Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Week's Sales:
Cargo, DDF, DermaNew and more!

Hope everyone had a great last weekend of August! I spent mine in the house babysitting the contractors who were "fixing" (notice the quotes) our ceiling. After such a thrilling weekend, I'm at a loss for an appropriate lead in for this post, so let's get to it!

Billion Dollar Babes latches on to Emmy fever with a "Red Carpet Beauty Must-Haves" boutique on Monday, August 30th. Also on Monday, Ideeli hosts Giella Cosmetics.

HauteLook also starts the week in beauty on Monday, August 30th, with DermaNew. Moving on to Sonya Dakar on Wednesday, September 1st.

Beauty Story kicks of their roster this week with Vapour Organic Beauty and Lashem Natural Lash Enhancer on Monday, Enzo Milano Styling Tools on Tuesday followed by Cargo Cosmetics and Verikira Natural Skin Care on Wednesday and Rani Spas New York on Thursday.

Gilt Groupe chimes in on Tuesday the 31st with DDF Skincare. If you didn't check back in last week, you missed four sales, including Warren Tricomi and Juara, so make sure you peek back in midweek for late additions to the sale list. Of course, you could just follow me on Twitter- yes, you'd have to put up with a moderate amount of drivel, but at least you wouldn't miss as many sales!

Going on now, Brand Alley has Anti-aging skincare featuring brands like Freeze 24/7 and Elizabeth Arden, with Pixi and Pop Beauty starting on Thursday, September 2nd. If you're not a member yet (they only ship to the UK, by the way) you can click here and help us both earn a £10 voucher!

Hairmax and KareCo. popped up at HauteLook midweek, and this weekend's additions include two fragrance boutiques- one is on over at Brand Alley now, and one starts Saturday on Beyond the Rack.

Everyone, have fun shopping!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Product Review:
Annemarie Börlind
Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Night Cream

Börlind's night time offering in it's moisture-rich Rose Dew line, this cream claims to intensively moisturize the skin, stimulate the skin's own moisture-binding capabilities and minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Does it? Read on...

Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Night Cream $44.99 for 50ml/1.69 oz

Very similar in formulation to the Rose Dew Day Cream (read my review here), this formula is rich in restorative Natural Moisture Factors and protective antioxidants. I was also excited to spy one of one of my favorite hyrdating ingredients, squalane, near the top of the ingredient list! Squalane (usually derived from olives) also appears naturally as a major component of our skin's own oil. It hydrates, smooths and softens, locks in moisture and has immune-stimulating and antioxidant capabilities. The best thing is, your body basically can't tell the difference between this stuff and it's own oil- so even sensitive and irritated skin soaks it up without a blink.

When it comes to evidence of the claim that Rose Dew minimizes "the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines." I say, sure- with a caveat. Let's take a brief lesson in beauty industry marketing. Yes, Rose Dew Night Cream may make lines appear minimized-this is a claim pretty much every moisturizer can make because wrinkles are simply less visible on moist skin. Saying that a product reduces the appearance of lines does not mean that the product is actually making fine lines and wrinkles go away; they just look better.

Aside from the addition of squalane, there's not a huge difference between this and it's daytime counterpart. I will say, the PM version is slightly thicker than the AM, with a waxier feel. It moisturized well, and even though I did feel oily at times, I can't complain of a single breakout. Like the Rose Dew Day Cream, this formula had less slip to it than I'm used to, but this was easily remedied by patting, rather than rubbing, the cream into my skin. And, speaking of similarities- my #1 complaint about this cream? The Rose Dew Night Cream jar is virtually identical to the Day Cream jar! Börlind, I'm begging you- put a silver lid (or something!) on this jar, because that little pink moon icon isn't cutting it for me- at 3am, without my eyeglasses, I just need a little more help!

This cream is a good option for dry skin types looking for basic protective moisture. While there may be cheaper creams out there that could provide similar benefits, Rose Dew Night Cream layers in a ton of good ingredients, and I think it's fairly well priced compared to other prestige skin care lines. If natural ingredients combined with sound social and ecological practices is worth a few extra bucks to you, then I'd definitely recommend giving Annemarie Börlind a try.

The products featured in this post were submitted for review consideration by a representative of the company. What does this mean? I didn't pay for it. My commitment is to you, my readers, and myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). I can assure you that the opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Product Review: Annemarie Börlind
Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Day Cream

Today, we take a look at one of Annemarie Börlind's daily moisture options: Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Day Cream $42.99 for 50 ml/1.69 oz

Natural Moisturizing Factors (aka NMFs for us cool kids) like jojoba, avocado, and wheatgerm oils play a key role in this rich day cream designed to hydrate and protect poorly moisturized skin. Wound healing amino acid arginine and the anti-irritant allantion help to soothe irritation and strengthen skin. This formula has tons of powerful antioxidants- everything from Shea Butter (which also adds & seals in moisture) to vitamins C and E to gingko biloba and sage extracts. The addition of urea provides gentle exfoliation and additional moisture binding properties.

Börlind claims that this rose-scented day cream will stimulate the skin's moisture binding abilities and intensely protect it. To me, there's no doubt that this stuff is mega-moisturizing. It's super-rich for a day cream, definitely on target for dry to very dry skin. I've actually been known to use night creams during the day, so for me, this was ideal. I did notice that my skin looked a bit oily (a first for me!) if I didn't put makeup on, but underneath foundation this formula behaved very well. My skin retained a nice glow, but the oil from the cream never broke through my makeup or made me look shiny. One thing I did notice about the texture is that it seemed to tug a little bit when I applied it. Not a huge deal, but when I first started using it I did tend to use more than I really needed because it seemed like it wasn't spreading enough. Simply patting the cream into place, then blending, seemed to work much better for me.

Because of the abundance of NMFs and antioxidants in this cream, I definitely think the formula's moisturizing and skin protecting claims hold water. There is, unfortunately, one BIG hole in this cream's bucket. How can a company say a cream is "intensively" protective when it doesn't contain sunscreen??? In my opinion, this was a big fail for Börlind, and a deal breaker for me. Sun damage is the main cause of premature aging, not to mention skin cancer. I consider it a vital part of my moisture routine. Some people aren't as lazy as me though, so If you're OK applying a separate product to get your SPF, or don't really care about sun protection (maybe you're immortal, so skin cancer doesn't really concern you?) this may be a good option for dry skin looking for a tall drink of water.

The products featured in this post were submitted for review consideration by a representative of the company. What does this mean? I didn't pay for it. My commitment is to you, my readers, and myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). I can assure you that the opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Product Review:
Annemarie Börlind Treatment Products

Today I'm talking about repair products- a topic I take very seriously. Treatment products are designed to repair what bothers us the most about our skin; the thing we look in to the mirror and scowl at when nobody's looking. That's high stakes! If you can't swallow the entire review at once I've conveniently, and quite unintentionally, started with my favorite, and descended from there. Funny how our subconscious works sometimes, huh? Obviously, my hope is that you'll be so compelled by the fascinating nature of the review that you'll just fly through the article. However, you may need a bathroom break after Act II...

Naturesome Nature Effect Fluid $86.99 for 50ml 1.69 oz
Designed to hydrate, soothe and protect skin, Naturesome can be used by all skin types, though in slightly different applications.

The long list of proven ingredients start with nourishing jojoba seed oil. Jojoba oil is a great emollient for all skin types because it's chemically very similar to our skin's natural oil. While this may not seem a plus for oily skin types, studies have shown that jojoba oil can actually dissolve excess sebum in the pores, allowing it to be washed away. Shea butter and rapeseed oil also make appearances, adding free radical protection and added hydration. Shea butter, along with moisture-binding hyaluronic acid, also helps to lock in all of that lovely moisture.

White Tea, Vitamins C and E, and Ceramides join the party to reinforce the skin's protective barrier and reduce environmental damage, which can contribute to dark spots and wrinkles. Great ingredients, but not by a long shot are they uncommon, rare or expensive to produce-so frankly, what's in this stuff that makes it so damn expensive?

The company highlights the inclusion of sea fennel, and the fancy sounding immortelle, so I figure that's a good place to look for our dollars at work. According to my package, these ingredients "ensure a feeling of well being, happiness and relaxation". Um, OK. Not exactly quantifiable. In the non-metaphorical world, immortelle is known as an anti-inflammatory, and indeed aromatherapists use it for its calming, uplifting properties. On the other hand, sea fennel seems to fall a bit short. It may have some antioxidant and antibacterial properties, but that's really all she wrote.

Now on to the actual using, trying part. Since I have dry skin, I used this as a treatment, under my day cream. The first thing that struck me was the scent. I'd classify this as a light, slightly sweet but herbal floral. It actually reminds me a whole lot of the Victoria's Secret perfume Sexy Little Things. Applying the lotion, it feels light and non-oily, but takes its time absorbing into the skin. For people with dry skin types, think of it as a supplement to boost moisture and add environmental protection to your daily routine. For normal, combination and slightly oily skin types, I think this would work well as a daily moisturizer, but would likely be too much for extremely oily skin. My only caveat is that it doesn't contain SPF. For me, this was a non-issue since I was using it as a treatment, but for people wanting to use it as a day cream, it's a major deduction.

I like the feel and love the scent of this product, and will continue to use it, though I can't say I'll be running to replenish it when it's gone. I think Naturesome is a great product to soothe, hydrate and protect skin from environmental damage, but if I'm being honest, I think similar benefits could be found in a much less expensive product. If, however, you're looking for a treatment and this fits the bill, and you're willing to pay a premium for the piece of mind that Börlind's social and environmental practices provide, then this may be the product for you.

Orange Blossom Energizer $35.99 for 50ml/1.69 oz
This dual phase treatment is a mixture of botanical oils and extracts that Börlind says is meant to help skin regain firmness, and smooth wrinkles while revitalizing and strengthening skin.

Many of the oils that make up this formula are Natural Moisturizing Factors, meaning they mimic the way healthy skin functions. Because of this, they can help the skin's natural lipid barrier remain strong- which keeps bacteria out, reduces irritation, reinforces the skin's ability to repair and regenerate itself. The formula also includes anti-irritants and a decent dose of anti-oxidants. These components convince me that this product will indeed strengthen the skin.

This product was great to wake up to! As you may guess from the name, it's got a slightly tart, zesty scent that's derived from Sicilian blood orange extract and orange flower water. The sticky part is, both ingredients are potential skin irritants, and there's some suggestion that the extract can even prompt photosensitivity in fair skin. Luckily, these two components appear at the bottom of the ingredient list, so they may not be concentrated enough to cause problems. I certainly didn't notice any, and I'll remind you that not only am I extremely fair, but I use retinol, a prescription medication that causes photosensitvity itself. If someone were going to react, I'd think my chances would be pretty good (bad?)

With it's light-oil preparation, this product is mainly going to appeal to dry and severely dry skin types. It does sinks into the skin quickly though, and really could be used as a moisturizer for those with normal or combination skin. I liked how this felt going on, and appreciate the product's barrier strengthening potential. On the other hand, I think the formula falls short on it's firming and wrinkle smoothing promises. I didn't notice any marked improvement in that area, nor did I see any ingredients in the formula that seem to be able to cash that check.

This product is more reasonably priced than most of the Börlind products that I tried, and is a decent treatment for those looking for basic antioxidant protection, barrier repair and, of course, added moisture. However, for those looking to help ease the signs of aging, I'd suggest a product with more advanced anti-aging components.

Facial Firming Gel $49.99 for 50ml/1.69 oz
The name says it all here, according to the company, this product is meant to "give the skin a firm and smooth appearance." BUT WAIT! There's more! This slick gel also promises to minimize the appearance of pores and broken capillaries.

I don't put anything on my face without looking at the ingredients first; this gel was no exception. The first thing I noticed staring me in the face was the second ingredient- alcohol. If you read my review yesterday on Börlind's toner, you'll know that of course, I had to write the president of the company and ask "why? Why? WHY?" Her response was that alcohol is used because of it's astringent qualities, and a natural preservative, and that in the low concentrations used, it is not drying to the skin. Be that as it may, the presence of alcohol in this gel is not exactly unnoticeable since it smells a bit like a hospital. In addition to that, firming is not really a concern of mine, so I'll admit, my motivation to try this one was a bit lacking.

When I did get around to trying it, I definitely noticed a distinct tightening feel. Personally, I wasn't all that fond of it myself- having dry skin I do all I can to get rid of that feeling, but I can recognize that someone who is trying to improve the firmness of their skin may greet this tautness with open arms. Appropriately, this firming effect seems to be the result of an extract from the Baobab tree- better known as the African "Tree of Life" (you know, the one from The Lion King). Indeed. Horsetail also imparts a tightening effect, and some antioxidant properties, but can be irritating to the skin. Despite the tightening feel of this gel, Baobab actually seems to hold promise as a moisturizing and barrier strengthening ingredient, and glycerin is added to the moisture binding efforts.

While Börlind boasts of a 38% increase in skin's firmness after 28 days, I was unable to verify this, either with my personal experience or with my research. I'd like to flatter myself that my skin couldn't get 38% tighter, but lets face it: we all have areas. In the interest of science, I tested this product on an area of my body that is, shall we say, not as perky as it once was. Though the tightening feeling was quite apparent on my face, I didn't notice the effects...elsewhere. In my research, I didn't notice any ingredients that claimed to stimulate collagen production which is what would need to happen for this to have a lasting effect on the skin. Having said that, this did have a temporary tightening effect. For some, that may be enough. For right now, I'm just thankful I don't have to worry about it!

The products featured in this post were submitted for review consideration by a representative of the company. What does this mean? I didn't pay for it. My commitment is to you, my readers, and myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). I can assure you that the opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Product Review:
Annemarie Börlind
Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant
Cleansing Milk & Facial Toner

If you've read my last post, you now know a little about German brand Annemarie Börlind. The company graciously sent me an assortment of their skincare products to try, and rather than try to jam them all into one monster overview (and you know how I am, it would have been HUGE!) I'm going to be highlighting a few of them throughout this week. Today we start at the beginning, as you might expect: with cleanser and toner.

This non-foaming lotion cleanser is full of sugar-based emollients and cleansers, along with the wound healing amino acid Arginine, powerful antioxidants in the form of Vitamins C and E, Sage and Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract, and natural moisturizing factors (ingredients that mimic the structure and function of healthy skin) like avocado oil and coconut oil derived triglyceride. The Rose Water and Panthenol that the package lists as key ingredients for moisturizing have less scientific backing than most of the non-advertised ingredients in this formula.

When applied, the cleansing milk feels very soothing on my skin. I can definitely feel the oils in the formula, but we're not talking granny cleansing cream greasy here, just a nice slippery lotion that my skin likes a lot. Like everything in the Rose Dew series, the Cleansing Milk smells pretty strongly of rose (shocking!) Rose is not my favorite scent ever, but this particular formula was not so overbearing or lingering as to be bothersome. I have used rose scented products in the past that were so strong that the smell forced me to stop using them- this was far from that category.

The directions state that the cleansing milk should be applied and left to work for 30 seconds before removing with cosmetic sponges and rinsed with warm water, which is exactly how I use it. I'd never used this type of sponge before to remove makeup (they basically looks like plain cellulose kitchen sponges) and when I first saw them in the package I immediately thought "gimmick." Big surprise for me when I found I actually like using the sponge. Though it does feel slightly harsh and scratchy on my skin, the mild exfoliation leaves my skin smooth, with no redness or irritation- something I can't say for most scrubs, brushes, and exfoliating pads that I've used. For those of you who might worry about bacterial build-up on the sponge, don't fret- you can nuke a wet sponge for 2 minutes in your micro & it'll kill everything (works for kitchen sponges too!)

This cleanser did an excellent job removing all of my makeup- the only thing it didn't remove 100% was waterproof mascara, and I'd never fault it for that. The cleanser rinsed away clean, with or without the sponge, and didn't leave any greasy residue. I've had no complaints about my Purity cleanser, and always thought it cleansed well without being overly drying, but I have to admit that since I've run out of my Rose Dew Cleansing Milk and gone back to Purity, I've noticed my skin has become a lot dryer.

I would definitely purchase this cleanser again, and would recommend it for people with normal to dry skin who prefer a non-foaming cleanser to remove makeup and hydrate the skin. I give it a 9 out of 10. I can't give it a perfect score because I do think $30 for a couple months supply of cleanser is pretty pricey. I should also mention that the heavy glass bottle could be worrisome for people that travel (or drop things) often. I took my bottle on several road trips with no problem- the pump twists shut and I had no trouble with leaking or the nozzle twisting itself open, but for travel where you're not loading your own luggage, you may want to transfer your Cleansing Milk into a more travel friendly container.

Now, onto our toner. I'm going to make this as brief as I can, because you all know my view on facial toners. If you don't, read this real quick so we're all on the same page...OK, great. Knowing that I'm not a big fan of toners in general, you may wonder "why mention it?" Well, because in testing this product, I learned some information that's pertinent to much of the Rose Dew line. Those of you who aren't label readers may never notice, but for those of us that are, read on!

Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Facial Toner $37.99 for 150ml/5.07 oz

Rose Dew toner is a liquid-gel toner that claims to "intensively moisturize the skin and stimulate it's own moisturizing and moisture binding abilities." It does indeed contain a high concentration of the humectant Sorbitol, as well as amino acids Glycine and Sodium PCA, which help to bind water into the skin. I also noticed exfoliating ingredients like urea and lactic acid, as well as anti-irritant Allantoin. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but notice another ingredient: Alcohol. Lots of it, since it's the second ingredient on the list.

After looking at several other Börlind products, I became pretty alarmed by the fairly prevalent use of a known drying ingredient in skincare that's designed for dry skin. There are certain alcohols that are actually moisturizing, but this is not one of them- listed as simply "alcohol", this ingredient refers to ethyl alcohol, which is not only drying but can cause irritation and possibly generate free-radical damage. Before taking another step, I contacted company president, Linda K. Upton, to ask "what's the deal?" here's what she told me:

"Generally alcohol is only used in products that are liquids or gels. It is used as an astringent and an an antibacterial agent/preservative...It is not drying when used in a product in a concentration below 10%, which is the case with these products."

Now, if you know me, you know I rarely believe something just because someone told me it's so. Einstein himself could explain the theory of relativity to me and I'd still research it. Multiply that by 1000 when someone is a paid representative of a brand. So I did some research, including speaking to a cosmetic chemist that I happen to know. My main question: if alcohol is the second most concentrated ingredient in this product, and it's less than 10%, then are the other ingredients (the good ones) even concentrated enough to do anything? The answer, in short, is: sure. Essential oils and extracts are often very potent, and can be effective in very low concentrations (some under 1%). My fears assuaged for the moment, I decided to try the toner.

Rose Dew is not your typical toner- it's actually a liquid/gel consistency and it's meant to be patted onto the skin with your fingertips (not wiped on with cotton). One gripe I have is the bottle- it's a typical toner type mouth, with about a dime sized opening. This means when you tip the toner into your hand, the product pours out- it's impossible to control! Your main options at this point are to dump the product back into the bottle (not terribly sanitary) or waste it. A pump or even a shaker top (like what you'd see on men's aftershave) would be much more convenient.

Aside from that, I'd say that if you're devoted to the idea of a toner, this one isn't a bad way to go- it's lightly moisturizing, soothing and mildly exfoliating. Despite my misgivings, I noticed none of the dryness or irritation I'd have expected from the alcohol in the product- though I'd never purchased it myself after seeing that on the ingredient list. Having said that, I don't think the benefits are unique enough to the toner for me to bother adding another step to my routine- especially one that costs almost $40. I give this a 6 out of 10- it's better than the average toner. But then, you know what I think about toners...

The products featured in this post were submitted for review consideration by a representative of the company. What does this mean? I didn't pay for it. My commitment is to you, my readers, and myself (it's called integrity, I like to have it). I can assure you that the opinions expressed in my product reviews are my own, based on my own research and experience; I am not paid in any way nor is the final outcome of the review influenced by the featured company.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brand Spotlight: Annemarie Börlind Skincare

Recently, I was contacted by a representative of German skin care line Annemarie Börlind. I have to admit I was surprised; after a decade and a half in the beauty industry, it's not often I hear a name in the beauty game that I'm totally unfamiliar with. New brands pop up every day, who can keep up with all of that- but how could a brand that claims to be "one of Europe's leading natural skin care lines" slip past me unnoticed for so long? Based in Calw-Altburg, Germany, Annemarie Börlind has specialized in natural cosmetics and skincare for over 50 years. Every product in the Börlind range is tested and certified by EcoControl, an independent organization that certifies products which* (among other things):
  • Adhere to strict cruelty-free guidelines. No ingredients may be obtained from dead animals, nor can ingredients or products be tested on animals.
  • Never use non-biodegradable or "questionable substances"such as PEG, paraffin, petroleum derivatives, silicone oil, polycyclic musk compounds, etc. (Note: these substances are listed by the company, not by me, I'm personally fine using some of these ingredients, but know that some people aren't.)
  • Must be tested exclusively on human skin by "independent dermatological clinics to ensure efficacy and skin-compatibility."
  • Sustainability practices must be used in extraction of raw materials, as well as during the production of products. Products and packaging must be environmentally safe, readily biodegradable, and should be designed to conserve resources. In fact, the company says even it's home base is "almost completely of natural materials - stone, glass, metal. Even the glue used to install the wallpaper (printed with natural inks) is plant-based."
  • Whenever possible, raw material is obtained through fair trade organizations and third world projects. Suppliers are verified by both state and independent organizations to ensure that they have humane working conditions, fair payment for the workers, and no child labor.
So it seems pretty apparent who these products would appeal to, but honestly, I'm not generally one of those people. I'll put pretty much anything on my face if it'll make me look better! Sure, I shy away from things that give me cancer, and I'm not exactly Cruella de Vil so if I can get results without killing puppies, all the better. To wit, I think Annemarie Börlind's ecological and social initiatives are wonderful, but I'm not choosing skincare based on warm feelings in my tummy. I'm choosing based on one thing: "does it work?" Luckily for me, Annemarie Börlind says that all of their products are proven effective "through double blind clinical studies conducted by independent dermatological clinics." In addition, they claim that they will not release any product that resulted in allergic reactions in the clinical studies. Sounds great- so what does my skin think?

Shortly after sharing some information about my skin with a Börlind PR representative, I was sent an assortment of Annemarie Börlind products tailored to my needs, most of which are from Börlind's Rose Dew series. Here's what the series is about, according to the company:

Rich hydration for dry skin. Increase moisture content by 28%, reduce wrinkle depth by 30%, and improve skin firmness by 35% with our Rose Dew series.
  • Hydrates and binds moisture
  • Increases elasticitcity
  • Smoothes wrinkles
  • Replenishes oil
I've been using these products for several months now, and can attest they have indeed increased the moisture content and oil in my skin. Since I was a teenager, my skin has been super-dry; it's not uncommon for me to peel and flake even in 90°, super humid weather. Within days of starting the Börlind line, I noticed that the flaky irritation I'd been seeing around my nose from my prescription retinol had disappeared.

Graciously, the folks from Annemarie Börlind sent me a full regimen of products to try, so you can expect to see reviews all this week with my impressions of the products. Check back later today for my review of the company's Rose Dew Hydro Stimulant Cleansing Milk. You all know how much I love my Purity, it's the only cleanser I've repeat purchased in ages. So how does Börlind's offering measure up? See you soon!

*EcoControl standards information was gathered from the EcoControl and Annemarie Börlind company websites. I am making no endorsement to the accuracy of the EcoControl certification.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You all know I'm a beauty junkie. I also happen to be a bit of a bag whore. I suppose luggage was a natural progression- I need something to carry all of that makeup when I travel, right?

During my recent Heys vCase giveaway, I mentioned that I've been lusting over the kick-ass plaid specimen for a while. My heart broke a little bit when I found out that that style was discontinued, but as luck would have it, this baby will be in my sticky little hands soon- stay tuned for my review!

This Week's Sales:
Stila, Oscar Blandi, Yes to Carrots, Urban Decay,
...and more

Wondering what's up in the world of sales this week? I suppose so, because it's Monday, and there are some pretty good offerings this week, so you'd better get reading!

HauteLook Monday starts out strong with Stila and Glowology, with Yes to Carrots on Tuesday, and Urban Decay on Wednesday, August 25th.

Elsewhere on Monday, Row Nine Fragrance Sets Boutique opens on August 23rd, and Billion Dollar Babes has Duchess Marden this Monday also.

Ideeli has Warren Tricomi haircare and Elements 5 this week too! I'd also fight anyone to the death that said that the site's sale isn't beauty related- it sure is beautiful anyway!

At Gilt Groupe this week, Tuesday's Molton Brown sale is the only beauty offering listed so far...and, if it popped up, I missed it! You can check out Sk1N Probiotic Systems (it's skincare, not yogurt!) Juara and Metropolis Technology, all available now on the site. Of course, if you were following me on Twitter you'd already know this!

Last but certainly not least, the Beauty Story roster. After kicking off the week on Monday with a gift card event, bodyography and Oscar Blandi hair care are slated for Tuesday, Skin Nutrition on Wednesday, Revolution Organics begins Thursday and Jonathan Product ends the week on Friday.

Any must haves? Secret holy grail products? What are you looking for this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Product Review:
Missha M Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42

All the rage in Korea for the past few years, BB Creams slid under my radar until recently when the lovely Charlotte of Lipglossiping blogged about her experience with them. Short for Blemish Balm, BB creams are purported to have been created as an after-treatment cream to help soothe and regenerate skin after laser or chemical treatments. Patients requested a tint to cover redness, and SPF was added to protect fragile, newly exposed skin. As famous Asian Soap Stars came out as BB Cream advocates, the phenomenon spread to the everyday woman.

Type the words "BB Cream" in to your eBay search bar, and you're likely to pull up thousands of results, with a myriad of brands represented. Most claim to be multi-functional wonders: foundation and skin treatment in one. Aside from the aforementioned sun protection, many BB Creams also boast about anti-aging and whitening effects. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Of course, my self-sworn duty to you, my readers, required that I try one. After surfing the interwebs for BB Cream reviews, blog posts, swatches and the like, I was honestly just as confused as ever. A few brands seemed to stand out, so I started checking out company websites to gather more info. Upon entering the Missha site, I was greeted with an offer of a free sampler kit. I paid shipping (a totally reasonable $5.99), and registered my name and address on the site. In return, they sent me a bunch of goodies to try, including a 10ml (1/3oz) tube of their M Perfect Cover BB Cream. Since I had no leaning toward one particular BB Cream (Missha alone carries 7 different formulas) I decided this worked for me.

I placed my order with Missha very late on Thursday night (indeed, it was technically Friday morning) so I was pleasantly surprised when a nice little box came in the mail on Monday afternoon. I ripped into it, went straight to the BB Cream, and squeezed a bit out on to my hand to test the shade. Despite the many reviews that I read stating that BB Creams are geared toward fair skin, the sample (shade 23, Natural Beige) was obviously several shades too dark for my pale ivory tone. (For reference, some of my better matches are Nars Siberia and Graftobian Graceful Swan.)

Knowing that I was setting out for a sun-filled vacation, and noticing the great SPF level on the Missha BB cream, I decided to keep this close at hand ready to travel with me. I should clarify- I do NOT try to tan my face, ever. That's why Perfect Cover's SPF 42, PA+++ rating was such a great thing for me. (PA ratings, by the way, are the Japanese system of ranking UVA protection. The system goes from one to three pluses, with three denoting the highest level of protection. The US does not, as of yet, have a system to rate UVA protection- SPF refers just to UVB.) The fact that the shade was so much darker for me actually became a bit of a bonus, since it gave me a less ghostly look, and likely saved my vacation companions from blindness.

I should mention, I fully expected to be disappointed by the BB cream phenomenon. Frankly, I was expecting a glorified tinted moisturizer; a product that's never been my favorite. Tinted moisturizers are great in theory- the tint evens out skin tone, while adding moisture at the same time, saving you the hassle of applying 2 separate products. Problem is, I've yet to find a tinted moisturizer that has enough coverage or enough moisture for me. I inevitably end up trying to use way too much just to get the level of moisture I need, which in turn makes the shade darken to an unacceptable shade. That, or I end up using a separate moisturizer under it, and concealer over it-which kind of defeats the time-saving purpose.

The second I touched the BB Cream to my face, I could tell this was different. As you may guess from the term "cream", the moisture level of this BB is much higher than any tinted moisturizer I've ever tried- my skin was quite comfortable with just my normal serum underneath (more on that at a later date...) The cool, medium beige color seemed very dark and opaque when I first put it on, so I was surprised when I began to blend and found how easily it melted into my skin. I did have to blend down onto my neck to avoid a "mask line", but this was not a surprise to me considering the fact that this BB cream comes in 2 lighter shades. I was also quite shocked (and thrilled!) at the coverage it gave- easily medium coverage, with a totally natural, slightly dewy finish. I'm still a bit confounded about how this stuff covers so well-for all intents and purposes, it blends like a sheer makeup, feels like a creamy, soothing moisturizer, and covers like a medium to full coverage foundation- without looking at all thick or cakey. It does have a perfumey floral scent that's definitely quite noticeable- I didn't have any major issues with it, but at the same time, I could definitely do without.

As far as the product claims, Missha says Perfect Cover is a 3-in-1: sun protection (check) whitening and anti-wrinkle. As far as the latter two, I certainly haven't been using this long enough to tell if it really helps in those areas, but I did take a glance at the ingredient label and noticed Arbutin quite high on the ingredient list. Arbutin is a natural form of Hydroquinone, which can, in fact, have melanin inhibiting properties. Unfortunately, studies haven't quite decided what concentration of Arbutin is needed in order for it to be effective, so no absolute guarantees on the whitening, but I'd say it looks promising.

I'm not so convinced on the anti-wrinkle claim. Perfect Cover is chock full of some of my favorite moisturizing ingredients; Squalane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycerin, and Ceramide 3, as well as a ton of botanical extracts that have moisturizing, antioxidant and soothing properties. Since moisturized skin shows wrinkles less obviously, Perfect Cover may indeed make lines look less apparent (note: I said look less apparent). The only real candidate for wrinkle fighter that I saw in this cream is Adenosine. Some research seems to show that Adenosine stimulates collagen and elastin production, promotes wound healing and may hold some promise in smoothing lines like crow's feet and frown lines. All fine and good, but I'd prefer to see a few more proven wrinkle fighters like niacinamide and peptides in the formula.

So did I like it? Sure did. Kind of a lot. Sure, the color was all wrong, but I knew that going in. Seeing how easily it blended into my skin, I'm pretty confident that the lightest shade, Milky Beige (#13) will be perfect. The only improvements I'd make would be reducing the fragrance and increasing the wrinkle fighting ingredients. And honestly, I'd never fault a foundation for not being "treatment" enough. Which says something: this BB stands up as both a treatment moisturizer AND a makeup. I'd give this about a 7.5 out of 10- with potential to be much higher once I try the lighter shade. And I will. :)

::EDIT:: I did, in fact, try Missha's #13 Milky Beige, and it is- by far- my favorite BB cream. To date, I've tried probably around 30 different creams, both domestic (blech) and imports, and the Milky Beige is undoubtedly the best color match I've found in a BB for my super-fair (lighter than MAC & MUFE) skin tone. It skews a bit cool, but blends well regardless. Definitely a keeper!

- 3-in-1 treatment/makeup doubles as moisturizer, treatment and foundation
- full of natural moisturizing factors, which mimic the function of healthy skin to reduce dryness and promote the skin's healing process.
- contains Arbutin, which shows promise in lightening hyper-pigmentation.
- high level of UVA and UVB protection
- despite a somewhat strong fragrance, this caused no irritation to my sensitive skin
- provides excellent coverage
- long wearing
- feels light and soft on the skin
- does not emphasize dry patches, flakiness, lines and wrinkles.
-natural finish isn't too matte, isn't too dewy.
-reasonably priced. A 50ml tube retails for $29.99 on the company's website, but can be found for around $15 on eBay.

- limited shade selection (this formula is available in 4 shades, which will likely suit fair to medium-deep skin tones.)
- contains added fragrance, which could irritate skin. The scent also lingers, those prone to scent induced headaches could have an issue here.
- wrinkle fighting ingredients are less than I'd like in a moisturizer, but more than I'd expect for a makeup.
- to my knowledge, this is only available online in the US.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Week's Sales:
Kate Somerville, Lash In A Flash, Paula Dorf....and More!

Seems like a pretty quiet week in beauty saleville this week. Luckily, a few sites have enough going on to keep us busy all week. Might I remind you that summer is almost over- the myriad of skincare lines on the block this week present the perfect opportunity to stock up on your fall/winter essentials. Pick up a richer moisturizer, switch from a foaming to a lotion cleanser, or keep an eye out for blemish spot treatments to banish those back-to-school stress spots! What are your must haves and curiosities this week?

HauteLook has a nice full week slated, starting on Monday, August 16th with Organicare. Kate Somerville Skincare pops up on Tuesday, Actifirm on Wednesday, Moy Skincare on Thursday and Dr Schwab on Friday, August 20th.

On the Beauty Story roster this week, check out L'Uvalla on Monday, Kenkai and The Holy Mud Company on Tuesday, Lash In A Flash and Mojo Cosmetics on Wednesday, Phillip B haircare on Thursday and R Session Tools on Friday.

Finally, midweek over at Rue La La you can peruse a selection from Paula Dorf. That happens on Wednesday, August 18th, followed Thursday by Sleek Surgical & MedSpa.

If none of these sales are cutting it for you this week, fear not- follow me on Twitter, and check back here throughout the week for the latest additions and invites! My pics for "sales of the week" (don't worry, this isn't something I do and you missed it, I'm just saying I'm excited...) are Kate Sommerville & Paula Dorf. Both are lines I've heard good things about, but haven't really tooled around much with. Any suggestions for me & your fellow readers? Speak up!

Friday, August 13, 2010

AHA, BHA and Retinoids-

With all of the letters, numbers, and ingredients that we have to pay attention to in the quest for our best possible skin, it's inevitable that some confusion may arise. Anyone on the lookout for anti-wrinkle, dark spot or acne treatments has no doubt heard at least one of these terms. Here, I quickly sort them out for you.

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are acids that are commonly derived from fruits, but can also come from milk (lactic acid), or sugar (glycolic acid). AHAs work as exfoliants by essentially dissolving the glue that holds dead skin onto the surface.

BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) works similarly, but is oil soluble, meaning that it can get past the sebum in clogged pores to break junk up and clean them out. For this reason, BHA (Salicylic Acid) is commonly found in acne treatments. Since these acids do not penetrate the top layer of the skin, they are most effective in treating surface concerns like flakiness, dry patches, and dullness. Since they help to lift dead skin off of the face, AHA/BHA may also improve the appearance of fine lines, acne and uneven skin tone.

Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A. Unlike AHA/BHAs, prescription retinol penetrates beneath the skin's outer layer into the deeper dermal area, and actually aids in healthier cell formation. This means a reduction in hyper-pigmentation (age/sun spots), acne and psoriasis. Retinol also stimulates collagen production, which means fewer wrinkles. At high-levels, it can actually help to protect from the development of skin cancer. Keep in mind, over-the-counter products containing retinods are not regulated and may not have the same effect as the prescription forms.

While it's true that all of these ingredients have an adjustment period, you should not assume that prescription retinol (Like Retin-A, Renova, or Tazorac) is harsher. I've used all manner of over-the-counter AHAs and BHA, some of which have actually given me second degree burns. (Origins Spot Remover, I'm looking at you!) I now use a low level prescription Tretinoin (Renova) cream and have had no irritation and only mild flakiness and dryness.

In both cases, sun protection is VITAL (if I knew how to make this flash in red, I would!) All AHA, BHA and retinol treatments will increase photo sensitivity- which means you are highly likely to burn if you attempt to go without protection while using these ingredients. Of course, since the sun is the major reason we have fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots, it would be ridiculously counterproductive to be treating these conditions without protecting the skin from further damage. But I don't need to tell you that, right?

I should also mention, if you think retinol is the route for you, make sure you consult with a dermatologist to determine what form and strength is best for you. I know it's tempting to order from one of the myriad of internet retailers, but resist. Your skin is worth the cost of knowing what you're getting is safe and appropriate for your skin.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vacation Product Reviews: Body Sunscreens

It's no secret- I don't spend a ton of time in the sun. For me, our week-long summer vacation at "the lake" presents me with a somewhat rare opportunity to test out products I'd otherwise use so rarely I'd probably never form a concrete opinion. First off, sunscreen.

I learned earlier this year that a close tween-hood friend was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. I have a distinct memory of us oiling ourselves up and laying out in the field behind her dad's house in Buffalo, NY. I remember the dry heat, the scratchiness of the straw-like dried grass, the sounds of the weekend-long Grateful Dead show that was playing just beyond the field that we lay in. I have two big regrets about that weekend.

The obvious regret is that we weren't yet old or experienced enough to know what we were missing at that Dead show (and that we didn't realize how easily we could have snuck in)! The second is how oblivious we were of the damage those sun baking sessions were doing to our perfect, young, beautiful skin. But I digress. Suffice it to say that after learning of my friend's diagnosis, I decided once and for all that I was done competing with anyone for the best tan. I was going to step out in my black bathing suit, flaming red hair and glowing white skin and revel in my paleness- and damn anyone who challenged me! Thus, I was a fiend on this trip with the sunscreen, and I ended up going through several cans, bottles and tubes by the end of the week. For the sake of brevity (by which you should not assume this will be a short post!) I'm going to focus today on sunscreens that I purchased primarily for my body.

$32 for 5oz ($6.40 per oz)

Coola is a thick cream formula, but since it's a chemical sunblock, it didn't leave that telltale ghostly cast on my skin. Saying that this sunscreen is "unscented" is not to say it doesn't have a scent. It smells like sunscreen. If you don't know what I mean, you will as soon as you smell it. Coola does feel a bit greasy when first applied, but absorbs well enough that I could dress after applying it and not feel dirty all day- something I can't say for a lot of sunscreens that leave behind that icky chalky residue. (I'm making a nasty face even as I write about it!) I did try this one on my face as well, something that I would only recommend to those with normal to dry skin. With ingredients like Glycerin, Shea Butter and Linseed (Flax) Oil, they're not kidding about the moisturizing part, and I think this would be too much for oilier skin.

One thing I find odd is that Coola is a line marketed as "organic sunscreen". While it does contain "over 70% certified organic extracts" this refers more to the extra benefits that the product touts (they say: "antioxidants, anti-aging nutrients, and restorative anti-inflammatory properties"). Thing is, the term "organic sunblock" generally refers to physical (aka barrier) sunblocks that use minerals (Titanium and Zinc Oxide) to block the sun's rays. This particular sunscreen contains a mixture of chemical sunscreens, which I'm fine with, but the way this product is marketed could cause confusion to those looking for a physical sunblock.

$8.19 for 6oz ($1.37/oz)

OK, yeah, this may seem an odd choice for a professional beauty junkie. You have to remember, I'm also a professional Mom, so these kinds of products cross my path- and why not test them too? After all, children's care products are generally formulated to be gentle to young, sensitive skin and since this one offered a high level of protection (and, with it's "blue melon splash" scent, smelled totally yummy!) I decided to try it. So glad I did. First, for those with sensitive skin that may be concerned with the fragrance in this product, I will tell you that my 2 1/2 year old daughter has had a reaction to almost every sunblock I've tried on her (and I often break out myself). I had no such issues with this one. Honestly, if I'd been able to find it anywhere in the vicinity of our vacation spot, I'd have probably stuck with this for the entire family. The spray formula was totally convenient, went on smoothly and dried down so that it was virtually unnoticeable on the skin. Also, totally reasonably priced. I picked mine up at the Toys 'R Us in my neighborhood, and unfortunately, that's the only place I've been able to find it.

$9.99 for 6oz ($1.67/oz)

In short: what the hell is wrong with this stuff? After the success that I had with the Huggies sunscreen, I decided spray was the way to go. Then I tried this. The closest thing I can compare this to is coating your entire body in ultra-hold hairspray. Or spray lacquer. Or something heavier- it actually visibly coated my body hair (like, the fine blond, usually unnoticeable hair on my arms) with little beads of liquid that did not go away when the product dried. My fiance actually came up to me and brushed my shoulder off because he thought I was flaking. Eww. When I tried to rub it in a bit to avoid this effect, the product actually rolled off like dry rubber cement (remember when you used to paint your palm with it, just so you could peel it off when it dried?) So I guess the term "no-rub" that Coppertone uses to describe this actually means "don't rub". Anyway, NO.

$15.99 for 8oz ($2.00/oz)

This was the end of the week choice, picked up at the local Sun-N-Snow shop. If you follow the link in the title, you will notice that the website isn't actually functional right now, so sorry for that. Consequently, I have no idea where you can get this, but I thought it warranted mention in case any of you run across it in your vacation spot sundries shop (say that 3 times fast!) This stuff smelled great at first; yummy bananas for the ape on the bottle. Still, the sunscreen-y undertone became more prevalent as the lotion dried down, and in the end, the tropical banana scent wasn't really noticeable. A lighter lotion than the Coola, Sun Bum spread easily, and felt drier on the skin- but I did notice a little bit of that chalky residue. Not a deal breaker, and despite the feel it didn't look chalky on the skin, so no big. This was the last sunscreen of the week, and I did notice some hivey bumpiness on my chest after using it. I didn't continue to use it long enough to know if it would have turned into a full blown allergy, but it wasn't such a bad break out that I wouldn't test it again to find out.

$9.49 for 8oz ($1.19/oz)

This one is a bit of a cheat, since I didn't actually apply it to myself. This was the sunscreen that I bought to replace the favored Huggies spray for my daughter. I wanted to use something that had both chemical and physical sunblocks in it, and this one is primarily Zinc Oxide, so it was the winner. The thickest of the bunch, applying this was like rubbing Elmer's glue all over her little body. I literally felt like I was going to pull her arm out of socket blending this stuff in. Mineral sunscreen works by reflecting UV rays away from the body, and if you remember your color theory, you'll know what color reflects light. So, who can guess how this looked on the skin?Chalky, ghostly, white. Rub, Rub, Rub- still white. It also felt like liquid black-board, and almost immediately after applying it I noticed a few little red bumps on her belly. Like I said before, most sunscreens we've tried have broken her out to some degree, and this one wasn't the worst. Having said that, I didn't like much else about this one, so I don't think I'll be buying it again.

So, there you go. I'd have to say, in case you didn't pick up on it, I think the overall winner of the week was the Huggies Little Swimmers spray- I'll definitely try to hunt some down before our next trip. And for any doubters, yes, I really did use all of these sunscreens this past week. Keep in mind that even sunscreens labeled "waterproof" should be reapplied every 2 hours when out in the sun. This means that an 8 oz bottle of sunscreen applied correctly (1oz for the entire body, reapplied every 2 hours) will only last about 16 hours in the sun. Considering we were outside the bulk of the day, that's less than 2 days per bottle. You may also notice that I didn't mention any facial sunscreens...for that you'll have to wait until next time!

Photo by Cain Doherty

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tarte Cosmetics Friends & Family!

OK, so here's the deal: Now through Monday, August 9th (my Mommy's birthday, BTW!) use the code FFAUG to get 40% off of your entire purchase on, PLUS you get a free gift with your purchase! Oh, and if you spend more than $40, they'll even send it to you for free. So there's that. I personally love Tarte's LipSurgence Natural Lip Stain, though I really don't think I'd classify it as a stain- it's more of a balm in crayon form, but "Joy" is a great summery coral, it feels fabulous on my lips, and it smells yummy to boot. Of course, you can't go wrong with their famous cheek stains (I own 2 of those myself!) So...what's your poison?

And the Winner is....

Thanks so much to everyone who entered and helped to spread the word about my Heys V-Case giveaway. I had a great time reading about every one's summer must haves! I've got a ton of new items added to my running wish-list, and I also I was very proud of how many of you said sunscreen was your top beauty product for the summer!

Without further ado, I'd like to congratulate my winner- Melissa W! Melissa shared that she's loving L'Oreal Colour Juice lip gloss in Melon Punch this summer (which sounds totally yummy!) and is obviously a very smart chick, since she doesn't leave the house without SPF 100! She's also a blogger herself, so you can hear more about her favorites on her site, Lovely Android.

I hope you all had as much fun sharing as I did reading your comments! I love hearing people sound off, so please make yourself heard by leaving a comment on any post, any time. You can agree, disagree, add, even just say "cool". It's just great to know you're there :) Keep an eye out for another contest coming up soon- this time it'll be international, I promise! Speaking of which, I want to hear from you- what kinds of prizes would you like to see in upcoming contests?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Week's Sales:
Task Essentials, Demeter, Balmshell Cosmetics
and more!

First off this week, HauteLook is lovin' the Misters; they start out a male-heavy week on Monday with Task Essentials Men's Skincare. Body Solution and Menscience Skincare are both on Wednesday, Demeter Fragrance Library pops up this Thursday. Alchimie Forever Men's Skincare and LightStim LED Light Therapy end the week on Friday.

Over at Beyond the Rack there's still time to take advantage of the site's Barex Italiana hair care sale, which runs through the 3rd. No word yet on any other beauty sales planned at BtR this week, but you know I'll blab as soon as I find out!

On Tuesday over at Beauty Story check out Rock & Republic Beauty, followed by Good For You Girls and Balmshell Cosmetics on Wednesday, Fenix on Thursday and Borghese on Friday the 6th.

For my UK readers, check out Brand Alley's Designer Fragrances and Premium Make up sales, both on now. If you're not signed up yet, click here to register for your free account and we'll BOTH earn a £10 voucher!

Billion Dollar Babes welcomes DermaNew on Thursday August 5th.

On a slightly different note...just wanted to share a relatively recent discovery of mine. If you've never heard of, this could be the highlight of the day for you! Yes, the site hosts rotating VIP "private" sales (don't worry, all you have to do is sign up for free access!) but they also regularly carry a host of premium brands at discounts up to 85%. Right now they're offering new customers 10% off of their entire order- just use the code NEW10 when you check out!

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank everyone who entered my Heys V-Case giveaway! I loved reading about your summer musts, and now have more than a few new items on my own shopping list! I'll be choosing the winner via and will have it posted both here and on Twitter later a bit later today, so keep an eye out and GOOD LUCK!
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