Venom

The original Lip Venom ($16) by DuWop is a love it or hate it product. Some people swear that its blend of cinnamon, ginger and wintergreen essential oils works like gangbusters to get a plumped pout. Others find the stinging on application to be too much to handle. Personally, I'm in the latter crowd, which is why I had high hopes that Prime Venom ($20) would be more to my liking. Prime Venom is kind of like Lip Venom's kinder, gentler cousin. It is a priming lip balm infused with the regular Lip Venom mix along with moisturizing agents like macadamia nut oil.

I purchased Prime Venom about a year ago, used it a few times and then tossed it aside. At the time, I didn't think much of the plumping action and it just didn't seem to do much. However, a few weeks ago, I had another go at it. It isn't clear what changed between my first assessment and now, but suddenly I really like this stuff! This may be due to some a new process whereby I put it on first thing in the morning after brushing my teeth. Then, I get dressed and do the rest of my morning routine. About 10-15 minutes later, when I get around to putting on lipstick or gloss, I check out my lips to see if there is any noticeable change. And, in fact, there is! It's not like I suddenly look like Angelina or anything, but my thin lips definitely look plumper and more prominent (but not in a freaky or unnatural way). My past dissatisfaction may have been due to not giving it enough time to work. But, given some time, Prime Venom plumps quite well.

And with regard to the unpleasant tingling sensation, well, it definitely does have a tingle. It is no where near as powerful as Lip Venom straight up, but it is there, and probably unavoidable if one is entering the realm of lip plumping via use of mild irritants. As far as Prime Venom acting as a good general lip primer, filling in fine lines and providing a smooth base for lip color, I think it does a fair job at that as well. It does disappoint some in the moisturizing category and may actually be a little drying. But, two out of three isn't bad.

One last complaint is about the price, which is a bit ridiculous for the quantity you get in the little tube. But if one is yearning for that perfectly perky pout, then shelling out the cash might be worth it. Give Prime Venom a go if you are someone who is looking for a little plumping assistance and are willing to put up with some tingle to that end.


How To... Simplify Your Routine

Now that Memorial Day has passed, it's time get into the Summer swing of things. As the weather heats up and the calendar gets crowded, it might be time to simplify your beauty routine. So here are some tips and tricks to consider to that end...

1. Stop using toner. Although skin care sales people will try to convince you otherwise, most dermatologists agree that toner is absolutely not necessary. At most, it might remove any last traces of makeup -- but it is certainly not critical.

2. On the subject of cleansing, try using some foaming face wipes. These are quick and easy to use and do a good job of removing makeup and grease. Karen at Makeup & Beauty Blog had the amazing idea of keeping a pack by the TV so you can wash your face while watching a late-night movie. You'll never have an excuse to go to bed without washing your face again

3. Stop washing your hair so often. Granted, ladies with super greasy hair are a little bit stuck, but for dry, color-treated or otherwise damaged hair, shampooing functions to further dry out, wash out and burn out hair. If things are looking a little greasy at the roots, spray on some hair powder to make it last another day. Besides saving time, hair is also easier to style , the color will last longer and it will actually look better a few days without a wash.

4. Ask your stylist for a haircut that grows out well to delay the time between appointments. Any good stylist should know how to do this or, at least, talk with you about it.

5. Similarly, keep your hairstyle as natural as possible. Time spent fighting the natural texture of your hair is time wasted. If you have curly or wavy hair, stop trying to wrestle it into straightened perfection. Keep it curly/wavy and pull into a loose ponytail or a messy bun. If you have pin-straight hair, congratulate yourself and try one of those trendy hairline braids for some added style. A short hair cut can be great for summertime, but keep in mind that it does require more frequent trips to the stylist.

6. Further shorten shower time. This might be controversial, but my own dermatologist told me that it really isn't necessary to wash the entire body at every shower. He recommended using soap only on certain key areas and just skipping the rest. Since very few of us get farm-hand dirty or sweaty in our daily lives, less soap is probably in order. It will also keep your skin from drying out and will keep your (fake) tan around longer.

7. Try waxing. I'm a big fan of waxing/sugaring for hair removal. If you can tolerate growing your leg hair out so that it is long enough to wax (around 1/4 inch), a good wax will leave you hair-free for 4-6 weeks, thereby cutting shaving from the shower routine.

8. Use double duty products whenever possible. Pick up a tinted moisturizer with SPF. For color, try something like Benefit's Benetint or Posietint ($28) or Stila's Convertible Color ($25), which double as a cheek and lip stain. Or try a tinted lip balm like Alba Terra Tints ($4) or Kiehl's Tinted Balm.

9. Invest in a quality palette. I'm a big fan of makeup palettes in general, but when time is short, they can be a real time-saver. Look for a palette with colors for eyes, lips and cheeks so you literally have everything needed. Smashbox Beauty Guru Palette ($32), or Pop Beauty Goddess Clutch (shown above, $16) are good choices because the colors are great and the packaging is compact enough to carry.

10. Now is the most difficult, but most important part: get organized. Organization is crucial when it comes to time management of your beauty routine. First off, get rid of everything that you don't use regularly or is expired. Click here for a quick review of the shelf life of various makeup products.

11. Next, clear out some space to keep all of your makeup in one or two well-known places. If your makeup is haphazardly strew about your sink area, it's time to invest in some of those nifty plastic organizers. Or, even better, clean out a drawer and get it all out of sight. A streamlined process requires a streamlined toolkit.

12. Keep your everyday stuff in one place, easily accessible and organized. Put the special occasion makeup and the rarely-used makeup brushes off to the side, tucked in a drawer or zipped up in a spare makeup bag. Put the expensive mascara away and leave out only the one you always turn to.

13. Here is a hard one: replace items when needed, otherwise resist the urge to accumulate. If you can't see it becoming part of your every day look, then you probably don't need it. Enough said.

Hopefully, with a little tweaking here and there, you can free up some time to actually get outside and enjoy the Summer weather. If there are tips that you have found to be helpful for saving time, please leave a comment and share!


Another By Lauren Luke My Smokey Classics FOTD

At the risk of being redundant, I love my By Lauren Luke My Smokey Classics so much that I had to do another Face Of The Day (F.O.T.D) with it. Whenever I have a few days off work, it's always fun to go absolutely crazy with my makeup, not having to worry whether it is "work appropriate" or whatever. Today's look is probably not work appropriate and probably more suitable for an evening out. Although, if you are like me, pretend that you are a rock star for a day and wear this anywhere you please. Like Ikea.

I commented
in my last review on the intensity of Twilight Ash. Today's look is achieved using it and the Raven Black gel liner. Not to keep harping on how much I love this video, but I essentially followed Lucky editor Cat Marnell's smokey eye demo. Since My Smokey Classics doesn't include a bronzer, I subbed in the Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Sun Glow Powder Bronzer in Spring for a crease color. I also added a touch of Cashmere Creme at the inner eye for accent, which Cat doesn't do in her video. Then I finished it off with two coats of Maybelline Lash Stiletto. The rest of the look is the same, using the Peach Glow blush and the Plumberry lip color from the kit. By the way, I absolutely love love love this blush.

Ok, so enough talking, here is the complete look
featuring Twilight Ash from My Smokey Classics for a random Tuesday trip to Ikea. I have to say, I felt pretty damn glamorous rifling through the throw pillows.

A word of caution, this is not a look to try when you are in a hurry since there is high screw-up potential when using this dark of an eye shadow. Another tip: don't apply under eye concealer until you are finished with the eye makeup. That way, you can clean up any fall out around the eye without wiping away your perfectly applied concealer. Lastly, don't forget to clean off your dirty fingers before doing the rest of your face, or you will end up with black smudges on your cheeks.


Too Much Memorial Weekend Partying? The Eraser to the Rescue.

Tarte's Spring 2009 releases included several impressive new offerings including Spring Greening Reusable Straw Makeup Palette ($39), ReCreate Anti-Aging Foundation ($37), A Perfect Whirled Natural Swirl Cheek Stain ($21), Bottoms Up Lower Lash mascara ($16) and The Eraser 4-in-1 Natural Concealer ($19).

I've been using The Eraser for several weeks now and I'm happy to report that it is just as effective and versatile as it claims: Unlike other concealers that just cover the problem, the eraser contains skinvigorating ingredients that help treat and soothe irritated skin and blemishes. The eraser also doubles as an eyeshadow and lipstick base, creating a barrier that prevents against fading and creasing.
Like many, I have a chronic problem with dark under eye circles. They get worse when I haven't had enough sleep (not uncommon) or drank enough water the previous day. Although, after reading this helpful article on the causes of under eye circles, I should add persistent eye rubbing and visible blood vessels to my problem list as well. As such, I'm always looking for good under eye concealers and The Eraser is one of the best I've tried in a while. The Eraser comes in ten different shades covering a wide variety of skin colors. It is packaged in a click-stick with an applicator brush on the end, sort of like Stila lip glaze. I can't think of any other concealer that has this built-in brush, but it is ingenious. Dispensing the product requires only a few quick clicks and it is ready to go! The texture is creamy and dense and it covers under eye circles admirably. I usually just dab it on with the brush and then use my ring finger to gently blend. Voila!

And because a picture is worth 1,000 words, I've snapped a few to demonstrate The Eraser in action. I would recommend taking a trip to your local Sephora to check out what shade would work best for you. I tried both Fair (which was too light) and Bare (which worked perfectly).

Here is before:

And here is after The Eraser:

Obviously, there are still a few shadows under there, but this is kind of as good as it gets with me. Most of the cavernous blue is gone and the area is lighter and brighter. Note also that it doesn't collect in the fine lines around my eyes, but smooths over them easily. The lasting power of The Eraser is excellent and I haven't needed to touch up during the day at all. But, even if I did, the pen dispenser is very convenient to carry. I haven't tried it as an eyeshadow or lipstick primer, but I have used it to conceal blemishes where it works just as well. Overall, I'm quite pleased with The Eraser and recommend checking it out if you are searching for a new concealer.

Since we're on the subject of concealing under eye circles, here are a few tips that I've picked up and/or figured out. One is to be sure to moisturize the under eye area lightly before trying to conceal. It is much easier to work with hydrated skin, whether it be on your cheeks or under your eyes. Don't moisturize so much that the concealer won't "stick," however, just a dab will do. Secondly, I've also noticed that a silicone-based primer works really well for helping the concealer work its magic. Smashbox, Bare Escentuals and DHC make excellent primers for this purpose. Most of them can be used all over the face, but I tend to just use them under the eye. Again, it's not absolutely necessary, but it does help. Lastly, check out this awesome tutorial from Raquel 13 on expertly applying under eye concealer.


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 5/22/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

The Informed Makeup Maven shares highlights from the NYC Makeup show and talks mineral makeup with Obsessed Minerals founder, Michael Huwe. Don't forget to join IMM's facebook group!

Beauty Anonymous loves the fresh floral scents of Bond No.9 Astor Place Eau de Parfum.

Kyl at The Beauty Couch is seriously loving the new By Lauren Luke My Smokey Classics palette.

Get serious coverage that is no joke with these 2 fab concealers that Beauty Junkies Unite tried, even tattoos better duck and take cover!

Boutique Flair reviews the Kiss My Face Potent & Pure line.

A Little More Beautiful has 2 giveaways going on Urban Decay Primer Potion in Sin and Max Factor Lash Perfection Volume Couture ending in May and June.

Fabulous Over Forty has a mineral makeup giveaway. Contest ends soon!

The Makeup Divas reviews the new Prescriptives Exhilarating lipgloss in Guava and lipstick in Raspberry.

Neon Bible's new guy writer talks about how to get your guy to get a haircut that costs more than $9.00.

Lipgloss Break has a double giveaway - Enter to Win Wrinkle Arrest DermaScyne & healthDropz!

StyleBell reviews the latest Damp to Dry Flat Iron by HAI Elite, the HaiDraStik. Read if StyleBell gives it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Beautè Noire discovers how to get the smoothest, softest, glossiest legs ever!

Jamie, The Working Girl from Girl-Woman-Beauty-Brains-Blog, shares her after-work spa regimen.

Lipstickaddict makes a review on The Body Shop Productsfrom Spa Wisdom Line, Yes Yes Yes Tantalising Lip Butter and Body Focus Bust Firmer!

Alison at The Advice Sisters (follow her on Twitter - advicesisters) tempts you to try Treats for Summer by TARTE.

makeup loves me gives you the swatches you need to decide if MAC's new style warrior collection is right for you!

eye4style is glossy and fabulous, thanks to the Brazilian Blowout at Maria Bonita. Read about it here!

Hot Beauty Health show us how Shea Butter enhances women beauty.

Monique at Beauty Girl Musings reviews the Rx for Brown Skin Absolute Radiance Intensive Exfoliating Serum.

Beauty in Real Life is having a giveaway with Beautyfix, click here to enter to win one of 15 sets up for grabs!!

LA Pretty is giving away a Fruits & Passion pedicure set for a luxurious, at-home foot treatment. Click here for contest details.

Maria at Beauty is Within reviews Eye Majic Instant Eyes.

addicted to lipstick is having a Kiss My Face Giveaway for Oily and Acne Prone Skin be sure to enter to win!

Summer Fun Locks easy fun curls get the scoop!


Kinda Cool Contest

We've established that two of my favorite things in the world of consumer products are cosmetics and handbags. So when I got this contest announcement in my inbox today, my head just about exploded.

The Beauty & the Beach giveaway is a collaboration between cosmetics company tarte and handbag/fashion designer Hayden-Harnett to give away 2 gorgeous Summer totes stuffed with tarte goodies (including some items from the Summer '09 Collection).

The contest is open now through June 10th. Plus, after entering, you get a secret discount code to get 20% off all items at http://www.tartecosmetics.com. Nice.


Lemon Love: C.O. Bigelow Lemon Eau de Parfum

Oh, man. It's been a while since a new lemon-y product has entered my life -- too long in fact, since I love lemon scented body products almost more than anything. Thankfully, Bath & Body Works never lets me down when it comes to my longing for lemon. Already a fan of the C.O. Bigelow Lemon Collection, I high-tailed it to the store as soon as I heard about their latest offering: Lemon Eau de Parum ($35).

Essentially the fragrance of the body products in parfum form, this isn't the most original of scents to hit the bottle. But, then again, if you have a good thing going, why mess with it? This bright, crisp fragrance combines "effervescent citrus notes with green lemon leaves and sensual, creamy undertones of warm white musk." What I really like about the scent is that it is fresh and bright and crisp without being overly sweet. It is feminine but not cloying, young but not immature and beautiful but accessible. It kind of reminds me of a summer maxi-dress -- relaxed, comfy but not too revealing. Also, it has no trace of that frightul Pledge-scent to which some lemon products fall victim.

Anyway, can you tell that I like it? I can say with confidence that I've found my Summer scent. And because there are coordinating body products, it can easily be layered to extend the wear. Lastly, it is very reasonably priced for a parfum and should last all the way through Summer and beyond. If you order now online, you get a free Lemon Lip Cream to go with it. All you fellow lemon gals out there, this one is a keeper.


Review: By Lauren Luke My Smokey Classics (and F.O.T.D.)

My By Lauren Luke kits arrived today and I am seriously over the moon with them! I fully expected to be amazed, but they surpassed all of my expectations with the quality of the pigment and ease of application. I was so excited to share them with you that I started snapping photos right away -- starting with My Smokey Classics ($33).

First up, here are some swatches:
All of the colors swatched are in My Smokey Classics except Satin Taupe, which is by MAC. On initial impression, I was struck by how similar Antique Pewter looked to Satin Taupe, so I swatched them together to compare. They are similar, but not exact duplicates. Putting together a palette of "Smokey Classics," I think Luke made a good choice by including something similar to Satin Taupe, which is used by many makeup mavens to create sultry eyes.

Cashmere Cream is a matte, neutral cream eye shadow that doesn't show up so well on the swatch, but it makes a great highlight shade. Twilight Ash is probably one of the most intense eye shadows I've ever used. On my first go-round with it, I used waaaaaay too much and had to start over -- not because I overloaded my brush, but just because it is so incredibly pigmented and concentrated with beautiful silver flecks. It looks dazzling in the pan and doesn't disappoint in application. Raven Black is the kit's gel eye liner. Lastly, the two lip shades, Plumberry and Cranberry are beautiful pinks. With the intense eye shades in the kit, Luke was smart to balance it out with subtle lip colors. I was really impressed with the creaminess (not gooey or wet) of the lip colors. They also aren't high-shine, which I personally appreciate. The swatch photo doesn't include the two shades of eye primer (Nude Slip Dark and Nude Slip Light) and I just realized that I didn't swatch the blush, Peach Glow, but it's in there as well.

Although you can watch Luke's tutorial on application with this kit, I figured I'd show you my own F.O.T.D. Here is a close-up of the eye using Antique Pewter over the lid with Twilight Ash placed in a sideways "V" shape at the outer corner and then blended in. I then applied Raven Black to the upper and lower lash line and dusted some Antique Pewter along the lower lash line. There is just a touch of Cashmere Creme as a brow bone highlight and at the inner corner of the eye.

Here is the full Smokey Classics face including both Peach Glow blush (which is awesome) and Plumberry lip color (also awesome). I'm pretty pleased with this look and with how quickly it all came together. The nice thing about a palette is that you don't have to think too hard to get an incredible result.

Besides the gorgeous colors, I think the inclusion of the shadow primers and the gel liner is what really sets this kit apart from others like it. You can tell that Luke has had plenty of frustrations with incomplete kits and set out to design something that would provide everything needed for a complete look. Truly, the only thing missing is mascara. The only downsides I can point to are that the palette itself is on the larger side, making it somewhat awkward to carry around and the mirror that comes with it has some slight fun-house distortion. But, otherwise, I am a big fan of My Smokey Classics and I can't wait to start experimenting with it some more. Seriously, if you always wanted to try a smokey eye but are intimated, get this kit now. You won't be sorry.


Sunscreen & You

Now that we have the Vitamin D question addressed, there is still a burning question in my mind (get it, burning, like the sun -- never mind, I'm embarrassing myself) about how much sunscreen is enough. If you remember, a key part of Dr. Gilchrest's argument was that we all still get sun exposure even if we wear sunscreen because "studies have shown that sunscreen users customarily apply half or less of the FDA-stipulated amount of product required to generate the stated level of protection (2mg/cm2) and hence achieve far less protection."

An oft-cited rule of thumb is that an entire body application requires 1 oz or a shot glass worth of sunscreen. It doesn't say how much should be on the face in particular, though. This month, InStyle magazine has a two page article showing different-sized blobs of various substances used on the face and body (foundation vs. concealer vs. body moisturizer, etc). They unfortunately don't have this cool thing on their website, but what it shows is that a face-only application of sunscreen requires a blob about 1 inch in diameter (about the size of a dollar coin). I'm not sure where they get their information, but there you go.

Still hungry for more info? Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the NY Times have tips for proper application of sunscreen. Even if you are a sunscreen expert already (take this Total Beauty quiz to find out), it's not a bad idea to check out those links because you might learn something. For example, I learned that when using a separate moisturizer and sunscreen, the moisturizer should go on first, then sunscreen, then makeup. I had assumed that the sunscreen should go on first in order to absorb into the skin and provide protection, but I guess not!

The NY Times also recently ran an article about SPF confusion that explores the explosion of upper double digit sunscreens at the drugstore. SPF 100+? What does that even mean? As usual, the meaning behind those high SPFs is partly based on science and mostly based on marketing. If you are ready to get on the sunscreen bandwagon, try this Total Beauty quiz to get suggestions on Your Ideal Sunscreen Match.

Cartoon courtesy of Natalie Dee.


Excuse Me While I Apply My Custom Gloss

Wow. Ever had your favorite shade of lip gloss that discontinued? Or lost one and couldn't find a replacement? Ever thought to yourself if only I could find a lip gloss the color of this shirt, scarf, coffee cup, etc?

Today I had the opportunity to custom blend a lip gloss to my unique specifications and, let me tell you, it was incredibly fun. A friend and I visited one of the Gene Juarez Salons. They were having an event that included some beauty treatments plus the chance to do this whole gloss thing. Naturally, the gloss part was my absolute favorite.

Basically, we sat down with a makeup artist and she quizzed us on colors we usually wear and what kind of gloss we'd like to have. Then, she took the base formulation (a moisturizing, clear balm) and started adding stuff to it -- it was like chemistry, only fun! There were bottles and bottles of pigments to mix and match. To add depth and texture, you could add a subtle glow, a more pearlescent sheen, a high-shine gloss or a more glittery powder to your unique shade. Then, she would mix it up and give you a bit to sample. At which point you could, say, increase the color intensity, or add a bit more pink, or add some more shine. Whatever you wanted. So cool.

When we were done tweaking the formula, she added SPF and offered us a scent of our choice (I went with creme brulee -- yum). Finally, it was all transferred into a gloss tube for easy use and we were given the excess to take home for refills (shown above). Our unique blends will be kept on file so if I ever run out and want the same exact thing again, they can mix it up no problem.

I'm thrilled with the way my colors turned out. As you can see above, one is a more sheer peach-y nude and the other is a sparkly, berry shade. Both look fantastic. The price wasn't even that ridiculous, $30 for both colors, which is a pretty standard price for any old mass-produced gloss. And this one is just for me!

Unfortunately, if you don't live in Seattle, you might not have access to this kind of exciting gloss technology. It's my understanding that Three Custom Color Specialists provide a similar service, but I've never used them so I don't know how their price/quality compares. Anyway, if the idea of this excites you as much as it does me, mention it to your local salon to see if they can bring the custom makeup fun to your town.


Review: Rimmel Kiss & Stay

Some readers have expressed an interest in long-wearing lip colors and how they hold up throughout the course of the day. Certainly, there is no shortage of supposedly long-wearing products on the market, both at budget and extravagant price points. One of the latest additions to the club is Rimmel's Lasting Finish Kiss & Stay Lipgloss ($8). At an economical price of less than $10 and widely available at drugstores, this seemed like a good product to check out.

While Rimmel bills this as a lip gloss, my impression is that it is more of a stain+gloss combo. One half of the tube is the lip color/stain and the other end of a high-gloss topper with a pearly sheen. Similar to other long-wearing products, the color is applied first and left to dry. This waiting allows the color to really sink in and bond with the lips, thereby giving you that long-lasting wear that you are hoping for.

In the interest of rocking out the Spring Coral Trend, I chose the shade "Hot Flash" which is a vivid coral paired with a shimmery, opalescent gloss. My experience with the long-wearing nature was hit and miss. Rimmel claims that one can expect Kiss & Stay to last for 10 hours and, honestly, I think that's preposterous. There might be remnants of the color left after 10 hours, but it is kind of unreasonable to expect it to be in perfect shape after that amount of time. With regular use, this stuff holds up pretty well from morning till about lunch. It lasted through my morning coffee and meetings looking pretty good. It wasn't necessarily fresh and flawless, but it was acceptable.

After lunch, things start to get dicey. One thing I don't like about Kiss & Stay is that, as time passes and it dries, it tends to flake a bit around the edges of the lips. It becomes sort of textured and gross. I would be perfectly content to reapply the base color stain after lunch; but the flaking nature of the morning's application got in the way of a simple re-app.

The other thing I don't particularly like about Kiss & Stay is the gloss part. At least for Hot Flash, the gloss is very, very glossy. Very high-shine. If that's your thing, hey, great. But I'm most inclined to use a long-wearing lip color during the work week when I'm busy and want to look polished without frequent touch ups. The intensity of the gloss is slightly too much for a work environment, in my opinion. So, I kept using the color, but replaced the gloss with a clear lip balm which worked just fine. To demonstrate, here is Hot Flash with just the color:

Here it is with the gloss over top:

You might also notice that the application here is far from perfect. Another problem with Kiss & Stay is that perfect application of the color stain is almost impossible with the doe-foot wand. Combined with the relatively thin consistency of the color, it makes for a tough time not having it leak out over the lip line. So, I'd advise you not to try to put this on when you are in a hurry.

Overall, while I'll continue to use Kiss & Stay because I really like the color of Hot Flash, I'm not sure that I would recommend it to others with all of the trouble it gave me. That being said, it is more long-lasting than a standard lipstick or gloss and it does pretty well for about 4-5 hours.


Tarte Summer '09 Collection

One of my favorite brands, tarte, has some new products on offer for Summer '09. Looking at these promo pics, I'm pretty psyched to check them out!

Although I should know better, I am nonetheless intrigued by celluFIGHT ($40) -- a combination anti-cellulite cream/self-tanner. The idea is sort of ingenious given that both type of products are typically applied to the same areas. This product features tarte's skinTIGHT complex: a proprietary anti-cellulite mix, containing caffeine and algae extract, that reportedly firms and tones skin while improving elasticity. Importantly, in the world of self-tanners, it is fragranced with a combination of essential oils to achieve a natural green tea scent. Given that self-tanners usually have a disgusting smell, I think green tea would be a fantastic change.

The most skepticism goes to multiplEYE ($65) -- a natural lash enhancer. If you are desperate for thicker lashes but can't afford the prescription treatment, multiplEYE might be just the ticket. It contains a mixture of soy and amino acid proteins that form a "super-protein" base to fortify and nourish lashes. Although it is not intended to "treat, prevent, cure, relieve, resolve, stop or reduce hair loss or to promote the growth of hair," the overwhelming majority of test subjects reported an increase in lash thickness. It is applied once a day to the lash line, similar to eye liner, although they don't say how long it takes to start to see results. It seems promising that the initial reviews on sephora.com are very positive.

Probably my favorite of the group is eyeQuatic ($35) -- a set of waterproof summer essentials. For the fairly reasonable price, you get a full-size headscarf, three mermaid-inspired lock & roll shadow duos, and a deluxe sized lights, camera, splashes! waterproof mascara. The three eye shadows are new, intensely beautiful shades of turquoise, citrine, tanzanite. Tie on that headscarf and kiss those winter blues good-bye for good!

In addition to these new products, tarte has also welcomed Summer by adding colors to several of their signature product lines (natural cheek stain, emphasEYES, and rise&shine lip stain).

Any and all of the above are available now at: tarte.com, Sephora stores, sephora.com, beauty.com, Henri Bendel, and boutiques nationwide.


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 5/15/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

The Informed Makeup Maven talks new products to try this month, reviews Benefit's Dr Feelgood, Clinique's High Impact Curling Mascara, The Bodyshop's Eye, Lip and Cheek Palette, invites you to join the Informed Makeup Maven Facebook group to share and socialise all things beauty, and hosts the Makeup Confessions giveaway (2 double packs of Softlips Raspberry and Strawberry lip balm).

Meredith at Daily Dose of Coffee is looking for ways to economize. Check out her tips for getting a salon-quality hair glossing treatment at home.

Beauty Anonymous reviews Shiseido's Tiss Deep Off Oil.

This week, The Beauty Couch asks (and answers!) the question: Can wearing sunscreen lead to Vitamin D deficiency?

Check in with Amber at Beauty Junkies Unite as she completes her first month on NutriSystem and is giving away an entire month of the NutriSystem plan and food to one very lucky reader!

Lipgloss Break has partnered with UMI hair products to giveaway UMI S Liquid & UMI d Fuse! Enter up to once a day!

Brittny Gatineau dishes on her favorite beauty products exclusively to Beauty Banter!

Before time runs out, enter Girl-Woman-Beauty-Brains-Blog's Watch Giveaway for a chance to win a man's stainless steel $290 watch or a woman's $190 watch.

Meilily is giving away Spring Bridal Makeup from Benefit Cosmetics!

Beautè Noire and Whole Foods are giving away a Mineral Fusion Cosmetics Spring Blossom Color Kit worth $90!

Find out what Smashbox product The Makeup Divas uses to achieve a perfect smoldering smoky eye.

On a budget? Monique at Beauty Girl Musings shares 10 beauty items for under $10 each-- take that recession!

Addicted to Lipstick tells all about the new Urban Decay Primer Potion wand.

Boutique Flair is giving away $225 worth of Sustainable Youth swag! Enter by 05/24/09.

LA Pretty is giving away an item from Givenchy's Summer 2009 makeup collection to one lucky reader! Find out all the details here.

Cybelesays.com has discovered the perfect makeup primer for the summer heat. Click here to read more.

The Shades Of U is giving away a bottle of Lancome Magnifique Eau de Toilette. Enter to win!

A Little More Beautiful is giving away 1 Urban Decay Primer Potion in Sin so head on over and enter to win!

Alison of the Advice Sisters reviewed a unique, "Green" product POCKETFLOPS with Obama's photo, and other great designs. Check them out--just in time for warmer weather!

Don't forget to enter the neuLash/Anastasia Giveaway over at Beauty in Real Life!!

Glossypink tells you how to get Jessica Biel's latest red carpet look!

The Beauty Alchemist wants to give you A Lancome Magnifique Fragrance

eye4style paid a visit to the new Memoire Liquide counter at Bloomingdale's!

Two lucky winners will get clear and beautiful skin- the natural way! Visit Miss Whoever You Are for the Kiss My Face Giveaway!!

This week, Spoiled Pretty is partnering with Ojon for a giveaway. Three lucky winners will receive Tawaka Ancient Tribal Rejuvenating Cleanser and Conditioner (a $64 value)! This unique duo cleanses and conditions hair, leaving it soft, silky and manageable.


By Lauren Luke -- Youtube Sensation's Own Makeup Line Now Available

Youtube sensation Lauren Luke has released her own line of makeup palettes and, seriously here folks, they look amazing.

For the unfamiliar, two years ago Luke was a hard-working taxi dispatcher in a small town outside of Newcastle, England. As a single mom trying to make ends meet for herself and her school-age boy, she started selling cosmetics on ebay. In her listings, she would promote the products she was selling by posting photos demonstrating their use. Her makeup skills were so impressive that people began contacting her requesting tutorials on how to achieve her unique and beautiful looks.

To answer these requests, Luke began doing makeup tutorials and posted them on Youtube. With a sweet demeanor and charming Geordie accent, Luke became a sensation and her videos, under the screen name Panacea 81, have been viewed 34 million times by fans all over the world. She is the go-to source for all sorts of how-tos, but especially on achieving celebrity-inspired makeup. She has demonstrated looks for everyone from Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse to the Sexy and the City gals.

To say that she has some experience with makeup is an understatement. So, it's with great excitement that she has released her first line of makeup palettes to legions of waiting fans. Her collection By Lauren Luke contains five full-face palettes hand-picked by Lauren. And, of course, each palette has an accompanying tutorial so there will no confusion on what to do.

What is amazing about these palettes is each one contains everything needed to create a beautiful face: eyeshadow primer in two shades, three eye shadows, two lipsticks, blush and black eyeliner. All that for just $32.50! Plus, the palettes are well edited and the colors look to be just gorgeous. Of the five available, I am seriously loving My Smokey Classics
and My Vintage Glams. But the other gorgeous kits, My Luscious Greens, My Fierce Violets and My Sultry Blues, are nothing to sneeze at.

One can't help but fall in love with the adorable Lauren Luke (doesn't that sound just like a comic book heroine name?). Although, like many beauty junkies, I admit to having a healthy amount of envy for the opportunity she has had to really make her mark on the cosmetic industry, also like her millions of fans and admirers, I wish this industrious woman only the best. Can't wait to try them out!


The Beauty Couch Softlips PURE Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered The Beauty Couch Softlips PURE Giveaway. I really enjoyed reading the responses and appreciate your thoughtful suggestions. Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways to come!

Congratulations to winners Linda, Sandhya, MJF and krasch who will each receive a tube of Softlips PURE Lip Conditioner to enjoy!


Avon Gets A Make Over

Anyone who has had cause to peruse the Avon website recently may have noticed something interesting. The beauty giant has re-vamped their makeup line and given it quite a makeover with new colors, new packaging, and improved formulas. Take a look at the True Color Eyeshadow Quad ($6).
Does it remind you of anyone? Someone like the Chanel Les 4 Ombres De Chanel ($56)?
Pretty striking, no? But it doesn't end there. They also reformulated the Ultra Color Rich Lipstick ($7) giving it a creamier formula and new palette of gorgeous, wearable shades and adding an Extra Plump option. There are also new editions of powder, foundation and nail products looking just as chic and appealing.
Although I haven't always been impressed with Avon products, I think I'd be willing to give it another go with the look of these new beauties. The packaging certainly looks good, but we can only hope that the formulas are as rich and beautiful as Chanel, which they seem to be not-so-subtly suggesting. From now through May 21, get free shipping on any order ($20 minimum) when you enter code SPRING920 at checkout


Could Your Sunscreen Be Causing Vitamin Deficiency?

Continuing on Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the topic of Vitamin D deficiency has become a hot topic around my house as both myself and my husband are, in fact, Vitamin D deficient. In the words of one of my colleagues:"Yeah, so what else is new? We all are" -- the "we" in this sentence being white-people-who-live-in-the-Pacific-Northwest.

So what's the connection with the sun, you might ask? Vitamin D is a pretty neat vitamin mostly because humans photosynthesize it via sunlight. Isn't that just the coolest thing? Briefly, it goes something like this: sunlight (UVB, specifically) hits the cell membranes of skin cells containing a particular lipid (7-dehydrocholesterol). With the help of the sunlight, this lipid is transformed into pre-Vitamin D (cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3). Pre-Vitamin D then makes it way into the blood stream, making pits stops in the liver and kidneys to be hydroxylated, and becoming active Vitamin D which then goes on to modulate genes and other fancy stuff in the rest of the body. Without sunlight, this whole process cannot happen.

After learning about my low Vitamin D level, I couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with sunscreen. Presumably, if sunscreen is blocking both UVA and UVB rays that cause cancer and photo-aging, then wouldn't it make sense that it is also blocking the body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D? Thus began my tour of the scientific literature to find an answer. Stupidly, I didn't check the Skin Cancer Foundation's helpful website first because they have a very thoughtful and well-spelled out discussion. It turns out that sunscreen does block the production of vitamin D, but not completely. In this excellent article by Dr. Gilchrest from Boston University School of Medicine, she reviews the (fairly limited) research on sun exposure and Vitamin D. Here is what she concludes with regard to sunscreen usage:

"Although some have claimed that sunscreens block all UV and hence all Vitamin D photosynthesis, this is not the case. By definition, sunscreens allow continuous transmission of a fraction of erythemogenically weighted incident UV photons equal to 1/SPF or the total (eg. 1/15th or 7% for an SPF 15 product). Moreover, studies have shown that sunscreen users customarily apply half or less of the FDA-stipulated amount of product required to generate the stated level of protection (2mg/cm2) and hence achieve far less protection. If persons require 2-8 minutes of unprotected summer sun exposure to optimize cutaneous vitamin D synthesis, they could accomplish this in 10-20 minutes of exposure after apply an SPF 15-30 sunscreen in the customary manner. Most critically, regardless of one's complexion or extent of UV exposure, daily oral vitamin D supplementation can completely compensate for lack of cutaneous vitamin D photosynthesis [emphasis added]."

So what to make of all this? Yes, Vitamin D comes from the sun (hence the adorable moniker "the sunshine vitamin"). Yes, if you wear sunscreen, it does block the production of Vitamin D. Also, if you limit your sun exposure, or happen to live in a Northern latitude, or have a dark skin tone, you are even less likely to have opportunities to make Vitamin D. But the good news is that Vitamin D from a supplement is equally effective and unlikely to cause the lasting damage that we know the sun can.

The question of how much Vitamin D a person needs to take is not entirely settled, but U.S. public health authorities recommend a minimum of 200 IU (5 micrograms) daily for healthy adults. However, in light of increasing evidence suggesting benefit from higher doses of Vitamin D supplementation, some authorities recommend doses closer to 800 IU daily. And, just in case you were wondering how much is too much, the Institute of Medicine has defined the "tolerable upper intake level" for vitamin D as 2000 IU daily. Food sources for Vitamin D are unfortunately fairly limited, with oily fish like salmon or tuna being your best bet.

So before you decide to throw away the sunblock and run out there to catch some rays in the name of Vitamin D, it makes sense to weight the risks and benefits of getting vitamin D from the sun vs. the other things that you can get from the sun like cancer, wrinkles, sun spots, discoloration, sagging and more wrinkles. Especially because you can get vitamin D from a supplement and there is no supplement to take away wrinkles or cancer, despite what some cosmetics companies would like you to believe.

Cartoon courtesy of Natalie Dee.


Review: Philosophy The Microdelivery Peel

In my fairly devoted watching of QVC, it is hard to miss the frequent presentations from skin care giant Philosophy. This has made me more aware of the Philosophy products I use, my favorite being as The Microdelivery Peel (also affectionately referred to as "The Great One"). I've been using this off and on for several years, primarily at times when my skin needs refreshing.

The Microdelivery Peel ($65) is an at-home version of the popular microdermabrasion treatment available at medical spas. The spa treatment requires several visits and comes at a fairly hefty price. But those smart cookies at Philosophy knew that there would be a market for a DIY version requiring less investment of time and money.

Hence, they created The Microdelivery Peel. This two-step process works on the skin to provide a dizzying amount of benefits. In the first step, Vitamin C/Peptide Resurfacing Crystals are applied and gently massaged on the skin of the face. This functions to deeply exfoliate and buff away dead, dry, dull-looking skin cells. The crystals are then left on the skin for a few minutes to give the vitamin C and peptides a chance to penetrate into the tissue, brightening and stimulating collagen production.

After a few moments, the Lactic/Salicylic Acid Activating Gel is applied over the crystals and the entire mixture becomes warm and starts to foam a bit. This is left on for one additional minute and then rinsed away. The acids in the activating gel work together to help deep clean pores and unveil the healthy, smooth skin underneath. The mixture also provides some gentle moisturization to add back what the cleansing/exfoliating agents took away.

What is amazing about this product (and has folks coming back for more) is that there truly is immediate obvious results. When I use it my skin is unbelievably smooth, refreshed and restored. Typically I use it before bed and follow with application of moisturizer, but maybe I should try it sometime in the morning so that I can sport my glowing new skin cells all during the day. There's an idea. Another nice thing about it is that it really doesn't take much product to get excellent results. A blob of each product about the size of a quarter is easily enough for the whole face. So even while "The Great One" is expensive, you can expect to get a lot of use from one set. Plus, citrus fanatics like myself love the fresh scent of the vitamin C crystals.

The product does have a few downsides. One is that overly-vigorous application can cause some irritation and make skin look reddened and angry rather than clean and refreshed. I've found that it's best to go with very gentle mechanical exfoliation (scrubbing) and let the chemicals do most of the work. As mentioned above, although its price pales in comparison to spa microdermabrasion, it's still pricey. But otherwise, there aren't a lot of complaints.

Philosophy makes some excellent products and this one is definitely considered among the best, for good reason. If you find that your skin is looking dull and sallow, I highly recommend this concentrated mix of vitamins, peptides and gentle acids for an instant pick-me-up.


Max Factor Vivid Impact Lip Color Quiz

The new Max Factor Vivid Impact lipsticks ($9) have made quite a splash in the beauty world. They are rich with pigment similar to the best high end brands and are moderately priced to boot. Plus, who wouldn't love adorable names like Pin-Up Pink and Ms. Terious?

So you'd love to try them out but you are unsure as to which shade would suit you best? Take the Total Beauty Ideal Glam Lip Color Quiz to find out which high impact shade should be on your lips!

For the record, I am Ms. Understood -- like that's a surprise.


Weekly Total Beauty Web Tour 5/8/09

Total Beauty Web Tour

The Informed Makeup Maven raves about Stila's #5 brush, Covergirl Smoothers Pressed Powder and Bobbi Brown's Custom Palettes.

Visit The Beauty Couch to enter the Softlips PURE Giveaway for a chance to win one of four Softlips PURE organic lip balms. Contest expires May 12th at 12am EST.

Beauty Anonymous takes a look at Lavshuca's new Lip Gloss.

Beauty Strokes was so pleased with the success of the previous giveaway of its brush collection at More Than a Pretty Face that it's provided a complete set of its Mineral Optics brushes for a new giveaway! Mineral Optics brushes are great for applying loose mineral powders. The prize consists of six brushes, including three optic brushes with natural and synthetic bristles, and a nylon brush roll. Enter now!

Meilily reviews and swatches Gabriel Cosmetics Lipstick with 100% natural ingredients.

Monique at Beauty Girl Musings is giving away 15 (yes, fifteen) Beautyfix 2 kits! Click here to enter!

Hurry on over to The Makeup Divas blog and enter to win Barielle Sugar Rush Nail Polish Collection.

Fabulous Over Forty talks with dermatologist Dr. Doris Day about what we really need for skincare.

Check out Beauty in Real Life for a fabulous neuLash and Anastasia giveaway!

Head on Over to A Little More Beautiful to check out the Great Skin for Spring/Summer series as well as Tips to Prevent and reduce the signs of aging!

Girl-Woman-Beauty-Brains-Blog has the answers to your Mother's Day Gift dilemma.

Beauty Banter is doing a brow kit GIVEAWAY! Enter to win!!!

Boutique Flair reviews the Sunsilk Captivating Curls line.

Alex McCord, Luanne Delesseps, Ramona Singer and Jill Zarin from the Real Housewives of NYC, Mario Cantone, Simon Doonan, and Allure's Linda Wells are all in the Advice Sisters Post of the Cosmetics Executive Women (CEW) Awards with links to all the winning products.

eye4style is giving away a gorgeous pair of Current Elliott Boyfriend Jeans. Enter now to win!

Daily Dose of Coffee is giving away five copies of the tip-filled anti-aging book How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp. Enter now for your chance to win!

Beautè Noire Blog gives Halle Berry’s new haircut two thumbs up!

Image and style news dishes on all the 2009 summer makeup collection

Addicted to Lipstick Shows us swatches from the Mac A Rose Romance Collection.

Beauty Junkies Unite shares supermodel Alek Wek's look by Lancome from the Met Ball!

Beauty411 shares the details on the new Guerlain Terracotta Mineral Collection for summer bronze beauty!

LA Pretty is giving away a pair of lucy activewear short shorts. Pants are so 2008!

Beauty Blogging Junkie scored an exclusive interview with Star Trek Makeup Department Head Mindy Hall. Click hereto read it!

Spoiled Pretty is partnering with Bath & Body Works for a giveaway - to protect you from Swine Flu. Three winners will receive Anti-Bacterial Gentle Foaming Soap, Foaming Sanitizer, and PocketBac Deep Cleansing Hand Gel.

Butterflydiary is giving away a bottle of Lancome's Genifique and Charla Krupp's book "How Not to Look Old" to one incredibly lucky winner.

Hot Beauty Health is sharing the best beauty products from Self Magazine's Healthy Beauty Awards.

Makeup Loves Me gives you a preview of the hot summer makeup by MAX factor.


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