Friday, May 29, 2009

Product Review
SK-II Air Touch Foundation

Finding the perfect foundation is the bane of my existence. For years, I have perpetuated a myth that I have perfect skin, which is sometimes a hefty illusion to keep up with. I couldn't list all of the brands and formulas I've tried. I rarely buy the same foundation twice- it seems that if I find a color I like, the coverage isn't right. If I like the coverage, the color is off or it won't work with my skin type. After almost 20 years of trying, I still haven't found "the one".

When I heard about SK-II Air Touch Foundation, I couldn't wait to try it. Hailed as a beauty breakthrough, Air Touch Foundation is a battery operated personal airbrush that sprays a fine mist of foundation on the skin. The company uses ion technology; according to SK-II, the positively charged foundation particles are only attracted to negatively charged areas like our skin. This ionization technology theoretically keeps the foundation from looking uneven or cakey, since the positively charged foundation can not stick to itself. This is also why you can spray the makeup on without it clinging to your hair and clothes.

Since SK-II is not widely available, I had to order the product from a Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills ( how la-dee-da!) I chose the lightest shade available and crossed my fingers. When the box arrived about a week later, I could hardly wait to break into it- I opened it in my living room, read the package insert and ran to the bathroom basically holding my breath.

Applying the foundation was the simplest thing I've ever done. Holding the nozzle on the airbrush about 4 inches away from my face, I misted on the makeup using the recommended wide, sweeping motions. The only evidence that I was actually applying something to my skin was the smell coming from the compact that I can only describe as electric static. The mist felt so light going on that I actually had to spray my hand to make sure it was coming out. The entire process took less than a minute and left my hands, clothes and counter top clean and makeup free.

I enjoyed using this product, and I really wanted it to be my holy grail...BUT (and you had to know there would be one) since Air Touch has a very limited shade range, I wasn't able to find a color that was a true match. I also felt that the coverage (beautiful when applied lightly) got very opaque and masky looking when I layered it for fuller coverage. Even in soft indoor lighting, you could tell that I had makeup on. The third strike? The cost: $165 This buys you the airbrush and one packet of foundation. Once you have the airbrush compact, you purchase proprietary refills ($90 for 2 packets) which are much more comparable in price to other high-end brands.

I have no problem shelling out big bucks for something that is truly going to benefit my skin (or the look of it, at least). Though the airbrush was neat to use and the foundation generally looked nice, I had to resign myself to the fact that this wasn't my holy grail. The premise is cool- and if I ever see a fairer shade emerge from the line, I may try again, but for now, the quest continues...

I'd rate this product a 7 out of 10. If they made a color fair enough and I never had redness or blemishes, I'd probably be in love!

- Quick, effortless application. Just spray, set, and go.
- Very sanitary; your hands never need to touch your face!
- Light application provides pretty, luminous coverage
- Feels weightless on the skin

- Not widely available
- Limited shade range (6 shades, though not all are available in the US)
- Can accentuate lines and pores when layered for full coverage
- Layered for full coverage it looked opaque and mask-like
- Quite pricey

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bright Eyes in a Jiffy

Here's a quick, easy way to brighten your eyes- it's great for those days when you hit the snooze button one too many times, but don't want to show up to work still looking half asleep. All you need is white eyeliner, a shimmery (not sparkly) white shadow, and your favorite mascara.

Start by putting a drop of Visine in each eye. This is a popular photographer's trick- in addition to decreasing redness, the extra moisture from the drops will make them glisten and appear instantly brighter.

Next, use your white pencil to line the water line. The color will fade a bit after a few blinks, so don't worry if the look is a bit 60's mod at first. Now, take your liner and dab a bit of white onto the skin right around the tear duct- closest to the inner corner of your eye. I like to use a smudger brush to blend out the pencil line just a bit. Then, using the same brush, add a bit of shimmery white shadow around the tear duct, extending it up onto the very inner corner of the lid itself. Use the same white shimmer to highlight beneath your eyebrows- start under the high point of your arch and blend outward to where your eyebrow ends.

This trick works great as is, but you can easily work it into any eye look; just do your lid and crease as you normally would, adding the white liner and shadow as a finishing touch. Add a coat of your favorite mascara and you're ready to go!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beauty Buzz Word: Cupid's Bow

The Cupid's Bow is the name given to the double peaks of the top lip, so named for their resemblance to the Roman god of love's bow.

Summerize your Winter Lipstick

Yearning for a fresh summer lip shade but can't bear the thought of banishing your winter favorite? Though I'm a big believer in the "no rules" rule, it can feel a bit silly to sport deep red or wine lips on a hot summer day. Tearing yourself away from that deep dark go-to can be tough, especially if you have a hard time finding shades you like in the first place. Luckily, just a couple simple tricks can easily turn your winter stand-by into your favorite "new" summer sizzler!

For the quickest, easiest way to use a dark shade in the summer, think stain. Simply use your finger tip to pick up a small amount of color from the tube. Use your finger to apply a dab of lipstick to each side of your Cupid's bow, then smudge the color into your lips. Don't automatically apply more product to your bottom lip, simply press your lips together to transfer the lipstick and blend a bit with your finger until the color is even. The idea is to look as if you've just eaten a Popsicle or a handful of berries- the color should be worked into your lips until it doesn't feel as if there's anything on at all. This works best with smooth lips, since the color will grab onto any dry or flaky areas and look uneven. (For an easy way to smooth lips, check out my post from December '08).

Another great way to transform deep shades is to sheer them out. All you have to do is apply a clear balm to the lips before you apply your lip color. The balm creates a barrier that prohibits the lipstick from adhering to your lips completely, so you end up with just a tint of your normal color. Almost any clear lip moisturizer will work from ChapStick to Lip Smacker. I like Victoria's Secret's Beauty Rush Soothing Lip Balm- it has a nice shine, contains Vitamin E and Aloe to soothe and moisturize, and never feels sticky. After you've applied your balm, apply your lipstick starting with your top lip, rubbing lips together to spread color as you did for the stained look. This is a great way to get a "juicy" look for your lips: winter wines become summer berries, scarlet reds become fresh cherries.

Use these simple tricks as a starting point and start experimenting- you may even find a new favorite in a color you never thought you'd wear!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Huge Sale on Very Sexy Makeup

Consider the rumors confirmed: beginning this Thursday the ENTIRE Very Sexy makeup collection at Victoria's Secret will be a whopping 75% off!!! The company is repackaging the whole line; some products and formulas will carry over into the new design, some will not. If you already use the line, you know what you'll be stocking up on. If you've never tried it, here's a look at some of the items I'll be picking up:

Eye and Lip Liners- I say get one of each, but I'll likely get extras in my favorite lip pencils: Foxy Brown (a deep chocolate shade) and Nude Plum (a neutral raisiny plum, the perfect go-t0 color for almost any skin tone.)

Mosaic Bronzer in Natural- this multi-toned bronzer adds just the right amount of sun-kissed color. It has a natural (not shimmery) finish and never looks orange.

Mosaic Blush in Wild Child- the perfect pink flush for almost all skin tones. Since the palette has 5 shades to blend together you can customize it each time you wear it!

Brilliant Lip Shine in Steamy- the pigment of a lipstick with the sheen of a gloss; just click the bottom of the nifty pen and color comes up right through the built in brush applicator. Another plus: they last forever- one pen of my (basically) every day shade has lasted over a year!

Silky Eyeshadow in Fierce (a nicely pigmented black with silver sparkle) and Mystified (a great light neutral; use it on the lid and add winged black liner for instant glam!)

Lip Stains in Quickie and Rose- though at these prices, I may just get them all! The marker-like applicator makes application easy and mess-free, and the colors stay put for hours. I layer two or more to create my own unique shades.

Perfect Lipstick in, well, too many colors to list!

Considering the fact that VS makeup was reasonably priced to begin with (no single item cost more than $18) this sale means you can literally stock up without dropping this month's mortgage payment. Take my advice: show up early- and when the sales associate offers you a shopping tote, take it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Better Hair Days A-Head

Did you know that there's actually a right way to wash and condition your hair? Regardless of the products you use, this method will help you make the most out of your bottle.

The oils that accumulate in your mane throughout the day are produced on your scalp, so when you shampoo your hair, apply the product to your scalp only, and work the lather into a nice foam. Then use the suds to cleanse the length of your hair. There's no need to apply additional shampoo to the hair itself. This method will clean excess dirt and oils from your scalp and prevent your hair from being dried out by the detergents in the shampoo.

When you condition, work in the opposite direction. Again, because oil glands exist only on the scalp and not on the actual hair, the ends are farthest away from their only natural source of protection; they tend to be drier and more damaged than the hair closer to the scalp. Apply conditioner starting at the ends and work your way up. For those of you that have fine hair or oily skin, skip the scalp altogether and only apply conditioner to the length of your hair- the part that would hang down in a pony tail.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beauty Buzz Word: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that block the damaging effects of free-radicals in the body. Free radicals cause cell damage by "stealing" a healthy cell's electron. Stable in any form, antioxidants are able to essentially "donate" an electron to the crazed free radical and put an end to it's cell-murdering rampage. Dramatic? Maybe, but since free radical damage can cause everything from wrinkles to cancer to Alzheimer's Disease, I think it's a pretty apt turn-of-phrase.

Antioxidants are fairly abundant in nature, found in everything from coffee to organ meat. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can have health benefits, but since eating antioxidants will not concentrate them in the skin, those interested in antioxidants for their anti-aging properties may turn to the many topical treatments available. Antioxidants used commonly in skin care include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as ferulic acid, lycopene, and beta carotene.

Though there is some debate on the effectiveness of topically applied antioxidants studies suggest that certain antioxidant "cocktails" may be more effective at blocking free radical damage since they are able to stay stable longer when applied to the skin. When shopping for skin treatments that contain antioxidants, look for a product that boasts more than one source of these little warriors.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Product Review:
CoverGirl Outlast Lipstain

Recently, I've been vetting every long-wearing lipstick I can get my hands on. (Keep an eye out for a future post with my complete side-by-side comparisons.) Though not a traditional long wear formula, Cover Girl Outlast Lipstain kept popping up in my favorite beauty magazines, praised for it's ease of use and long-lasting results. When Oprah gave it one of her Spring O-wards for "Most Enduring Performance" I decided that it was time to give it a try.

For the sake of consistency in my long-wear trials, I decided to test similar shades in each formula. Since bright colors are most likely to show signs of wear, I chose the shade closest to true red that each line offers. In the Outlast Lipstain range (10 shades, though none of the stores I went to had the full range in stock) the color I chose was "Wild Berry Wink", a slightly blue based red.

When I first drew it onto my lips, I was in love! The color was smooth, bold, and it even smelled good. I ran downstairs to rave to my (completely disinterested) fiance. Then I licked my lips. Not only did 80% of the color disappear from my lips, but it relocated onto my tongue and teeth! I looked as if I'd just drank a gallon of Hawaiian Punch! Through the course of a few weeks, I've tried several different techniques for applying the color, always with the same disappointing results. After all of the great reviews I'd seen, I really wanted to love this product. Perhaps that's why I was so let down with the results- to quote one of my favorite fluff-rock lyrics: "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down."

I have struggled to find positives about this product, a reason to give it any praise at all. I would say that if it's a 1 out of 10, that one point is simply margin of error- I tried one color out of the range; perhaps the other colors perform better. I seem to see nothing but good reviews everywhere I look; I have to admit that I'm tempted to pick up another shade just to see if perhaps I got a defective lot. If I do find out that's the case, I promise to update you, but for now, I'm afraid 1 out of 10 is the best I can do.

- I truly can't list any pros that aren't canceled out by Outlast Lipstain's poor performance. While claims that it is lightweight and non-drying may technically be true, it's kind of a moot point since the product was gone the second I licked my lips (even after waiting 10 minutes for it to "dry"). So, yes, of course your lips will feel weightless- it's because there's nothing on them!

- Color washes off immediately when it comes into contact with water or saliva.
- Color easily transfers to skin and clothing (including tongue and teeth after licking lips).
- The stain's fruity scent is rather strong and may not be best for those who are sensitive to scented products.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Did You Know: MAC Recycles!

Help mother earth and get pretty freebies for yourself! A little known program that MAC calls "Back to MAC" is an effortless way to earn FREE cosmetics!

All you have to do is keep your empty MAC bottles, compacts, tubes and jars. For every 6 you return to MAC, you'll receive a free lipstick of your choice (except for limited editions like Viva Glam). You can take your stash of trash to any MAC counter or free-standing store, or you can send it to MAC Cosmetics online.

Just a warning for junkies and pro's alike: if you de-pot your compacts in order to put them into palettes, your local store may not accept them- if you're not sure, just call the manager of your store and ask.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quick Tip: Try a New Eye Shadow

If you've ever loved an eye shadow shade in the store, but thought "I could never pull that off" try this foolproof way to ease yourself into a new shade.

Use a flat eye liner or smudger brush to simply trace a line of your new curiosity color along your upper and lower lashes, where you would normally apply eye liner. If your color is medium to deep (like the vivid teals that are popular this spring) wear it in place of eye liner for a fresh splash of color.

When trying light shades like sunny yellow or lime green, add depth and definition by first lining just the outer third of your eyes with your usual eye liner pencil. Smudge the liner a bit with a brush, a Q-tip, or your finger. Add your "pop" color over the liner, extending it all the way to the inside corner of the eye, staying as close to the lashes as possible.

For yet another variation, try applying your top liner as usual, but skip liner on the bottom. Instead, use your smudger brush to line your new shade of shadow just along the bottom lashes.

Keeping new or brighter colors confined to a small area lets you try shades you may not other wise use in a more subtle, daytime wearable way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

SPF's: What's in a number?

After a short cruise to the Bahamas, 3 consecutive weekends out-of-town, dinner with a "Top Chef", and a 3 mile walk-a-thon with a feverish toddler strapped to my chest, my blogging hiatus stretched much longer than I had planned. For that I have to apologize, but no worries- I'm back now! After a personal reminder of how vital sun protection is, I decided it was the perfect time to lay down some facts about sunscreen.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number you see actually represents the amount of time a sunscreen will protect you. An SPF 2 actually provides the same amount of protection as an SPF 40 does, the lower SPF will just protect you for less time.

Despite all of the confusion, it's relatively easy to determine the level of protection you'll get from a sunscreen. To find out how long a sunscreen will protect your skin, start with the amount of time it would take you to burn without sunscreen, then multiply (or factor) that number by the SPF. This means that if you normally begin to turn red after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 15 would extend that amount of time by 15, which would be 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours). SPF 30 would give you 300 minutes (5 hours) of protection, and an SPF 90 would literally give more protection than there are hours of sunlight.

The caveat here is that sunscreen is by no means impervious to the elements. Experts recommend reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours since it will likely have worn off by then. Considering the short life of sunscreen on the body, and the fact that no one needs 16 hour sun protection, an SPF 90 seems pretty absurd- which is why most dermatologists will tell you that you need not bother with anything higher than a SPF 30.

There is one thing in support of using a product with a high SPF, however. Since most people do not apply enough sunscreen, using a higher SPF provides some cushion. A full ounce of sunscreen (about a shot glass full) should be used on the body- using less will provide less protection. If you choose a lower SPF you run the risk of not getting adequate protection. On the other hand, if you were to use even half of the recommended amount of SPF 70 you'd still get a sufficient block (about an SPF 35).

To get the best protection out of your sunscreen, choose one that has both UVB and UVA protection; these protect your skin from the sun's burning and aging rays. If you're concerned after hearing rumbles that several common sunscreen ingredients can actually cause free-radical damage, it's important to remember that sunscreen is still our best defense against skin cancer. If you're concerned, choose a formula with added antioxidants (like Coppertone NutraShield) which will counteract free radical damage caused by the product. If you are using a separate treatment or moisturizer with antioxidants, these will provide the protection as well. Most importantly, use your sunscreen daily, and apply it liberally and often.
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